With each trip to Palm Beach I make new dining discoveries, though always returning to one uber favorite. It’s not surprising about the new finds, as PB is continuing to evolve as a dining destination, with new entrants boasting beautiful people watching and fine dining credentials, “modern coastal cuisine”, of the moment cuisines and the ubiquitous Mexican tacos. But PB also likes the retro thing, which I admit I really enjoy when it’s done right. So here are my picks of the best Palm Beach restaurants for your day trip or Staycation. And in case you missed the earlier post, click here on an updated list of New Things to Do in Palm Beach.
For people watching and fine dining, the Italian restaurant Sant Ambroeus which hails from Manhattan is a local favorite for its elegant ambiance, always delicious food, and lovely outdoor dining. I favor the pastas and veal dishes and foodie friends swear by the branzino, blue pasta special and the signature Princess cake for dessert. Another good pick for lunch in an attractive outdoor courtyard is Cafe Boulud in the Brazilian Court Hotel. They often have a lunch special which offers good value.
The buzz is about La Goulue, which made its mark in Manhattan in the 80’s as one of the places for the ladies who lunch, celebs and celeb watchers. It offers a classic French menu with dishes ranging from cheese souffle and rack of lamb to duck confit and crepe suzettes. They just got approval for several tables for outdoor seating, but in a recent visit they weren’t in evidence, so if that’s important, check before you go.
If seafood is your choice, a very good option is HIgh Dive in West Palm Beach. It’s by award-winning husband and wife team, Chefs Jeremy and Cindy Bearman. Bearman is the talented chef behind the Michelin-starred restaurant Rouge Tomate in New York City, and his wife Cindy, was former Executive Pastry Chef at Jean Georges’ ABC Kitchen. The menu is exciting and creative, the place could be plucked off the New England seaside, and when we went the service was friendly and attentive. For more, see my review below.
A new entry in nearby Delray Beach, about a half hour drive from Palm Beach is Lionfish which describes its menu as modern coastal cuisine. The casually elegant spot is attractive, and the wait staff attentive and friendly. The dishes in particular to get are the lionfish ceviche made with cucumber, avocado, key lime, coconut, agave pickled serrano and spring onions.
The sauce was tangy, tasty and had just the right amount of “picante”. Delicious. We had hoped to get the whole fried lionfish with charred greens, bagna cauda and gribiche, but they were sold out. Specialty rolls are also popular dishes, both the Surf and Turf made with seared wagyu and Maine lobster with grilled asparagus, garlic ponzu and crispy shallots and the All Star with spicy tuna, striped bass, radish sprouts, Meyer lemon and more. If you like to explore, it’s also worth the drive to see the incredible boom in downtown Delray with its blocks long lineup of restaurants and bars. Best to go early in the week as on weekends it gets crowded, and noise levels are seriously energetic from neighboring spots offering live music.
My favorite dining spot is the Leopard Lounge in The Chesterfield Hotel. It’s right out of the 50’s with its supper club like decor, live music for dancing playing nostalgic favorites, and a menu with dining classics. Mr. W and I always start with a caesar salad for each of us followed by the 14 ounce veal chop (we share) with mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. For dessert, the chocolate molten cake is our pick. The Lounge is known for its generous traditional cocktails and wrap around bar and dance music.
A new find in the retro department is the Green’s Pharmacy Luncheonette which dates from 1938 and still has a soda fountain. The extensive menu includes breakfast items (get this, pigs in a blanket for breakfast), and diner fare along with deli selections .Mr. W opted for a reuben sandwich and I chose the philly cheesesteak, both quite good. And, included in the price, the waitress calls you Honeybun. and while you’re in the neighborhood, check out Michelle Farmer Collaborate boutique which features her own lovely fashion creations, perfect for South Florida.
For a breakfast of coffee and pastries check out Loic in West Palm Beach .The charismatic French owner, chef and patissier, Loic Autret, has a devoted following who flock to the West Palm Beach spot for baguettes, quiche, croissants, breakfast specialties, sandwiches, salads and excellent coffee. His secret to success is the onsite bakery where everything is made fresh daily, 83% fat content butter, Belgian chocolate and passion for what he does. Signature items include the decadent white chocolate pistachio croissant, aptly named double chocolate passion cookies, baguettes, and the quiche with a novel and welcome twist — the crust is made from croissant pastry. Don’t miss the avocado toast either, with a very generous topping of avocado topped with crunchy pistachios served on an addictive walnut raisin bread. The outdoor seating is an appealing area with trees and some umbrella topped tables.
Other good bets are Table 26 and Rocco’s Tacos, and I’ve heard good things about Clay Conley’s Buccan which I plan to try next time (he’s scheduled to open Chateau Miami on Brickell). Other new entries are LoLa41 which bills itself as a Nantucket (from where it hails) sushi and bistro restaurant, and The Breakers has a restaurant that opened during the pandemic — Henry’s, an American inspired bistro.
Any other suggestions dear readers?