Friday, January 27, 2023

Peering Into My (Restaurant) Crystal Ball

Welcome to 2015! I hope it’s a year of good restaurants, good food, good wine and good company for everyone.

Crystal ball-gazing is more art than science (or more scam than art) but I’ll give it a shot and toss out a few predictions for Restaurant Year 2015. This time in 2016 we’ll see whether I need new glasses, a new crystal ball or just to keep my lips buttoned.

The road to health is paved with more new restaurants. Everyone wants to eat healthy but few of us want to sacrifice very much to get there. Restaurants like Farmer’s Table and Gary Racks’ new Farmhouse Kitchen split the difference between your typical “Damn the cholesterol, full speed ahead” eateries and vegetarian-slash-vegan restaurants, where you’re not only expected to wear the hair shirt of healthy eating but dine on it too. Look for more places that dispense with butter and cream and elevate vegetables over meat yet still serve up a full portion of flavor. One caveat: that’s a whole lot harder than it appears.

Go west, young restaurateur. West county has long been underserved when it comes to high-quality, non-chain restaurants. Savvy operators are beginning to see the area’s potential, a vision that will only grow clearer in the new year. Restaurants like those at the sprawling Delray Marketplace, La Ferme and Sybarite Pig in Boca and others are showing that just because you don’t live within honking distance of I-95 doesn’t mean you want to eat cook-by-numbers food in some corporate, focus group “concepted” restaurant.

Locals know best. PBC continues to be a tough market for out of towners to crack (excepting steakhouses, which seem to proliferate like rabbits). Though there have been some notable success stories, like Clay Conley with Buccan (and his coming sandwich shop and casual osteria) and Sean Brasel with his uber-luxe Meat Market, restaurateurs who know the local market (I’m thinking Gary Rack, Dennis Max, Burt Rapoport, Rodney Mayo, Angelo Elia and the Big Time folks, among others) have a leg, thigh, hip and rib bone up on those who show up having not quite figured it out. Don’t expect that to change any time soon

The harder they fall. Expect more high-profile closings when the 2014-2015 “season” ends. The economy may be getting better and people loosening the purse strings to go out to eat, but the local market is both quirky and demanding, and I can think of several “name” restaurants that may be in trouble when the tourist hordes finally clear out. Name recognition is great, but there’s no substitute for consistently putting out good food and good service in a pleasant, comfortable atmosphere.

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