What could have been a tragic and unfortunately familiar loss has turned into a triumphant comeback story. Celebrated chef Lindsay Autry opened The Regional with business partner Thierry Beaud in 2016 to rave reviews. Her take on southern fare garnered three James Beard Foundation nominations for Best Chef in the South.
Then the pandemic forced The Regional to shutter for 17 months. It finally reopened late last year with a few tweaks to the menu, and its sultry bar, Mockingbird, opened earlier this year. Stepping into the restaurant after so many months still evokes that familiar farmhouse vibe with its cozy banquettes, warm wood floors and cheerful staff. The manager, making his rounds to each table, welcomed us back. It’s a wonderful touch I don’t encounter very often.
A North Carolina native, Autry embraces her southern roots and does a stellar job of also adding a dash of her Mediterranean heritage (her grandmother was from Crete). You’ll find traditional southern ingredients and dishes like collard greens, tomato pie, okra, fried chicken, and shrimp and grits on the menu alongside smoked burrata, Greek salad, octopus and bucatini.
For appetizers we slathered Pimento Cheese ($15) onto buttery house-made crackers. While the dish wasn’t necessarily invented in the South, the creamy mix of cheddar, red bell pepper and mayonnaise has become a staple for the region. The portion, spread into a thin layer topped with a variety of vegetables, ensured we had enough room for the rest of the meal. Autry’s Warm Tomato Pie ($16) is one of her signature dishes—a petite and flaky tawny-hued crust stuffed with ruby red sun-dried tomatoes. The herb aioli and caramelized onions gave each bite a creamy, sweet note.
A favorite, the Shrimp & Grits ($17) delivered exactly what you’d want from the dish. It was a respectable serving of Florida pink shrimp, still radiating hints of the sea. Wrapped in cornmeal and lightly fried, they were placed on creamy grits and topped with paper-thin fried okra and pickled jalapeños. If you want to kick it up a notch, add a few drops of Autry’s special house sauce.
You can tell Autry and Chef de Cuisine Mario Beabraut have refined the menu by adding elevated elements to it, like lobster to the low country boil that was reworked into the Regional Gumbo ($46). The generous serving, which can be shared, also comes with clams, Key West pink shrimp and house-made sausage over fluffy rice and topped with crunchy slices of okra. The broth is poured over the dish tableside, and while its hints of Old Bay and warm spices were enjoyable, I had hoped it would be a bit thicker.
While we hesitated to order the Bucatini ($27) at the southern-inspired restaurant, it won us over. The sweet corn added interest, and the sunflower seed pesto was perfection. While I know many regulars keep coming back for the tomato pie, I would make the drive for this pasta.
IF YOU GO
651 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach; 561/557-6460; eatregional.com
PARKING: Valet or garage parking
HOURS: Mon.-Sun., from 5-10 p.m.