Testa’s Last Breakfast

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Sunday morning was already hot and bright; the manicured lawns of Manalapan and Palm Beach were emerald green from the summer rains, and the ocean swept out turquoise and sparkling as I rounded Sloan’s Curve. I was headed to Testa’s on Royal Poinciana Way in Palm Beach for The Last Breakfast.

Testa’s was closing in one week, and I needed to have its down-home rib-sticking iconic breakfast one last time. Testa’s has been in the building at 221 Royal Poinciana Way since 1947, and before that, at other locations on the street. It’s been serving its loyal customers 97 years. Me for 26. And now the family is closing it; they are done, it’s over and another sweet tradition is drawing to a close. The restaurant, shuttered gas station and other shops will be demolished and replaced by six two–story buildings containing a new restaurant, luxury condos and underground parking.

I think I’m already hardened to all this “progress” at this point; my heart turned to stone sometime after Delray’s Blood’s Hammock Groves shut down or Merkel Brothers Orchids went away. One by one, so many of the distinctive South Florida places I loved started slipping into the past, places like Neal’s Farm stand or the Bermuda Inn, Ken & Hazel’s, The Colony Liquor Store. Whole blocks of downtown Boca are high-rise apartments now; Miami even lost Tobacco Road.

Every time you think South Florida can’t get any more crowded or upscale or famous, it goes one better and you have a new shiny building, yet another restaurant with “small plates,” a boutique hotel.

As I walked into Testa’s, St. Edward’s nine o’clock Mass was just getting out and people were winding their way to breakfast. Mary, Paul and Dave Branch and I settled into a table, ordered Irish coffees (don’t ask) and I went through my usual routine: blueberry pancakes or eggs with grits and corn beef hash?

“Both,” I finally said to the waitress. “I want all of it.”

Because it would be the last time, and I wanted to remember every bite.

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