What and Where You Should Be Eating Now

Yellowfish tuna tiradito from Lionfish / Photo: Aaron Bristol

Start your new year with the trending dining and foodie destinations everyone is talking about

We all have our favorites, classics like Arturo’s and Trattoria Romana and Gazebo to blockbusters Elisabetta’s and Max’s Grille, local hits J&J Raw Bar & Grill and Driftwood, among many others. But here’s a list of newer places you may want to try, some a little drive away, others in your own neighborhood.

We say it’s time to shake off 2020 and get out and add a few new food and dining discoveries to your repertoire.

10 Buzz-Worthy Restaurants

LIONFISH, 307 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach (561/865-7066), is the buzziest sea-to-table purveyor on the buzziest of South County thoroughfares, where the titular invasive species—spearfished off Atlantic waters and served whole—is only the beginning of the restaurant’s flavor-rich menu of American and Asian influences. Chef Johnny Demartini, late of Max’s Harvest among other notable restaurants, curates the eclectic menu, serving everything from a deconstructed burger inspired by a California fast-food chain to tableside Hot Rocks to vegan specialties.

REBEL HOUSE, 297 E. Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton (561/353-5888), has always been, well, a rebel in the city’s dining scene, with an eclectic menu and an imaginative take on décor and dining. With Chef Eric Baker at the helm now, its culinary pedigree has ratcheted up a few notches, but it’s still fun, still fresh—just more yummilicious. Try the pork cheek empanadas, the Mongolian beef lo mien, the bouillabaisse, the duck l’orange. Or anything on the menu. It’s a winner and continues to be a downtown dining linchpin.

ALMOND, 207 Royal Poinciana Way, Palm Beach (561/355-5080) is stylish and chic with updated classic French food, “ethnic street food” and a menu that is fresh and seasonal and locally sourced. You’ll find everything from curried mussels and kimchi fried rice to three different takes on steak frites. This is new Palm Beach dining—with a creative menu.

SUNDY HOUSE, 106 S. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach (561/272-5678), has always been the prettiest restaurant in the area—and one of the most romantic—with its dramatic tropical gardens, its porch and gazebo dining. But now it has a celebrated chef, James Strine, formerly with Café Boulud, Buccan and Grato, to ramp up the dining. And it is ramped. The new Taru at Sundy House offers locally sourced cuisine with a confluence of Caribbean, Latin and Southern American flavors in a fun menu you’ll love. You can get pompano and chips, Florida Bouillabaisse, oysters, ribs and a dish that is already getting its own Hollywood star: the Dynamite rice, with pork belly, lump crab and Japanese Furikake seasoning, for starters. Time to get back to the garden, as the song says.

We don’t usually send our readers this far up the road, but VOODOO BAYOU in Downtown at the Gardens, 11701 Lake Victoria Gardens Ave., Suite 5095, Palm Beach Gardens (561/888-6703), is worth the drive. This is mouthwatering Cajun/Southern food with a menu that we need, just need, about now. Think charred okra, gumbo, jambalaya, fried chicken, po’ boys, redfish, gator tail. And beignets. Of course beignets. The South may be gone, but it’s not forgotten here, mon cher.

HENRY’S, 229 Royal Poinciana Way, Palm Beach (561/206-1896), is the Breakers’ newest restaurant (named after Henry Flagler, of course) that now occupies what was once Testa’s in Palm Beach. This could be your catcher’s mitt for all things comfort food—but with an elevated level of culinary panache. There’s a raw bar, sandwiches (they call them “handhelds”—after all, this is Palm Beach), stalwarts like beef Wellington and chicken pot pie. But we’re going for the pigs in a pretzel dough blanket with the “warm pilsner cheese fondue.” Yikes.

Nothing like a pandemic to bring out the craving for mom’s comfort food, which is Chef Suzanne Perrotto’s specialty when it comes to her newest restaurant, ROSE’S DAUGHTER, 169 N.E. Second Ave., Delray Beach (561/271-9423). Perrotto, a Cordon-Bleu trained chef who also owns the popular Brulé restaurant across the street, grew up with her family’s homemade Sunday Italian dinners as well as their trattoria in New York, so this is food from memory, food from mom, food that will send you home warm and fuzzy and coming back for more. Perrotto offers everything from handcrafted (and certified) Neapolitan pizza to “mom’s manicotti,” lamb meatballs, chicken Parm—all the classic mainstays.

STAGE, 2000 PGA Blvd., Suite 5502, Palm Beach Gardens (561/408-3685), is another hike to the north, but we are excited about this one. Number one, it offers small plates; number two, the menu features cuisine from here, there and everywhere—spiced churrasco, fried chicken, Korean barbecue ribs, chana masala and tons more. This is truly global cuisine (with plenty of American mainstream options) or, as Chef Pushkar Marathe says, “The way I see Stage is like it’s a big tree. The branches are my travels all over the world, but the roots are deep in India.”

YELLOWTAIL MODERN ASIAN CUISINE & SUSHI, 7959 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach (561/501-6391), is gaining fans by the legion for its fresh and flavorful Asian menu. All the usual suspects are there, but each dish is exceptionally well-wrought, from a battery of salads and curry dishes from the wok to classic rolls and all-time standard favorites like pad woon sen, Tom Yum soup and those flash-fried “popcorn” rock shrimp you dream about.

COPPERFISH KITCHEN in the old Uncle Tai’s space at Boca Center, 5259 Town Center Circle, Suite 143, Boca Raton (561/391-3474), is getting rave reviews—even though it opened in a pandemic. Copperfish prides itself on “responsibly caught, sustainable and exceptionally fresh seafood and shellfish” that it sources from across the county, in addition to Florida. There is a raw bar, elaborate shellfish towers and a wide-ranging number of fish entrees—with a menu for landlubbers as well. The next time someone asks where to get really good seafood (the second most-asked question in South Florida, after where to get good Chinese), you won’t have to scratch your head—this fine dining newcomer is a sure bet.

Vegan Wonders

VEG EATS FOODS, 335 E. Linton Blvd., Delray Beach (561/562-6673) Nondescript in everything but the ingredients and the flavor, the strip-mall sanctuary for plant-based foodies is located in a foot-traffic backwater. But those who discover it inevitably return for its seasonally changing menu of locally sourced comfort-food favorites, which work meatless magic on your taste buds. Try the Smothered Mushroom Burger, which makes dairy cheese seem downright obsolete, and the banh mi, made with pea protein-based sausage.

THE NEW VEGAN, 528 N.E. Second St., Delray Beach (561/404-5301) Husband-and-wife restaurateurs Rahein and Patricia Jones’ landmark restaurant, thriving for seven-plus years off Delray’s main drag, is a frill-less space committed to a non-GMO, non-dairy, non-wheat, non-soy, non-gluten, non-everything-that’s-slowly-killing-us philosophy. The owners’ palate-pleasing menu pulls off typically carnivorous favorites like “chick’n” and waffles and a “toona melt” (with hearts of palm as the base) while maintaining their hearty profiles. And the Jones’ stir-fried rice puts literally every Chinese restaurant to shame.

FARMER’S TABLE, 1901 N. Military Trail, Boca Raton (561/417-5836) This farm-to-table outpost nestled on the ground floor of the Wyndham Boca Raton is not a 100-percent vegan restaurant, but it is rich in plant-based apps and entrees—so much so that the few meaty items feel like bottom-of-the-menu concessions for the rare unenlightened diner that enters its premises. If it’s in season, the cauliflower brie flatbread (sin a little and eat the cheese) is a splendid mélange of salty and sweet, and the adjacent Farmer’s Table Express is tops for grab-and-go grub.

Specialty Markets We Love & What to Get There

THE GOURMET MARKET, 2800 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton, 561/609-2680 This small market, which also serves sandwiches and quiche, is a Francophile’s dream, with imported cheeses like Brie de Meaux Alba Truffle, foie gras and, yes, a large selection of truffles (French and Italian) fresh during the season. They are also rumored to have the best French baguettes—baked fresh daily—in addition to hard-to-find French brands of mustards and other goodies.

JOSEPH’S, 6000 Glades Road, Boca Raton, 561/347-2314 Who doesn’t love an Italian specialty food market? Joseph’s new location at Town Center is larger than the old one, but its personal touch still shows, from the 60-some entrees/side dishes presented daily (everything from pastas to chicken Parm and stuffed artichokes) to pizza from scratch, produce, seafood, wines and cheeses, the works.

BEDNER’S, 10066 Lee Road (Boynton), 561/733-5490; 381 N.E. Third Ave. (Delray), 561/501-5177 Bedner’s is one of those stops that doesn’t feel like an errand; it’s too much fun. Farm-fresh produce in season, boiled peanuts, wine and beer, breads, selected meats, Kirby cukes, sunflowers, orchids, heirloom tomatoes, and on and on. The original market out west borders the Bedner farm with u-pik-em options and fresh ice cream and kid diversions—not to mention the Loxahatchee preserve next door. The smaller Delray downtown market is more tailored to the suburban-craft-beer-lunch-to-go crowd, but they are both local treasures.

THE BIG THREE: CAPTAIN FRANK’S, POP’S, OLD DIXIE We have stellar fish and seafood markets here, so there’s no excuse not to revel in fresh seasonal seafood pretty much year round. We go to all of them and love them all. You can get anything at any of them, but we associate Old Dixie with homemade smoked wahoo fish dip and stone crabs, Pop’s with fish tacos and lobster, Captain Frank’s with Canaveral shrimp, scallops, hogfish (and how-to advice on cooking all of the above).

  • Pop’s Fish Market, 131 W. Hillsboro Blvd., Deerfield Beach, 954/427-1331;
  • Old Dixie, 7000 N. Dixie Highway, Boca Raton, 561/988-0866;
  • Captain Frank’s, 435 W. Boynton Beach Blvd., Boynton Beach, 561/732-3663.

Your Takeout Faves

  • Cocktails in a bag from DEATH OR GLORY give new meaning to feeling “in the bag”—but in a good way. 116 N.E. Sixth Ave., Delray Beach, 561/808-8814
  • Those home smoked ribs from CAESAR’S RIBS in Delray are redefining ‘que in South County. 37 S.W. Fifth Ave., Delray Beach, 561/577-7561
  • The Lobster Roll from GOURMET KILLER DOGS is winning rave reviews—but all the hot dogs here are first-rate. 4057 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach, 561/513-1761
  • The chicken pot pie from FLYBIRD was a quarantine comfort food standby. 335 E. Linton Blvd., Suite B-13, Delray Beach, 561/243-1111
  • For a tasty spin on your salad, you’ll love the Chicken Shawarma Salad from JUST SALAD. 5050 Town Center Circle, Boca Raton, 212/244-1111
  • CONTE’S may have closed its deli, but it’s more than made up for it with its delish New York pizza. 309 N.E. Second Ave., Delray Beach, 561/562-5132
  • MARIO’S chicken meatballs with ricotta and a big gorgonzola salad equal takeout heaven because, as one fan put it, “Can you really ever have too much cheese?” 1400 Glades Road, Suite 210, Boca Raton, 561/239-7000
  • Fellow office workers in Boca report that on Fridays for lunch, everyone takes advantage of Super Gyro Day at SOUVLAKI FRESH in Downtown Boca. 122 N.E. Second St., Boca Raton, 561/395-1906
  • MAX’S GRILLE made a splash this year with its Thursday prime rib takeout deal. 404 Plaza Real, Boca Raton, 561/368-0080
  • Boca’s ANOTHER BROKEN EGG goes off the charts with its beignets—so much better than poor old whole wheat toast. 508 Via De Palmas, Suite 76, 561/405-6940
  • YAKITORI is a happy never-fail takeout choice, with tasty food pods like sushi, tempura and Hong Kong Wok noodles. 271 S.E. Mizner Blvd., 561/544-0087.

Artisans At Their Best

Dan Ramos of BUTCHER AND THE BAR has found a new passion at his trending retail butcher shop and bar in east Boynton (510 E. Ocean Ave. Unit 101, Boynton Beach, 561/903-7630). Formerly at fine restaurants like Sundy House in Delray and Market 17 in Fort Lauderdale—as well as Red Splendor, where he was known for his bone broth and sausages—Ramos is touting his “whole animal” butcher initiative from “clean” regionally sourced meats, in keeping with his longtime involvement with the local slow food movement. He’s making the food writers swoon, and his sandwiches and house-made condiments are blowing people away.

ROGIE PIEROGIES are handmade pierogies (Polish dumplings filled with potatoes and other fillings) made by Bob Buzek from his grandmother’s recipe. Long a Delray GreenMarket fave—and you can also get them at Bedner’s—Buzek opened his own store this fall at 1445 N. Congress Ave., Suite 11, Delray Beach. He says his most popular flavors “are the traditional potato and cheddar and potato and onion, but our loaded potato made with bacon, cheddar and scallions is quickly gaining popularity.”

MARIANNE GOURMET, at 803 George Bush Blvd., Delray Beach (561/278-3349), has prepared frozen foods and apps and great sandwiches and salads, but we’ve been a slave to the famous legendary cannot-stop-eating epic garlic spaghetti for 20-some years now, a bird’s nest of fine brown noodles with the most devastating garlic flavor ever concocted on the planet. And don’t bother asking; they will not share the recipe.

OLD SCHOOL BAKERY has been around since 1997 under the direction of baker Billy Himmelrich (trained at the Hotel Ritz in Paris) and has been one of South Florida’s go-to places for all kinds of breads forever, so if you are over making your own pandemic sourdough, head to 45 N. Congress Ave. in Delray Beach (561/276-0013), and be dazzled by its “crusty” artisan breads, pan breads, pastries, focaccia, crisps, baguettes, and on and on. We have a soft spot for the olive rosemary bread, but you can’t go wrong with this old-school standard.

EMIL’S EUROPEAN SAUSAGE KITCHEN, 124 N. Federal Highway, Deerfield Beach (954/422-5565), has been making every kind of imaginable sausage for decades as well as a whole gamut of prepared foods (German potato salad comes to mind), but the sausages are why we go to Emil’s. All of them are made of all-natural ingredients with no fillers, no MSG, no nitrates, no preservatives—just the real stuff.

SWANK FARMS has a new product this year—pre-made salads from its produce. Now certified by the Department of Agriculture as a “salad maker,” Jodi Swank says she is serving up “five-ingredient” salads, including Bibb lettuce with goat cheese, Swank strawberries, toasted walnuts, Swank carrots and Swank baby romaine with watermelon radishes, beets, olives, edible flowers and Swank Asian lettuce mix. Fresh out of the fields is hard to beat. Buy them at the farm on Saturdays, 14311 North Road, Loxahatchee.

John Holbrook is making waves with his all-natural PITBULL BARBECUE SAUCE at local green markets. He makes two sauces (we love the mustard-based Carolina version), two hot sauces and three sugar-free dry rubs, and you can buy them all online (if the markets are closed) at pitbullbbqsauce.com. He also delivers locally.

This story is from the January 2021 issue of Boca magazine. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine.

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Marie Speed is group editor of all JES publications, including Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Worth Avenue, Mizner’s Dream and the annual publication for the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce. She also oversees editorial operations of the company’s Salt Lake City magazines. Her community involvement has ranged from work with the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce to a longtime board member position at Caridad Center. She is also on the George Snow Scholarship Fund review committee. She is a past officer of the Florida Magazine Association and a member of Class XVII of Leadership Florida. In her spare time, Marie enjoys South Florida’s natural world through hiking and kayaking, and she is an avid reader and an enthusiastic cook.