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Move over Mar-a-Lago. Five Palm Beach restaurants worth the splurge.


I dined at Mar-a-Lago once during a dog rescue benefit lunch. I remember buttery notes on decently cooked banquet chicken, veggies that were not overcooked. My iPhone photo archive tells me dessert was a trio of sweets that included a dense chocolate torte, crème brulee and a raspberry-topped cream tart. 

Mostly I remember the soaring, ornate ceiling adorned in gold relief moulding, and plenty of adoptable puppies on the grounds. And while I’ll go anywhere for puppies, I’m not sure I’d pay Mar-a-Lago gala prices for a largely forgettable meal. Not when there are excellent dining options on Palm Beach. 

So, while the president and his guests dine on banquet fare, here are five spots for killer grub just moments from Mar-a-Lago

 

CAFÉ BOULUD 

Plates at this stylish café truly are works of art. Executive Chef Rick Mace takes inspiration from seasonal ingredients to create gorgeously nuanced dishes. Every flavor note is deliberate, every sauce a reflection of technique and soul. Even the vinegar used at the café are brewed in-house, using locally foraged fruits and spices. On any given day, you might find Mace juicing backyard carambola (starfruit) for one of his heavenly elixirs. 

Café Boulud serves lunch, dinner, happy hour and, through April, a splendid Sunday afternoon après-brunch hangout with a light menu and live jazz. Reservations are strongly recommended. 

Café Boulud: 3-1 Australian Ave. (Brazilian Court Hotel), Palm Beach; 561-655-6060

 

BUCCAN 

This is the modern American bistro that revolutionized the stodgy Palm Beach dining scene six years ago. Chef/ co-owner Clay Conley and his crew consistently deliver quality dishes. The focus here is on inspired small plates, excellent raw dishes (such as tartare and chile-seasoned tiraditos) and refined comfort grub. The ambiance is relaxed and lively. For a more intimate experience, try the sushi next door at Buccan’s little sister restaurant, Imoto. Reservations are a must. 

Buccan/ Imoto: 350 S. County Rd., Palm Beach; 561-833-3450 

 

THE SEAFOOD BAR AT THE BREAKERS 

Tucked into the back of Palm Beach’s most iconic resort, The Seafood Bar has always offered glorious ocean views and good food. Now, after its recent, extensive makeover, it offers stellar interior views as well. The setting is yacht glam, a space decked out in shiny, warm woods and punctuated by a stunning, clear bar that doubles as an aquarium. As one might expect, the menu is seafood-centric, but also includes a proper burger. Walk-ins welcome. 

The Seafood Bar: 1 S. County Rd. (The Breakers), Palm Beach; 877-724-3188 

 

CHEZ l’EPICIER 

The chef/ co-owner of this farmhouse-chic spot is a big deal in his native Montreal. Luckily for this sunny corner of Palm Beach, Chef Laurent Godbout also creates his trademark whimsical dishes here. He and his wife Veronique Deneault, the restaurant’s radiant hostess, have brought Quebecois charm to the dining scene. The menu is inspired yet accessible, with offerings from inspired street food (like poutine) to savory macarons to a divine sweet pea risotto. 

One of the sweetest traditions in the couple’s native Quebec is the focus of a special, maple-laced brunch series which kicks off this month: the “Sugar Shack” is a tribute to the province’s annual maple-tapping season. The special brunches happen on March 12, 19 and 26. The hearty brunch, which costs $45 per person, features breakfast dishes, soup, lunch entrées and desserts (like maple pudding cake, maple sugar pie and house-made maple marshmallows). Reservations are strongly recommended. 

Chez l’Epicier: 288 S. County Rd., Palm Beach; 561-508-7030 

 

SANT AMBROEUS 

Within the sleek, mid-century modern lines of this Milanese-inspired café, exquisite food happens. A sibling of the popular Sant Ambroeus locations in New York City and Southampton, this restaurant and pastry shop/bar offers diverse, Italian-leaning menus for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. It is pricey, but the place will transport you to a stylish time and delicious space. Reservations for the dining room are a must. 

Sant Ambroeus: 340 Royal Poinciana Way, Suite 304, Palm Beach; 561-285-7990


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