These are the restaurants Palm Beach Post Food Editor Liz Balmaseda recommends in Central Palm Beach County. In the list below, click on the restaurant’s address to open the location in Google Maps.
There's a good reason why Chef Julien Gremaud's hip, sunny eatery is a busy spot at night: His small plates and shareable selections are both refined and decadent. But why limit your visit to this downtown West Palm eatery to nighttime when it serves one of the best weekend brunches in the county? Gremaud's eggs Benedict dishes are sinful, as are his gently scrambled eggs dusted with piment d'Espelette, and his crab-avocado toast topped with an oozy egg.
And if you're lucky, that day's special menu will include his outstanding rendition of shrimp and grits. The Jerez-spiked shrimp alone are worth the price of admission.
On a whim, we often venture into Havana cafe and instantly find a sense of home in the ample portions of Cuban comfort dishes. Try the Fricase de Pollo, chicken in a flavorful tomato-based sauce, with potatoes and olives. Or order some sinful chicharrones (fried pork rinds) from the take-out window and be on your way.
Havana: 6801 S. Dixie Highway (at Forest Hill Boulevard), West Palm Beach; 561-547-9799.
Chef Daniel Boulud's Palm Beach eatery offers more than a stylish backdrop for dining -- it offers some of the best food on the island. Executive chef Rick Mace is a true star, a culinary storyteller who knows how to capture the imagination and palate with food and presentation.
Café Boulud: 301 Australian Ave. (in The Brazilian Court hotel), Palm Beach; 561-655-6060.
This lively bistro, which overlooks downtown West Palm's waterfront, is often buzzing with diners feasting on French bistro classics. It's easy to see why this has become a favorite on finicky Clematis Street: French favorites are offered with a sophisticated touch, warm hospitality, lovely setting. The bistro never fails to impress. Come for lunch, dinner, cocktails or one of the most pleasant, a la carte Sunday brunches in central county.
Rocco's Tacos Clematis
You may know this place for its terrific tableside guacamole and chile-dusted chips, its addictive tacos and other Mexican favorites. But have you had Rocco’s Sunday brunch? It’s one of the best brunches anywhere in Palm Beach County. Brunch kicks off at 11 a.m. and goes to 4 p.m. My favorite bite on the menu: The Benedict Azteca, Rocco's Mexican take on traditional Eggs Benedict. Earthy masa sopes cradle poached eggs, pork chunks and spinach, are ladled with chipotle cream and served with griddled potatoes. For the pairing at brunch, there are endless Bloody Mary and mimosa options. Orale.
This diner offers extensive breakfast options and delicious comfort lunch fare in ample portions. If you love eggs Benedict, this sunlit spot has you covered -- the diner serves four variations. My favorite is the Palm Beacher, poached eggs and delicately smoked salmon served on an English muffin and topped with béarnaise sauce. Served with home fries or arugula salad, it's a stellar bite. For a sweeter brunch, slice into a stack of blueberry pancakes -- they're brimming with blueberries.
Surfside Diner: 314 S. County Road (at Royal Palm Way), Palm Beach; 561-659-7495.
It's easy to understand why this small daylight eatery does a brisk take-out business: The food is fresh and delicious. Chef/co-owner Michael Hackman's daily specials are posted online every morning, and they tell the story of an inspired local cook devoted to local ingredients. Hackman, who operates Aioli with his wife, Melanie, gives a luxurious touch to a strip-plaza, Dixie Highway lunch. Sample the light-yet-creamy custard of his daily quiche and you'll know this is true. In addition to breakfast and lunch offerings (hot and cold sandwiches, soups, salads, fresh juices), the chef also prepares a "dinner to go" option daily for those who crave Aioli at night. Recent dinner options include whole roasted free-range chicken, roasted tomatoes stuffed with Moroccan couscous, beef lasagna, roasted veggie lasagna and house-made veal cheek ravioli.
Oh, sure, this place is great at night for Palm Beach people-watching amid black lacquered walls, shiny leather banquettes and leopard print carpeting. But there's more to the Leopard than the lounge and dinner scene. There's excellent service, the "welcome" of hot rolls tucked into a basket, and delicious lunch. The chicken schnitzel is a thing of beauty: Chicken breast that's tender and juicy chicken beneath a crispy, buttery crust is topped with lemon béchamel sauce and served with haricot vert and French fries. That's something to purr about.
A good mofongo is a thing of beauty: fried green plantains mashed with pork cracklings and garlic. At this 24-hour café, the Puerto Rican delicacy is offered in a variety of ways, with a hearty beef sauce on the side. You can have your mofongo with chicken chunks, pork chunks or fried steak, with shrimp scampi, or with grilled tenderloin. Pair it with a Presidente beer. (It's a Dominican-centric eatery, after all.)
On Thursdays, the special is sancocho, the Dominican-style stew made of meat, root vegetables and killer broth. The spot is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner and operates a 24-hour take-out window.
One of the best couplings in town happens at this upscale bistro, perched on the top floor of CityPlace: a charcuterie-cheese plate enjoyed with a wine flight. But this plate is no random assortment of cold cuts. It is one the consumer designs, choosing from an excellently curated list of cured meats and eclectic cheeses. Choose from Italian speck to dried chorizo from Rioja, Spain, to the divine, house-cured truffled salami. As for the cheeses, there are some 25 options in all. Add the house-made bread and an appetizer or two and you've got a feast that's as delicious as it is shareable.
Cholo Soy Cocina
Chef Clay Carnes left a spacious steakhouse in Wellington for a hole-in-the-wall space on Antique Row in West Palm Beach. Here, he opened the taqueria of his dreams, a spot serving tacos and other street dishes with “neo-Andean, Ecuadorean” inspirations. His steak tacos are the best in the county.
We happened upon this Venezuelan spot on our way to another eatery, and we're glad we did. The arepa menu is so extensive the place ought to be called "Arepas R Us." Pick your filling of choice -- shredded chicken, cheese, beans, meat, fish, pork, veggies -- and you'll find several arepas that hit the spot. In addition to the popular filled corn cakes, there are also soups, entrees and delicious empanadas.
Grato greets you with a big-city hello and sets out to charm us. And it has been doing so since two-time James Beard Award semifinalist Clay Conley opened the trattoria in a former lighting store on a drab stretch of Dixie Highway in January 2016.
The food is accessible, yet elevated. The menu changes often enough to keep regulars coming back for more exploration. Grato, which means “grateful” in Italian, has been a game-changer for the area, much like its older sister restaurant, Buccan, was for the island.
Like Buccan, its wildly popular big sister next door, Imoto (which means "little sister" in Japanese) prizes quality ingredients, preparation and presentation above all else. Nothing less is expected from chef/co-owner Clay Conley, who fashioned the bar and eatery from his experiences working and living in Japan. The local star chef, who just reopened Buccan after a massive, 11-day makeover, is set to open a third concept in mid-November, an Italian eatery in West Palm Beach named Grato. At Imoto, the menu features crispy starters, crudo (raw) small plates, wood-fired items, rolls and raw fish in various forms. While you decide, try a uni and oyster shooter with a quail egg, sake and ponzu - it's the umami-rich sip we call "the sea in a shot glass."
Imoto at Buccan: 350 S. County Road., Palm Beach; 561-833-5522.
La Perrada Del Gordo
Neighborhood hipsters and night owls have discovered this lively hot dog joint serving overloaded Colombian hot dogs. La Perrada serves a mean, over-the-top burger as well.
La Perrada del Gordo: 2650 S. Military Trail, West Palm Beach; 561-968-6978.
Middle East Bakery & Grocery
Fresh, garlicky hummus, bright and herby tabouleh, flavor-popping pita sandwiches you'll want to savor with a knife and fork.
That's what makes this family-owned market a local gem.
For me, it's an obligatory stop when I'm in the vicinity and hungry for something fresh and delicious.
It's mostly a take-out spot, unless you're lucky enough to score a seat at the single table out front.
Middle East Bakery & Grocery: 327 Fifth St., West Palm Beach; 561-659-4050.
Welcome to Clematis Street's sweetest spot. This downtown West Palm bakery and café should be designated as a pastry museum because, undoubtedly, chef Patrick Lézé's confections are works of art. Stop here for classic French pastries, a sandwich on homemade, earthy bread, a slice of fresh quiche or a cup of locally roasted Oceana coffee.
Paneterie: 205 Clematis St., West Palm Beach; 561-223-2992.
The splendid pho served at this small Vietnamese eatery stands in contrast with its basic surroundings. Pho 16 is a simple spot nestled in a strip plaza. But who needs fancy when you've got a solid menu that's packed with delicious options?
To dine on the rooftop of the new, four-story Restoration Hardware “mansion” on Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach is to peer at the city through its grand, sparkly crown.
Chandeliers shimmer beneath soaring glass ceilings. Leafy ficus trees grow in handsome planters. A lavish stone fountain cascades into a circular pool, and through the blur of droplets one can see clusters of diners at tables or seated upon crisp-white sofas.
A good place to start at any time of the day is the Délice de Bourgogne Cheese board, a generous wedge of the classic triple crème, cow’s milk cheese from Burgundy served alongside glazed pecans, a warm, crusty baguette and strawberry preserves. Add a glass of wine from the small but inspired wine/beer list and you’re living large.
The Regional Kitchen & Public House
Star chef Lindsay Autry cooks with her thoroughly North Carolina heart at this buzzy Southern brasserie at CityPlace. Between bites of jazzed up pimento cheese, tea-brined fried chicken and tomato pie, locals have turned this sprawling restaurant into a pre-theater gathering place, special-occasion dinner spot, Sunday brunch mecca and a lunch stop for fancified meat-and-three plates.
This place with big, metropolitan energy has helped redefine the soul of a city on the rise.