Julien Gremaud is ready to gobble up Palm Beach Gardens. The chef/owner of downtown West Palm Beach’s lively Avocado Grill says he will open a second, larger restaurant inside the Downtown at the Gardens plaza.
His goal: to open the second Avocado Grill location this fall as season begins to rev up.
Gremaud, who will take over the former RA Sushi space at the south end of the plaza, says he started planning for the new place early last year.
“I thought Palm Beach Gardens would be a good area for us,” Gremaud told The Post by phone Tuesday. He notes the city’s upmarket, restaurant-loving demographic might be open to Avocado Grill’s menu of clean, modern and flavorful dishes. “We are definitely bringing something new to the area.”
The new spot will carry on Gremaud’s small-plate approach, lightened-up-decadent weekend brunch and eclectic range of seasonal dishes. Plus, the bar features – from cocktails to crudos – promise to be more prominent, he says.
Now two years and five months after opening the first Avocado Grill, the chef says he considered venturing south into other dining districts but concluded Lake Worth would not be good fit and Delray Beach is too “saturated with restaurants.” In Palm Beach Gardens, he browsed other open spaces further east on PGA Boulevard but found they would need extensive remodeling.
Gremaud says it took six months of “long and tough” lease negotiations to come to an agreement for the Downtown at the Gardens space.
“We are designing the restaurant now,” says Gremaud, who is working with the Miami-based Saladino Design Studios on a build-out that captures the upscale, breezy spirit of Avocado Grill.
Opening in a space where a national chain (RA Sushi) struggled does not worry him, says Gremaud. Then again, he has turned around a seemingly cursed location in downtown West Palm Beach with remarkable success.
Gremaud says it was that challenging location on Datura Street that showed him the importance of appealing to a customer base sprawled beyond a few neighborhood blocks.
“We are not doing 300 covers (customer meals) a night because people are walking by the restaurant. People come because it’s a destination,” says Gremaud, who served some 1000 customers on a jam-packed Saturday during the recent Palm Beach International Boat Show.
He’s hoping the same dynamic will be replicated when he opens the second location at Downtown at the Gardens.
“My whole approach to this is: I’m not relying on the Downtown crowd to make the restaurant successful,” says Gremaud. “I strongly believe we are going to bring our own traffic there.”
The Gardens location has selling points lacking on Datura Street, like space and parking.
The new Avocado Grill will inhabit a 4200-square-foot space that’s nearly twice of the West Palm location. The kitchen will be larger, as will the outdoor dining area. And unlike the restaurant’s original location, where parking spots are elusive, the plaza offers valet parking just feet away from the planned restaurant.
From his small, open kitchen on Datura Street, the chef often peers out at the bustling dining room and wonders how the customers arrived at his door.
“I can only imagine they park far and walk to get there,” says Gremuad, who plans to helm both restaurant kitchens and shuttle between locations.
At 37, Gremaud’s life has entered a growth spurt in business and family. The planning of a new restaurant coincides with the birth of a baby son, now almost 3 months old.
“The morning after the boat show last week I looked at my wife and said, ‘Babe, how am I going to do this with two restaurants?’” Gremaud says with a laugh.
But he says his West Palm Beach regulars have nothing to worry about, as he will have strong supporting chefs in both locations.
“West Palm Beach Avocado is my baby. I’m going to make sure it runs perfectly,” he says.
His dream, he says, is for north county to be as receptive of the upcoming restaurant as central county has been of the Datura Street location.
“I’m curious to see how people are going to react,” says the chef. “Would they embrace it and love it as much as they do in West Palm?”
With that, Gremaud was off to Miami.
“We’re going to look at the first set of plans today.”