It’s a trend that pairs the posh with the pragmatic: local fine dining restaurants opening casual, grab-and-go counters.
Consider the newly opened market at Costa, the Mediterranean restaurant at the Esplanade plaza on Worth Avenue. The upscale, second-floor spot offers build-your-own bowls, sandwiches, salads, spreads, breads and juices – all for prices lower than what it would cost to sit down and order off the restaurant’s main menus.
This is the idea, really: to expand the restaurant’s customer base by offering locals and day-timers a chance to sample chef-made fare.
The concept has worked well at Buccan Palm Beach, which operates a takeout sandwich shop around the corner from the restaurant’s main entrance. And the months-old, grab-and-go menu at Kitchen in West Palm Beach has been a hit.
What these three restaurants have in common, of course, is top-level culinary talent in the kitchen.
As anyone familiar with Costa’s cuisine will know not to expect a random tuna-on-white kind of sandwich. Instead, executive chef David Valencia prepares bigeye tuna in a confit style (poached in oil), spices it up with sun-dried tomatoes and roasted piquillo peppers, adds grilled artichoke, feta and melted mozzarella and serves it upon grilled sourdough country bread. Like all sandwiches at The Market, the tuna-artichoke melt comes with a side and a drink for $9.95.
The lower price point is also a focus of the grab-and-go trend. In offering affordable lunch-counter prices, they hope to attract customers who might not visit the restaurant otherwise.
“Our prices at The Market are less expensive. We’re kind of targeting the workers from the area who want a quick, but nice lunch,” says Valencia.
Costa co-owner Danielle Bennemann says the new market is in part a response to queries from local beachgoers and area workers who often asked if the restaurant had easy grab-and-go bites.
“We just wanted something that was quick, a little more accessible, a little trendy, and a more simplified version of our menu,” she says.
Call it lunch, Palm-Beach-in-a-hurry style. It’s lunch you can enjoy in the setting of your choice, lunch that doesn’t require a snazzy outfit, lunch your way.
Here’s the dish on two other fine dining spots with takeout lunch counter operations:
The Sandwich Shop at Buccan
Chef Clay Conley and his Buccan group partners quietly opened this casual sandwich counter in December 2014. It was a way for the island’s hottest restaurant to fix the cravings of its locals at lunchtime. (The main restaurant doesn’t open till 5 p.m. nightly.)
This is no ordinary sandwich counter – it’s a treat. Conley is a three-time semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard Award for best chef in the South. His team, which includes acclaimed chef Jimmy Strine (formerly of Café Boulud), is rock-star as well. So when they fashion a sandwich, they do so with bread that’s baked in-house, meats smoked and roasted on premises and to-die-for dressings.
The menu changes daily but customers can count on options such as the Buccan Cubano (layered with pit-smoked ham, pork, Swiss, pickles and mustard aioli, $11), a smoked yellowfin tuna salad sandwich ($12) and a beef carpaccio sandwich (with crispy and balsamic onions, arugula and Parmesan, $11).
It’s the premium ingredients that turn a seemingly spare menu into something special. That’s the advantage of a grab-and-go spot that shares a kitchen with a fine dining restaurant, says Averill Conley, Buccan’s publicist.
“It’s a huge support in terms of staff and product,” she says. “You have this wealth of ingredients available to you during the day.”
“Prep Kitchen has been killing it,” she says. “We don’t have a lot of foot traffic, but there are a lot of businesses and law firms that put in major catering orders. People from the neighborhood love it as well. They love the healthy options.”
Located next door to Kitchen, in the restaurant’s special-events and spillover space, Prep Kitchen showcases Matthew Byrne’s love of simple, home-cooked dishes. His flavorful soups are scratch-made and his sandwich options ($12) are inspired and filling.
Prep Kitchen’s Aubergine Sandwich layers rounds of fried eggplant with rocket lettuce, roasted peppers and burrata. The Bubby layers corned beef, slaw, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing. The salads ($10) are huge and varied, and the menu includes Byrne’s popular coconut cake ($5).
Offering a lower price point at Prep Kitchen is important to the chef.
“Matthew believes a salad shouldn’t be more than $12. It just shouldn’t,” says Aliza.
IF YOU GO
- The Market at Costa: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the second floor, eastern end of Esplanade plaza, 150 Worth Ave., Palm Beach; 561-429-8456
- The Sandwich Shop at Buccan: Open daily from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at 350 South County Rd. (entrance on Australian Avenue), Palm Beach; 561-833-6295
- Prep Kitchen at Kitchen: Open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at 319 Belvedere Rd. #4, West Palm Beach; 561-249-2281