- Liz Balmaseda Palm Beach Post Food Editor
Take more than three steps into Alicia’s Latin Cuisine, the newest restaurant on Northwood Village’s main drag, and you’ll end up in Ricky Reyes’ kitchen. The humble spot, which joins a batch of restaurants and shops in one of West Palm Beach’s most eclectic, indie-driven districts, is a work in progress.
But what the place lacks in feng shui it makes up for in soul.
Salvadoran-born Reyes opened the tiny restaurant just three months ago with his Colombian-born wife, Alicia Quintero. Together they make a small variety of Latin comfort dishes and street foods, from fried, corn-crust empanadas that are stuffed with saucy ground beef and served with a kicky avocado-jalapeño dip to taco bowls and heartier fare.
The couple even offers a weekly “cantina” (meal service) – five days of complete hot lunches for $35. They’ll cook a packed meal – say, fish, veggies, rice – for cantina clients by 11 a.m. each day. The service, which is offered in a few small Latin restaurants in central county, is a rarity for Northwood.
“We want to cook for you, whether or not you eat here,” says Reyes, a cheery cook whose family owned a pupusa (stuffed tortilla) business in his native San Salvador. “If you are a local, once you walk through our door you are not just our customer, you are our friend.”
When Reyes and Quintero opened their doors onto Northwood Road, they joined a district chock-a-block with small, indie businesses. As in any emerging district, Northwood Village’s landscape changes with every opening, closing and relocation.
“It’s a cool little area and it seems to be gaining momentum in the last couple of years,” says Jeffrey Thompson, a longtime Northwood businessman who owns the newly relocated Grilled Cheese Gallery on the district’s main drag. He had opened the fast-casual concept late last year just around the corner in a small storefront space that once housed Jamaican and Haitian cafés.
Thompson, an antique shop and art gallery owner who also owned the now-closed O-BO restaurant and lounge, launched his grilled cheese adventure with a couple of sandwich presses and a convection oven. But the small sandwich shop has done so well this year that he moved it into the larger O-BO space on Northwood Road.
“We were outgrowing the space,” says Thompson. “Now, we’re extremely, extremely busy. We’re getting customers from places like Palm Beach Gardens. It’s really catching on.”
The shop has expanded its menu to include craft beer and locally churned Luke’s soft-serve ice cream. The ice cream serves as a base for whimsical desserts such as the Saturday Morning Cartoons cone, vanilla soft-serve sprinkled with “nostalgic cereal.” That means bits of Cap’N Crunch, Fruity Pebbles and Cookie Crisp.
Thompson says he’s so pleased with the response to the grilled cheese shop that he’s looking for locations in Jupiter and Port St. Lucie for two additional shops.
Northwood Village, he says, has been an ideal incubator for his concept.
“I’m very confident in the area,” he says.
What’s cooking in Northwood Village? Here is a snapshot of the district’s current dining landscape:
Alicia’s Latin Cuisine
517 Northwood Rd., West Palm Beach; 561-444-6015
Humble spot for a homemade empanada and fresh-squeezed lemonade. Heartier options are available as is a weekday meal plan.
Grilled Cheese Gallery
422 Northwood Rd., West Palm Beach; 561-328-7425
Here’s a place that’s a testament to the lure of melted cheese. Various types of pressed, grilled cheese sandwiches are served as is locally churned, soft-serve ice cream.
On Northwood Road:
Relish and More
401 Northwood Rd., West Palm Beach; 561-629-5377
Your combo options at this burger-centric spot are mindboggling. You’ll want to come here hungry – excellent shakes and doughnuts are on the dessert menu.
427 Northwood Rd., West Palm Beach; 561-506-8211
This chef-owned bistro offers an interesting seasonal menu that boasts chef Roberto Villegas’ native Mexican dishes.
407 Northwood Rd., West Palm Beach; 561-508-2815
Margaritas and mainstream Mex fare are the norm at this spacious restaurant.
506 Northwood Rd., West Palm Beach; 561-228-1081
Good place for a pain chocolat, a sugar-dusted almond croissant, quiche or something heartier. This is also a nice place to linger over a cup of café au lait.
Harold’s Coffee Lounge
509 Northwood Rd., West Palm Beach; 561-833-6366
More than a coffee shop, Harold’s is a live music venue and gathering spot in the heart of Wynwood. But, yes, there’s some cutting-edge stuff going on in the coffee department. The place is offering Kyoto-style iced coffee, a slow-dripped, cold-brew coffee that’s made in rather scientific-looking brewing towers. The result is smooth, nuanced coffee.
521 Northwood Rd., West Palm Beach; 561-805-5760
This shop sells a variety of cupcakes, including the local favorite: red velvet.
On (and at) 24th Street
Sunset Bar and Grill
2500 Broadway, West Palm Beach; 561-832-2722
A neighborhood favorite at lunch and dinner, this restaurant has a glowing, vintage feel to it. Comfort dishes are exquisitely prepared and presented by chef/co-owner Terry Marince.
This is It Café
444 24th St., West Palm Beach; 561-655-3301
This popular neighborhood diner serves breakfast and lunch seven days a week.
On North Dixie Highway:
2409 N. Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach; 561-514-4070
This Italian trattoria and its spirited, musical nights boast a large, loyal clientele.
Agora Mediterranean Kitchen
2505 N. Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach; 561-651-7474
Turkish and Mediterranean eats are served in a festive ambiance, particularly on nights when belly dancers perform. Dishes are simple and earnestly prepared. Service is friendly and welcoming.
Olivia’s Special Teas
2320 N. Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach; 561-360-3017
This shop offers a variety of specialty, loose leaf teas as well as medicinal herbs, organic herbal kombucha, vinegar and raw honeys.
On 25th Street:
Malakor Thai Café
425 25th St., West Palm Beach; 561-762-9070
Spicy Thai dishes reign supreme at this friendly restaurant, where standout bowls (like yummy green papaya salad) are served in a colorful setting.
523 25th St., West Palm Beach; 561-318-5247
Gyros, abundant salads and more are served at this casual Mediterranean spot.
Sports Page Bar & Grill
535 25th St., West Palm Beach; 561-832-4211
Neighborhood bar and grill featuring sports bar fare and plenty of TV screens for game-watching.
505 25th St., West Palm Beach; 561-835-1832
A pizzeria and sub shop at the edge of the dining district.