PBI Awards 2017: The Best of Palm Beach County

From Vero Beach to Boca Raton, there are countless reasons to love living in Palm Beach County and beyond. From vibrant street fairs and inspired hangouts to innovate experiences and a bounty of delicious dishes, these local standouts deserve applause. Who made the cut this year? Keep scrolling to find out.

Best New Table: Sant Ambroeus

Photo credit: Nicole Franzen

Could there be a swankier place to dine than Sant Ambroeus? The Milanese restaurant whose Manhattan and Southampton outposts we’ve loved for years is finally in Palm Beach, within the chic confines of the reimagined Royal Poinciana Plaza. If we must say so, the lush, if retro, European design of the Palm Beach location outshines them all. The velvet settees, the terrazzo floors, and the fluted mahogany paneling make us swoon, to say nothing of the charming gelato cart perched on The Royal’s black-and-white checkerboard tiles. But is the food good? That we answer with an enthusiastic, “Ovviamente!”

Best Reinvention: The Warehouse District

Photo Credit: Johnstone Capital Partners

Everyone loves a makeover story, and The Warehouse District might be one of West Palm Beach’s greatest transformations ever. Once a block of old industrial buildings, the 85,000-square-foot lifestyle compound redeveloped by Johnstone Capital Partners recalls similar successful projects nationwide (think Atlanta’s Krog Street Market or New York’s Chelsea Market) with a roster of tenants that reflects the area’s evolving landscape. Currently, visitors can check out Elizabeth Ave. Station, a pop-up retail space showcasing local artisans like Heartswell paper goods and vendors such as The Curated Look, which stocks high-quality independent makers and designers. There’s also the Palm Beach Squash Club; District Workspace, a cool co-working office; Steam Horse Brewing Co., a new brewery and taproom from the guys behind Twisted Trunk Brewing and Tequesta Brewing; two distilleries; and soon-to-open Studios etc., a fitness studio offering barre and spin classes. Grandview Public Market, a food hall outfitted by Chris Vila and opening this fall, is the largest component. The one-stop shopping and eating destination houses Flower & Fringe, Rabbit Coffee Roasting Co., Celis Produce, and three concepts from Dale Talde of Top Chef fame, including fried chicken at Clare’s Chicken, Detroit-style pan pizza at The Corner, and a bar, Little Red Truck. A pedestrian greenway runs through the center of it all, allowing visitors to hop from hot spot to hot spot at this urban mecca for all things hip.

Best Literary Scene: Murder on the Beach Mystery Book Store, Palm Beach Book Festival, Palm Beach Poetry Festival, and Raptis Rare Books

Owner Matthew Raptis travels the world in search of one-of-a-kind books to add to his store.

Fans of thrillers, mysteries, and suspense novels know about Murder on the Beach—even if they don’t live in Florida. Such is the reputation of the Delray Beach mystery bookstore with the cult following. Why so popular? For starters, it hosts signings by the bigs— Patterson, Baldacci, Berry, Iles, and others. More importantly, the tiny store fosters a sense of community among readers and writers, with offerings like the Florida Authors Academy instruction series, literary luncheons, and themed parties that spill onto the sidewalk.

The stars have aligned for the Palm Beach Book Festival. Only three years old, the event has brought enormous talent to Palm Beach County: Alan Cumming, Sebastian Junger, Burt Reynolds, and Robert Wagner have been among the featured authors addressing sold-out crowds. It’s a big city–quality book affair in our backyard, and we wouldn’t be surprised if it gathered steam (and renown) worldwide.

To be or not to be at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival? Is that even aquestion? For more than a decade, the festival has lured some of the world’s best bards to Delray Beach every January. Its goal is twofold: Allow poets to foster their craft while also hosting top-notch readings. In 2018, attendees can talk shop with Phillis Levin and Tim Seibles, take part in a panel on influential verses, and express themselves through ekphrastic poems inspired by works at the Cornell Museum.

Lovers of the written word are particularly smitten with Raptis Rare Books. A recent addition to Worth Avenue, Raptis specializes in first editions and inscribed copies of literature’s most famous works. In search of a signed copy of To Kill a Mockingbird? Raptis has it. Hunting for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with the signature of artist Salvador Dali? It’s here. In need of a version of The Sun Also Rises featuring the misprint “stoppped”? They’ve got that, too. For anyone who adores the smell of an old book or the comfort of a fine leather chair, Raptis is a rare find.

Best Taco Tuesday: Cholo Soy Cocina

Chef Clay Carnes puts the finishing touch on his grilled spiced corn. Photo by Alex Celis

Chef Clay Carnes packs a lot of flavor into his 600-square-foot taqueria on Antique Row. Dedicated diners flock to Cholo Soy Cocina, happily waiting in lines that snake out the door and sharing picnic tables with strangers just to savor Carnes’ Ecuadorian-inspired street food. Tacos are the main attraction. They come two to an order, delivered fully garnished on homemade white corn tortillas. Substitutions aren’t allowed—but honestly, why mess with perfection? Carnes crafts these pockets of heaven just so, layering fine meats with local produce and drool-worthy acidity. We can’t get enough of the Chancho, composed of smoked pork paired with a pickled pineapple salsa. Order up a side of yucca fries (the best in the county) and an on-tap margarita, and you’ll become a believer, too.

Best Retro Rewind: Silverball Museum

Photo Credit: Jerry Rabinowitz

Anyone who grew up in the 1980s fondly recalls the golden age of arcade video games. Of riding your bike to the mall, quarters jingling in your pockets. Of sprinting through halls bright with fluorescent light and reeking of pepperoni pizza just to be first in line to play Donkey Kong—or PacMan, Asteroids, Frogger, Space Invaders, you name it. Of the feeling of vindication when you finally beat the high score, leaving behind your initials as the ultimate form of bragging rights. This era of unfiltered, electronic joy is alive and well at Silverball Museum in Delray Beach. Here, everything is set to free play and an admissions fee offers access to hundreds of the greatest games of all time. Flex your upper-arm muscles with endless rounds of Skee-Ball. Hone your hand-eye coordination with an array of pinball tables. Step back in time with wooden-rail baseball and golf machines from the 1950s. At Silverball Museum, the pizza is hot, the beer is cold, the games are buzzing, and the living is easy.

Best Brewery: Civil Society Brewing Co.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Civil Society

Every homebrewer dreams of opening a brewery and sharing their labor of love. Civil Society Brewing Co. co-owners Karl Volstad, Evan Miller, and Chris Volstad did just that in November 2015 and quickly created a sensation within the craft beer community. Friends since high school, Karl and Evan began making small batches of beer more than seven years ago, developing their unique style: unfiltered and hop-forward. Beer aficionados nationwide
took notice. Thrillist.com crowned Civil Society one of the best new breweries in America, and Ratebeer.com ranked it No. 5 on its list of best new breweries in the world. These accolades come as no surprise to local fans who impatiently await each new release and never tire of Civil Society’s tried-and-true favorites, such as the cornerstone IPA, Fresh, and Blondes Make Me Hoppy, a blonde ale ideal for beach hangs. Every pour tastes great at this Jupiter
brewery, where the fermenting tanks sit in plain sight, the smell of yeast lingers in the air, and murals by Eduardo Mendieta serve as a cool backdrop to world-class libations.

Best New Hot Spot: Louie Bossi

Photo Credit: Jerry Rabinowitz

When news hit of chef Louie Bossi opening a Boca Raton location of his wildly popular Fort Lauderdale restaurant, lovers of his handmade pasta and wood-fired pizzas began buzzing with excitement. The zeal for Louie Bossi’s Ristorante shows no sign of waning—a testament to the eatery’s authentic cuisine and the variety of experiences housed inside. Instagram enthusiasts can be found snapping pictures on the vintage Vespa parked at the entrance. A humming happy hour crowd—with LB’s signature Aperol spritzes in hand—fills the mid-century modern bar and pours onto the patio overlooking Palmetto Park Road. Those with a competitive spirit take to the bocce ball court in the outdoor garden, where conversation flourishes around the fire pit. The convivial dining area provides the ideal spot for serious gourmands to sink into a tufted velvet booth and fall in love with dishes that are as delicious as they are fun to eat. The warmed ‘Nduja, a spicy, spreadable pork salumi served with fresh ricotta cheese transported us straight to Italy, and we’re still daydreaming of the effervescent Venetian affogato, pastel-hued gelato bathed in Prosecco.

Best Family Activity: Conservation Course

A golf course designed by Gary Nicklaus and Jim Fazio commands respect—even if it’s in miniature. The 18-hole Conservation Course at the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium is the quintessential mini-golf experience. Not only was it designed by two legends, it also promotes awareness of South Florida’s delicate ecosystems. The landscaping mimics the Everglades wetlands, and a butterfly garden buzzes with winged activity. As you’d expect from Fazio and Nicklaus, there are a few challenges as well. Bring your A game.

Best Spot for Locals: Chez L’Épicier

Walking into Chez L’Épicier immediately inspires us to wind down. Maybe it’s the warm welcome by Véronique Deneault, or the scents emanating from the kitchen of chef Laurent Godbout, or the tranquil palette of sea blue and driftwood. The French-Canadian couple has achieved the perfect alchemy of inventive food and drink, know-your-name familiarity, and simple but elevated design. We are obsessed with the Prince Edward Island mussels (bottomless bowls in the summer!) and the avocado and yuzu tartare. And what other restaurant lets you end your evening with homemade marshmallows and a mini DIY roaster?

Best Artistic Outing: Lake Worth Street Painting Festival

Artists Cheryl and Wayne Renshaw showcase their finished piece. Photo by Robert Dreverman Jr.

For one weekend in February, the streets of downtown Lake Worth run rainbow with chalk. Since 1995, the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival has turned pavement into canvas as more than 600 artists make masterful works of ephemeral art. This vibrant block party gives attendees the opportunity to witness the creative process in action. The works—which range from 3-D trompe l’oeil designs to celebrity portraits and all the playful paintings in between—are drawn on site. Just as quickly as they appear so, too, do they fade away. Seen by more than 100,000 people each year, these creations might be ephemeral, but they express the artistic essence of Palm Beach County’s quirkiest city.

Best Watering Hole: The Parched Pig

Photo Credit: Libby Volgyes

We’ve all been there: You put your name in for a table at Coolinary Café—Tim Lipman’s famed North County eatery—and then wait idly, twiddling your thumbs until the blessed moment your name is called. Since January, Lipman and his wife, Jenny, have provided customers with a prime place to pass the time. Located a few storefronts down from Coolinary, The Parched Pig slings up a curated list of craft beers and fine wines as well as small bites that capture Lipman’s clever approach to locavore cuisine. This comfy pub is open to all, not just Coolinary diners. Stop by for a cider from West Palm Beach–based Accomplice Brewery & Ciderworks and a charcuterie spread that is a thing of beauty. Live music, Sunday brunches, and fun, educational events—like the recent Summer School Beer Series—round out this homegrown libationary experience.

Best Foodie Fête: Palm Beach Taste of the Nation

Photo Credit: Libby Volgyes

The benevolence of Palm Beach County chefs elevates the area’s culinary scene while simultaneously uplifting our community in big ways. Case in point: Palm Beach Taste of the Nation, a large-scale tasting of who’s who in the local food and beverage industry aimed at ending childhood hunger. Under the leadership of co-chairs Lindsay Autry, Zach Bell, Clay Conley, and Tim Lipman, it’s become a must-attend event for foodies and chefs alike. It’s not a competition, but it might as well be. Chefs go all out in the quest to outdo themselves and each other year after year. And, Taste of the Nation is moving the needle. In its seventh year, the sold-out event raised more than $100,000 for No Kid Hungry, which translates to more than a million healthy meals for kids in need.

Winner’s Circle: These delicious dishes won the favor of our editors for their bold flavors and unexpected combinations

1. Boiled peanut hummus with deviled ham and eggs and Florida spring vegetables by Lindsay Autry of The Regional

2. White chocolate panna cotta with tropical fruit relish, passion curd, and freezedried raspberries by pastry chef Dana Iannelli of Addison Reserve Country Club

3. Soy-braised short rib shiso taco with cucumber sesame salad and yuzu aioli by Julien Gremaud of Avocado Grill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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