Coolinary Cafe is among those rare restaurants that transcends it surroundings, encouraging the rest of the community to catch up. Helmed by Tim Lipman, quite possibly a cooking messiah, Coolinary is a small (an understatement, at 45 seats) culinary hotspot in Jupiter, the newest shining star of northern Palm Beach County eateries.
A bastion of gourmand activity, Coolinary could easily hold its own in the food-forward towns of New York, San Francisco or Miami; Delray Beach and West Palm would be a stretch for the flavors Lipman is merging and creating. But in the tiny community of Abacoa, Lipman has found an audience—a willing and adventurous one at that—that has rallied behind this respite of culinary excellence, where flavors determine what’s on the menu.
“People here like to eat good food. They like to go outside the box,” Lipman says. “I want to be able to appeal to everybody. But I also want to open people’s eyes, help them understand that it's not just meat and potatoes. There are so many other ingredients out there, so many different flavors out there in the world.”
This willingness to experiment is what makes Coolinary so different. Things change based on seasons, whims and availability. The menu consists of a specials board, which changes twice—daily. As for the mainstay menu, dishes may stay in print, but their make-up changes, a lot. The housemade sausage, a consummate starter, changes nearly daily—on a recent visit, alligator and pork made for one of the best flavor combinations I never knew existed.
Lipman’s cooking style puts flavors first, creating profiles that often pair ingredients that seem contradictory but somehow work. Have you ever had a jalapeno cheddar waffle? With coleslaw? And fried chicken? Sounds bizarre, but once you try it, an Eggo will seem lacking in so many ways that it's embarrassing. With no one influence, Coolinary’s dishes range from southern staples (fried chicken) to Latin flavors (the Florida-raised shrimp escabeche with yuca griddle cakes was eye-opening) to international fare (Berkshire pork shoulder with coconut curry milk might be the best thing that ever came from Colonialism), and they are constantly changing.
“There are influences everywhere. You have to be open to everything, learn from everyone, your surroundings, everywhere. In terms of cultural cooking, this really is a melting pot down here. It opened my eyes tremendously,” Lipman says.
The open-kitchen restaurant is one of the hottest tables in town; even during the offseason, expect a wait, and for good reason. Coolinary’s mantra is spelled out on the menu: honest, fresh, simple, refined. Calling the place farm-to-fork is appropriate (nearly all ingredients are sourced locally or regionally) but still does not sum it up. Coolinary is a dining experience, a display of flavors that is hard to explain, best tasted.
Here, Lipman spoke with palmbeachillustrated.com about food, community and flavor.
What’s your cooking philosophy?
We strive to stay within our frame, which is on the menu: honest, fresh, simple and refined. In terms of honesty, we want the ingredients to speak for themselves—this is the ingredient, let it speak.
Make it as fresh as it can possibly be. We try to get as local as we can. [Lipman points to a chalkboard on the wall.] These are some of the farms we are using right now. I can call any one of those farms personally and talk to them about their operation. That’s big for me. I need to know what’s going on, that at any given time I can go take tour and see what is going on; be a part of it.
Simplicity—just don’t overdo it. Nothing too complicated, like too many ingredients, dressings, marinades or anything like that. Try to keep it simple.
Refined, to me … we are not fine dining here. It is not what we’re here for; it is not what we are about. Refined is … take our hamburger, for example. You can buy any ground beef on the planet. Ours is chuck brisket and short rib—that’s refined. It’s on a fresh-made Challah roll—that’s refined. We make all our pickles, ketchup and mayonnaise. These are the types of things that are very simple, honest. The mayonnaise is nothing special; it's mayonnaise. The ketchup is what it is; I don’t buy it, I don’t open a can—we don’t employ can-openers here. The pickles … they’re just pickles. It's stuff like that which is so easy to do, yet the industry sells thousands of five gallon buckets of pickles.
Why the Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter area?
When I was opening, people told me to go to Miami, Delray Beach, even West Palm. But if I could not cook for my family and friends, I would be miserable now, and I am a happy camper. This is my community. I live here and I knew the community needed something like this.
I wanted to make a place where people can come and get something fresh and different. And I want to get to know the people that come in. This is where I spend all my time. I am here every day, six days a week. I want to know the customers, be the place that people make the time for.
4650 Donald Ross Rd., Suite 110
* Photography by Jessica Lorren Photography and palmbeachillustrated.com staff.