Delray Beach’s success and charm as both a city and a community can be boiled down to two key factors throughout its history: the diversity of its people and its dedication to fresh food. In the late 1800s, the first non-Indigenous people who settled the area were Black farmers from Florida’s panhandle. As the twentieth century approached, more and more immigrant farmers from the Caribbean islands and (remarkably) Japan bought land and planted crops of winter vegetables and, eventually, a then-exotic fruit known as the pineapple.
Modern Delray Beach’s most-popular downtown district, Pineapple Grove, is named after that fruit in honor of its founding immigrant communities. Pineapple Grove and its surrounding streets feature some of South County’s best restaurants, nightlife, and cultural points of interest. One historic organization, Old School Square, has delighted Delray Beach audiences for decades and comprises an art museum, a theater, and an outdoor concert stage.
Events like those at Old School Square and the newer Arts Warehouse as well as open-air farmers markets and a variety of city-supported initiatives (think: Dine Out Downtown Delray, Savor the Avenue, First Friday Art Walk, and Delray Beach Fashion Week) reflect Delray’s thirst for entertainment. “We have a community here that is very walkable and sociable,” says Laura Simon, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority in Delray Beach. “It’s a place where you come to see people and feel like they’re your neighbors and friends.” A lifelong resident of Delray Beach, Simon notes that this sense of civic pride gets passed down from generation to generation. “We love when our kids grow up here and want to come back. That, to me, is a sign of success.”
This should come as no surprise to anyone driving through the residential neighborhoods bordering downtown Delray Beach. “There’s pride in ownership and community in downtown Delray Beach,” says Copeland, who often sells property here as an alternative to West Palm Beach. She points out that, in Delray, the lots tend to be larger and not as close to one another. There’s also a distinct Floridian aesthetic (it’s common to see pineapple cutouts in fences, for example) and young professionals can also expect a nice selection of luxury condominiums from which to choose.
Beyond those who live in downtown Delray, the region is also a favorite for vacationers. Families especially flock to this hot spot to soak up the sun and dine at locally owned eateries such as El Camino, City Oyster, and Park Tavern—many of which offer stellar brunches. Other cool activities include learning more about the Black communities that shaped Delray Beach at the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum; perusing small businesses, like the infamous Murder on the Beach mystery book store; and hanging out at retro-cool Silverball Museum, where you can play an array of vintage arcade games.
The stitch that holds this darling downtown together is Atlantic Avenue, which extends east from I-95 to its namesake ocean, connecting those eager for an evening of excitement with a community that stands ready to serve them as patrons, friends, and neighbors.
Neighborhood Nosh: True to the neighborhood’s roots, Bamboo Fire Café is a Caribbean-style restaurant within central Pineapple Grove. Owned and operated by a husband-and-wife duo (Donald and Beverly Jacobs), the café is sure to please all palates. Order the sensational oxtail pepperpot with a side of sweet plantains on a sunny day and feel at one with the tropics.