Savor the Sun: Where to Eat in Palm Beach

Palm Beach is known as the winter playground for the rich and famous. The tony island and its surrounding towns offer top-notch and, in many cases, unpretentious restaurants helmed by a slew of coveted chefs from around the globe. From upscale vegan and Southern fare to local beer and burgers, here are the best restaurants in Palm Beach County.

Seafood: PB Catch

Surrounded on three sides by water, Florida is known for superb seafood. However, when it comes to upscale, sustainable fish, PB Catch tops the food chain. Set on the island of Palm Beach, this pearl offers pristine food in a posh setting. The seasonally rotating selection of oysters is the most extensive in town, from Prince Edward Island Malpeques to Oregon Kumamotos, with pretty much everything in between. And the globally inspired dishes are just as impressive. Look for options like pan-seared Chilean sea bass certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. The fare and atmosphere alone are exceptional, but throw in imaginative cocktails like a Blackberry Mint Gin & Tonic and numerous by-the-glass wines, and you have the ultimate seafood joint for the new Florida.

Burger: BurgerFi

California has In-N-Out. New York has Shake Shack. The Midwest has Steak & Shake. South Florida has BurgerFi. The local fast-casual burger chain is revered among locals for its high-quality humanely raised beef, devoid of hormones, antibiotics and all animal byproducts. Born in South Florida in 2011, the eco-conscious chain has become such a hit that it now has nearly 100 locations. The North Palm Beach-based company smashes and sears Angus patties on a griddle, and cradles them in signature stamped buns with a classic array of toppings, like bacon, American cheese, fried egg and pink BurgerFi sauce. And the vegan-friendly place serves some excellent veggie fare, too.

Comfort Food: Coolinary Cafe

Set in an average strip mall in Palm Beach Garden’s Donald Ross Village, Coolinary Cafe may not look like anything special from the outside. But the 47-seat restaurant is, in fact, one of the coolest neighborhood restaurants in all of South Florida. Chef-Owner Tim Lipman serves super-hyped comfort food, including unique riffs on international home-style classics. Here, chicken and waffles gets an invigorating makeover with grilled lemon, coleslaw and boneless Southern-style fried chicken atop a jalapeno-cheddar waffle. Spaghetti and Florida clams gets jazzed up with housemade parsley pork sausage, kale, Glades corn and jalapeno queso. This is an all-new take on comfort.

Southern: The Regional Kitchen & Public House

Lindsay Autry dug deep before opening her highly lauded, seasonally-driven hub, the Regional Kitchen & Public House. The concept is like her own delicious memoir, with a menu that highlights her North Carolina upbringing, Greek grandmother’s cooking, days working in top Miami restaurants for super-chef Michelle Bernstein and, as the title suggests, regional culinary history. With it, she’s breathing life back into all of West Palm Beach’s CityPlace. The cavernous space — once home to several failed restaurant concepts — now buzzes with a bespoke playlist and diners crowding in to try Autry’s creative fare. Dishes include a Low Country Boil chock full of Florida seafood; Bucatini a la Americana peppered with country ham; andvibrant tomato pie and pimento cheese prepared tableside.

Bakery: Patrick Léze

While touring the Florida coast on a motorcycle with his wife, Patrick Léze happened upon Palm Beach. It was a life-changing discovery. The couple returned home to the south of France to pack up their lives for the warm sands of South Florida, and Palm Beach residents got a deal. Léze’s namesake bakery churns out impeccable baked goods that could rival what one would find in the Motherland. Croissants are lighter, flakier and more buttery than any other rendition in the Sunshine State, and some of the top in the U.S. Baguettes are chewy on the inside, crisp and crackly outside. And the pastries, including Opera cake and fruit tartlets, look picture-perfect.

Brewery: Due South Brewing Co.

One of the frontrunners in South Florida’s now robust craft-beer scene, Due South Brewing Co. opened in 2012, earning a fan-following for locally inspired brews like signature Caramel Cream Ale and grapefruit-scented IPAs. It has since picked up a number of gold medals for its Mariana Trench Imperial Stout, Asylum Harbor Red Ale, & Category 5 IPA, as well as several awards. The beer is fantastic, but the brewery itself is also a great place to just hang out. With a strong contingent of locals and a rotating lineup of food trucks, it feels more like block party than a bar. And the best is yet to come: An indoor beer garden, a larger air-conditioned tap room and a dedicated space for barrel-aging are in the works.

Cocktail Bar: Sweetwater Bar & Grill

South Florida’s sunshine means that it’s better known for beach bars than cocktail dens. But those looking for a proper drink should head straight for Sweetwater Bar & Grill. The Boynton Beach speakeasy has accumulated a devoted following with its intensive drinks program and cool underground vibe. Co-owner and master bartender Sean Iglehart is the ultimate cocktail geek. A veritable encyclopedia of all things alcohol-related, Iglehart will happily discuss cocktail history, technique and ingredients, showing off rarities like hard-to-find bitters, handmade infusions, elaborate liqueurs, and a garden of fruits and herbs. They’re all essential for combinations like Death & Taxes, a blend of Earl Grey gin, St. Germain, stone pine liqueur, lemon and house tonic. Or request something off the list — he’s happy to shake up pretty much anything and he’ll most likely give it a unique spin, preparing it with the ritualistic precision of a magician performing onstage.

Vegan: Darbster

Even those with the best intentions find that the idea of going vegetarian is far easier than actually doing it — unless they come to Darbster. What started out as a haven for South Florida’s growing vegetarian community has turned into a meat-free destination for even the most die-hard carnivores. Meat eaters and vegetarians alike come in droves to this small canal-front West Palm Beach restaurant for vegetarian Buffalo wings, sliders and “fried oysters,” made of cornmeal-crusted shiitake mushrooms. If that’s not enough to get you there, consider the brunch, which griddles pancakes with meatless sausage, and turns up vegan Benedict. The initial location in West Palm Beach saw so much success that the Darbster crew opened a second location, in Boca Raton. So, no matter where you are, there is gratifying and cruelty-free food nearby.

Alfresco: DaDa Restaurant & Lounge

Set in a historic 1920s home, just steps from the main strip of Delray Beach’s Atlantic Avenue, fittingly named DaDa Restaurant & Lounge is like an Old Florida artist’s bungalow. A lush banyan tree shades the gravel-lined yard, with lanterns casting soft light from its limbs and benches flanking the trunk. Below the canopy, tiki torches and string lights brighten the wooden tables and chairs for a vibe that’s sultry, cool, slightly eclectic and perfect for the food. Executive Chef Bruce Feingold churns out creative dishes like Lamb Ribs, Pork Belly Waffle Dogs and Caramel Spiced Chicken. Renowned mojitos and an impressive selection of wines are ideal for sipping on warm evenings. Where many prefer to soak in the ocean breeze, this destination spot offers a more bohemian taste of the Gold Coast.

Rock Star Chef: Clay Conley

Clay Conley has been around the culinary block. He traveled the globe for a decade as culinary director for Todd English’s Olives Group. He then won numerous awards and accolades as the executive chef of the Miami Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s Azul. Since opening his own Palm Beach eatery, Buccan, in 2011, Conley’s star has only continued to soar. Known for innovative American fare prepared with ultra-fresh ingredients, he was the only Gold Coast toque to garner James Beard Foundation Awards nominations two years in a row. Even so, Conley hasn’t settled for the status quo. He’s added new places to his roster, including modern Asian concept Imoto (inspired by time spent in Tokyo), The Sandwich Shop at Buccan and a highly anticipated Italian concept slated for June 2015.

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