Buzzy Grato soon will open for lunch in West Palm Beach

On the menu: paccheri with herb ricotta and "Sunday gravy." (Photo: LibbyVision.com)
On the menu: paccheri with herb ricotta and “Sunday gravy.” Photo: LibbyVision.com

Lunch on South Dixie Highway is about to get serious. Serious as in reservations just may be recommended serious, as in major chef serious, as in Sunday gravy served on Tuesday serious.

Grato, the hottest spot on Palm Beach County’s restaurant heat map, will open for lunch starting Monday, Aug. 8. Lunch service at the 7-month-old West Palm Beach trattoria, which is co-owned by the team behind Palm Beach’s popular Buccan bistro, will be offered from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The flavor mind behind Grato, chef/partner Clay Conley, calls the move “a natural evolution.”

“As a neighborhood restaurant, it makes sense to expand our service to include lunch,” says Conley.

The Italian-inspired spot is located in his own neighborhood, Flamingo Park. It is where the nationally acclaimed chef presents brick oven-fired pizza and handmade pastas and a decadent Sunday a la carte brunch (starting at 11 a.m.).

Chef at work: Clay Conley plates pasta at Grato. (Photo: LibbyVision.com)
Clay Conley plates pasta at Grato. Photo: LibbyVision.com

“We will run some dinner items on the lunch menu, including all of the pizzas,” says Conley.

The lunch menu also will include “ample salads, sandwiches and additional variations of pasta,” he says. Soon, a catering menu will be added to offer off-site groups pan-sized renditions of pastas and salads.

On the lunch menu: entrée salads like Confit Tuna ($16) with shaved fennel and Romano beans, and Summer Panzanella ($14) with rotisserie chicken, porchetta sandwiches ($13) and meatball sandwiches ($12). Add to those some varying pasta options, such as gemelli with rock shrimp, prosciutto, artichoke and tomato ($15.50). Plus dinner menu items like Grato’s Paccheri ($13.50) with that Sunday-gravy meat sauce and Bucatini Carbonara ($14).

Grato: 1901 S. Dixie Hwy, West Palm Beach; 561-404-1334; www.gratowpb.com.

Which two local eateries are among ‘100 Hottest’ in America?

Buzzy Buccan in full effect.  (Contributed by LILA PHOTO)
Buzzy Buccan in full effect. (Contributed by LILA PHOTO)

Good grub-loving locals shouldn’t be too surprised to learn two Palm Beach County restaurants made OpenTable’s list for “100 Hottest Restaurants in America for 2016.”

In fact, a few who appreciate the hotness of our local restaurant scene might ask: just two?

The online dining reservations service selected its top 100 from five million-plus reviews posted by verified diners across the country. Those reviews focused on some 20,000 restaurants, including those that are “hip, new,” that are “hot spots,” or boast celebrity chefs and “avant-garde restaurateurs.” The 100 restaurants are not ranked.

So which local favorites made the “hottest” list?

Buccan in Palm Beach and El Camino in Delray Beach.

El Camino strikes a pose in Delray Beach's Pineapple Grove. (Bruce R. Bennett/ The Palm Beach Post)
El Camino strikes a pose in Delray Beach’s Pineapple Grove. (Bruce R. Bennett/ The Palm Beach Post)

Buccan is the domain of nationally acclaimed executive chef Clay Conley, who co-owns the modern American bistro with partners Sam Slattery and Piper Quinn. (It’s also the big-sister eatery to Imoto, the Japanese-style izakaya next door, and Grato, the buzzy new trattoria in West Palm Beach.)

El Camino Mexican Soul Food & Tequila Bar is a hip, popular spot packing in late-night crowds in Delray’s Pineapple Grove dining district. The eatery, which offers a solid menu of street foods, makes everything from sauces to tortillas on premises.

The Palm Beach County duo joins five other Florida restaurants on this hot list. (See full list here.) They are: Café Martorano in Fort Lauderdale, Palace Bar in Miami Beach, Prato in Winter Park, BB King’s Blues Club in Orlando and, also in Orlando (but with a West Palm Beach soul), Rocco’s Tacos.

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The buzz about Grato: Pizzeria heats up Flamingo Park

Killer carbonara: Chef Clay Conley at work on plates of buccatini. (LibbyVision.com)
Killer carbonara: Chef Clay Conley at work on plates of buccatini. (LibbyVision.com)

The fab new pizzeria on South Dixie Highway has been packed every night since its debut Jan. 8. At primetime on most nights, the bar three rows deep at Grato, the eatery opened by the powerhouse team behind Palm Beach’s wildly popular Buccan bistro.

“I’m mesmerized by the fire, the scurrying cooks, the bar crowd buzzing,” says cookbook author Judith Olney, who lives within walking distance of the West Palm Beach eatery she describes as “Brooklyn-style, coolest place in the area.”

Word of the opening has spread far and wide, even earning a mention in the Wall Street Journal last week.

Clay Conley, Grato's executive chef and co-owner. (LibbyVision.com)
Clay Conley, Grato’s executive chef and co-owner. (LibbyVision.com)

“It’s been insane. It’s been busier than we thought it was going to be,” says Grato executive chef and co-owner Clay Conley.

Why the buzz? Read the full story on Grato.

Palm Beach’s Buccan celebrates 5 years today with greatest-hits menu

Chef Clay Conley opened The Sandwich Shop at Buccan in Palm Beach in December. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Chef Clay Conley opened The Sandwich Shop at Buccan in Palm Beach in December. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Time flies when you’re winning awards.

The restaurant Buccan, which shot to national prominence thanks to two-time James Beard Award semifinalist chef Clay Conley, is celebrating its five-year anniversary today. The restaurant will offer some of its most memorable dishes since its debut, focusing on the small plates and world-inspired ingredients that have been its hallmark on Palm Beach.

CRITICS CHOICE: See food editor Liz Balmaseda’s best of 2015

Among the many dishes today: Colorado lamb with harissa chili paste; grilled Florida corn with Mexican cotija cheese; short rib empanadas; and squid ink orecchiette pasta with Italian sausage and conch.

Their signature cocktail, the Buccan T (an acronym for its ingredients: basil, unsweetened iced tea, cranberry, citrus, agave nectar) will be served all night for $5.

 

Four-chef Buccan collaboration kicks off Palm Beach food festival

Chefs Gavin Kaysen, George Mendes and Hugh Acheson joined Clay Conley at Buccan for the opening meal at the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival. (Carlos Frías/The Palm Beach Post)
Chefs Gavin Kaysen, George Mendes and Hugh Acheson joined Clay Conley at Buccan for the opening meal at the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival. (Carlos Frías/The Palm Beach Post)

Four key ingredients made for a spectacular opening night to the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival: the chefs.

Buccan, the home turf of the county’s own two-time James Beard Award nominee Clay Conley, hosted a family-style meal with star power: Southern food savant and James Beard cookbook award winner Hugh Acheson, Gavin Kaysen (two-time James Beard finalist) and Michelin-star-rated George Mendes.

Conley slow roasted wagyu short ribs for 24 hours and served it with mushroom and a spicy gochujang sauce in a lettuce wrap. (Carlos Frías/The Palm Beach Post)
Conley slow roasted wagyu short ribs for 24 hours and served it with mushroom and a spicy gochujang sauce in a lettuce wrap. (Carlos Frías/The Palm Beach Post)

WIN ALL-ACCESS PASSES! Follow our coverage of the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival

Each cooked two dishes — actually stood in Conley’s kitchen and prepared the meals — for 140 guests smart enough to snap up the tickets to this event. That intimacy is what sets this festival apart from the South Beach Wine and Food Festival which draws thousands.

“Some of the festivals are so huge, they’re over the top,” said Acheson, a judge on Bravo’s Top Chef. “Here, you can really spend time with people.”

National Watermelon Day: Celebrate with a Watermelon Martini at Buccan

Watermelon Martini
The summery vodka Watermelon Martini, made with chunks of watermelon, at Buccan, a cocktail bar and restaurant in Palm Beach. (Brianna Soukup / Palm Beach Post)

Today is National Watermelon Day. And what better way to celebrate this awesome summer holiday than with a Watermelon Martini from Buccan in Palm Beach.

One of Palm Beach’s (and our) favorite places to see, be seen and look fabulous over a cocktail, Buccan’s just a few blocks from Worth Avenue but the center of its own bustle.

The popular restaurant debuted their Watermelon Martini just in time for summer. It’s not the kind you had in the late ’90s made with sugary artificial flavored Pucker or some such ickery (I feel like the cocktail gods would have me spit and throw salt over my shoulder to ward off the bad Pucker vibes.) This is real, made of fresh watermelon, lime, simple syrup and vodka. Real delicious!

But, if you are going, go soon! Buccan will close Aug. 10 for a massive 11-day makeover. They are expected to reopen Aug. 22.

If you go: Buccan, 350 S. County Road, Palm Beach. 561-833-3450.