On rainy days: 6 best coffee shops in Palm Beach County

In case you haven’t noticed it’s a rainy day outside today. Which means, it’s a good time to get some coffee.

Here are some of our favorites in Palm Beach County.

JOHAN’S JOE

A cappuccino inside Johan’s Joe Swedish coffee house and cafe in downtown West Palm Beach. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

This unique Swedish coffee shop, in downtown West Palm Beach, is a spot to sit and enjoy your hot brewed coffee in a proper ceramic cup, in a plush, deep-violet, Alice-In-Wonderland-like chair. You don’t come here for a high-octane, Sharpie-on-paper-cup, American coffee, you come here to relax.

>>Related: Best food delivery services in Palm Beach County

Johan’s Joe: 401 S. Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach, 561-808-5090


C STREET CAFÉ

An Italian espresso at C Street Cafe. (Photo by Liz Balmaseda)

This cozy coffee shop welcomes you with a laid-back, urban vibe and freshly brewed coffee. Can’t go wrong with an Italian espresso.

C Street: 319 Clematis St., West Palm Beach; 561-469-9959


OCEANA COFFEE

Barista Amy Duell makes Japanese Cold Brew at Oceana Coffee in Tequesta. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Barista Amy Duell makes Japanese Cold Brew at Oceana Coffee in Tequesta. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

The cold brew at this Tequesta roaster is clean and sublime. And now you can enjoy it at Oceana’s spiffy new coffee lounge.

Oceana Coffee:  150 N. US Highway 1, #1 (across from the Marshall’s/Homegoods store), Tequesta; roasting house at 221 Old Dixie Highway, Tequesta; 561-401-2453


BREWHOUSE GALLERY

A cappuccino made with The Rabbit coffee at Brewhouse Gallery. (Photo by Liz Balmaseda)
A cappuccino made with The Rabbit coffee at Brewhouse Gallery. (Photo by Liz Balmaseda)

As you peruse the works of local artists or listen to some live music, treat yourself to a yummy cappuccino made with The Rabbit’s locally roasted Guatemalan beans. It’s so delicious, I could sip it by the gallon.

Brewhouse Gallery: 720 Park Ave., Lake Park; 561-469-8930


SUBCULTURE COFFEE 

A couple of macchiatos at Subculture Coffee. (Photo by Liz Balmaseda)
A couple of macchiatos at Subculture Coffee. (Photo by Liz Balmaseda)

This hipster hangout on Clematis Street brews some delicious coffees that are roasted onsite. My favorite preparation: the macchiato, a bold café with the slightest puff of milk foam.

Subculture: 509 Clematis St., West Palm Beach; 561-318-5142


THE GRIND CAFÉ

A latte from The Grind Cafe in Delray Beach. (Photo by LibbyVision.com)
A latte from The Grind Cafe in Delray Beach. (Photo by LibbyVision.com)

This Delray Beach spot serves some yummy – and artistic – lattes. Sip one from one of The Grind’s branded retro cups while you decided if you’ll succumb to the café’s baked good temptations.

The Grind: at the Delray Marketplace, 14859 Lyons Rd., #132, Delray Beach; 561-270-2058

TWITTER: @LizBalmaseda

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Openings: Taco Chula boasts ‘handsome’ tacos in the Gardens

You’d never guess Taquería Taco Chula just opened last week – many of the customers streaming into the charming taco shop Friday were greeted by name.

Palm Beach Gardens’ newest restaurant already has regulars even though it is not so easy to spot from Military Trail, out front. The small, Mexican-style taco spot is tucked into the corner of the Abbey Road Plaza, just south of PGA Boulevard.

Delicious duo at Taquería Taco Chula. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Delicious duo at Taquería Taco Chula. (Liz Balmaseda/ Palm Beach Post)

RELATED: 5 best places for tacos in Palm Beach County, readers say

But there’s a reason for the repeat customers – the tacos. They’re authentic and delicious. They get top billing in a well-focused menu that includes burritos, quesadillas, tortas (Mexican sandwiches) and gorditas, all stuffed with a choice of five meats or simply veggies.

That means you can have that spicy, heady “al pastor” pork filling in gluten-free corn tortillas (purveyed by Lake Worth’s Gallo de Oro tortillería), in flour-tortilla-wrapped burritos, in fried corn gordita pockets, in cheesy quesadillas or torta-style in fresh, thick-cut telera bread.

Tastes like rice pudding! Refreshing horchata is on tap at Taco Chula. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Tastes like rice pudding: refreshing horchata on tap at Taco Chula. (Liz Balmaseda/ Palm Beach Post)

Wash it all down with Mexican Coke, a “Jarritos” soda or any of three fresh-made aguas frescas, offered in tamarind, hibiscus and horchata. The horchata is especially destination-worthy – the cinnamon-laced rice punch tastes like rice pudding, but in refreshing liquid form. It makes a perfect, cool pairing for any of Taco Chula’s spicier meats.

The team behind the counter-service restaurant share a great love of Mexican cuisine, though none of them are Mexican. Brother-sister duo Peter Tapia and Dahiana Lainfiesta, who co-own the place with their father and Dahiana’s husband, hail from Venezuela.

“We’ve been eating Mexican food since we were kids,” says Tapia, who moved to Palm Beach Gardens after spending four years in California, where he fell in love with Mexican food. “It’s one of the most amazing tasting food I’ve ever had in my life.”

Tacos and more: the menu at Taquería Taco Chula in Palm Beach Gardens. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Tacos and more: the menu at Taquería Taco Chula in Palm Beach Gardens. (Liz Balmaseda/ Palm Beach Post)

In opening the taco shop, the family spreads its presence and enterprise in the plaza. Dahiana Lainfiesta owns the Canino Pet Spa grooming shop there. Her artist husband Scott Lainfiesta, who created the shop’s wall art and outdoor wood bar, has an art studio.

So, why the “chula” in the shop’s name? It’s a flirty word that can mean “cute” or “chic.”

At Taco Chula, the word serves as a kind of mission statement, says Tapia.

Taquería Taco Chula is in the Abbey Road Plaza on Military Trail. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Taquería Taco Chula is in the Abbey Road Plaza on Military Trail. (Liz Balmaseda/ Palm Beach Post)

“It means a handsome taco, or a pretty taco,” he says. “We decided on that name because every taco was going to look perfect, was going to have just the right amount of onions, the right amount of cilantro, the right amount of sauces. So we always strive to have every order perfect.”

Taquería Taco Chula: 10800 N. Military Trail, #108 in the Abbey Road Plaza; 561-530-7755; tacochula.com; open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to close (till the tacos run out, usually about 8 p.m.); closed Sunday.

Review: Follow the buzz to Lynora’s, north county’s new hot spot

What the heck happened to that formerly quiet block of U.S. Highway 1, the one that would segue sleepily from Jupiter to Tequesta?

Lynora’s happened.

Lynora's sits in Jupiter's new Inlet Plaza. (Contributed by Lynora's)
Lynora’s sits in Jupiter’s new Inlet Plaza. (Credit: Michael Price)

The new Italian restaurant is the north county outpost of a lively Clematis Street spot. And it seems the owners have brought some of that downtown West Palm Beach verve to northern Jupiter.

Just try to walk in and find a table on any given night, even on a weeknight. More than likely, you’ll find there’s a wait. It’s a smallish restaurant that can accommodate 89 diners scattered throughout its main dining room, indoor bar and al fresco patio.

What’s the draw? Certainly not the location. There’s no water view or people-watching potential on the patio. The restaurant sits in a commercial plaza that faces U.S. Highway 1. Sure, it’s a spiffy-new, Bermudian-style plaza, but the view it offers is parking lot and passing cars.

And yet, Lynora’s possesses that “it” factor restaurateurs crave: vibe. It’s an animated spot. You pick up the chatter as you squeeze past the bar and in between tables, feeling like the dinner party guest of a large, merry family. On Sundays, the restaurant hosts a Clematis Street-style brunch replete with red-sneakered servers in “Legalize Marinara” t-shirts and bottomless Bellinis, mimosas, bloodies and Peroni (for $18).

All this in a neo-Brooklyn setting of warm woods, subway tile and simple furnishings.

Old school Italian, re-imagined at Lynora's. (Contributed by Lynora's)
Old school Italian, re-imagined at Lynora’s. (Credit: Michael Price)

The food stands in striking contrast to the hip décor. It’s old-school home cooking, red-sauce specials, comfort grub.

That’s because Lynora’s roots are in a bygone Italian restaurant owned and operated by Ralph and Maria Abbenante, the parents of current owner Angelo Abbenante. That now-closed family restaurant, also named Lynora’s, stood for years on Lake Worth Road. (Lynora’s is named after Maria’s mother.)

Angelo Abbenante wanted to bring back the spirit of that restaurant. He and a partner opened a modernized version of the restaurant, Lynora’s Osteria, in 2014. But that collaboration ended in a lawsuit and the owners went their separate ways. Abbenante and his family remained at Lynora’s, dropping the “Osteria” from the name.

Legal matters aside, the food endured. This is not food that rises to astonishing levels, but it is food that would draw me back again and again. It is simple and well prepared by Lynora’s Italian chef, Mario Mette. The sauces are on-point, the servings abundant. It hits the spot.

On a recent visit, our party of three skipped the varied, classic antipasti offerings (bruschetta crostini, $6, cheese/meat plate, $22, fried rice balls, $8, fried calamari, $14, among other dishes), and started our meal with a shared “piccante” pizza ($14).

Topped with pepperoni, salami, mozzarella and cherry peppers (hence the spicy name), this wood-oven-baked pie popped with flavor. The crust, of medium thickness, puffed up on the edges, sending the toppings toward the middle. Even so, the deliciously chewy dough did not go to waste.

For main course, we sampled Lynora’s homemade pappardelle, wide noodles tossed with duck ragu (pappardelle all’anatra, $26). It’s an earthy dish that’s particularly appetizing on a crisp or chilly night. The pasta is bathed in a brandy-spiked sauce of roasted duck and porcini mushrooms and presents just a hint of truffle essence.

Chicken Francese on a recent night at Lynora's Jupiter. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Chicken Francese at Lynora’s, Jupiter. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

The Pollo Francese (chicken in lemon sauce, $24) did not disappoint. A lightly battered chicken breast was served on a bed of linguine in the bright Francese sauce. Mounded beneath two pounded chicken fillets on a flat plate, the pasta seemed incidental on this dish. The shape of the plate made it difficult to twirl and scoop up the linguine, so much of that delicious sauce remained on the plate.

We also sampled the Braciole con Gnocchi ($24), which is listed as one of Lynora’s classic dishes. This rolled-up meat favorite is made with pork that’s folded with prosciutto, garlic and Parmesan, braised in a light tomato sauce and served with small gnocchi dumplings. This is a homey, rib-sticking dish, but the monotone flavors of the meat and pasta could have used some contrast, perhaps from a pop of bitter greens.

Eggplant Parm is offered as an appetizer at Lynora's Jupiter. (LibbyVision.com)
Eggplant Parm, offered as an app at Lynora’s Jupiter. (Credit: LibbyVision.com)

Dessert time brought us a couple of memorable bites: a classic tiramisu stacked high with ladyfingers and mascarpone layers ($10), and a warm and sinful Nutella lava cake ($10) that was served with a tumbler of vanilla ice cream on the side.

Our dishes were delivered promptly, as, despite the bustle, service is brisk and professional. However, I did feel rushed. And our server did that “I’ll take this when you’re ready” thing, dropping off the check before we could request it.

Sometimes, I take the check nudge as an opportunity to ask for something else, say, a cappuccino. But, truth be told, I didn’t want a cappuccino, and I didn’t want a perfectly nice dinner to end on a sour note.

The service slip will not keep me from returning to the restaurant. Untimely check aside, Lynora’s is a fetching spot that brings a little buzz where it’s needed.

REVIEW

Lynora’s Jupiter

FOOD: B

SERVICE: B-

ADDRESS:  1548 U.S. Highway 1 (Inlet Plaza), Jupiter

TELEPHONE: 561-203-2702

WEBSITE: Lynoras.com

PRICE RANGE: Moderate

HOURS: Open for dinner daily at 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

CREDIT CARDS: All major credit cards

RESERVATIONS: Taken only for parties of 8 or more; can reserve at 561-203-2702

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes, including restrooms

NOISE LEVEL: Lively, more manageable on the patio.

FULL BAR: Yes, and there’s a separate bar area. A happy-hour menu is served daily from 4 to 7 p.m. at the bar, with a late night happy hour offered from 10 to 11:30 p.m.

WHAT THE GRADES MEAN:
A — Excellent
B — Good
C — Average
D — Poor
F — Don’t bother

From Peru, the holiday dish that transformed a Jupiter table

Katie Choy’s crash course in Peruvian cuisine came years ago, when her mother-in-law fell and broke her leg during a visit to her Jupiter home.

Until then, the food of her husband’s homeland seemed almost too complex to master. In her newlywed years, Katie, a Pittsburgh-area native raised on meat and potatoes, would jot notes as she watched her mother-in-law cook. Consuelo Aragon de Choy would create classic Peruvian dishes by fusing earthy Latin American flavors with interesting Asian ingredients, spooning out spicy chile pastes of various hues and intensity.

Spicy, creamy stewed chicken: Peruvian-style aji de gallina. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Spicy, creamy stewed chicken: Peruvian-style aji de gallina. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

But it was when Consuelo could not cook that Katie became her surrogate in the kitchen.

“I’ll teach you,” her mother-in-law would say from her chair, directing Katie to grab pots, open spices, raise and lower the flames on the stove.

Ingredient by ingredient, the dishes would come together on Katie’s stove. Today those dishes fill a large cookbook – Katie Choy’s “Family Secrets: Experience the Flavors of Peru” ($29.99, Lydia Inglett Publishing). But well before the book was published months ago, and well before the Choy family came to expect delicious Peruvian feasts at their Jupiter table at holiday time and, later, on random weeknights, there would be a few disasters in Katie’s kitchen.

One incident involved what is perhaps one of Peru’s more iconic dishes. Once Consuelo went back home to Peru, there was a disastrous attempt to make ají de gallina (creamy stewed chicken in Peruvian yellow pepper sauce). Katie recalls she didn’t have the right ingredients on hand and her substitutions didn’t work out as well.

But once she managed to transcribe the recipe in detail from Consuelo and seek out the authentic ingredients at local specialty markets, Katie not only mastered the traditional Peruvian dish, she devised a crockpot shortcut for the stew she likens to chicken chili.

“It became our holiday meal. We’d have it for Christmas. It was that special meal,” says Katie, a former nurse who met her husband, Dr. Rogelio Choy, while on the job at Jupiter Medical Center.

Cookbook author Katie Choy at her Jupiter home. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Cookbook author Katie Choy at her Jupiter home. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

She was cooking that very dish one night when her husband got home from work and stopped by the stove in admiration.

“He just stood there and he smiled at me. And I said, ‘What are you smiling at?’ And he said ‘I think you’re turning into my mother,’” she recalls.

Some might be mystified at such a remark, but Katie knew exactly what he meant – and she took it to be “the biggest compliment ever.”

Her rendition of the dish had conjured a powerful memory of home and childhood for her husband. It was a gift to both the recipient and the cook.

That crockpot shortcut has turned the dish into an anytime meal for the Choys and their younger children, Francesca, 17, and Stefan, 19. (Their son Armand, 20, lives in San Francisco.)

“I’ll make it on a weekday like nothing,” says Katie, who now blends most of the stew ingredients, pours them into the slow-cooker and tops it with chicken breasts. The flavors intensify as the chicken cooks. “The chicken shreds like a dream. It’s just so good.”

Katie Choy displays the herb paste she blends into her Peruvian ocopa sauce. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Katie Choy displays the herb paste she blends into her Peruvian ocopa sauce. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

More than two decades have passed since she had her first taste of the cuisine that transformed her kitchen. It came in the form of aromatic ocopa sauce, the first thing her mother-in-law cooked on the day she arrived at Katie’s Jupiter home.

“She comes in and she’s unpacking and she’s putting things in the freezer. Then she made this wonderful sauce,” recalls Katie. “I can’t say I remember the exact day that I tasted it, but it was one of those things you don’t forget. We put it over potatoes first. Then, whatever we’d have for dinner, we’d pour it over the top, and it was just so delicious.”

It turns out, her mother-in-law had brought the homemade sauce, frozen, all the way from Peru, and braved a U.S. Customs interrogation before warming up the delicacy on the stove in Jupiter. She had brought it from home because she wasn’t sure she could find the sauce’s key ingredient, a Peruvian herb known as huacatay, in Jupiter.

“At the time, I was unfamiliar with the spice and asked her what it was,” Katie Choy writes in her cookbook. “She leaned over and whispered, ‘It’s similar to marijuana!’ I thought to myself, ‘Hmmm. What is she feeding us?’”

She came to find out, the herb belongs to the marigold, not marijuana, family. And it’s sold locally in a jarred paste.

“We still get a laugh over that one,” she says.

RECIPES

Reprinted with permission from Katie Choy’s “Family Secrets” cookbook.

This kicky Peruvian yellow pepper paste is a key ingredient in aji de gallina. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
This kicky Peruvian yellow pepper paste is a key ingredient in aji de gallina. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

Ají de Gallina

Chicken Chile

Imagine your taste buds coming alive as they savor tender chicken bathed in a nutty cream sauce, followed by a hint of heat. I find it even more delicious the next day, or as a filling in empanadas.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

1 whole chicken (3 ½-4 pounds), skin and excess fat removed, and cut into parts

2½ teaspoons salt, divided

1 cup pecans or peanuts (soaked in fresh water for 1 hour or more and drained)

4 slices white bread, crust removed and cubed

1 large yellow onion

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2-4 tablespoons ají amarillo paste, depending on hot you like it (see NOTE below)

3 cloves garlic, pressed

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk

½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Prepared white rice, for serving

3 hardboiled eggs, halved, for serving

Peruvian olives (purple-black botija olives)

  1. Place chicken and 1 teaspoon salt in a large pot with just enough water to cover. Bring to a gentle boil over high heat, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until no longer pink.
  1. Remove chicken and let cool. Reserve water. Shred or cube chicken and set aside. This step can be done a day ahead and refrigerated.
  1. Blend nuts, bread, and ¾-1 cup reserved chicken water on high until smooth. Remove and set aside. Rinse blender.
  1. Blend onion and ¼-½ cup reserved water until pureed. Remove and set aside.
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add pureed onion and cook 10 minutes, stirring as necessary to keep from sticking.
  1. Add 1 teaspoon salt, ají paste, garlic, nutmeg, and 2/3 cup reserved water, stir and cook another 10 minutes.
  1. Add nut puree and stir and cook about 8-10 minutes.
  1. Stir in evaporated milk, cheese, and chicken. Cook another 5 minutes, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve over hot white rice on warm plate, garnished with eggs and olives.

NOTE: Find ají amarillo, or Peruvian yellow pepper paste, wherever Latin foods are sold. In Palm Beach County, it’s available at Presidente, El Bodegon supermarkets or other Latin specialty markets.

COOKING TIPS

  • For an easy shortcut, use a store-bought rotisserie chicken and canned broth. Discard skin, remove meat from bones and shred. Follow with recipe beginning at step 3.
  • Crockpot version: Take 1 teaspoon salt, soaked pecans, bread, oil, onion (quartered), aji paste, garlic and nutmeg, and blend with 2 cups chicken broth until smooth and creamy. Pour ½ into slow-cooker. Lay 4 chicken breasts over sauce and pour remaining sauce over chicken. Cook on medium 4 hours or until chicken is very tender and easily pulls apart. Shred chicken, return to slow-cooker, and stir in evaporated milk and Parmesan cheese. Cook another ½ hour on low. Times may vary according to individual slow-cookers.
Potatoes ladled with Peruvian ocopa sauce are served with a purple Peruvian olive. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Potatoes ladled with Peruvian ocopa sauce are served with a purple Peruvian olive. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

Ocopa con Papas

Potatoes with Cheese Sauce

This was the first Peruvian sauce I ever tasted and loved it immediately. We serve it over everything.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

4-5 Yukon gold potatoes

3-4 large eggs

1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 cloves garlic, peeled

¼ cup peanuts or walnuts

1 medium onion, diced small

1-2 tablespoons ají amarillo paste, depending on how hot you like it

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup or more of water

1 pound queso blanco or other fresh cheese

2 tablespoons huacatay paste (sometimes called Peruvian black mint)

3-4 lettuce leaves, washed and dried

Peruvian olives (purple-black botija olives)

Sprinkle of paprika

  1. Place potatoes and eggs in a medium sized pot, cover with cold water, and bring to boil over high heat. Lower heat to maintain simmer and set timer for 9 minutes.
  1. Remove eggs only and plunge into ice water bath. Continue simmering potatoes another 12-15 minutes or until tender. Remove potatoes and set aside to cool.
  1. In medium sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Sauté garlic cloves 2-3 minutes until golden and fragrant, stirring frequently. Be careful not to let them burn, lowering heat if necessary. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside to cool.
  1. Add nuts to already hot and oily pan, and roast over medium heat for several minutes until fragrant and golden. Caution, they can burn quickly. Remove with slotted spoon, and let cool with garlic.
  1. Return already hot pan with oil to medium heat, add a little more oil if necessary, and stir in onion, ají amarillo paste, and salt. Cook until onions are soft, about 5-6 minutes stirring often. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
  1. Place garlic, nuts, onion mixture, water, queso blanco, and huacatay paste in blender. Puree until smooth and creamy, adding more water, a little at a time as needed. This sauce becomes very thin when heated, and thickens as it cools.
  1. Pour sauce into medium sauce pan. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
  1. Peel eggs and potatoes and slice in halves or quarters. Place atop bed of lettuce along with olives, drizzle with sauce, and sprinkle lightly with paprika.

Serve with additional sauce alongside in serving bowl.

To purchase Katie Choy’s cookbook, visit KatieChoy.com.

Devouring December: top food events this month

The barrage of this month’s food and drink events has given us whiplash. So many tastings, wine dinners, chef multicourse events. So much to eat and drink. And that’s not including the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival, which kicks off Thursday night.

December, won’t you stay a little longer?

James Beard Award winning chef Mark Militello. (Photo: The Buzz Agency)
James Beard Award winning chef Mark Militello. (Photo: The Buzz Agency)

Tradition, an Italian Wine Dinner

Thursday, Dec. 8, at 6 p.m.

James Beard Award-winning chef Mark Militello, who played a pivotal role in South Florida’s culinary rise, cooks a four-course, wine-pairing dinner at Josie’s Ristorante in Boynton Beach. A consulting chef at the restaurant, Militello will be joined in the kitchen by Josie’s chef Sebastiano Setticasi. On the menu: passed hors d’oeuvres, Maine lobster salad, goats milk ravioli, spice rubbed roasted beef tenderloin and buttermilk panna cotta, all paired with wines from family estate vineyards in Italy.

Cost: $85 per person, plus tax and tip. To reserve, call 561-364-9601

Josie’s Ristorante: 1602 S. Federal Hwy, Boynton Beach

Truffled lobster mac and cheese at Maison Carlos. (Palm Beach Post file)
Truffled lobster mac and cheese at Maison Carlos. (Palm Beach Post file)

Maison Carlos’ 15th anniversary

Thursday, Dec. 15 through Dec. 30

A neighborhood favorite on South Dixie Highway, Maison Carlos celebrates its 15th year by offering 15 days of savings. Dine at the restaurant from Dec. 15 through Dec. 30 and receive 15 percent off your entire dinner check. Owners Carlos and Lanie Farias say it’s their way of saying thanks.

“We could not have done this without the loyal support of our clients and friends. We are a family-owned, Mom-and-Pop… We take pride in daily shopping for the freshest ingredients. We love our customers and want to make sure everyone has an optimal experience,” the couple said in an email.

Reservations are strongly suggested.

Maison Carlos: 3010 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-659-6524

Manor's executive chef, Miguel Santiago, at the grill. (Richard Graulich/ The Palm Beach Post)
Manor’s executive chef, Miguel Santiago, at the grill. (Richard Graulich/ The Palm Beach Post)

Five-course wine dinner at Hilton West Palm Beach

Thursday, Dec. 15, at 6:30 p.m.

Chef Matthew Byrne is not only the hotshot chef at Kitchen, the popular restaurant on Belvedere Road and South Dixie Highway – he’s also consulting chef at the Hilton West Palm Beach. In that capacity, he’ll team up with the hotel’s chef Miguel Santiago in creating a five-course, wine-pairing dinner that features master sommelier Gordon Sullivan. The dinner takes place at Manor, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant.

Cost: $150 per person, plus tax and tip. Reserve a spot at HiltonWestPalmBeach.EventBrite.com or by calling 561-249-2281.

Hilton West Palm Beach: 600 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach

Puerto Rican treat: coconut tembleque (panna cotta) by Chef Christian Quinones. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Puerto Rican treat: coconut tembleque (panna cotta) by Chef Christian Quinones. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

Puerto Rican garden party at Bistro Ten Zero One

Sunday, Dec. 18, from 5 to 7 p.m.

What a treat it is when Bistro chef Christian Quiñones cooks the dishes of his native Puerto Rico. He’s doing just that on Dec. 18 when Bistro Ten Zero One hosts what has become an annual holiday feast, Boricua-style. On the menu: guinenito (banana) salad with onion escovitch, sancocho stew, orange adobo roasted suckling pig, arroz con gandules (pigeon peas and rice), coconut tembleque and many other dishes.

Cost: $35 per person, plus tax and tip. To reserve a spot, visit the event site or call 561-833-1234 or 305-929-3463.

Bistro Ten Zero One: at the Marriott, 1001 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach

Rural meets big city: Swank Farm hosts a series of feasts each harvest season. (Palm Beach Post file) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The table set for lunch prepared by chef Daniel Boulud during a visit to Swank Farm on Monday, October 20, 2014 in Loxahatchee. Swank Farm provides fresh produce to Boulud's restaurants Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach and DB Moderne in Miami. (Madeline Gray / The Palm Beach Post)
Rural meets big city: Swank Farm hosts a series of feasts each harvest season. (Palm Beach Post file)

‘Swank Table’ kicks off

Sunday, Dec. 18, at 4 p.m.

The popular Swank Farm supper series kicks off on Dec. 18 with a multicourse feast titled “Big flavors, Open Skies: A Night with Seminole Hard Rock and Coconut Creek.”

Cooking at the Loxahatchee Groves boutique farm that day are Alex Q. Becker, executive chef at Kuro Japanese restaurant at Hard Rock Hollywood and the restaurant’s pastry chef, Ross Evans. Joining them are chefs from Council Oaks Steaks & Seafood and Coconut Creek’s NYY Steak.

Farmers Darrin and Jodi Swank will host nine “Swank Table” dinners during the 2016-2017 harvest season. To reserve a spot, visit SwankSpecialtyProduce.com.

Cost: $160, which partially benefits a youth charity, FLIPANY.

Swank Farm: 14311 North Road, Loxahatchee Groves

 

 

Acai Bowls: They’re the best and I don’t want you missing out

Let’s stop pretending we know how to pronounce the darn thing. If you’re saying ‘acai’ right, it sort of rhymes with ‘how about me?’

As for where you’ll find it — not in Whole Foods ‘Fresh Picks.’ Acai can’t be bought in its true form, a berry from palm trees that grow in the Amazon rain forest in Central and South America. When an acai berry is picked, it’s taken to a lab, processed, sometimes frozen, and then sent to the United States.

Why is it healthy af?

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That’s simple. Acai berries are high in fiber and antioxidants which are known to help balance cholesterol levels.

If you’re anything like me, of course you care about long-term health benefits, but what really makes you happy is knowing what foods and drinks are good for your body almost instantly. Acai does that. Its energy boost is just what you need to get going in the morning.

Acai bowls and all their glory… kind of.

The good news is that acai bowls are packed with protein. Shops and cafes add granola, seeds and butters to almost every bowl. Most are topped with berries other than acai like blueberries and strawberries which makes them “a nutrition powerhouse,” said Sandy Livingston, a registered nutrition and licensed nutritionist in Palm Beach County.

The bad news? Some acai bowls are high in sugar and sodium content.

I’ll put it like this: Sambazon, Acai Roots and Tambor are three popular brands of acai that are shipped to the U.S. and used in nutrition-conscious businesses like Jaya Nutrition in Juno Beach and Celis and The Bee in West Palm Beach. Half a cup of Acai Roots acai sorbet in a bowl has about 65 mg of sodium and 16 grams of sugar. That doesn’t include the sugars your body will consume from the added layers of almond/peanut butter or yummy honey that top a standard acai bowl.

To put this into perspective, a woman should only consume 25 grams of sugar a day, while a man should have 37.5, according to AuthorityNutrition.com.

Still interested despite the devilish side?

That’s okay. Me too. Between you and me, acai bowls make up 50 percent of my “eating out” budget! I love them all, from the healthier bowls (low in sugar content and 100% organic) served at Jaya Nutrition bar to the sugar rush I get from a bowl at Field of Greens in downtown West Palm.

Check out this guide to my 5 favorite bowls around town.

Fill up for a few hours at The Bee

photo; acai bowl
Fruity Acai Bowl at The Bee in Downtown West Palm Beach. Corvaya Jeffries / Palm Beach Post

Toppings like homemade granola (to die for) and fresh raspberries please me more than the acai does. This is because it’s blended with banana and mylk (milk substitute) so the taste of the tart berry is not as potent and melts really fast. Trust that you’ll be served a hearty amount of deliciousness, though. More than enough to fill you up until your next meal.

Location: 123 Datura St, West Palm Beach

Cost: $12 or $13

Satisfy your sweet tooth at Field of Greens

Lil Root is my go-to bowl at Field of Greens. It’s cheap and small enough to eat on the go. The nutella on top of the freezing cold acai is all the sweet I need, so I usually skip the drizzle of honey on top.

Location:  412 Clematis St, West Palm Beach

Cost: Between $5 and $10

Have a healthier bowl over conversation at Jaya Nutrition Bar

photo; jaya nutrition bar
Dakota, server at Jaya Nutrition Bar making an acai bowl. Corvaya Jeffries / Palm Beach Post

Jaya Nutrition Bar is as beautiful and welcoming as its owner, Cecile Alfonzo-Antoine, who designed the place herself.

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Cecile Alfonzo-Antoine, owner of Jaya Nutrition Bar. Corvaya / Palm Beach Post

Your acai bowl will be served in a white paper container with a handwritten, motivational phrase on it — a conversation starter for anyone. The bar’s acai has no coloring agents and is low in sodium. All of these elements make me happy.

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Location: 869, Donald Ross Rd, Juno Beach

Cost: Between $6 and $10

Up your immunity at Juice Buzz

I upgraded from the Cacao Crunch Bowl to the Green Cacao Crunch Bowl. You know, something a little more green with added superfood powder, kale or spirulina. It’s not as sweet as some of the other bowls on this list but still tasty and undeniably healthy.

Location: 6 NE 5th Ave, Delray Beach

Cost: $11

Enjoy every spoonful at Celis Produce

The freezing cold, perfectly textured organic acai is what I love about the bowls at Celis. Prepared with acai ahead of time, when you order your bowl, all they have to do is add peanut butter, hemp/flax granola, honey, bananas, strawberries and kiwi. It allows for a bit of everything in every bite.

“Customers love our bowls because of the quality of our ingredients. The fruit is always fresh, never frozen and the granola we use is airy and crunchy,” Alex Celis, Co-Owner of Celis Produce, said.

Bonus Points: Celis is just a few steps away from The Palm Beach Post building, which is a gift for my taste buds and a curse for my pockets.

Location: 2814 S Dixie Hwy d, West Palm Beach

Cost: Between $10 and $12

Get your superfruit serving Whole Foods 

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Servings of aca in drinks sold at Whole Foods. Corvaya Jeffries / Palm Beach Post

You won’t be able to order an acai bowl at Whole Foods, but you can get your acai fix through various drinks, bars and supplements.

photo; acai capsule
Acai supplements sold at Whole Foods. Corvaya Jeffries / Palm Beach Post

Personally, I can’t imagine skipping out on a bowl for a drink that costs just as much, but hey, that’s me.

For anyone who has been skeptical about the hype hovering over acai and acai bowls, I get it. Everything in the bowl can be thrown into a blender and taste just as good as a smoothie.

But it’s satisfying to spend a little more time with colorful (and healthy) variety of textures that melt in your mouth, airy granola that has the right amount of crunch or thick and handmade almond butter that sticks to the roof of your mouth.

A bowl from any of the locations on this list are at least worth a taste test, but don’t rush through it. Challenge yourself to pay attention to your tastebuds and your mood, then tell me what you think.

Sign at The Bee in Downtown West Palm Beach. Corvaya Jeffries / Palm Beach Post

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Acai Bowls: They’re the best and I don’t want you missing out

First look: New restaurant Newk’s Eatery hits the spot

Each time I passed the prime, long-vacant space at Legacy Place, I would remember a horrible cup of coffee. It was served a decade ago at a café long gone from there. And it was served with a bad attitude.

What a waste of space, I’d think each time I passed the spot. Here’s a lovely, fountain-side space in a busy plaza in Palm Beach Gardens, and it’s empty.

Thanks to Newk’s Eatery, which moved in earlier this month, the space is empty no more. More importantly, it’s well occupied.

Legacy Place: Newk's first southeast Florida location. (Contributed by Newk's)
Legacy Place: Newk’s first SE Florida location. (Contributed by Newk’s)

Newk’s is no fancy joint. It’s a fast-casual chain restaurant, the first of 10 planned locations for southeast Florida. It was brought to the shopping and dining plaza by the local family behind eight Five Guys locations in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.

The place offers hearty, generously portioned soups, toasted sandwiches, interesting salads and personal-size pizzas. Just as importantly, it offers excellent service.

Toasty edges: Newk's pepperoni pizza. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Newk’s pepperoni pizza. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

I dropped in for a quick, late lunch recently and enjoyed a bowl of Newk’s Loaded Potato soup (large, 16-ounce, $6.99), a special served on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I was not disappointed: creamy, lots of flavor, smoky bacon hints, filling. The soups, which are rotated daily in selection, are offered in 8-ounce, 16-ounce, and 32-ounce servings. The 16-ounce proved to be entrée sized.

I found the perfect soup accompaniment on Newk’s large round condiment table: thin, Italian-style breadsticks.

Hits the spot: a large (16-ounce) potato soup. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Hits the spot: a large potato soup. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

Days later, we returned to sample other items. Newk’s Club ($8.19), a pretty straightforward rendition of the classic, was stacked with smoked ham, (nitrate-free) turkey, Swiss cheese, thick-cut bacon, romaine and sliced tomato on Newk’s lightly toasted “French Parisian” baguette. As a side, we chose a pimento and bacon mac-and-cheese ($3.79 as a side) – it was tasty, though a touch oily.

Newk's club sandwich is served on a toasted baguette. (Contributed by Newk's)
The club sandwich is served on a toasted baguette. (Contributed by Newk’s)

A half-order of Caesar salad ($4.49) was quite delicious, a toss of fresh romaine with plenty of garlicky dressing, shredded Parmesan and buttered croutons.

We also tried Newk’s pepperoni pizza ($8.19), a 10-inch pie topped with pepperoni, thinly sliced Roma tomatoes, shredded mozzarella and provolone cheeses and fresh basil. The toppings proved quite delicious, but the crust didn’t hold up. While crispy around the edges, the crust sagged in the pie’s middle, forcing us to use a fork and knife.

Well dressed: half Caesar salad at Newk's. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Well dressed: Newk’s half Caesar. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

For the sipping, there are plenty of fountain drinks and a small selection of beers, which include Der Chancellor, locally brewed by Tequesta Brewing Company. (Wine is not offered.)

Newk’s is an ideal stop for a filling lunch or casual, fuss free dinner. No item is priced higher than $13. (There’s a kids’ menu priced between $3.75 and $5.50.)

And, yes, there’s coffee. But this one is served with a smile.

Newk’s Eatery: at Legacy Place, 11345 Legacy Ave., #100, Palm Beach Gardens; 561-626-3957; Newks.com

Hours: Open Monday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

 

 

Openings: Trump’s former chef debuts Abacoa restaurant

For days now, friends and locals have been shuffling into Aaron’s Table & Wine Bar for a sneak-peek taste of the new Abacoa restaurant by Mar-A-Lago’s food and beverage director.

Aaron Fuller’s restaurant officially opens to the public at 4 p.m. Saturday. That’s four days before the presidential election that pits Fuller’s Mar-A-Lago boss, Donald Trump, against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

On the menu at Aaron's: pan-seared branzino with lemongrass-infused butter. (LibbyVision.com)
Aaron’s branzino is pan-seared and served with lemongrass-infused butter. (LibbyVision.com)

But Fuller says he prefers not to talk about whatever happens or doesn’t happen on Tuesday.

“I stay out of those conversations,” says Fuller, who served as executive chef at Trump’s Palm Beach estate and club before his present role as food-beverage chief there. “My big goal here is to do the best I can at my new restaurant.”

That’s not to say he’s secretive about his political loyalties. On his Facebook page, Fuller roots for his boss and posts items consistent with Trump’s more fervent supporters.

Still, he must stay mum on far lighter topics – like the boss’ food preferences.

“I signed a confidentiality agreement here,” he said this week on a call from Mar-A-Lago, where he has worked for seven years.

Aaron's port poached pear salad. (LibbyVision.com)
Aaron’s Table’s port poached pear salad. (LibbyVision.com)

What Fuller is eager to talk about, however, is Abacoa, the newly energized district near his home in Jupiter. This is where he chose to open Aaron’s Table and where he’s hoping to add his flair to the eclectic district.

“We live literally two blocks away, my wife and kids and I,” says Fuller, who hopes to attract a mix that includes families, date-night couples, casual groups and ladies’ night revelers.

He’s hoping the “farmhouse chic kind of feel” of Aaron’s Table will make diners feel welcome and comfortable, despite the menu’s swanky terms.  To drive home this wish, he notes that his braised lamb shanks are simmered in Civil Society IPA – that is, beer brewed directly across the street in Abacoa.

Duck confit flatbread with arugula, fontina, almonds and dried cranberries. (LibbyVision.com)
Duck confit flatbread with arugula, fontina, almonds and dried cranberries. (LibbyVision.com)

Upholding the “wine bar” part of the restaurant’s name, Fuller lists 22 wines by the glass on the menu. And Thursday nights from 6 to 7 p.m., he hosts wine tastings with passed hors d’oeuvres.

“We’re doing some fun things, without being too snobbish,” he says. Fuller says he’s pleased at the early response to the restaurant. “The feedback has been fantastic.”

Man in charge: Aaron Fuller at Aaron's Table in Abacoa. (LibbyVision.com)
Man in charge: Aaron Fuller at Aaron’s Table in Abacoa. (LibbyVision.com)

Although he has a chef de cuisine at Aaron’s (his Mar-A-Lago protégé Marc Cela), Fuller crafted the menu himself and took inspiration from his own wanderings. So, there’s a little Palm Beach, a little global in it.

“The menu itself, the only reasoning behind it is my experiences at different places in the world. I could call the lumpia ‘spring rolls,’ but my wife is from the Philippines and we know them as lumpia. The items like the langoustine – that’s from the Palm Beach side of me,” says Fuller of his sautéed langoustines in a sweet corn sauce.

Sautéed langoustines in a sweet corn sauce. (LibbyVision.com)
Sautéed langoustines in a sweet corn sauce. (LibbyVision.com)

Of course, inquiring minds want to know: Would his Mar-A-Lago boss order those fancy langoustines? Or would Trump request a well-done burger instead, as other past staffers have reported?

Fuller says only this: “He expects perfection. We do our best to do that for him and for everybody we serve. He’s known for quality and that’s what we try to give him.”

We asked one final question, one not covered by that confidentiality agreement:

What would Fuller serve Hillary Clinton?

“I don’t know,” he says, taking a measured Mar-A-Lago moment. “That one – you’re making me laugh with that one.”

Baked Alaska a la Aaron's Table in Abacoa. (LibbyVision.com)
Swanky stuff: Baked Alaska at Aaron’s Table, Abacoa. (LibbyVision.com)

Aaron’s Table & Wine Bar: 1153 Town Center Drive, Jupiter; 561-855-2628; AaronsTable.com; hours are Tuesday through Sundays from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., with happy hour offered from 4 to 7 p.m. On Wednesdays and Fridays starting Nov. 11, there will be live music.

Harbourside Place: Calaveras Cantina hosts ‘Fiesta de los Muertos’

Day of the Dead doesn’t arrive until Tuesday, but Calaveras Cantina is celebrating early. As in Friday night.

The Harbourside Place restaurant is hosting a “Fiesta de los Muertos” bash, offering drink specials, music, dancing and prizes.

Calaveras' watermelon-jalapeno margarita. (Contributed by Calaveras Cantina)
Calaveras’ watermelon-jalapeno margarita. (Contributed by Calaveras)

The party, which runs from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., has a cause beyond margaritas. The restaurant will donate 10 percent of sales to the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s fight against breast cancer.

MAKE THIS: Day of the Dead bread

But, yes, there will be margaritas. Calaveras will pour is own rendition cocktail (and other cocktails) for $6. Craft beers on draft are $4.

Calaveras Cantina: 125 Dockside Dr. (at Harbourside Place), Jupiter; 561-320-9661; CalaverasCantinas.com

 

Hungry? Here’s a trio of good, cheap lunch buffets in Palm Beach County

It’s lunch time and you’re famished. You’re also on a budget and in a hurry. Where to take your growling belly for a boatload of food on the cheap?

We’ve got a few ideas. They fall into our favorite category of good value: “Bueno, bonito y barato.”

That means: Good, pretty and cheap. (Never to be confused with “pretty good” or “pretty cheap.”)

Related: Buzzy Grato in West Palm Beach now open for lunch

El Bodegon's bargain buffet in Lake Worth. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
El Bodegon’s bargain buffet. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

El Bodegon Market #5

1910 Lake Worth Rd. (across from John Prince Park), Lake Worth; 561-967-6999

Attention, hungry shoppers: What’s better than a well-stocked supermarket?

A well-stocked supermarket with a sumptuous buffet tucked inside.

This is what one finds at the El Bodegon #5 supermarket on Lake Worth Road in Lake Worth. Beyond the shelves stocked with a diverse mix of Latin American and Caribbean specialty products, there’s a cafeteria-style area at the local chain’s location that sits across from John Prince Park.

Latin "meat and three" -- pork, rice, tamal, beans. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Latin “meat and three” — pork, rice, tamal, beans. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

Follow the stream of regulars to this flavorful corner where the steam table beckons with various soups, stewed and roasted meats, beans, rice, tamales, plantains and salads.

From Monday through Friday, the buffet runs a $6.49 lunch special: You get the main course, two sides and a soda. And we’re not talking about some skimpy helpings.

We visited on recent Saturday for a late lunch and found an equally terrific deal: a main course with three sides for $7.99. Call it a “meat and three,” Latin-style.

We scanned the buffet table, staffed by various servers ready to spoon out our selections and keep the line moving. We spied: chicken soup, hearty beef soup, creamy seafood stew, beef stew, creamy mushroom chicken, roast pork, two kinds of tamales, among other offerings.

We opted for a freshly roasted pork dish that featured a sprinkling of garbanzos, chunks of sautéed onion, tomato and some raw green onions. Glorious stuff. As our three sides, we chose yellow rice, nicely seasoned red beans (served in a separate dish) and a spicy Mexican chicken tamal that was wrapped and steamed in corn husk. The combo was large enough to feed three people.

Plantain-leaf Guatemalan tamal: $1.70. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Plantain-leaf Guatemalan tamal, $1.70. (Liz Balmaseda/ Palm Beach Post)

Separately, we also sampled a large Guatemalan tamal that has been steamed in a banana leaf. The stewed chicken filling proved delicious.

On weekends, you don’t get a free soda with lunch. A can of soda will set you back $1.49.

The downside of dining here: Ambiance means bottled water displays and Corona promotional streamers.

The upside: You can walk off all those lunch calories by wandering through the chock-a-block aisles.

El Unico

6108 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-619-2962

This new-ish restaurant, located just down the street from our office, became an instant staff favorite, thanks to its tempting, generous lunch buffet.

Buffet with bachata beats at El Unico. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Buffet with bachata beats at El Unico. (Liz Balmaseda/ Palm Beach Post)

Owned and operated by a young couple – he’s Dominican, she’s Cuban-American – El Unico serves classics from both Cuba and the Dominican Republic. So, on any given day, you may find the buffet offers fresh, roasted pork (with stellar crackling), stewed chicken, ropa vieja (shredded flank steak in creole sauce), plus your choice of rice, beans (black or red) and plantains.

As in the buffet line at El Bodegon, this is not an all-you-can-eat kind of buffet. You get a choice of meat, plus rice, beans and a side. Depending on the meat, prices range from $4.99 to $9.99.

Staff lunch favorite: El Unico. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Staff lunch favorite: El Unico. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

If you’re not in much of a hurry and you’d rather order your lunch a la carte, there’s a full menu of entrees, sandwiches, salads, sides and plenty of favorites (hello, mofongo!) from which to choose.

Enjoy your lunch in El Unico’s cozy dining room, which often is filled with Dominican bachata rhythms. It’s a hard deal to beat, this bachata buffet. Maybe that’s why the restaurant’s name means “the only one.”

The Carving Station

720, U.S. Highway 1, Lake Park; 561-842-7791

This north county favorite is a true self-serve buffet offering deliciously old-school dishes. It’s not huge, but it’s mighty. The buffet line includes a varied salad station, a small soup station, some chilled offerings (egg salad, rice pudding) and a good selection of hearty meats and sides.

You have two options at lunch: Go the soup and salad route for $7.08 (served Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) or feast on the full buffet for $9.44.

As its name suggests, Carving Station has plenty of meats. (Palm Beach Post file)
The Carving Station lives up to its name. (Palm Beach Post file photo)

At any given time, you may find baked chicken, Salisbury steak, carved to order meats (turkey, leg of lamb, ham, roast beef), turkey pot pie, chicken Francais, mashed potatoes, mac-and-cheese, baked beans, collards, carrots, corn and rice.

Most desserts are sold separately.

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