Openings: Bubble tea shop debuts in West Palm plaza

Art of Boba debuted last week in West Palm Beach doors down from its sister restaurant, Pho 16. (Photo: Samantha Ragland)
Art of Boba debuted last week doors down from its sister eatery, Pho 16. Photo: Samantha Ragland

Drinking bubble tea reminds me of those kitten videos online. There’s always a surprise, a tickle, even if you were halfway expecting it.

As you sip this chilled sweet tea, tapioca pearls (“bubbles”) shoot up your straw and into your mouth. Your tea is suddenly candy. Sip again and there they are, those chewy little orbs.

Such is the magic of Taiwanese-style bubble or “boba” tea – it never fails to lift your mood.

I was reminded of this fact some days ago as I sipped my Cocotaro Milk Tea at Art of Boba, the newest bubble tea shop in West Palm Beach. The tea took on the richness of coconut and the mauve tones of taro, the rough-skinned root vegetable that often encases a light-rose flesh. Plump boba pearls sat at the bottom of the cup, waiting to be stirred and slurped.

Classic: black milk tea with boba and grass jelly. (Photo: Liz Balmaseda)
Black milk tea with boba. Photo: Liz Balmaseda

A mere $3.75 buys any of a dozen or so bubble tea flavors, milk tea or clear tea. Toppings – there’s an eclectic range of them, including grass jelly, a gelatinous sweet made of the mesona chinensis plant – are extra.

Boba tea shops in Taiwan, where the international bubble tea wave began in the 1980s, can have more than ten times the flavor selection, I learned from my Taiwanese colleague Spe Chen, a data reporting intern. And they keep a steady stream of freshly simmered tapioca pearls in stock, as the boba can quickly turn stale and mushy. (Ideally, they should be al dente, she tells me.)

I’m not sure how many boba this new shop moves, but the fact there are boba to be found in this busy, Military Trail strip plaza is a sweet thing. The shop is a sibling of the plaza’s resident Vietnamese restaurant, Pho 16, a popular stop for the enormous, broth-y, blinged-out soup that is Vietnam’s national dish.

Pho 16 chef/owner Andy Truong, who is known to simmer his pho broth for 30 hours, opened Art of Boba some days ago. (The official opening was Saturday.)

Generation bubble tea: Spe Chen was born just a few years after the boba tea craze kicked off in her native Taiwan. (Photo: Liz Balmaseda)
Gen bubble tea: Spe Chen was born a few years after the boba craze began in her native Taiwan. 

The simple yet stylish shop offers a small menu of milk teas (such as black milk tea, Thai green tea and red bean milk tea), coffee drinks (like iced Vietnamese coffee) and other refreshing sips (including a beautifully layered jasmine cream foam that’s topped with a slightly salty cloud of cream foam).

There are silky and chunky smoothies, including one (Avocado Avalanche) that’s made with smashed avocados, sweetened condensed milk, coffee jelly and boba. And for those who’d like a quick bite, there is a variety of Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches.

Art of Boba

Where: 2905 N. Military Trail, Suite H, West Palm Beach; 561-557-2996; on Facebook

Hours: Open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Openings: Christopher’s Kitchen debuts new West Palm Beach juice bar

052311 (Libby Volgyes/The Palm Beach Post) PALM BEACH GARDENS - Christopher Slawson from Christopher's Kitchen in Palm Beach Gardens poses for a portrait in the restaurant.
Christopher Slawson, at his Christopher’s Kitchen in Palm Beach Gardens. (Palm Beach Post file photos)

Local vegans, rejoice. The immensely popular Christopher’s Kitchen will open its long-awaited sister restaurant in downtown West Palm Beach on Tuesday.

Meraki Juice Kitchen, as the new spot is named, will serve cold-pressed juices and tonics as well as breakfast bowls, soups, salads, gluten-free baked goods, nondairy soft-serve, coffees, beer and wine.

If Christopher’s Kitchen is any indicator of Meraki’s fare, one can expect fresh-made almond “mylks” and a range of savory and sweet dishes enhanced by rich, delicious house-made nut creams and cheeses.  One can also expect generous, varied salads and unparalleled gluten-free items.

Co-owners are plant-based foods chef Christopher Slawson and his uncle Richard Slawson, who transformed Palm Beach Gardens’ Midtown plaza when they opened Christopher’s Kitchen five and a half years ago. The stylish cafe has generated a loyal following among vegans and non-vegans alike.

Smoothie by Slawson. (Palm Beach Post file)
Smoothie by Slawson. 

Christopher Slawson’s creative ways with dish flavors, dressings, sauces and textures has set the place apart from crunchy vegan places of yore.

His philosophy is referenced in the very name of Meraki Juice Kitchen, for the name means “to do something with soul, creativity or love, to put something of yourself into your work,” as the Slawsons’ explained in a press release Wednesday.

The restaurant, which will offer outdoor seating, will serve as a template for future locations. The owners have chosen a Meraki location in Boca Raton and are working to secure another in Delray Beach.

Also new is the Slawsons’ 5000-square-foot production kitchen, where they prepare juices and other items.

 

Meraki Juice Kitchen

Location: 328 Fern St., West Palm Beach

Hours: Opening on Tuesday, Aug. 16; will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

 

Openings: Hot new restaurants in West Palm Beach

Avocado Grill's crispy green tomato salad with avocado, corn, watermelon, pickled red onion, Fourme d'Ambert cheese and cardamom-honey yogurt. (Richard Graulich/ The Palm Beach Post)
Avocado Grill’s crispy green tomato salad with avocado, corn, watermelon, pickled red onion, Fourme d’Ambert cheese and cardamom-honey yogurt.  The eatery has proven to be pivotal in the downtown dining scene. (Richard Graulich/ The Palm Beach Post)

Welcome to one of South Florida’s hot new dining destinations: downtown West Palm Beach and its environs. With a large crop of newly opened restaurants and more on deck, the district is rising to regional relevance.

READ  ALL ABOUT WEST PALM’S BUZZY NEW DINING SCENE.  

Here are some recent restaurant openings in West Palm Beach:

Grato – A neighborhood trattoria by the Buccan group. Opened in January at 1901 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; GratoWPB.com

Grato: Chef Clay Conley dishes out homemade pasta. (LibbyVision.com)
Grato: Chef Clay Conley dishes out homemade pasta. (LibbyVision.com)

Banko CantinaTri-level restaurant and bar serving Northern Mexican-inspired food. Opened in May at 114 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach; BankoCantina.com

A mariachi moment at Banko Cantina. (Contributed)
A mariachi moment at Banko Cantina. (Contributed)

JardinModern cuisine by husband-wife chef team Jordan Lerman (executive chef and bar manager) and Stephanie Cohen (pastry chef and general manager). Opened in April at 330 Clematis St., West Palm Beach; 561-440-5273; JardinRestaurant.com

At Jardin: crispy hummus with lemon aioli. (South Moon Photography)
At Jardin: crispy hummus with lemon aioli. (South Moon Photography)

Dorrian’s Red Hand – Southern outpost of New York’s Upper East Side pub. Opened in April at 215 Clematis St., West Palm Beach; Dorrians-WPB.com

Caramel apple bread pudding at Dorrian's Red Hand. (Meghan McCarthy/ The Palm Beach Post)
Caramel apple bread pudding at Dorrian’s Red Hand. (Meghan McCarthy/ The Palm Beach Post)

Johan’s JoeA stylish, Swedish-style coffee shop. Opened in October 2015 at 401 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; JohansJoe.com

Johan's Joe: coffee break, Swedish style. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Johan’s Joe: coffee break, Swedish style. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Queen of Sheeba – South Florida’s only Ethiopian restaurant. Opened in September at 716 N. Sapodilla Ave., West Palm Beach; QueenOfSheebaWPB.com

Queen of Sheeba's celebration dish: Ethiopian "doro wot," chicken stewed in African chili spices. (Damon Higgins/ The Palm Beach Post)
Queen of Sheeba’s celebration dish: Ethiopian chicken stewed in African chili spices. (Damon Higgins/ The Palm Beach Post)

Southern Railway Taphouse – A bar and late-night eatery. Opened in November at 314 Clematis St., West Palm Beach

Upcoming restaurant openings in West Palm Beach:

Restaurateur Thierry Beaud (l) and chef/partner Lindsay Autry discuss their upcoming Regional Kitchen. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)
Restaurateur Thierry Beaud (l) and chef/partner Lindsay Autry discuss their upcoming Regional Kitchen. (Damon Higgins/ The Palm Beach Post)

The Regional Kitchen & Public House – Locally inspired restaurant and bar headed by restaurateur Thierry Beaud and executive chef Lindsay Autry. Opens this summer at 651 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach; EatRegional.com

Cholo Soy Cocina's Chef Clay Carnes. (LibbyVision.com)
Cholo Soy Cocina’s Chef Clay Carnes. (LibbyVision.com)

Cholo Soy CocinaAndean-inspired eatery by Wellington chef Clay Carnes. Opens this summer at 3715 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; cholosoycocina.com

Christopher’s Kitchen – Vegan outpost of popular PGA Boulevard eatery. Opens soon at 326 Fern St., West Palm Beach

The Butcher Shop Beer Garden & Grill – Outpost of Wynwood (Miami) meat shop and eatery. Opens in September at 209 Sixth St., West Palm Beach

Lost Weekend/ The Lounge – A reinvented pool hall and bar coming to 526 Clematis St., West Palm Beach.

Take our poll. Which is your favorite new restaurant?

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.

New on Clematis Street: The Dispensary diner and soda fountain

The Dispensary, West Palm Beach. (Contributed)
The Dispensary, West Palm Beach. (Contributed)

The Dispensary, a daylight eatery and soda fountain, has opened on Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach. The retro-hip spot is located inside the Center City Pharmacy, where The Vegan Café briefly operated.

On the menu: hefty breakfast dishes, including four types of Eggs Benedict, shrimp and grits, huevos rancheros, chicken fried steak, smoked salmon on bagel, waffles and biscuits with gravy. Lunch offerings include chickpea soup, potato soup, tons of fresh salads, burgers and sandwiches (BLT, prime rib, cheddar-Gruyere grilled cheese), various sides and daily specials. Soda fountain favorites, like shakes and sundaes, are served as well.

“People are loving the food,” says co-owner Christian Wiebel, a local restaurant veteran who most recently worked at the now-closed Garage VV in Northwood.

He opened the new diner with partner Gregory Galgano on Sept. 1 as an intimate, 45-seat eatery.

“We want to add more tables, but we want to start small, with a chance to grow. For now, we want to keep it small,” says Wiebel.

Clematis Street's newest diner has outdoor seating. (Contributed)
Clematis Street’s newest diner has outdoor seating. (Contributed)

Hours: Open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the full menu offered till 5 p.m. (From 5 to 7 p.m., soda fountain items, croissants and packaged salads are offered.) Open Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; closed Sunday. Hours are expected to expand in season.

Online ordering is available.

The Dispensary: 416 Clematis St. (inside Center City Pharmacy), West Palm Beach; 561-990-2555; TheDispensaryWPB.com

TWITTER: @LizBalmaseda

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