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

New restaurant news: The Regional Kitchen rolls out new weekend brunch

West Palm Beach mimosa-seekers, there’s a hot new brunch in town. The Regional Kitchen quietly expanded its weekend hours recently to include an a la carte, big-city brunch.

On the brunch menu at The Regional: cornmeal flapjacks with bourbon-blueberry jam and salted butter. (Contributed by The Regional Kitchen)
On the brunch menu at The Regional: cornmeal flapjacks with bourbon-blueberry jam and salted butter. (Contributed by The Regional Kitchen)

Unlike some unruly, dancing-on-tables brunches, this is a civilized, soulful affair. Chef Lindsay Autry has created a menu that’s just large enough and eclectic enough to satisfy most midmorning appetites.

Related: 50 must-try ‘Sunday Funday’ brunch parties in Palm Beach County

On the savory side, there’s loaded mill grits with cheddar, scallions, bacon and roasted jalapeños ($11; add poached egg for $2, barbecue shrimp for $7), country-style sausage ($11), steak and eggs ($18), fried chicken thighs ($9), and broccoli and cheese frittata ($14).

Steak and eggs, Regional-style. (Contributed by The Regional Kitchen)
Steak and eggs, Regional-style. (Contributed by The Regional Kitchen)

On the sweet side, there’s cornmeal flapjacks with bourbon-blueberry jam ($12), and buttermilk waffle with spiced apple butter ($12). Rounding out your options, there are smaller bites (roasted tomato pie, $11), salads, sandwiches, entrées (herb roasted Scottish salmon, $22), and homey side dishes (table-side pimento cheese, $11).

Fan favorite: The Regional's roasted tomato pie. (South Moon Photography)
Fan favorite: The Regional’s roasted tomato pie. (South Moon Photography)

Brunch-y drinks include classic mimosas, daily special mimosas ($11 glass, $30 pitcher), Frosé (a spiked, slushy rosé cocktail, $12 each) and The Regional Bloody (a well-garnished Bloody Mary, $11 each).

Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Reservations are suggested at 561-557-6460.

The Regional Kitchen & Public House: 651 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach

ON THE HORIZON: New lunch coming in 2017

Stacked: Table 26's signature burger. (Contributed by Table 26)
Stacked: Table 26’s signature burger. (Contributed by Table 26)

Long a popular spot for dinner, the restaurant will open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. To reserve a spot, call 561-855-2660.

Owners Eddie Schmidt and Ozzie Medeiros are still finalizing menu details.

Their announcement promises to boost local “power lunch” options. Table 26’s (also upscale) neighbor, Grato, started lunch service this past summer.

Crispy French toast at Table 26. (Contributed by Table 26)
Crispy French toast at Table 26. (Contributed by Table 26)

Table 26 presently serves a Sunday brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. On the menu: comfort food classics with a sophisticated twist, and $5 brunch cocktails.

Table 26: 1700 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach

RELATED:

Best Guide: Hot restaurants on West Palm’s Dixie Dining Corridor

Fifty must-try brunches in Palm Beach County

As the dough rises, so does business at Aioli

The sourdough can be a diva. Sometimes she cooperates, but there are times she refuses to give in to the coaxing.

Chef Michael Hackman of Aioli sandwich shop in West Palm Beach knows them well, the whims of sourdough.

Aioli's basic bread ingredients: 'Water, flour and salt.' Plus patience. (Photo: LibbyVision.com)
Aioli’s basic bread: ‘Water, flour and salt.’ Plus patience. (LibbyVision.com)

“It’s a lot of work. It’s very temperamental. You mess up one thing and it’s ruined,” says Hackman, who owns the daylight café with wife/partner Melanie.

Aioli's chef/co-owner Michael Hackman. (LibbyVision.com)
Aioli’s chef/co-owner Michael Hackman. (LibbyVision.com)

He bakes bread daily for the shop’s sandwiches as well as for retail sale. He bakes semolina bread and seven-grain loaves. Within the bread-baking rotation, he makes two types of sourdough bread, a plain loaf and an olive-studded one. But they can be tricky.

Chef Michael Hackman kneads sourdough for bread. (Photo: LibbyVision.com)
Chef Michael Hackman kneads sourdough for bread. (LibbyVision.com)

Part of the reason for the challenge is that Hackman uses no shortcuts.

“I started making sourdough from scratch. We don’t use commercial yeast. We make the ‘mother,’ the culture. We’re making the yeast and watching it grow,” he says. “There was a moment when I literally fell in love with it.”

The handmade loaves sell for $6, $9 and $12.

Preparing bread molds: Hackman at Aioli. (LibbyVision.com)
Preparing bread molds: Hackman at Aioli. (LibbyVision.com)

Hackman’s love of baking – and his customers’ demand for his breads – sparked expansion plans at Aioli. The couple recently began construction on a separate baking facility that will operate adjacently to the café.

“We will be doing all the bread production there, plus a little wholesale,” says Hackman.

Time for a nap: rising dough at Aioli. (LibbyVision.com)
Time for a nap: rising dough at Aioli. (LibbyVision.com)

Also in the works, an Aioli location in downtown West Palm Beach.

“We’re still in the beginning stages,” Hackman says of that spot.

Michael Hackman's olive-studded sourdough beauty. (LibbyVision.com)
Michael Hackman’s olive-studded sourdough beauty. (LibbyVision.com)

Although the business is set to grow, he says it will not change Aioli’s mission to create fresh food using seasonal and many times local ingredients:

“We love to make stuff from scratch here.”

Aioli: 7434 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-366-7741

 

Diner en Blanc: what to pack in your picnic basket?

You may not know the location of Diner en Blanc yet, but you’ve got your snazzy white outfit and “tablescape” planned for Friday night’s big outdoor feast, to be held somewhere in West Palm Beach.

But here’s the question: What kind of food does one pack for an event that’s part pop-up dinner, part synchronized picnic?

Matthew Levi, right, of West Palm Beach, smiles with family and friends after helping decorate during Le Diner en Blanc in downtown West Palm Beach on November 10, 2015. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Matthew Levi, right, of West Palm Beach, smiles with family and friends after helping decorate during the 2015 Diner en Blanc in downtown West Palm Beach. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

We attended last year’s secret, massive affair and have few tips to share on the topic.

READ: Nine things to know about Diner en Blanc

First, keep in mind this is an outdoor event, which means it’s vulnerable to the elements. Second, keep in mind you may have to lug your supplies for many yards.

With those two things in mind, here are five ideas on what to tuck into those picnic totes:

1. Cold or room temperature and crispy is fine: think crisp veggies, good crackers, breadsticks, even room-temp fried chicken. Hot and crispy, not so much. Your crispy duck might not survive the schlep, neither will your warm, toasty garlic bread.

2. You can’t go wrong with fancy charcuterie.

A charcuterie and cheese board is as fancy as its components. (Cox Newspapers)
A charcuterie board is as fancy as its components. (Cox Newspapers)

Here’s how: Pack great cheeses – oozy ones, sharp ones, aged ones, even beautifully stinky ones. Tuck in some fine Spanish ham, Italian salumi, hot mustard, elegant jams or honey. Add baggies of fresh fruit and nuts. After you set up your table, you can arrange them on a nice platter with those crispy crackers or hearty bread.

3. Whip up some sophisticated chilled soup, like Chef Michelle Bernstein’s White Gazpacho.

Michelle Bernstein's White Gazpacho is luxury in a shot glass. (Palm Beach Post file photo)
White Gazpacho is luxury in a shot glass. (Palm Beach Post file photo)

Here’s how to make it: In a high-speed blender, add 1 ½ cup Marcona almonds, ½ teaspoon fresh garlic, ½ tablespoon peeled shallot, 2 cups of peeled and chopped English cucumbers, 2 cups seedless green grapes, 1 tablespoon fresh dish and 1 ½ cups cold veggie broth. Puree until very smooth. With blender running, add 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar and 2 tablespoons dry sherry wine. Slowly drizzle in ½ cup quality extra-virgin olive oil. Blend for at least 4 to 5 minutes, until velvety smooth. Chill until ready to sip. Garnish with sliced grapes, crushed almonds and dill. (Recipe serves 4.)

4. Rice salads (or other grain salads) served room temperature can be luxurious.

Fancy grain salad: black rice with roasted squash. (Cox Newspapers)
Fancy grain salad: black rice with roasted squash. (Cox Newspapers)

Here’s a variation: Make a pot of your favorite rice. Separately, sauté onions, garlic and celery in olive oil until just tender, adding a sprinkling of curry powder or ground turmeric and ginger. Add the rice to the sauté by the spoonful, tossing to coat the rice in the aromatics. Add a handful of frozen peas and stir. Shut off heat and allow mixture to sit until the peas are tender. When cool, add your choice of raw, chopped veggies, like diced zucchini, seeded tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh herbs. You’ll have a mix of textures and flavors in one hearty bowl.  If you prefer a hot meal, pack soups, stews or chili in Thermoses.

5. The takeout option: Order dinner from your favorite West Palm restaurant and pick it up before you get to the meet-up location. Once the location is announced Friday afternoon, you may have a better idea of nearby restaurants. You’ll only have to bring your dinnerware and table setting.

Fancy dinnerware spotted at the 2015 Diner en Blanc. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Fancy dinnerware spotted at the 2015 Diner en Blanc. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

It may sound like a mission – and it can be, depending on how you take on the night. But relax. It’s a party. It’s a picnic. Pack what you love to eat in your fancy duds. If that means Fritos in a martini glass, rock on!

Feast on five of our favorite juicy local sandwiches

Today we talk about the infinite possibility of fillings than can be stacked between two slices of bread, tucked into a bun, celebrated for its majesty. Today is the day for exploring the contrast of flavors and textures, and the way the fillings in a Vietnamese banh mi teach a baguette how to be spicy, crunchy and rich all at once. Today is for marveling at how a Cuban sandwich made miles away, in Tampa, could possess a certain smoky-spicy layer, thanks to Genoa salami.

We present five of our favorite local and more unique sammies:

The Jibarito

Behold the Jibarito. And, yes, those are tostones in place of bread. (Photo: Samantha Ragland)
Behold the Jibarito. And, yes, those are tostones in place of bread. (Photo: Samantha Ragland)

This is where paleo meets Puerto Rico: a sandwich that swaps out the bread and swaps in two enormous, smashed and crispy-fried green plantains. Tucked between those tostones is a choice of steak or chicken, crisp lettuce, tomato and mayo. It’s a regal idea rooted in peasant life. The name of the sandwich is derived from the word jíbaro, which in Puerto Rico means humble dweller of the countryside. It costs $8.95 and it’s served at Don Café restaurant, 136 N. Military Tr., West Palm Beach; 561-684-0074.

The Gordo Burger

A gordo burger prepared at La Perrada del Gordo. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)
A gordo burger prepared at La Perrada del Gordo. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

This Colombian-style colossus is more super-sandwich than burger. It starts with a beef or chicken patty, then layers on the sauces: garlic sauce, pink sauce, pineapple sauce and a Colombian fast-food classic called “showy” sauce, plus ketchup and mustard. Stack some tomato slices, bacon, cheese and a crush of potato chips and you’ve got the Gordo.  It costs $6.75 and it’s offered at La Perrada del Gordo, 2650 S. Military Tr., West Palm Beach; 561-968-6978.

The Chimichurri

El Unico's juicy version of the Dominican "Chimi." (Photo: El Unico)
El Unico’s juicy version of the Dominican “Chimi.” (Photo: El Unico)

Not to be confused with the garlicky Argentinian or Uruguayan sauce. This sandwich hails from the Caribbean. You can call it a Dominican beef sandwich, but that doesn’t begin to do it justice. It starts with toasty bread, then it’s stuffed with either thin-sliced beef or a hand-patted beef patty, sautéed onions and cabbage slaw. The “Chimi” is dressed with a proprietary, mayo-based sauce and sold for $7.95 at El Unico restaurant, 6108 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-619-2962.

The Hullabaloo BLT

All hail Hullabaloo's BLT sandwich. (Thomas Cordy/ The Palm Beach Post)
All hail Hullabaloo’s BLT sandwich. (Thomas Cordy/ The Palm Beach Post)

This is not your boring, room-service BLT. Chef Fritz Cassel has created a shrine to the BLT concept: It starts with challah bread, then stacks on some thick, house-smoked pork belly, heirloom tomato and arugula and adds a smear of red pepper aioli. It’s served at lunchtime for $11 at Hullabaloo, 517 Clematis St., West Palm Beach; 561-833-1033.

TocToc’s Pork Arepa Sandwich

TocToc's pork-stuffed arepa sandwich. (Contributed by TocToc)
TocToc’s pork-stuffed arepa sandwich. (Contributed by TocToc)

Here’s a guilty pleasure worth diving into at the Saturday West Palm Beach GreenMarket: a Venezuelan/Colombian corncake (arepa) stuffed with shredded pork and a big, juicy tomato slice. You can find this sandwich at the TocToc Arepas booth. Yes, it’s a simple pleasure, but it’s one that resonates with flavor contrasts – the sweet arepa, the rich pork, the fresh tomato. It’s sold by TocToc for $7.50 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the GreenMarket on the downtown West Palm Beach waterfront (eastern end of Clematis Street).

 

Exclusive: Tiger Woods’ former chef to open new restaurant on Dixie dining corridor

The husband-wife team behind Kitchen, the Belvedere Road hotspot popular with local and visiting celebs, are deep into the planning stages for a neighboring restaurant.

Chef Matthew Byrne and wife/partner Aliza Byrne will open Patina, a Greek and Israeli-inspired restaurant, on West Palm Beach’s happening Dixie Highway dining corridor. They expect to debut in the fall of 2017.

“What’s the best place to open a restaurant? Next to a busy restaurant,” Matthew Byrne told The Post this week. “That’s restaurant 101.”

Growing the business: Kitchen's Aliza and Matthew Byrne. (LILA PHOTO)
Growing the business: Kitchen’s Aliza and Matthew Byrne. (LILA PHOTO)

The busy restaurant next to the Byrnes’ upcoming concept? That would be Grato, the acclaimed trattoria opened by South Florida star chef Clay Conley and his Buccan Palm Beach partners 11 months ago.

The Byrnes hope to infuse a Mediterranean feel into the 2500-square-foot indoor space and courtyard. The building’s vintage floors inspired the name Patina, they say.

Matthew’s experience in the kitchen of a longstanding Greek restaurant in the couple’s native Philadelphia partially inspired the concept, as did Aliza’s Middle Eastern roots. (Her father is Israeli.)

“Think lemon, sea salt, rosemary, whole fishes, tons of squid, charred lamb,” says the chef. “I’m really excited about some vegan items on the menu.”

The vegan plates will come naturally to the concept, as will the fish and meat dishes, he says. And while he admits he’s not a disciple of the “small plate-y” approach, he expects to offer some shareable dishes, hummus, baba ganoush and other classics.

“It’s my version of Greek-American and Israeli food,” says Byrne, a former private chef who worked for golf star Tiger Woods.

The upcoming restaurant will have a full bar, unlike Kitchen, which serves only wine and beer, he says.

New item: salmon carpaccio with hearts of palm and cukes in lemon-dill dressing. (LibbyVision.com)
New item: salmon carpaccio in lemon-dill dressing. (LibbyVision.com)

The chef offers a kind of preview of the Patina cuisine on his revamped Kitchen menu. You’ll find hints of it in his carpaccio of salmon, buttery slices of raw salmon served with hearts of palm and cucumber in a fresh lemon-dill dressing ($16). It’s also in the pan-roasted halibut with artichokes in a heady truffle-clam broth ($32).

The prospect of a new up-market spot in the Flamingo Park area will likely intensify the Dixie dining corridor’s heat as a dining destination.

The Byrnes purchased the 1817 S. Dixie Highway space in January from Palm Beach resident Jeffrey Cole’s Blenheim Holdings for $770,000. (Cole is a loyal Kitchen customer.) Until recently, the property housed Solar Antique Tiles.

The couple is in the permitting stage for renovation of the space.

Matthew Byrne's halibut in truffled clam broth. (LibbyVision.com)
Matthew Byrne’s halibut in truffled clam broth. (LibbyVision.com)

The Patina project is underway as the Byrnes’ Kitchen, which celebrated its third anniversary in October, continues to expand. By December, they expect to spread their presence in the Belvedere plaza to include the space where Shoppe 561 now operates. That space will house a wine bar/retail space they call Prep Kitchen.

The 1600-square-foot space would host visiting winemakers, wine tastings with Chef Matthew and other wine-related events. It also will serve as a spillover space for diners waiting for their table at Kitchen. During the day, the space will serve as a retail shop, selling wines as well as grab-and-go items such as salads and Kitchen’s desserts.

Once Patina opens, the chef says he will likely shuttle between the restaurants, located just blocks apart. He says he’s confident his Kitchen crew will keep his current restaurant on point.

“It’s my original team,” says Byrne. “They’ve been with me for three years, since Day 1.”

Kitchen: 319 Belvedere Rd., West Palm Beach; 561-249-2281; KitchenPB.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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The Regional Kitchen heats up CityPlace — is it worth the buzz?

The folks behind The Regional Kitchen & Public House in downtown West Palm Beach don’t believe in doomed locations. Some months ago, they invaded the cavernous space that once housed a succession of failed restaurants – from Cuban to American seafood to Brazilian spots – and raised a banner there for worldly Southern cooking.

Chef Lindsay Autry addresses the troops at The Regional Kitchen. (Contributed by The Regional)
Chef Lindsay Autry addresses the troops at The Regional Kitchen. (Contributed by The Regional)

Now, on most nights, The Regional hums with big-city ambiance as the restaurant’s various dining areas are filled with chatter and tables are laden with Executive Chef Lindsay Autry’s jazzed up pimento cheese, country ham carpaccio, fried chicken thighs and pozole verde.

Never mind that the restaurant’s façade is obscured by massive scaffolding as the larger building undergoes renovations. Even the Public House part of the establishment, also known as the bar and lounge, seems to draw its own lively scene.

Why all the buzz – and is it warranted?

Long story, short: Yes.

The Regional's Tomato Pie is a top-seller. (South Moon Photography)
The Regional’s Tomato Pie is a top-seller at the month-old restaurant. (South Moon Photography)

The reasons extend beyond concept, planning and good intention. Of course there’s a solid hospitality entity behind The Regional – restaurateur Thierry Beaud’s TITOU group, which gave us Pistache on Clematis Street and PB Catch in Palm Beach, restaurants with enduring shine.

And there’s timing: The Regional debuts as West Palm Beach rises to prominence as a new hub for indie, chef-driven restaurants. It also opens as the CityPlace area awaits the arrival of a mega Restoration Hardware showroom, which will serve as a formal entrance to downtown West Palm Beach.

But at the core, the month-old Regional runs on soul, excellent food and attention to detail, a trifecta brought to life by Chef Autry, who also serves as the restaurant’s managing partner.

She pulls these elements together with a sense of authority, culled from her eclectic fine dining experiences. Autry is not only a chef on the rise, but a chef coming into her own – and it’s an exciting thing to witness.

Pimento cheese is jazzed up, table-side. (South Moon Photography)
Pimento cheese is jazzed up, table-side. (South Moon Photography)

Her menu is part memoir: Autry borrows flavors from her North Carolina childhood (hello, country-style sausage with field pea cassoulet), her Greek grandmother’s kitchen (as in veggie Greek salad with charred chickpeas), her days working for celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein in Yucatan and Miami (hola, grilled snapper in banana leaf with salsa verde), and her culinary pop-up explorations.

The menu sparkles with flavor combos that might make no sense in the hands of another chef – and she commands it with grace. Her Berkshire pork shank ($26), perched on creamed hominy and pozole verde, is downright statuesque. Her sweet tea-brined fried chicken thighs ($9) cut to the chase of flavor, focusing on the richest part of the bird. Even a dish as seemingly simple as chicken noodle soup ($8) is exalted by a long-simmered broth (deepened in flavor by heaps of bones), chicken that’s cooked gently in its own fat and hand-cut dumplings. It’s exquisite, this soup.

As does the menu, the décor touches reflect certain soul. Autry and her team doted on table setting details, including a caddy handcrafted by a Regional bartender with woodworking skills. It holds the menus and small bottles of The Regional’s special “house sauce.”

The Regional's walls reflect the chef's North Carolina childhood. (LILA PHOTO)
The Regional’s walls reflect the chef’s North Carolina childhood. (LILA PHOTO)

The amber glassware on the table is inspired by Autry’s grandmother’s table. It was “always set with those color glasses and pretty ‘share’ plates that make you feel like you’re dining on something special,” recalls the chef.

The art on the restaurant’s walls reflects Autry’s North Carolina roots in a series of photos she took at her family’s farm, as well as some local farm images. She had a replica of her family’s farm sign made – it hangs above The Regional’s kitchen.

“These personal notes make it really feel like home to me,” says Autry.

Chef on the rise: Lindsay Autry at The Regional's "housewarming" party. (Contributed by The Regional)
Chef on the rise: Lindsay Autry at the “housewarming” party. (Contributed by The Regional)

Interesting thing: The place feels homey even to those of us not born in North Carolina. Then again, “homey” doesn’t fully cover The Regional’s vibe. The place may pay homage to Autry’s countryside roots, but it is firmly metropolitan. Retro funk beats segue to soul on the soundtrack in the bar and main dining room, while soulful jazz flows through The Regional’s private dining room. Autry’s team spent about four months developing the custom playlists with a New York sound company.

The crisp details extend to the servers, their approach and their appearance in uniforms designed by ChefWorks and, for the women, a certain matte shade of coral lipstick.

Country flavors, big-city vibe at The Regional Kitchen. (LILA PHOTO)
Country flavors, big-city vibe at The Regional Kitchen. (LILA PHOTO)

Of course, Autry knows such details can be meaningless without drive.

“It takes a lot of time and energy to open a restaurant, and it’s remarkable to see all of the small details come together to make this establishment what I hoped it could be,” she says.

She says she looks forward to seeing “our little community grow.”

It’s an heirloom seed of a wish, but one that’s sown on fertile, West Palm Beach soil. How could it not grow?

The Regional Kitchen & Public House: 651 Okeechobee Blvd. (CityPlace), West Palm Beach; 561-557-6460

Avocado Grill celebrates 2nd birthday in grand, funky style party

It’s hard to imagine a weekend when there was not a celebration of some kind at Avocado Grill, Chef Julien Gremaud’s popular spot in downtown West Palm Beach. Perhaps that’s because the very air in the lively restaurant, which spills onto the sidewalk and side patio, seems to sway.

But as Avocado Grill turns 2 this weekend, the restaurant is cranking its celebratory mode to full blast.

A local pair enjoy a window seat at Avocado Grill in downtown West Palm Beach. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
A local pair enjoy a window seat at Avocado Grill in West Palm Beach. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

First, there’s a reggae brunch Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m., to the live music of Spred the Dub. On the menu: island-y offerings like coconut lobster rolls, jerk shrimp tacos and dirty rice. Five hours later, the vibe turns clubby as DJ Adam Lipson kicks off his set (9 p.m).

Sunday starts with a brunch as well – a ‘70s-style disco brunch. Adding to the mood: music by Mr. Trombone (Wayne Perry), drummer Ryan Anthony and DJ German Garcia. Brunch also features a costume contest. The contestant with the best retro ‘70 attire wins a $200 Avocado Grill gift card.

Julien Gremaud is chef/owner at Avocado Grill. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Julien Gremaud is chef/owner at Avocado Grill. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Chef Gremaud is hoping guests “go all out” on their costume concepts.

“It’s almost Halloween and we want to see what everyone’s got,” he said via news release.

Of course, there are two weeks of potential celebrations to go before Halloween shadows our doors.

And Gremaud admits he “can’t resist a good party.”

Can you tell the chef used to be a DJ?

Avocado Grill's Dulce de Leche Lava Cake. (Richard Graulich/ The Palm Beach Post)
Avocado Grill’s Dulce de Leche Lava Cake. (Richard Graulich/ The Palm Beach Post)

Avocado Grill: 125 Datura St., West Palm Beach; 561-623-0822; AvocadoGrillWPB.com

Swank Farm to host Sunday morning mini-market

Thanks to Hurricane Matthew’s bluster, West Palm Beach cancelled its waterfront green market for this Saturday.

But those who flock to Swank Farm’s fresh produce stand won’t have to wait one week for their lettuces and baby greens.

They’ll only have to wait one day. The Loxahatchee Groves farm is hosting its own mini-market on Sunday.

Jodi Swank with a bowl of greens at Swank Specialty Produce in Loxahatchee Groves, Florida on June 3, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Jodi Swank displays lettuces at Swank Farm, near Loxahatchee. (Allen Eyestone/ The Palm Beach Post)

The market will run from 9 a.m. to noon at the boutique farm, which is now harvesting a heap of hydroponically grown greens.

“We’ll have lots of lettuces and lettuce mixes, watercress and upland cress, squash blossoms and squash,” says Jodi Swank, who owns Swank Specialty Produce with her husband, farmer Darrin Swank.

She has invited various vendors to join her Sunday. Among those selling their goods will be Delray Beach-made Pascale’s jams, Koroneiki olive oils and vinegars, and West Palm Beach-based Accomplice Brewery, which will offer flavored ciders.

Swank, who also hosts farm dinner events during harvest season, is also expecting a fresh bread vendor and a granola maker, among others. Her full list of vendors will be posted on Swank Specialty Produce’s Facebook page.

Swank’s farm market will become a regular event after the West Palm Beach GreenMarket season wraps at the end of April. The Swanks will host Saturday farm markets throughout May and the first two weeks of June. Like this Sunday’s market, the 2017 markets will run from 9 a.m. to noon.

Swank Farm: 14311 North Road, Loxahatchee Groves; 561-202-5648; SwankSpecialtyProduce.com