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;; open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to close (till the tacos run out, usually about 8 p.m.); closed Sunday.

Jewish deli dreams: Rappy’s restaurant draws from Manhattan memories

An artist's view of Rappy's dining room. (Courtesy: Rappy's)
An artist’s view of the dining room at the upcoming Rappy’s deli in Boca Raton. (Courtesy: Rappy’s)

It’s an inspiration he relegated to back-burner status for decades: the familiar embrace of a Jewish deli.

Restaurateur Burt Rapoport knows that embrace better than most. His grandfather owned a deli for 50 years. His father managed it for many of those years. The lower east Manhattan establishment was home to Rapoport and his family – literally so. They ate most of their meals there, and they lived upstairs.

The vintage Rapoport’s deli was a traditional dairy restaurant, meaning it served no meat but plenty of blintzes, breads, fish dishes and potato soup. This is where a young Burt would grow up (on bowl after bowl of that hearty soup) to be a third-generation restaurateur and an influential figure in Palm Beach County’s hospitality world.

Now the restaurateur behind some top south county concepts (Deck 84, Henry’s, Burt & Max’s and Bogart’s Bar & Grille) has a deli-themed spot on deck in Boca Raton, inspired by those old Manhattan memories.

Rappy’s Deli will open in November, says Rapoport. The newest member of Rapoport’s Restaurant Group will debut in Boca’s new Park Place, a soon-to-open plaza on Military Trail, between Yamato and Clint Moore roads.

“I felt it would be great to go back to my roots,” Rapoport said in an interview this week.

Man behind the deli: Burt Rapoport, photographed at his Deck 84 restaurant in Delray Beach. (Palm Beach Post file)
Man behind the deli: Burt Rapoport, shown here at Deck 84 in Delray Beach. (Palm Beach Post file)

Named after his late father, Ray “Rappy” Rapoport, the new restaurant is more “deli-themed restaurant than classic deli,” he says. He describes the concept as “soulful Jewish food with a modern interpretation.”

The casual spot will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and will boast a 30-foot deli takeout counter as well as a full, indoor-outdoor bar, says Rapoport, who laments that true Jewish delis are few and far between in the country.

But there’s good news to be found amid the “glorified diners with zero atmosphere,” he notes.

“Now you see this resurgence with younger people who are reinventing delis all around the country,” says Rapoport. “So maybe the time is right to do this thing.”

Rappy's rendering: This deli counter will offer daylong takeout. (Courtesy: Rappy's)
Rappy’s rendering: This deli counter will offer daylong takeout. (Courtesy: Rappy’s)

The menu will mesh old school Jewish food with “a lot of fun items,” he says.

Expect franks in a blanket wrapped in puff pastry that’s sprinkled with “everything bagel” seasoning, deli-style sushi in the form of nova-wrapped tuna salad, pastrami spring rolls and house-smoked pastrami dishes. Also on the menu: classic chicken in a pot, corned beef and stuffed cabbage, plus homemade mustard, malts, boozy shakes and sweets.

“We’re taking it up a couple of notches and also hoping to appeal to a broader base,” says Rapoport, whose company was listed this year among Restaurant Hospitality magazine’s annual RH 25 list for “Coolest Multi-Concept Companies.”  

With touches of vintage subway tile, stained concrete floors and chalkboard menus, Rappy’s 4300-square-foot space will offer indoor dining as well as alfresco seating in the covered patio.

Rappy’s: Coming in November to Park Place plaza, 5560 N. Military Tr., Boca Raton;




ICYMI: Cholo Soy Cocina restaurant to open this week on West Palm Beach’s Antique Row

Cholo Soy Cocina, a tiny space with epic dreams, is set to open next week on West Palm Beach’s Antique Row, says its chef/owner Clay Carnes.

Carnes, who left his spacious Wellington restaurant, The Grille, to pursue his street-food-joint goals, expects to open Friday, Sept. 23.

He describes the concept as “neo-Andean, Ecuadorean,” inspired by his years working as a hotel chef in Cuenca, Ecuador. On the menu: interesting snacks, small dishes, handmade tortillas crafted of organic, non-GMO white corn grown in Alachua County.

“The thing I’m most excited about is that I can finally start making these tortillas,” says Carnes, who also will be smoking and braising meats and frying tempura fish for taco fillings.

Chef Clay Carnes: Michigan by birth, "cholo" by soul. (Alissa Dragun/ South Moon Photography)
Carnes: Michigan by birth, “cholo” by soul. (Alissa Dragun/ South Moon Photography)

He has designed a menu that’s varied enough to please a range of tastes and diets.

“We will have food options for everybody. We’ll be able to accommodate dietary preferences naturally because our menu is for everybody. If you’re vegan, we have you covered naturally. Whatever crazy trend you’re doing, you’ll be able to do it here,” says Carnes, who will also offer a selection of beer and wine as well as locally brewed kombucha on draft and locally roasted coffee.

Carnes, a Food Network “Cutthroat Kitchen” winner, plans to grow his own herbs, peppers and other veggies on Cholo’s patio, which will likely hold the spillover crowd from the 600-square-foot indoor space. Inside, there will be four tables seating eight to ten guests, plus limited room at the stand-up counter. Patio benches can accommodate another 25.

The cozy, communal factor is all part of Cholo’s street-stand vibe.

Cholo Soy translates to “I am cholo,” Latin American slang for mixed race or mestizo.


Located at 3715 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; @cholosoycocina on Instagram;

Hours: Opens Sept. 23 and will keep the following hours: Open Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays.


First look: vegan Meraki Juice Kitchen in downtown West Palm Beach

Bright bite: avocado toast at Meraki Juice Kitchen. (Liz Balmaseda/Palm Beach Post)
Bright bite: avocado toast at Meraki Juice Kitchen. (Liz Balmaseda/ Palm Beach Post)

At first glance, Meraki Juice Kitchen feels like a grab-and-go place. Freshly packaged salads chill in a cooler, as do pressed juices.

The downtown West Palm Beach spot is stylish yet casual, perfect for take-out smoothie orders. But despite its limited menu and space, chef Christopher Slawson’s organic plant-based café also serves as an urban oasis for those who’d like to settle in and enjoy a healthy bite, as I did on a recent Sunday afternoon.

The avocado toast, topped with sunflower sprouts and sprinkled with salt and pepper, made for a delicious mid-afternoon snack ($5.95). I enjoyed it between sips of Meraki’s bottled “Abundance” juice (pressed cucumber, romaine, chard, kale, ginger, pear and lime, $9.50).

The counter attendant offered me a special daily bonus, a 2-ounce bottle of kicky ginger tonic (normally $3.50), made of freshly pressed lemon, ginger and cayenne pepper. Strong stuff, this tonic. Even a nano sip smacked the afternoon haze out of me.

Kicky stuff: freshly pressed ginger-cayenne tonic. (Liz Balmaseda/Palm Beach Post)
Kicky stuff: freshly pressed ginger-cayenne tonic. (Liz Balmaseda/Palm Beach Post)

Perched on Fern Street, Meraki is the sister eatery of Christopher’s Kitchen, Slawson’s popular plant-based restaurant located on the PGA Boulevard dining corridor in Palm Beach Gardens. He opened the place on Aug. 16 with his uncle, Richard Slawson. Like Christopher’s Kitchen, it offers a selection of organic, plant-based desserts, smoothies, salads and a daily soup. Unlike the more established restaurant, which serves a large menu at lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, the new spot focuses on daytime-type dishes.

Still, there’s plenty here to keep a fan of Slawson’s fresh, creative cuisine coming back. And when you savor your meal at one of the café tables, you can look out the window into what is presently part of a construction site and envision the green space it will become. Once the current construction is finished, Meraki’s quaint patio dining area is sure to be one of the loveliest spots for a downtown bite.

Meraki Juice Kitchen: 328 Fern St., West Palm Beach; 561-508-6640;


New waterfront restaurant opens in Delray Beach

Che has taken over the former Hudson at Waterway East in Delray Beach. (Contributed)
Che has taken over the former Hudson at Waterway East in Delray Beach. (Contributed)

A rare Argentinian-owned restaurant has landed on the banks of the Intracoastal in Delray Beach. Che Restaurant opened Monday in the sprawling space formerly occupied by Hudson at Waterway East.

Dreamed up in Buenos Aires, the restaurant concept was brought to life in Spain by brother-sister restaurateurs Daniela and Martin Sujoy. On Spanish soil, they built a Che empire of 15 related restaurants in 15 years. (They include Che Pizza & Pasta, Che Asador Argentino and Che American Style).

Related: Best waterfront restaurants in Palm Beach County

Now comes their first U.S. location in Delray Beach’s buzzy dining district: a restaurant that’s described as part modern steakhouse, part casual international eatery. “Che” is a multipurpose expression common in the Rio de la Plata region. It can mean “hey!” or “bro,” among other things.

“For Delray Beach, we wanted to pay homage to our Argentinian roots while highlighting European inspiration,” said Martin Sujoy via news release.

Che offers various types of paellas similar to this one. (Mia Yakel/ Cox Newspapers)
Che offers various types of paellas similar to this one. (Mia Yakel/ Cox Newspapers)

The Sujoy family got its start in the food industry in Argentina, where they managed country club concessions before opening a financial district restaurant that grew into a catering operation.

At Che Delray, expect dishes with Argentine and Spanish accents on the menu. There are Argentinian classics like choripan (chorizo sandwich), Buenos Aires-style pastas and grass-fed South American steaks with chimichurri sauce. Inspired by Spain, there’s Galician-style octopus and paellas. On the side: sparkling waterfront views.

The Sujoys hired Spanish interior design company Paco Pleguezuelos to breathe new life into the 8000-square-foot space. The result is a sprawling restaurant with inside/outside dining areas and two bars, with plenty of room for large parties in between.

Hours: open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

Che Delray Beach: 900 E. Atlantic Ave.; 561-562-5200;



Bolay to spread healthy bowl concept to Gardens, Boca Raton

Bodacious bowls: Bolay offers healthy combos and juices. (Contributed by Bolay)
Bodacious bowls: Bolay offers healthy combos and juices. (Contributed by Bolay)

One local fast-casual restaurant is about to spread its love of healthy bowls far and wide across Palm Beach County.

Bolay, the popular bowl-centric restaurant that opened in Royal Palm Beach nearly seven months ago, is ready to open locations in Palm Beach Gardens and Boca Raton.

First up is Palm Beach Gardens, where a Bolay location is expected to open Oct. 29 on Northlake Boulevard in a 2500-square-foot space across the street from Costco. A slightly larger Boca Raton location will follow when Bolay opens in the former Voodoo BBQ space at the Polo Club Shoppes on Dec. 1.

030216 Bolay Juices nuThe Bolay concept is focused on clean, nutritious eating, offering a selection of grains, vegetables and meats for customizable bowls. Beyond the ordinary range of salads, the restaurant aims to build bowls that are filled with nutrient-rich ingredients, such as Peruvian quinoa, roasted butternut squash, smoky cauliflower and a variety of lean, flavorful meats. Every dish is gluten-free.

For the sipping, there’s fresh-pressed juices and herbal teas.

The restaurant was founded by Jupiter resident Chris Gannon, who owns the concept with his father, Tim Gannon, a co-founder of Outback Steakhouse and a PDQ franchisee.

The younger Gannon is quick to note special dietary preferences “aren’t special requests” at Bolay. “They’re always featured selections. Each bowl carries the perfect balance of tasty and creative zest that our guests love,” he said via news release.


Palm Beach Gardens: scheduled to open Oct. 29 at 3333 Northlake Blvd.

Boca Raton: expected to open Dec. 1 in the Polo Club Shoppes, 5030 Champion Blvd.

Hours: The restaurant locations will open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.


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.

Restaurant news: Park Avenue BBQ in Jupiter to open within week

The chalkboard sign outside Park Avenue BBQ's Tequesta branch says farewell to customers. (Larry Aydlette/The Palm Beach Post)
The chalkboard sign outside Park Avenue BBQ’s Tequesta branch says farewell to customers. (Photos: Larry Aydlette/The Palm Beach Post)

Saturday was the last call for barbecue, wings and burgers at Park Avenue BBQ in Tequesta.

The long-time branch of the local restaurant chain has closed as it gets ready to open a new location on Indiantown Drive in Jupiter, in the old Applebee’s near the I-95 interchange.

Wait staff said the new Jupiter location should be open in about a week.

There are a couple of questions for long-time customers of the old location:


What happens to the Pabst Blue Ribbon ceiling mural? It apparently won’t fit in the industrial-style ceiling of the new location, but wait staff said Saturday that it might end up in another Park Avenue location.

And here’s hoping they don’t forget the Elvis sign: