By: Jeff Perlman Editor in Chief
There’s a new book out that tells the story of the restaurants that changed America.
The aptly named “Ten Restaurants That Changed America” by historian Paul Freedman (with an introduction from Shake Shack creator Danny Meyer) has received positive reviews and has got foodies across the country talking.
The list is an eclectic collection that includes: Schraffts–which aimed to create an affordable eatery for secretaries and stenographers, Howard Johnson’s which introduced 28 flavors of ice cream and Le Pavillon which pioneered French cuisine in America.
While many of the restaurants listed are now history—McDonald’s swept aside Hojo’s, Schraffts was from a bygone era when single women felt a need to be protected from Mad Men era men (maybe that’s still the case considering all the locker room talk)—they all left their mark and their taste on the American palate.
The same day that I read the review I found myself dining at the new Delray restaurant ‘Che’ with a large group that included a veteran restauranteur and a local foodie—aka my friends Fran and Scott. So I asked my table mates what were the ten restaurants that changed Delray?
Not the 10 best, but the ten most important. They weighed in and then we got lost in a sea of empanada’s and a long dissertation on parking.
So here is my humble attempt at answering that question.
But I did take their input into account.
I’m not sure we agreed on every selection but history belongs to the scribe and since I’m the guy writing this I get the last word. We are however interested in your take. Send us your list.
In no particular order:
1. Boston’s on the Beach–a Delray landmark. You can travel anywhere and when you’re donning a Boston’s t shirt you can count on someone coming up to you and saying one of two things. “Hey, I used to work there.” Or..”I’ve been to Delray, that place is great. Do they still have reggae night?”
2. Caffe Luna Rosa- Two time Chamber restaurant of the year, lines in the street for breakfast during season and occasional celebrities, see Mirren, Helen. What started as a gelato shop has developed into another Delray landmark. Are we biased because of Fran? Maybe. But we really like the place.
3. Splendid Blendeds–former mayor Tom Lynch’s favorite and one of the early “fine” restaurants to open on the Avenue in the 90s. Mayor Lynch may have liked it because I think that’s where Plastridge Insurance, the family business since 1919, may have once been located.
4. The Annex–the original hot spot in Pineapple Grove. Back in the day, just when Pineapple Grove was beginning to make some noise, Bob Allen and company owned a place that the locals flocked to every day. Legendary beat cop Vinny Mintus held court at The Annex at lunch and kept the area safe because he knew everyone.
5. Dakotah–a pioneer known for its creative menu, great food and awesome cocktails. Ron and Renee Radabaugh thrived in the spot that now houses Taverna Opa and were deeply involved in the community as well. The restaurant was named for their son (who was a great kid and an excellent baseball player).
6. Damiano’s–another pioneer that featured a husband and wife chef team and amazing soufflés. DADA—another great and influential spot– now occupies the historic house where Damiano’s once stood.
7. 32 East—a downtown mainstay and pioneering fine dining legend. Butch Johnson is an avenue icon, all around good guy and always fun to visit. 32 East is known for its great food and amazing bar which includes the great John “Fitzy” Fitzgerald who is an artist behind the wood.
8. Arcade Tap Room–the original top dog restaurant, chock full of history and dark wood. Today, it’s where Caffe Martier resides but the Tap Room hosted mayors and I believe a visit from Richard Nixon.
9. Tramonti’s—we miss Geno. But the tradition of excellent food continues. It is hard to believe that Tramonti’s was once dead space when the old Craig’s Furniture vacated.
10. City Oyster—the great Bob Deal has left for Nashville, but we are confident that City Oyster will continue to serve as a prominent gathering spot for the city’s movers and shakers and wannabes.
Others in the mix: Cabana El Rey, Sopra, Ken and Hazel’s, Green Owl, Gleason Street Cafe, Brule’, Elwood’s, The Rod and Gun, Christina’s, J&J Seafood Bar & Grill, Patio Delray, 5th Avenue Grill.
Boca is harder for this Delray guy. But here’s how we call it across the border.
La Vielle Maison—once the Mac Daddy of them all.
Tom Sawyer’s—a great place for breakfast and lunch, comfort food, friendly staff. A landmark.
Max’s Grille—an anchor in Mizner Park still going strong after two decades.
Dirty Moe’s-a great happy hour place with awesome wings and cold beer.
Trattoria Romana—a staple and culinary legend.
Arturo’s- Classy, elegant and old world.
Abe & Louie’s—where the powerful and connected come to eat and make deals.
New York Prime—the original great steakhouse
Fran’s Chicken House—anyplace that has lasted 51 years is worthy and important. So important that its neon sign—the only one permitted in Boca—is grandfathered in. Love their fried oreos.
Gatsby’s—once the home of the $5 martini and hugely popular.
Tie: Maxaluna—a popular 90s spot, often the first name that pops up when you ask other restauranteurs to name a great place they miss.
Honorable mentions: Chops Lobster Bar—chic food and mosaic tile. Enough said.
Also in the mix: The Wildflower, Elephant Walk, Tom’s Ribs, Gracie’s, Guppie’s, Uncle Thai’s, The Grill on Congress and Wilt’s..
By: Jeff Perlman Editor in Chief