In a county as diverse as Palm Beach, February reminds us to not only celebrate Black History Month but explore the many cultures of the African diaspora. For local diners, it promises to be a flavorful month.
Southern soul food and barbecue favorites. Trinidadian doubles. Ethiopian doro wot. Puerto Rican mofongo. Where to begin the celebration?
Here are five Black-owned restaurants to put on your list this month.
Off Tha Bone BBQ— You’ll find this family-owned barbecue destination just north of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, and it’s worth a stop for everything from smoky ribs and barbecued chicken to Southern-style pork souse (mostly on weekends), collards and yam. Chef/owner Daniel Spann, who turned a roadside stand into a business with a cult following, plans to open a second location on Haverhill Road soon. 1516 N. Tamarind Ave., West Palm Beach, 561-294-9717,FallOffThaBone.com
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Chunkay— Chef Wendy Tilkaran and her wife/business partner Evita Thomas originally opened their Trini concept as a takeout spot in Lake Worth Beach. In May 2021, they moved the business north to the Garden Road warehouse area of Riviera Beach. “Warehouse area” doesn’t mean there’s a lack of charm at the street-food establishment, which offers indoor and outdoor seating. On the menu: a variety of roti (soft grilled flatbreads filled with curried meats and veggies), curried goat, saltfish buljol (salted cod salad), Chef Wendy’s specialty corn soup and other bites. You’ll find vegan and vegetarian options, island drinks such as sorrel juice and peanut milk punch and bottled tamarind sauce, among other specials. 8344 Garden Ave., Riviera Beach, 561-473-3710,Chunkay.app
Big John’s Eatery— Brunch all day from Wednesday through Sunday? It’s happening in suburban West Palm Beach, where John “Big John” LeJeune operates a two-year-old diner that’s inspired by his wife Sasha’s home-cooking. Brunch specialties reflect Sasha’s Panamanian heritage, John’s Haitian roots and their love of American soul food: shrimp and grits, peach cobbler French toast, chicken and waffles and Sasha’s famous oxtail and grits (weekends only). 100 Sansburys Way, Suite 100 (steps from Dick’s Sporting Goods in The Shoppes at Southern Palms), West Palm Beach, 561-333-2333,BigJohnsEatery.com
Ganache— There’s a good reason why West Palm Beach pastry chef Jamal Lake recently won the “Dessert Wars” challenge on the Food Network series “Guy’s Grocery Games” (Season 31) for his molten chocolate cake with sweet potato ice cream and toasted meringue. He’s a terrific chef, and it’s a killer dessert. I had the chance to sample (read: inhale) that winning dessert in December during the Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival’s “Southern Revival” lunch at chef Lindsay Autry’s Regional Kitchen restaurant. What a treat. The St. Croix-born Lake creates such treats at Ganache, his downtown bakery. 306 S. Dixie Hwy, West Palm Beach; 561-507-5082,GanacheBakeryCafe.com
Queen of Sheeba— Welcome to Lojo Washington’s dream come true, the Ethiopian restaurant she founded in the West Palm Beach Historic Northwest District space where she operated a soul-food takeout window for years. This is where Washington, one of five Palm Beach County chefs to make last week’s semifinals list for a prestigious James Beard Award, offers a menu that pays homage to her native Ethiopia. My favorites on that menu include the savory sambusa pastries, the aromatic lentil stew called misir wot, the doro wot chicken that’s slow-cooked in berbere sauce and is Ethiopia’s national dish and so many other bites. 716 N. Sapodilla Ave., West Palm Beach, 561-514-0615,QueenofSheebaWPB.com
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The big weeknights at Cod & Capers Seafood are Wednesdays and Thursdays, when Florida and Bahamian stone crabs are celebrated with steel drums during claw season. On Stone Crab Night, the island music welcomes you to a leisurely wait for the freshly cracked delicacies. And by “leisurely,” I mean grab a chair, order a drink and enjoy the music for a while. But know that the wait is worth it.
We waited close to an hour for our table last week. (The café, which is part of the Cod & Capers fish market, doesn’t take reservations on Stone Crab Night.) Visions of stone crab claws dipped in mustard sauce danced in my head to steel-drum beats. A funny thing happened, though. When we sat at our table, and I glanced at the café’s full dinner menu, I changed my mind.
Moments later, while half of our party was feasting on stone crabs, I was savoring a sudden whim: fresh, lightly seared grouper fillet in a butter, lemon and wine sauce ($32). It was topped with mushrooms, artichoke hearts and capers and served with fluffy Bahamian peas-and-rice and a vibrant mix of julienned zucchini and carrots, broccoli and red onions.
The dish reminded me why the café is a neighborhood gem. One can expect quality fish and seafood, expertly prepared and served in generous portions. A craving for stone crabs brought me there. Island music and conversation eased the wait. And the menu of seafood classics tempted me to try what is now a new favorite.
Stone Crab Night is offered at Cod & Capers on Wednesday and Thursday nights from 4 to 8 p.m. throughout claw season, which ends May 1. Medium claws are $30 a pound, large $50 a pound, and they’re served with mustard sauce and coleslaw. A side of steamed mixed vegetables will cost you an additional $3 — and it’s worth the upcharge.
Cod & Capers Seafood: 1201 U.S. Hwy 1, North Palm Beach, 561-622-0963,CodandCapers.com
Grato’s wine-loving deal
Grato, the Clay Conley-led neighborhood restaurant in the Flamingo Park neighborhood, has just introduced a terrific deal for wine lovers: all bottles of wine are half-price on Mondays.
The noteworthy part is that the deal comes with no restrictions. Pick any bottle from the wine list. Sit at the bar or at a table. Order your wine with an entree, or not. No food purchase is required.
The same deal has been quite popular at Conley-and-partners’ Palm Beach restaurant, Buccan, which has offered the Wine Monday special since opening in 2011.
Grato’s wine list offers a range of bottles, priced from $48 for Chalk Hill chardonnay ($24 on Mondays) to $180 for Veuve Clicquot Champagne ($90 on Mondays).
Grato is at 1901 S. Dixie Hwy, West Palm Beach, 561-404-1334.
When selfies and cappuccinos collide
Here’s a sip that puts the “I” in cappuccino, a coffee drink with a bit of an ego. Meet the Selfieccino, a specialty coffee concept that has swept the globe since its 2017 debut in London.
Locally, you’ll find it at Carmela Toast and Coffee Bar in East Boca Raton.
The selfie magic happens after you order a cappuccino that’s brewed with coffee grown in Costa Rica. Select a favorite photo and send it to a special printer. Watch the machine print a copy of your photo directly on the cappuccino foam. No extra charge for the artistic touch. Cappuccinos start at $4.20 at the Boca shop.
Speaking of Carmela Coffee, the Parkland-founded chain has six locations (and more planned) in Palm Beach County. I wrote about the company’s background when Carmela opened its second PBC location in 2020. Here’s that story.
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Liz Balmaseda is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA Today Network. She covers the local food and dining beat. Follow her on Instagram and Post on Food Facebook. She can be reached by email at [email protected].