Eclectic décor, fabulous barbecue, tropical gardens, spacious rooms and live music made for a swinging night at the Blue Front Bar-B-Que last Friday. Despite the summer wind that came blowing in from across the sea, the joint was jumping as David Paladino and his Band sang a nearly 3 hour set of music from the Great American Songbook while couples danced and sang along to songs like “All The Way”, “The Best is Yet To Come” and my requested favorite “Witchcraft” by songwriter Cy Coleman who wrote many of Sinatra and Dean Martins biggest hits. Cy’s wife was my neighbor in the Hamptons and told me some great stories of Cy and Sinatra and Hugh Hefner – Cy was Hef’s piano player on Playboy’s Penthouse TV show and was quite the warbler himself.
Nattily dressed in a white shirt, jeans and embroidered velvet slippers, Paladino sang, snapped his fingers, charmed the crowd and worked the room like a pro.
Paladino’s son John owns the business at the gorgeous Art Deco building on South Dixie Highway and took over the Blue Front Barbecue Sauce company that started operation in 1964 by Norris Nelson. Norris’s ribs and chicken with his secret spicy barbecue sauce made with his grandfathers recipe were in great demand with the locals soon after he opened. Customers came from all over the region and the sauce was so popular he began bottling it and patented the name Blue Front Bar-B-Que in 1979. The sauce is now sold to the public in stores throughout the Southeastern United States including Winn-Dixie, WalMart and Publix after forty something years in business.
John Paladino has renewed the tradition of Blue Front Bar-B-Q with his stylish eatery.
I had a pulled pork sandwich served with home made cole slaw and potato stix served on top with the Hot barbecue sauce. Tender and flavorful, it’s one of the best I’ve had in town. You can order the sauce from the mybluefront.com website if your local grocery store is out of stock.
The menu is filled with updated Southern and island favorites like Hawaiian flatbread with pineapple and proscuitto, crusted chicken, fried pickles and fried green tomatoes. I also had a ginormous slice of house made key lime pie that was beyond delicious.
The drink they created that has been making news in the Palm Beach Post and beyond is the Bloody Mary served with a pork rib and olives on a skewer stuck into the drink. Hats off to whoever thought of that weirdness. The Blue Front does catering too, for offsite parties and events.
Part of the fun at Blue Front is also the décor as each room is overflowing with exotic, funky décor like zebra striped booths, a large giraffe statue, kitschy 1950s prints in the back dining room and dismantled pinball machine table tops found on eBay hang on the walls. The back garden is a hoot, festooned with lots of palm trees, and a huge Easter Island Head statue. You almost expect Elvis to be hanging out there in his Hawaiian print shirt and flower lei. The garden bar has been the scene of some blowout private parties and weddings of late, a lush little oasis right on Dixie Highway.
There were lots of David Paladino’s pals at the show, including a friend from childhood who confided that Paladino is “one of the most interesting people in the county” and absolutely “knows everyone who is anyone.” Paladino has been singing and playing various instruments since the age of 7, and has performed at venues including the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, The Breakers Hotel, Trumps Mar a Lago, The Colony Hotel, the Carlyle Hotel in NYC, and with the Woody Herman Band and with Jaco Pastorious, to name a few. He is most proud of his friendship with Pastorious, the late electric and electrifying jazz bass player who was killed in a brawl in Fort Lauderdale 1987. Pastorious praises Paladino and his guitar playing in an online interview.
Paladino nails Sinatra’s phrasing and way with a song, giving a lightness of touch and smooth delivery to every tune. He has a crack band with a baby grand piano player, bassist and drummer. He hung backstage with his hero Sinatra a few times at the Kravis Center and claims that Sintatra is “probably the first and only person to put out a lit cigarette on the stage of the Kravis Center.” Yeah, only Ol’ Blue Eyes could get away with that.
Paladino has a few “butts” to grind with the Kravis, as he and his late partner Henry Rolfs donated the land the lavish Center sits on as part of their pioneering real estate blitz back in the 1980s. The land was part of the 77 crime ridden acres the dynamic duo scooped up to create what they initially called Downtown Uptown and which is now a little shopping district called CityPlace. A real estate crash found the big spenders down and out of the whole deal but thanks to Paladino, Rolf got a nice bronze statue in a bad place to commemorate his contribution. Plunked in the median of the Okeechobee Highway, thousands of cars a day whizz by without ever knowing who he is. Paladino doesn’t have a statue, he doesn’t even have a plaque at the Kravis, a fact which irks his 88 year old mother so much she refuses to set foot in the Kravis to this day.
But mom can take solace at the Blue Front, a snazzy, welcoming place that swingers of all ages can feel at home. Paladino plays every Friday night at 8, there’s other live music during the week in the garden, and a new 80 inch TV set in the main barroom makes the sports crowd happy during big tennis, football, and golf tournaments. Make sure to pick up a bottle of the hot sauce on your way out. Tell ‘em the Rat Pack sent you.
Blue Front Bar & Grill, 1132 South Dixie Highway, Lake Worth.
A Swinging Night at the Blue Front Bar & Grill in Lake Worth with David Paladino and his Band singing a variety of music from the Great American Songbook