If you want to get a sense of how the art, cuisine and waterfront vibe of West Palm Beach is heading into a fun, funky boho with a nod to history. There’s no better place than the waterfront strip of Datura Street. Just down the block from WPB Magazine historic Harvey building, a bright edgy mural by Anthony Hernandez (more on this bigger than life artist next week), sits next to a pair of specialty eateries – The Avocado Grill and The Bee. And there’s the Meyer Amphitheater across the street, the site of many of the city’s fests and fairs.
The whole block is owned by the Coniglio family, who originally opened a gourmet mini-market in the space where The Bee is now.
“We’ve been in this area a long time,” Nick Coniglio says of his family’s 30 year long ownership “ and have seen a lot of changes downtown, mostly more people moving here to live. We thought of opening a gourmet market here to give them a great local place to shop as there are no downtown grocery stores with cheeses, vegetables, local fruits. We did but it wasn’t quite taking off the way we wanted it to, so me and my partner Andrea Pertnoy morphed it into a vegan place with some fresh produce, healthy snacks, a juice bar, coffee house, a lunch menu and now yoga classes. We tried dinner but our breakfast and lunch crowd is stronger.”
The hybrid joint has been a real success, The Bee has begun bottling and producing its own line of cold pressed juices with full cleanses available. There is also a honey line that features a blue honey – formed by ambitious busy bees feasting on aluminum loaded flowers – that is one of the most bee-utiful natural products I’ve ever seen.
“Vegan and organic is really the way to go,” says Chef Gabrielle Coniglio, who spent 5 years in New Orleans learning southern cuisine. “I went away for 5 years and when I came back West Palm was like a whole new town. So many more young people and the arts district expanding. I’ve been learning everyone wants to be and eat healthier, get away from fried foods and meats. Meat is so bad for the environment, our goal here has been to make vegan really tasty.”
The breakfast menu is loaded with chia porridge, quinoa bowls, avocado toast and other Datura delights that make bacon and eggs offerings look soooo last decade. There is a full wall cooler loaded with greens to buy in bulk, really cute Bee t-shirts, a smattering of jewelry and some body products. Taking the health vibe even further, a large room in the back is painted with a huge wall mural of the Indian elephant deity Ganesha, the ceiling festooned with Indian patterned fabric. The room now holds yoga classes for adults and for kids starting this spring.
“We also do workshops and classes here every day,” Gabrielle says. ‘We’re really happy to have a space in the store for this.” The front has tables and chairs as well as couches, an herb garden in the window and a happy face vertical garden for leafy plants. The whole place makes you smile inside and out. “Community response has been great to the cool and exotic things we’re lucky to do here,” Nick says over guacamole and chips. “Business has doubled in a year. There’s a younger vibe overall downtown now.”
The Bee has been so successful they are planning on expanding this veritable healthy hive of activity into more locations.
The buzzy vibe spills over next door into The Avocado Grill, which does unusual things with that hippie fruit – yes avocado is a fruit – for lunch, brunch and dinner. Going for the farm-to-table crowd, the menu is heavy on small plates for big tastings. The green namesake berry is served whole with vinaigrette, sliced into wedges and grilled, stuffed into sushi rolls, piled into towers and tossed with crabs. And that’s just for starters.
No meat phobias here, the rest of the menu carves up chicken, fish, lamb sliders, scallops, mussels and steaks. Sparkling drinks are served along an airy bar with paddle fans overhead, tables spill out onto the sidewalk and along the open side patio. It’s classy shabby chic. If there are any hippies here, they made a fortune in tie-dye.
Heading around the corner though to Narcissus, the hippie vibe goes stoned cold as a big blow ups of the Kennedys yachting and looking all outdoorsy and Americana healthy hang from the outer side walls of the stand alone building painted bright robin egg blue and adorned in concrete butterflies from another era. This apparently, is Camelot, a new members only club that chimes in at about $1200 a year for entry, but I was so intrigued by the schizo outer décor of this building that what’s inside will have to wait for another day.
Jackie O and John F. and – is that Hemingway? 15-feet high on the walls of a cabaret/lounge club. That’s what makes this so unique for downtown. The club also hosts fashion events and burlesque nights, something JFK’s Rat Pack contemporaries would have dug, ring-a-ding-ding. Hosting late night private parties, Gatsby Nights, classic rock and Studio 54 music, the club is clearly aiming for an older, retro starved crowd.
Strolling down to the waters edge, there were some gorgeous vintage yachts bobbing on the bay, left over from last weekends Palm Beach Vintage Regatta event. No coincidences here, as Camelot and the Vintage Regatta event were organized by Camelot’s owner Rodney Mayo and antique yacht restorer Jim Moores.
Moores restored Kennedy’s boat the Honey Fitz, named for JFK’s maternal grandfather. I cruised around on the Honey Fitz many years ago at Vizcaya in Miami, it’s a fine boat, with lots of wood and class and charm. The two put on this event and gathered over 20 yachts for display in honor of a previous event, the original Palm Beach Cup that started in 1917.
All this history and modern cuisine in one packed little block, for one brief shining moment anyway.
Block Party with Blue Honey and Jackie O: an Alluring Review of The Bee, a Specialty Organic Eatery & Cafe in Downtown West Palm Beach, Near the Waterfront.