The hippest new food tour in Palm Beach takes a ride through the historic Highway and stops at the best of the historic places and new hotspots. Dixie Dining Corridor Food Tour goes south of downtown, stretches through Antique Row and gives the history and flavor of the hood while indulging guests in tastings at restaurants that range from food hall vendors to the oldest Cuban restaurant in the county.
Effervescent Hostess Kristl Story, who bills herself as the CEO – Chief Eating Officer – greets the group at West Palm Beach’s newest gathering place Grandview Public Market in the Warehouse District. This is a food hall not a food court as the emphasis is on local vendors, not national chains. Seated in the spacious Living Room, our group of 8 had our first tasting of the day – some rich indulgent Detroit style pizza from The Corner.
“This is distinctly Detroit style because it’s a rectangular pizza that has a thick crisp crust. This pie has no tomato sauce, just cheese and onions and mushrooms,” Story said. “What makes Detroit-style pizza different from Chicago and New York styles is the crust, which is extra thick and very crispy on the bottom.”
The pizza is made in a rectangular shaped pan, it’s remarkably rich and flavorful, the mushrooms and cheese so rich it almost tastes like it has wine added.
We needed something to wash down the pizza so a stop in the main hall at Rabbit Coffee for some flavored cold brew hit the spot. Cold brew is made just how it sounds, by brewing the beans in cold water, usually overnight. This produces a coffee that is slightly sweeter and higher in caffeine. Iced coffee differs by being coffee made by a hot brew method then poured over ice. Rabbit Coffee has an in-hutch chef who whips up organic flavors like Thin Mint or Toffee or the one we sampled, Cookies and Cream. It’s a jolt of rich heady brew with none of the chemical aftertaste you can get with bottled flavored creamers.
Next to Rabbit Coffee is Celis Produce, the blossoming local company owned by the three Celis Brothers who get Florida fruits and veggies straight from the farm and make some seriously good inventive bottled juices and smoothies. Our tropical fruit delight cup was a frozen blend of pineapple, mango, banana and orange.
We strolled around Grandview admiring the train track garden with a flock of pink plastic flamingos, the spacious covered outdoor patios, and the lines forming for the other food hall vendors for tacos, ramen, sushi and chicken.
From there we took a quick walk across the train tracks to the Armory Art Center to admire the large glass, seashell and ceramic mosaic across the side wall, an often overlooked artwork. Crossing the street we entered the lush grounds of the Grandview Gardens Bed and Breakfast, a hidden gem with a two-story Mediterranean main house, several apartments and a cool blue tiled pool surrounded by flaming pink bougainvillea. It’s a prime location in a secluded neighborhood, a sweet alternative to downtown hotels or roadside motels.
A gleaming black Sprinter van awaited us to whisk us off to Grato (grateful in Italian), the three year old Italian corner bistro that has been a neighborhood favorite ever since it opened. The high ceilings, open kitchen and wood burning pizza oven make for a welcoming spot. After a quick tour the waiters brought out a platter with two of the house’s most popular dishes – meatballs in creamy parmesan cheese polenta with broccoli rabe pesto, then a fennel salad with citrus and pistachio nuts. The salad is really outstanding – the licorice fennel tossed with olive oil and segments of orange and grapefruit makes for a tangy layered taste, the crunch of nuts adds to the mix. Some of the group had frozen margaritas from the full bar, Grato has an extensive wine list to complement their Italian pasta, pizza and steaks and seafood.
A light rain began falling as we left Grato, part of the storm system that had left gloomy skies hovering for weeks. But the next stop was cheery Shoppe 561 where locally made jewelry, crafts and even some luxe bites of dark chocolate awaited us. The store teaches workshops for kids and adults in everything from bath bomb making to painting and has cards candles, soaps and even props for pets.
Pulling up to Cholo Soy Cocina, Award winning Chef Clay Carnes was already hard at work behind the counter of the intimate Ecuadorian inspired taco joint. With a few tables in the front, the eatery has a big patio out back with murals and picnic tables. He brought us out a slow roasted shredded pork taco topped with Pineapple Salsa, a tangy twist on regular tomato based salsa. Carnes explained how his menu is infused with flavors from his time spent living in South America as well as traditional Mexican styles. He hand makes everything, including the tortillas from grinding the non-GMO corn to making a fresh batch daily. The name of the restaurant translates to “I am cholo”, a Latin American slang term for mixed race or “mestizo”.
The Cholo Soy Cocina restaurant location once housed Jacki Mallick’s interior design shop, and is just 600 square feet with 12 seats inside, but room for about 15 or 20 more out back. “This concept is short and sweet – and a line out the door,” he says.
Back on the bus we cruised down to Havana Cuban Restaurant, the oldest in Palm Beach and family run. Recently renovated, we dined at the open balcony upper level in a private room surrounded by photos of the famous folks who had dined at Havana, from Presidents to Pop Stars. The waiters brought out a stellar selection of Cuban food, some Ropa Vieja – a personal favorite of shredded beef with spicy tomato sauce and peppers; some roast pork with onions, black beans, yellow rice with peas and red peppers and some crispy sweet plantains. A few people in the tour had never had Cuban food so this was all new to them and they found it both familiar and exotic. The plantains were probably the big revelation, it’s not quite a banana, is it?
Winding down we made a last lovely stop at Basque, the new restaurant at Hotel Biba where the kitchen is actually in a food truck parked out front. The large patio is tucked away and filled with sheltering white umbrellas and big blooming pots of flowers. Basque has become known for their boards of meats and cheeses and also the varieties of paella they serve family style in large skillets.
But since we were at the end of a long afternoon of eating, dessert was on the menu. Basque did not disappoint with a passion fruit sorbet swirled with sweet honey and spiked with a sugar cookie. It was creamy and fruity with a surprising depth of taste, topped off with the crunch of cookie.
With that sweet finale, the tour was over, three indulgent hours of eating our way down Dixie Highway, with a few stops off the beaten path to see the luxury neighborhood of El Cid and the worlds narrowest street Mango Promenade.
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If you want to do the tour, visit westpalmbeachfoodtour.com to check available dates and pricing.
Discovering New Hotspots with Dixie Dining Corridor Food Tour