Restaurants and Nightlife in Delray Beach and Boca Raton

When it comes to restaurants and nightlife few cities can compare to Delray Beach and Boca Raton.

Delray Beach was recently named the “Most Fun Town” in America by the Travel Channel and Rand McNally as a result of its incredible restaurant scene and vibrant downtown night life.

Atlantic Avenue has to be experienced to be believed. Very few streets in America have block after block of amazing restaurants, shops, galleries and nightclubs that appeal to all ages. Safe, with ample parking, downtown Delray ends at the ocean and is considered one of the finest Main Streets in America.

Boca Raton is also home to scores of incredible restaurants and has its own vibrant nightlife along Palmetto Park Road and in its renowned Mizner Park.

Remembering The Oldies, Celebrating The New

A classic…

Last week, I found an old menu on Facebook from Tom’s Place, an iconic culinary mecca in Boca Raton.

And I mean mecca, because people made pilgrimages to Tom’s Place to worship at the altar of bbq ribs.

The Boca Historical Society shared the post and it got a big reaction on their page.
Aside from the really low prices ($1.50 chicken sandwiches!) it struck a chord of nostalgia in those of us lucky to have experienced Tom’s amazing food.

I remember taking my dad to Tom’s many years ago. It was at Tom’s that we witnessed someone going up to the take out window  and ordering brisket which was met with a quizzical look. We talked about that experience for years.
But I digress.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. We tend to remember the good stuff and disregard the rest. So we remember Tom’s  but tend to forget that we weren’t exactly awash in restaurants back in the 80s. Of course, there were some great places—the Arcade Tap Room, Boston’s on the Beach, Scarlett O’Haras, Ken and Hazel’s, Damiano’s, Pineapple Grille, Splendid Blendeds, LaVielle Maison, Arturo’s, Caffe Luna Rosa and there is more.
But…
As good as the old giants were and are (here’s looking at you CLR), it seems like we are living in a golden age of restaurants.
Everywhere you look, even in nondescript locations, there exists some great restaurants.

Innovative menus, knowledgeable servers, gifted chefs, interesting interior designs, exciting craft cocktails and beers, world class wine lists, unique concepts. We are living in a special era. And the arms race seems to be just beginning.

Food halls, green markets, secret suppers, farm to table concepts, craft breweries, food tours, food trucks it’s extraordinary. Even convenience stores are turning into foodie havens, with artisanal sandwiches, kale salads and specialty breads.

We are also living in a great age of creativity.
To combat e-commerce and to stand out in the crowd, retailers, theater owners, hoteliers and even office developers are stepping up their games. (Boutique hotels, co-working, pop-up concepts etc).
For retail it’s all about the experience.
Movie theaters have added food, plush seating, film clubs and cocktails—a far cry from sticky floors, popcorn loaded with transfats and jujubes (remember those odd fruit chews?). While the changes are rapid and ongoing (please save the raisinet) the outcomes are pretty cool. Some local examples are iPic and the Living Room Theater at FAU. Both have raised the bar on the movie going experience and both seem to be doing well in the era of streaming and binge watching Netflix.
Sometimes the changes and the speed of change seems overwhelming. So yes, I miss the good old days.
But isn’t today and tomorrow exciting?

 

Decline Isn’t Inevitable

The Maturity Curve.

I’m a big fan of urban affairs blogger Aaron Renn.

His “Urbanophile” blog is a must read if you care about cities, regions and economic development.

Recently, he wrote about “Maturity Curves”, which I’ve become familiar with relative to product life cycles.

The curve starts with an incubation period that leads to a growth phase followed by maturity and then sadly decline.

Think of products like the iPod: Apple launched the device; it quickly gained traction; then it matured and stabilized before inevitably declining only to be replaced by the newest hot thing.

Mr. Renn believes– and I agree –that the maturity curve also holds true for cities and institutions.

They hatch, grow, mature and then decline.

But is decline inevitable? Or can you intervene to make sure that you either remain stable or in a healthy, sustainable growth phase?

I believe you can ward off decline, but it requires vigilance, self-awareness, a certain degree of fear and a willingness to iterate and innovate.

Let’s take a look at some local cities and institutions to show how the maturity curve works but also how decline might be avoided.

Boca Raton is an interesting case study.

From the outside looking in the city has an awful lot of positive attributes—great schools, universities, a terrific private airport, tons of jobs, beautiful parks and some strong arts and cultural institutions. But there seems to be a lot of angst over the direction of the city’s downtown, especially the nature of new development.

Proponents of growth point to the need for new development to create critical mass downtown while those who worry feel that the scale of the new development threatens to change Boca forever –and not in a good way.

It’s an age old argument that could lead to a type of “decline” if not addressed.

Boca has a tremendous amount of what a friend of mine calls “depth” so it would be hard to imagine the city declining in a way that it becomes blighted, but decline can be measured in other ways as well.

A polarized community ripped apart by divisive politics, infighting and nasty fights over projects can weigh down a community’s momentum over time. Social media gives fuel to the divisions. A cursory glance at some Boca related pages on Facebook sheds light on some of the flashpoints.

The debate brings back memories for those of us who have been through the growth debate in Delray.

When Delray Beach was split over Worthing Place (a six story mixed use project) in the late 90s, the city embarked on a Downtown Master Plan process in 2001 to forge a common vision for how the downtown would evolve.

An outside agency—in this case the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council—was brought in to facilitate a process that encouraged community input from a broad range of stakeholders. What emerged was a consensus blueprint that addressed hot button issues including height, density and even race relations.

While the Master Plan process did not eliminate differences of opinion nor prevent controversy, the plan was embraced by a large cross section of the community and enabled projects to be green lit or voted down based on whether they fit the vision forged by the community. And that’s the key isn’t it: a vision forged by the community and implemented by elected officials, city staff and agencies.

Whenever I see communities slide into the muck, it’s often because the community has been cut out of any meaningful discussions on the future.

Delray got in trouble when we failed to realize that visions age and need to be renewed to reflect changing times and changing populations.

The hard feelings magnify when civic leaders fail to defend or understand previously adopted visions. What follows is often Monday morning quarterbacking in which past visions and strategies are questioned and disparaged. This really doesn’t serve a productive purpose. Assigning blame is hardly ever a tonic and rarely productive. What is productive is renewal.

Cities decline when visions dry up and aren’t refreshed and or replaced. You can’t fly safely without a net. It’s just that simple.

Delray’s Downtown Master Plan was hardly perfect, but it worked and it was implemented. It was incubated by hundreds of people who engaged in the process, we saw planned growth (downtown housing, the development of mixed use projects, investments in infrastructure, a race relations process that extended the downtown to I-95 etc.) and some maturation too.

Here’s a refresher summary. Delray’s Downtown Master Plan championed the following:

–A gateway feature to let people know that when they exited the interstate they were entering a special place and that the downtown extended from I-95 to A1A.

–The notion that design was more important than density. Rather than be caught up in numbers, the community should embrace well designed projects that look good and feel good in terms of scale, architecture, function and fit.

–A mix of uses was important and there was a need to break out from a sole reliance on food and beverage. Offices, retail, housing and entertainment uses were important to create a year round economy and a sustainable downtown.

But aside from policies that encouraged housing, sidewalk cafes, walkability and mixed use, the Master Plan process and past visions processes gave rise to a philosophy as well.

Here are just a few tenets:

–Complacency is a killer. When it comes to the downtown and other parts of your city, you are never done.

–The downtown is the heart of the city and you can’t be a healthy community without a healthy heart.

–You can and must do multiple things at one time—work on your downtown, focus on your neighborhoods, preserve history, invigorate other parts of your city, encourage sports, culture and art.

—Even though you don’t directly control schools, cities should take an active role in education.

So how do we avoid decline?

Cities decline when bedrock principles driven by personal preferences and priorities take precedence over values forged by the community.

That doesn’t mean that these values are written in stone and can’t be changed or amended over time. Indeed, they should be.

But that requires effort, engagement and a replacement of values, goals and visions.

When downtown Delray began to flower as a result of visioning and investment made in the late 80s and early 90s before taking off in the early 2000s, there was scant competition.

Downtown Boynton didn’t exist and while Boca was always a strong neighbor its downtown was also pretty much limited to Mizner Park and before that a failing Boca Mall.

Downtown Lake Worth wasn’t much competition at the time, there wasn’t a whole lot happening in Pompano or Deerfield Beach and West Palm’s Clematis Street was in a boom bust cycle.

Today, all of those cities are investing, have great restaurants, amenities, events and a fair amount of buzz.

We are not alone anymore—there is really good competition coming from nearby cities.

I don’t mean to take away from the achievement that was the redevelopment of the downtown because it was a remarkable turnaround, but in those days there was not a lot of competition and so we attracted consumers from neighboring cities and from our western neighbors who now also have options including the Delray Marketplace.

If we don’t realize the changing landscape we risk decline.

Today, there are tons of great restaurants, activities and events happening throughout the region.

If we become complacent and or give away what made us special, we are at risk.

The maturity curve affects cities, just as it affects iPods, Blockbuster video and cherished institutions such as Old School Square.

We need to wake up a little scared every morning and stay one step or two ahead of the competition.

Failure to do so, can be fatal. No city, product, company or institution is bullet proof.

Things We Loved In April

True Food Kitchen at the Town Center Mall is a welcome addition.

Things We Loved In April…
The Bombay Café—there’s a reward for trying new cuisine. And I received one when I tagged along for dinner with friends and discovered Indian cuisine. I didn’t go spicy, but I did try a whole bunch of new things, and greatly enjoyed the new flavors. Bombay Café in Boca is terrific.

Grand Luxe blood orange soda. –Grand Luxe is a Town Center staple, but I had never tried their craft soda until recently. Highly recommended.

Springsteen on Broadway—see past blogs— but if you can– don’t miss this show. It would play well at the Crest Theatre, just saying.

Delray Affair, great weather, great times.

The double clucker at Caffe Luna Rosa. Simply the best chicken sandwich imaginable.

White chocolate samples at the Godiva store At Town Center.  Yes, Godiva chocolate makes ice cream and it’s really good.

The top sixty Beatles rock songs on Sirius XM. Hosted by Beatles fan extraordinaire Robin Zander of Cheap Trick the list was welcome background music as we cruised Delray and Boca. The number one song: Helter Skelter.

Honor Bar veggie sandwich. The Honor Bar is in Palm Beach, a nice ride up the coast.

Rediscovering “Feelin Satisfied” by 70s rockers Boston. Great great great song.

Reading Aaron Renn’s views on cities and regions. Always smart, always interesting. If you love cities subscribe to his “Urbanophile” blog.

Eating at the bar at the Gazebo. Great service, wonderful food and a great place for conversation.

Seeing my stepson’s best friend land a dream job with the Boca Police Department.

True Food Kitchen, a welcome addition to the Town Center Mall.  Healthy offerings—don’t miss the charred cauliflower and the Havana Lager.

Seeing the Animal Rescue Force at Pet Supplies Plus on Linton Boulevard. We got Randy, our feisty chihuahua, 13 years ago from ARF at the Delray Affair. They really do rescue us.
It was fun to introduce Randy to his “alma mater” and the volunteers were happy to see a “graduate”.
We hope you consider a rescue.

Wishing you a safe and great May.

Things We Loved In March (with one exception)

March Madness ends in April. Our prediction: Villanova.

 

March was a great month.

Glorious weather, lots of things happening: St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Flora Exhibit at Old School Square, March for Our Lives etc.

Here’s what caught our eye:

Students from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School joining Hamilton Star Mandy Gonzalez onstage of the Crest Theatre at Old School Square.
Our friend and local hero Joe Gillie described the event beautifully on Facebook: “This is why Old School Square is here.” Yes indeed. Preach Joe!

Receiving a text message from another of my heroes Bill Wood. Trust me, it’s a thrill. Ask him to text you and you’ll see why.

The Dr. Zhivago drink at Che with some empanadas of course. A truly great spot on the Intracoastal in Delray; especially at sunset.

Blowing off steam at the Silverball Museum in Delray. Pick up the Delray Newspaper and check out the back page for special offers.

Elections! Ok I’m kidding. Just checking to see if your paying attention.

My sister in law Maria’s artichoke chicken (which sadly returned to Pittsburgh).

Texting with Marisa Herman and Scott Porten and watching Scott fall behind as the lightning fingers of Marisa and the quick wit of a certain middle age blogger engulfs him in speed and humor.

Bagels from Bagels With. Also, Bagel with A Schmear, where the owners are beyond nice.

Dinner at Grato in West Palm. Worth the drive from Boca and Delray. Don’t miss the cauliflower side dish.

Kibitzing with the deli crew at Fresh Market.

Seeing Celsius on the shelf at Fresh Market. (Shameless plug number one).

Watching a Miami Heat game and seeing a Tabanero hot sauce ad. We are the official hot sauce of the Heat. (Shameless plug number two).

The weather.

Spending time with and texting with Old School Square founder Frances Bourque.

Voting alongside Jim Nolan. Well known Delray raconteur.

Seeing the Persily’s. Great people.

Visiting with Sandy Tobias and Cathy Weil from the Seagate at The Hamlet.

Name checking Pame Williams.

March Madness brackets and rooting for Syracuse along with Deborah Dowd.

Jen Costello turning 50! Where oh where did the years go? Then again her boys are now a foot taller than I am.

March fact: Delray Beach’s mean credit score is 719, ranking the city 734th in America and in the 71st percentile of cities in terms of credit. Boca’s mean credit score is 722, putting the city in the 76th percentile and ranking the city number 620.
Number one ranked: The Villages, Florida at 807. The  worst credit scores can be found in Camden, NJ at 541.  Stats were compiled by Wallet Hub.

A trip to the Miami Open on picturesque Key Biscayne. The event is moving next year to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens after 32 years at Crandon Park. The move has many locals sad, all the more reason we should keep the Delray Open and stop wasting taxpayer money on a lawsuit that had to be amended by a lame duck commission—an admission that their costly politically motivated suit was on shaky ground. Enough already. (Sorry, couldn’t contain the rant).

Lunch with Mark Sauer at the Cuban Cafe…he’s inspiring. So is his Delray Students First.

Until next month…be safe.

Public Leadership (Doesn’t Have To Be An Oxymoron)

Former Mayor Nancy Graham.

I’m a big fan of ULI, the Urban Land Institute, a global organization that promotes sustainable land use and good design.
So when I was asked to appear on a panel on public leadership with two mayors I admire—West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio and former West Palm Mayor Nancy Graham– I jumped at the opportunity.
My son lives in downtown West Palm Beach and so I visit more often than usual these days. I think the city has  some great things going on including start up incubators, some interesting restaurants and the new and exciting Grandview Public Market which has invigorated the Warehouse District.
Mayor Muoio, Mayor Graham and the citizens of West Palm have a lot to be proud of.

Mayor Graham was a transformational leader who put together the groundbreaking deal for City Place and brought walkability expert Jeff Speck to the city years ago to promote vibrant mixed use and pedestrian friendly development.
We’ve  been friends for years and it was good to see her back in West Palm after years in California. She lives in North Florida these days and remains a very vocal advocate for city’s and her beliefs.
We spoke to a group of young leaders who work in land use, planning, architecture, transportation, development, housing and other important disciplines.

Takeaways included the need to have political courage, the need to engage the public around development issues, the importance of having a vision and sticking with it in the face of opposition and the critical need for mayors to always be learning, evolving and leading.

After all, a bright future is not guaranteed. It  needs to be earned and it requires work, vigilance and determination.
Mayors are uniquely positioned to drive positive change. Local government is perhaps the last bastion of progress and possibilities.
Washington D.C. and state capitals tend to be partisan and therefore prone to gridlock and obstruction.
Cities and counties have unique opportunities to effectuate change and think long term.

But only if they choose to do so. I’ve seen many cities seize opportunities and make miraculous progress.
Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and an array of rust belt cities have managed to come back to life through reinvention, strategic investment and political will.
I enjoy reading stories about Detroit and other cities that are finding ways to reverse decades of decay.  It’s inspiring and gives you faith that problems can be solved.

Locally, Delray Beach, Lake Worth, Pompano Beach, West Palm and Fort Lauderdale are interesting examples of cities that have employed vision, investment and public engagement to forge promising futures.
Each city was wise to choose its own strategy and “style”.

Delray’s scale and emphasis on the arts, culture, sports and diversity proved to be a winning formula that has paved the way to attract creative industries.  If we stay the course, market our amenities and add to the vision we can have more progress and solve our ongoing challenges.

Pompano Beach is pursuing an innovation district as an anchor offering. The city has made impressive strides in recent years.

West Palm seems to be embracing its role as the county seat and has aspirations to be an important city and not just a ‘hallway’ to the airport, Palm Beach and county government as the mayor noted.
BRAVÒ!
I love cities that aspire. I respect cities that have ambitions, plan for the future and honor the past.
Forward thinking. Political will. Vision. Engagement. Strategic investment. That’s the formula.
I’m glad to see ULI embracing the next generation of leadership. It was a joy to be in the room with energetic leaders who want to build anew and take our cities to the next level.
We have a bright future as a result of these efforts.

Mayor Muio.

A Delray Valentine

We are less than a month out from the Delray Beach Municipal Election and the mud is flying. (Mostly, in one direction but I digress).

If you didn’t know better and you lived exclusively on Facebook, you’d think we were living in war torn Somalia. But you read this blog so you do know better.

That said, we think Delray deserves a little love this Valentine’s Day.

So here’s a list of things to appreciate about Delray Beach.

The Arts Garage—where else in South Florida can you count on seeing world class live music on a regular basis in an intimate venue in a convenient location? This gem of a place regularly features amazing musicians and you can even bring your own wine. We saw Grammy nominated Negroni’s Trio last week and left there smiling from ear to ear. This weekend, we will check out Max Weinberg’s Jukebox and revel in the company of a rock and roll hall of famer, E Street Band mainstay and a guy who might have the best backbeat in the business. Only in Delray.

 

The Arts Warehouse—is opening and she’s a beauty, with affordable studios, community space and local artists milling about. A great vision—courtesy of our beleaguered but invaluable CRA. P.S. You can’t spell Delray Beach without the C, the R and the A.

 

Seagate Hotel—on a Thursday night. Check it out. It’s a scene. Music, drinks, dancing and some really interesting outfits. And to think, this was controversial when it was first proposed.

 

Beer Trade Company—if you like craft beers and ciders, you have to check out Beer Trade on Fourth Avenue. A great locals scene, friendly staff, a serve yourself system which is simple and risotto balls that probably ought to be illegal because they are that good.

 

Harvest Restaurant—we’ve lived here so long we can remember when there was no place to dine, even on Atlantic Avenue. Now we are seeing the foodie scene migrate to other parts of the city and that is good news. Harvest serves healthy food, is beautifully designed, has a great indoor /outdoor bar and even has a fireplace for when the temperatures dip into the 70s. While you are off the beaten path make sure to check out Sushi Thai Fusion, the new Sardinia in the same South Federal Plaza and in a shameless plug 5th Avenue Grill and La Cigale. Also don’t forget wine dinners at Caffe Luna Rosa—a Delray staple. (See if you can find my picture on the wall and if you do, try not to laugh).

But the point is you don’t have to be on the avenue anymore to enjoy good food.

 

The Delray Open—we love going to the Delray Open, where you can see some of the best tennis players on the planet under the stars and around the block from where you live. What small city can make that claim? The event starts this week with a senior event featuring Hall of Famer John McEnroe who seems to love Delray too.

 

Lake Ida Park—winter afternoons in Lake Ida Park provides a perfect setting for a long walk with your dog or just a lawn chair and a good book.

 

The Downtowner—they are just fun to watch and to see the creativity of the local advertisers.

DDA Videos—simply amazing. Check them out and see how good the town looks.

 

Delray Historical Society—we plan to check out the new exhibit this week. It’s nice to see the Cason Cottage come to life.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

 

 

 

 

12 Things We Liked About January

A dozen things we liked in January

  1. The Delray Chamber’s installation of Rob Posillico as the new chair. Rob is a dedicated chamber volunteer and a talented young business leader who understands the importance of an effective business community to a city’s well-being.
  2. The private dining section at the Seagate Hotel is simply terrific. If you have a small group gathering and want to show some class book a room, you won’t forget it.
  3. The chicken francese at La Cigale is magnificent. It just defies description.
  4. We enjoyed an excellent cybersecurity seminar with Brad Deflin of Total Digital Security in Delray this month courtesy of JP Morgan. Great information, albeit scary. There are a lot of threats out there. Be careful.
  5. Lunch on the deck at Prime Catch overlooking the Intracoastal on a nice day is simply hard to beat.
  6. Sometimes you have to get out of Boca/Delray and try a new experience. We did with gourmet Mexican at the wonderful Eduardo De San Angel in Fort Lauderdale. It was sublime and we saw a few Delray folks dining there as well.
  7. Boca makes Livability’s 2018 Top 100 Places to Live list. Boca beat out 2,100 US cities. Very cool.
  8. It was good to see the non-profit Connected Warriors open their doors at Boca’s Innovation Campus.
  9. Kudos to the City of Boca’s Office of Economic Development on the launch of its new quarterly newsletter. Lots happening in Boca and this publication captures a lot of it (so does The Boca Newspaper).
  10. Seeing Vince Canning recognized by the DelrayCity Commission. He’s a good man and highly deserving of recognition.
  11. Congratulations to the Delray chamber for a great kickoff to 2018. The sold out “installation” luncheon at the Delray Beach Golf Club didn’t hide the fact that the chamber had a tough year in 2017. But the event boldly highlighted the importance, relevance and need for a strong chamber. Newly installed chair Mr. Posillico set out a vision for an innovative chamber that would match an innovative community. We wish the chamber well.
  12. Words can’t describe the feeling of being in a room with a true living legend. Delray’s own Benjamin Ferencz, the last living Nuremberg trials prosecutor, charmed an immense crowd at Boca West gathered to support and celebrate the 25th anniversary of the U.S. Holocaust Museum. Mr. Ferencz, 98, shared his experiences at Nuremberg and his lifelong work to prevent genocide and encourage “law not war.” We’ll have more in a follow-up blog post. Special thanks to Shelly and Billy Himmelrich for including us what was an unforgettable evening.

Things We Love: December Edition

Things we loved in December

December was a blur for many of us. But we didn’t want to let the month pass without pointing out some gems.

We enjoyed a great dinner with close friends at Fries to Caviar in Boca. The intimate spot which features a nice bar, great outdoor space and a varied menu has a sister restaurant in Delray, the excellent Jimmy’s Bistro. We highly recommend both places.

Speaking of great meals, we had a terrific “wine” dinner at Caffe Luna Rosa in December with special guest Max Weinberg of the legendary E Street Band. For me, that’s like having dinner with a Beatle.
I mention this because Max is playing a benefit show at the Arts Garage February 17.
Max Weinberg’s Jukebox has been playing several venues to big crowds and rave reviews. If you love great music from the 60s, 70s and 80s, don’t miss this show. And it benefits a great cause —our Arts Garage.

If you haven’t been to Beer Trade Company you really should give it a try.
This cool little spot on 4th Avenue is a nice locals spot with a vast array of craft beers and cider and the world’s best risotto balls.
There’s a companion location in Boca as well.

December is typically a philanthropic month with successful toy drives, food drives, and last minute charitable donations.
Those who organize and contribute to these efforts deserve our thanks.
Still, let’s try and remember that the immense needs of our community don’t disappear in January. If you are in a position to help, you are needed. It feels good to pay our civic rent.

Finally, we truly enjoyed December and it was gratifying to see Delray and Boca abuzz with people.
We shouldn’t take it for granted. Yes, finding a parking space is a little challenging, but you know what the alternative is; empty streets, vacant stores and not much to do.
We are truly blessed.

We didn’t have a chance to do a year end list but this was the year I put down the phone long enough to start reading books (actual physical books again) and it was great.
I’ve been a lifelong voracious reader: books, magazines, newspapers and later blogs.
But somewhere along the way, books fell by the wayside. This despite having written my own book. I was embarrassed. And I made a conscious effort to get back to reading books.
The effort was worth it. First, I figured out that I had the attention span to finish a book, something that I had begun to doubt.

I really believe that the barrage of media and content coming at us has compromised our ability to focus—at least it has impacted my attention span. But I’m happy to report that with a concentrated effort it’s possible to overcome.
So here’s a list of my 10 favorite books of 2017. In no particular order.
1. Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris. Ferris is a best selling author, successful blogger and popular podcaster. Tools is a huge compilation of his podcast interviews and he has talked to a who’s who from every conceivable walk of life. The book is a collection of valuable advice from world class performers.
2. Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris. Tribe is a great companion piece to Tools of Titans featuring more interviews with amazing people who answer questions about their favorite books (Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is a favorite of many), failures and best practices. The big reveal: it seems like nearly everyone who performs at a peak level is meditating.
3. What I found in a Thousand Towns by Dar Williams. We blogged about this book a few months ago. Williams is a folk singer who has travelled the country and has managed to get out of her hotel room to study the cities she plays in. Her insights are spot on and her writing is sublime. She knows what makes towns work. A great primer for those who love cities.
4. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. The Boss’ autobiography is a delight. Beautifully written, bravely revealing and always entertaining this fan came away with even more love and respect for this musical legend.
5. The New Brooklyn by Kay Hymowitz. I’m not from Brooklyn nor have I been lucky enough to live there. But my grandparents, aunt and cousin lived there and I spent a lot of time in the borough in the 70s and 80s. So I have been curious about Brooklyn’s history and how it became synonymous with cool. This book answered those questions. A great read.
6. Within Walking Distance by Philip Langdon. This charming book focuses on several neighborhoods in places as varied as Philadelphia and small town Vermont. It focuses on walkability and community building and the towns that get it right. It made me want to visit Brattleboro, Vt. But not in the wintertime.
7. The Content Trap by Bharat Anand. May be the most insightful business book I’ve read in recent memory. A blurb can’t do it justice but let’s just say the book provides answers for businesses that care about not being disrupted into oblivion.
8. Hooked by Nir Eyal. A sobering look at how technology hooks us.
9. Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday. A terrific book that examines what it takes to create work and art that lasts.
10. The Amazing City by James Hunt. I bought this book after seeing Mr. Hunt speak at a League of Cities luncheon. A former president of the National League of Cities and former City Councilman in a small West Virginia town, Hunt’s book explores the elements that cities need to succeed. It’s a good list. We will share in a future blog.
Tied  for #10. Principles by Ray Dalio. This book (more like a tome) outlines the principles that Dalio used to build Bridgewater Associates into the world’s largest hedge fund. He believes in radical transparency and it worked for Bridgewater—spectacularly. An interesting book that also addresses life.

A Place For Humanity Amidst Change

A vintage Sears catalog.

When I read the news, I look for patterns.

What’s bubbling just under the surface? What trends are starting to emerge? Are there clues out there to tell us where we are going next?
It’s fun to discern what might be happening and it’s also helpful in business to try and see where the world is heading.
What I’m seeing lately are a bunch of stories that indicate angst about technology and a push back against the dominance of our digital society. It seems that we are beginning to really worry about the addictive power of our smart phones, the amount of data tech companies like Facebook and Google have on us, the corrosive impact that social media can have on society and the ubiquitous reach of Amazon.
So this could get interesting.
One of the best trend spotters out there is marketing expert Seth Godin. Here’s what he wrote on Black Friday:
“The buying race is over. Amazon won. The shopping race, though, the struggle to create experiences that are worth paying for, that’s just beginning.”
Godin was lamenting the herd mentality whipped up by media to shop on the day after Thanksgiving.
But while he acknowledged Amazon’s dominance, he also sees opportunity for physical retailers in the “real world” to compete by offering experiences, service, design, fun and community.
We better hope so, because there are a lot of jobs, sales tax for local governments and consequences for Main streets and shopping centers if retailers don’t figure out a way to compete more effectively.
Another go to source for trends is “Redef”, an email newsletter that aggregates great stories from a wide variety of sources.
One recent piece came from the LA Times which talked about the comeback of catalogs. In an era of seemingly endless growth for online shopping, the humble mail order catalog is getting new life as merchants strive to battle email fatigue. 
While nobody is predicting the return of the Sears catalog (or the iconic retail chain) there seems to be growing anxiety over a purely cyber world. 
Don’t get me wrong. Facebook is great in moderation. Amazon is convenient and Netflix is wonderful.  
But it would be sad if we lost face the face interaction we get at a great retail store and the experience of seeing a movie with a group of people. 
While these and other industries are under assault by the threat of mobile and internet technology, there is some evidence that the “analog” world won’t go without a fight. 
The New York Times has experienced a surge in print subscriptions, vinyl records and cassettes are staging a comeback,  physical books and independent bookstores are enjoying a mini renaissance and there are retail districts around the country that are doing very well. 
While AirBnB is thriving, smart Hotel brands like Aloft, Hyatt Place, Canopy, and Ace are also proving to be enduring competitors. Boutique hotels such as Cranes Beach House, historic properties such as the Colony Hotel and larger but stylish options like the Seagate remain desirable for travelers of all ages. 
As for theaters, there seems to be room for Netflix and iPic, Hulu and Alamo Drafthouse. 
While Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam has reported on the phenomenon of people “Bowling Alone” which chronicled the struggles of civic groups and bowling leagues—there are a raft of new groups emerging:  One Million Cups, Creative Mornings, WiseTribe, Community Greening, Human Powered Delray and Better Delray carving out community. 
Locally, Rotary, Elks and Kiwanis remain vibrant and vital.
 
As for me, I don’t see technology retreating. I think we will see autonomous cars within the next 10 years, streaming services will grow and groceries will be delivered to our homes. But I do think that smart retailers who create experiences and relationships will thrive. Great restaurants will continue to draw crowds and while golf courses will continue to close— options like Top Golf (food, fun, night golfing) will fill the gap. 
I think the key will be placemaking. 
The cities that create vibrant, safe, walkable places will draw crowds and investment. Fred Kent, a part time Delray resident and founder of the Project for Public Spaces (www.pps.org), has reported on the “power of 10” –the need for communities to create at least 10 activities in order for places to thrive.  PPS is right. 
We will look up from our phones–if there’s something compelling and active to draw us in.
 We will want to gather for concerts at Old School Square and Mizner Park. We may want to take a class or two online but there will also be a desire to interact in person with other students and a desire to go to happy hour even though you can order beer, wine and spirits online. 
I think a backlash is brewing. We will bend technology just enough to allow us to remain human. 
At least that’s my hope. 

Things We Love: November Edition

Fifth Avenue Grill’s holiday decorations are a Delray tradition.

Things we liked/loved in November…

Thanksgiving at Fifth Avenue Grill—great food, unmatchable holiday decorations and terrific service add up to a great experience. While we prefer staying home for the holidays, with kids spread out and other family traveling, we decided to go out. We had a memorable time.

The Cornerman Bar—Have you seen the Delray Boxing Gym? It’s incredibly cool. On the other side of the glass you can sit at a great bar and watch the action and be served by the amazing Marit Fitzpatrick. You can also enjoy Copperpoint beer and other libations and dream of hoisting your own championship belt. A very unique concept. Only in Delray as they say.

Breakfast gatherings at Ellie’s 50s Diner. Bob Smela and his lovely wife were pioneers on the North Federal Highway corridor more than two decades ago. Today, they and their great team are still thriving serving great breakfasts, awesome lunches and great dinners at fair prices. When I can, I like to go on Friday mornings when I’m sure to run into some great Delray people. Topics range from politics and business to family and our aches and pains. Count me grateful to have people to share with.

Old School Bakery—Billy Himmelrich and his team bake the best bread imaginable at a terrific facility on Congress Avenue in Delray Beach. When you visit, you’ll be taken by the great aroma of bread baking. Warning: the bread can be addictive.

The new Cornell Museum—thanks to a generous gift by the Blume’s—two wonderful people—the Cornell Museum has been re-imagined and it’s truly incredible. Don’t take my word for it—visit the new museum at Old School Square. You will be impressed. We guarantee it.

 Dinner at Café Martier—We love the historic ambience of this Atlantic Avenue gem. Great signature cocktails, an interesting menu and a choice between dining in a really historic restaurant or a very hip breezeway. It adds up to a winning experience. We recommend the falafel appetizer and the hummus is out of this world.

The Walk to Cure Arthritis—Ok the event is actually in December (Dec. 2 to be exact) at John Prince Park but we wanted to alert you because there is still time to be a sponsor and support the Arthritis Foundation. It’s a great cause and a great organization. Visit www.walktocurearthritis.org/palmbeach for more information and to get involved.

The Blackberry Cider at Saltwater Brewery—Ok, so most of you don’t go to a brewery to taste the cider, but we did and we loved it.

Deli On Rye—If you are looking for a p lace that can quickly whip up a great sandwich on those days when you are on the run, look no further than Deli on Rye on U.S. 1 in Boca. The friendly staff is lightning fast and the food is always good.

Special shout out to our good friend Chuck Halberg of Stuart and Shelby Development for his crowdfunding efforts that made sure our public safety personnel had good food and cheer on Thanksgiving. We are proud to support Chuck’s efforts, which are always heart felt and generous. Also, a shout out to Kate Volman and Ryan Boylston co-hosts/creators of Delray Morning Live. The Facebook show (which has a large and growing following/buzz) recently marked its one year anniversary. It’s a great forum to showcase community events, news, non-profits and people doing good things for Delray. Check it out on Wednesday mornings at 8:30 on Facebook’s Better Delray page. The show is archived so you can watch it at your leisure.

Have a great December!