In Praise Of The Local Food Scene

Caffe Luna Rosa has thrived for decades by keeping pace with trends and sticking to the classics.

So I have this theory that I thought I would share.
My theory has to do with food—in particular restaurants—and my feeling is that we are experiencing a golden age of culinary talent.
We live in a community that seemingly has an endless array of truly unique and wonderful restaurants.
It wasn’t always this way.

When I moved to South Florida 31 years ago it was not uncommon for us to travel to Miami and Fort Lauderdale to find a good restaurant.
These days, Delray and Boca offers a dizzying array of special restaurants that not only serve great food but also take their design seriously. Dining has become an experience. And when done well it’s really something to behold.

I’m writing this a few days after finally experiencing The Grove, a highly touted restaurant in Delray’s Pineapple Grove neighborhood.
I’ve been hearing friends rave about The Grove for quite some time so I was curious to see if what they were saying was true.
It was.

The food was sensational, so was the service and the interior design.

The menu was small but offered some really inventive dishes that were spectacularly prepared.
My friends ordered pasta—that was perfectly cooked, short ribs that looked magnificent and I had crusted chicken that was so flavorful and unique that I find it hard to describe.
Even the bread was extraordinary.

The night before I had dinner with another friend at one of my favorite neighborhood spots—Papas Tapas where I never fail to have a great meal.

Brule, Caffe Luna Rosa, City Oyster, Tramonti—the list of Delray delights just goes on and on.

Boca  also  has so many wonderful spots: Domus, Abe and Louie’s, New York Prime etc.
In an age where chefs have become celebrities and dining out has become a cultural experience I’m surprised that Delray-Boca doesn’t have a bigger reputation as a foodie destination.
Sure, Atlantic Avenue and places like Mizner Park are popular attractions but I think we have the potential to be a national food destination.

So what’s holding us back?

We have many great restaurants and more than a few talented chefs, but there’s a few holes to fill and opportunities to seize.
First, we can use a little more diversity in our repertoire.
More ethnic offerings—like you’d see in a bigger city. And I’m not just talking niche food offerings, there’s a puzzling lack of great Chinese restaurants in our local market. Southern cuisine would be another great hit and seems to be somewhat lacking in our marketplace.

We can also use more culinary education to develop and nurture talent for the industry.
In addition, the industry can use some good old fashioned PR.
There’s no reason we can’t be known and branded as a great culinary destination like Charleston, Traverse City and Asheville which would drive more innovation, jobs and tourism.
We’ve come a long way since the 80s—it will be interesting to see what comes next for our local food industry.

Max’s Social House A Welcome Addition

Max's Social House expands Delray's smart culinary scene.

Max’s Social House expands Delray’s smart culinary scene.

Dennis Max is a visionary restauranteur.

He has the ability to see trends and envision design elements that make restaurants special places.

Max’s Grille in Mizner Park has been a long time favorite, luring patrons to Mizner Park since the center opened and Max’s Harvest in Pineapple Grove is a hot spot.

Last weekend, we had a chance to sample Max’s Social House, the latest addition to the Max Restaurant Group line-up.

Housed in the former Ceviche and Falcon House building on U.S. 1, Max’s Social House is a welcome and unique addition to the city’s burgeoning culinary scene.

Smartly designed and cleverly conceived, Max’s Social House is designed to be a place where locals and visitors mingle, share, talk and enjoy familiar food prepared in a unique way.

So yes, you’ll find staples such as Mac & Cheese, short ribs and potato chips, but they’ll be prepared in a way you might not be familiar with, but you’ll be delighted nonetheless.

We had a chance to visit on a “Friends and Family” night ahead of this week’s soft opening courtesy of manager John Brewer, a local who will be familiar to Delray diners from his long time involvement in local restaurants, including Ceviche.

John and his friendly staff are engaging, knowledgeable and attentive and add to the “social” atmosphere of the restaurant.

We ran into Mr. Max himself and per usual, he was gracious to share his vision for Max’s Social House with us while explaining his goal of creating a warm and local friendly atmosphere.

We had the braised short ribs, which were fabulous, the burrata, an outstanding “rocket” salad and warm potato chips with a unique dip that was simply to die for.

We also sampled from the restaurant’s strong wine menu which includes Numanthia, a fabulous red wine that hails from the Toro region of Spain. We enjoyed a hoppy IPA from the local Saltwater Brewery which was excellent.

Delray’s restaurant scene is taking on new and interesting shapes. With restrictive parking codes enacted on Atlantic Avenue, new restaurants on the main strip are unlikely but the city’s nooks and crannies are beginning to fill up with interesting spots. Max’s Social House is the latest to lead in this new direction, it’s a welcome one.

Food culture is here to stay and Delray is a leader of this trend, which creates jobs, lures visitors and builds community.

The next step would be to grow and nurture local food purveyors and brands–many are being incubated in the CRA’s fabulous Green Market.

Am I believer? You betcha..I’m a partner and CEO of a Boca based hot sauce company Tabanero, an all natural sauce that is available in 1,500 restaurants in Florida and California and 155 HEB markets in Texas. We also have a Bloody Mary Mix and our chefs are busy cooking line extensions. We are inspired by the culinary scene in Boca and Delray and so are many, many others.




The Interview: “Big” Joe Stout of The Food

Joe Stout, the visionary behind

Joe Stout, the visionary behind The


We recently caught up with Big Joe Stout, founder of, a web site that reviews and features many of the restaurants here in Delray Beach. This is what he had to say about the culinary delights in Delray.


How did you come up with the idea for The Food Beat?: I was watching “Diner’s, Drive In’s, and Dives” one night and thought to myself, “Why couldn’t I do something like this for Delray Beach?” With the amazing popularity of the Food Network and Delray’s expansive array of eating places, it just seemed to make sense. And when you factor in that my life’s work has focused on food and video production, the marriage came naturally. I owned and operated a chain of five restaurants, a catering company, and a wholesale bakery in Michigan from 1980 to 1997, and then jumped into video production soon after. The Food Beat provides a restaurant and entertainment search engine where each business is featured in high definition video. This gives people looking for a place to eat  a more comprehensive understanding of what they will be getting. We also have programs that provide an in-depth look at the restaurant and also gives viewers some unique insight. Everything we do is off-center and generally whimsical. Our show “Rollin with Murph” stars Danny Murphy, a chair-user for over 30 years. Danny has been in many major motion pictures including “There’s Something About Mary” and “Kingpin.” The show brings out the user friendly attributes of a restaurant’s accessibility. “The Nutrition Goddess” features bubbly nutrition expert Coco Fry who explores the healthier side of Delray dining, and “Food Woofers” is our version of “Man VS Food.”  We even have a show called “Home Cook’n” that provides our viewers with video recipes they can also print out.



What are some interesting stories you can tell about exploring the world of restaurants here?: Two things kind of jump out at me. One, the majority of the locally owned restaurateurs are extremely passionate about their work. Part of that is because they know the competition is significant, but I believe more so because they have a tremendous amount of pride in what they do. There is a huge level of satisfaction knowing customers love your food and service, and of course, that generally equates to a growing business.

The other things that jumps out is the high level of skepticism most of these business owners have. I’m from Michigan where most people are more trusting and open…certainly more guarded here in south Florida. When I tell them the listing is free and they have no obligation, you can sense they are wondering what the catch is. You really have to work at building the trust, but once you do, the entire process gets much easier.

Overall, I have met some really good people who are hard working, community oriented people that love Delray Beach.

How many different types of restaurants are there in Delray?: On one of our shows, “Street Beat” where we ask locals random food related questions, we asked what restaurants  is Delray Beach missing? There is certainly no shortage of Italian joints, but a few mentioned Indian and  a Brazilian Steakhouse. Other than that, I believe most cuisine bases are covered nicely. We have really made a diligent effort to locate the unique and off the radar places a lot of people are unaware of. Believe it or not, there are many great places to eat in Delray Beach that are not in the downtown section of Atlantic Avenue. Although the “Ave” is hard to beat for food and excitement, there is a bigger food picture in Delray.



Any particular favorites that you can recommend for the following activities?:

  • Watching a football game: Delray gives you many sports bar options, but I tend to gravitate to the great food, great people spots where I can enjoy the camaraderie. Johnny Brown’s is always fun and has a great bar menu.


  • Taking wife/girlfriend out for birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s Day:  Throw a dart. It all depends what you are looking for, but again, I tend to favor the places where the people are the most welcoming and make you feel special. My wife and have been going to Da Da since we moved here and always take out of town guest’s there for a great evening. Caffe Luna Rosa is wonderful and has a great beach location. SoLita’s has a really hip, chic atmosphere that relates to romance that my wife thinks is really cool. And if you want to feel like you are going to your Italian Uncle’s for a family like gathering, Casa Di Pepe in Pineapple Grove is a great option. I would also suggest a trip out to Patio Delray where Miss Lilly will treat you like a long lost friend.


  • Looking for the most diverse selection of brewskis?: Believe it or not, Puccini’s Pizza has some really great craft beers and they take it very seriously too. I have been there when they host events centered around the introduction of a new ale. I also enjoy throwing back a cold one at Tim Finnegan’s Irish Pub. Great bar, great people, and great food. And if you like Irish Whiskey, no one has a bigger variety in Delray Beach.


  • Other: The organic/health craze is well represented at The Green Gourmet on Jog Road. Joey and Wilson are the gurus of great tasting organic and they really know how to treat their customers. And of course, Fit Food Express brings healthy options right to your door .