If you are a person with a particular interest in food and like to try food trends that are hot and happening, you’ll enjoy taking on a West Palm Beach food tour. Whether you love exotic cuisines or simple, more conventional fare, you will find something on this tour that will be worth sampling.
The West Palm Beach Food Tour was voted “Tripadvisor’s 2019 Traveler’s Choice” attraction in West Palm Beach, and included among “Top 10 Experiences in the United States” for its rave reviews.
There are two choices when booking this tour: “Downtown West Palm Beach Walking Food Tour” or “Historic West Palm Beach Neighborhood Food Tour.” By the description of the itineraries and programs, both are great links with the food, drinks, history, architecture, and culture of the city.
Not long ago, I decided to join the “Downtown West Palm Beach Walking Food Tour” and take advantage of this attraction to inspect the recent updates on the food scene in the downtown area, immersed now in capital improvements of its main thoroughfare, Clematis St.
The tour guide, Lauren, met us at our meeting point, Aioli. Lauren introduced herself and instantly I realized I was in for a two-hour journey with someone with a leveraged expertise in the local food, and willing to entertain us all with anecdotes, facts, and the best description of the various locations on route.
Aioli, the first stop on the tour, is a Cafe in downtown West Palm Beach that specializes in locavore foods and gourmet to-go. Their menu offers savory and flavorful sandwiches, soups, salads, and desserts. The place is open for breakfast and lunch. They also bake their own breads of which they have a dozen different types.
Melanie Hackman, co-owner of the Cafe, served us a tray full of Chocolate Babka slices. Laden with chocolate, butter, and homemade charm, this Babka is delicious as a dessert or served with coffee. Although it looks a like bread is actually kind of a dense cake with fudgy chocolate. Delicious!
From Aioli we started walking toward the next stop on the tour, distant enough to get familiar with the downtown area. West Palm Beach Downtown is a vibrant and active community and the primary focus in the city for visitors and residents. There are many signs of progress throughout the district, especially with the number of new residential condominiums dotting available lots everywhere. Clematis Street is the Downtown’s main drag with a diverse amount of restaurants, bars, and office buildings. Two blocks of this street were recently renovated to add a curbless street design with narrower traffic lanes but wider sidewalks and more shade trees. Two other blocks are undergoing improvements now.
The seemingly long walk to the next stop on the tour allowed us to see the rapidly evolving core of the city and what it can offer as an exciting place to work, live, and play.
Just steps away from a giant mural by Croatian artist Lonac on the building of one of the city’s parking garage, the group stopped at the alley of Subculture Coffee where Lauren explained how the place is a favorite to many people for its laid-back, wow atmosphere, and cozy feel. There’s also a mural by Brazilian street artist Kobra that graces one of the alley walls which served as the backdrop for a group photo.
Finally our next stop, Hullabaloo.
The restaurant feels like an old-fashioned Italian cafe that we occasionally see in movies but with an artsy decoration that calls for hip and fun excitement. And there’s even a vintage Airstream camper on the patio that seems to be ideal for a group party when the outside temperature is a little cooler.
Chef Cassell spoke to the group and explained the culture and services at Hullabaloo. He also elaborated on the food and drinks we were sampling: chicken meatballs and roasted Brussels sprouts. The meatballs were a pinch of yum, creativity, and one of those dishes you only expect to eat once in a lifetime. And what about those Brussels sprouts? The roasting flavor of the dish tossed in balsamic vinegar and honey kept everyone begging for more samples.
The samples were really delicious, and judging by the menu items, Hullabaloo denotes excellent creativity and love for crafting food out of local seasonal produce.
Next stop, a new local sensation in town.
Dr. Limon recently opened on Clematis St., a Peruvian cuisine restaurant part of a growing regional chain featuring seafood-centric appetizers, small plates, and funky northern Peruvian fare that shares a common element: lime.
They welcomed us with a free shot of zippy “Leche de Tigre,” kind of an aphrodisiac drink with a high concentration of seasoning, lime, and fish. Drink it and you’ll feel full of energy.
Dr. Limon’s specialty is ceviche. They do it the Inca style and crafted in distinctive appearances and unconventional names: ‘Fiebre Alta’, ‘Anestecico’, ‘Levantate Lazaro’, or ‘El Loco Calato’ among other artistic inventions.
The food samples were excellent and large portions, more than one would have expected to have on a food tour. I think a lot of people would love this restaurant’s food and vibe that really makes you feel comfortable.
Last but not least, they served some crafty cocktails that match the ambiance and decor of the place. Pisco Sour is the restaurant’s signature cocktail. Simultaneously earthy, sweet and tart, this frothy cocktail served straight up without ice is very refreshing.
After a memorable half-hour at Dr. Limon, we headed toward our next stop on the tour, Salento Coffee, a Colombian coffee shop right in the heart of Downtown West Palm Beach. For those who were not locals, walking toward Salento provided glimpses of how convenient and connected everything is within the district. Lauren mentioned that anyone who hasn’t been to West Palm Beach in the last 10 to 15 years would be impressed with its growth. At the center of this expansion is the Brightline Train Station which connects West Palm with the southern neighboring cities of Fort Lauderdale and Miami via Virgin Trains, a fast-speed train service that will also be reaching as far as Orlando soon.
Upon arriving at Salento Coffee you feel the distinctive aroma of homemade coffee. Owner Jaime Lara and his wife were ready to give us a demonstration of how “Tinto” is made. Tinto is a traditional Colombian espresso sweetened with the scraping of an unrefined sugar cane block, then whisked until it becomes foamy brown.
Coffee is the South American nation’s biggest export and also its most popular drink; and Colombians know their coffee regions very well. While explaining how to make Tinto, Lara commented that Colombian shops don’t need to rely on the morning rush like us because people there are likely to drink coffee late in the afternoon or early evening instead.
I am not a fan of coffee, actually I had never had a sip of coffee before in my life until I ventured on this food tour. So, I wouldn’t be the right person to judge the quality, texture or flavor of the Tinto Lara prepared for us, but everyone else seemed extremely happy with it to the point that some even bought small bags of beans to take home.
Our next stop had a bit of celebrity connotation.
After a savory coffee, it was time for some dessert. We walked a couple of blocks more and arrived at Ganache Bakery Cafe, the workplace of the charismatic Jamal Lake, a passionate baker who is also very well known locally as “The Coconut Guy,” and recognized easily nationwide as a contestant on Food Network’s Halloween Baking Championship Season 4 of which he was a finalist.
Here we had a very entertaining demonstration of how to extract water from a coconut and learned some fun facts about the fruit–and yes, the ‘silly’ discussion of where the water in the coconut comes from couldn’t be spared!
Jamal is very talented and an expert in handling the machete to peel the coconuts. “Coconut water can hydrate you better than regular water,” he said. “Also, its yummy taste can encourage people to take in more fluids which is a good thing.”
But coconuts and their water were a stepping stone to what we were about to taste during our stop at Ganache Bakery. Jamal pulled out a tray with small samples of delicious Key Lime Pies, definitely the best dessert you could ask for on a food tour.
Jamal also bakes a plethora of delicious goodies, cakes, and pastries at Ganache and teaches baking classes to locals.
Now, time to head out to our last stop, The Blind Monk.
This is where the Downtown West Palm Beach Food Tour ends with a laid-back feel. The Blind Monk is one of the most original bars you could ever find, a chic place with a large selection of wines, beers, and small bites. The place, owned by a Marine and veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, has walls adorned with wallpapers scribbled with short notes about the wines they serve. There’s also a table filled with tons of corks and light fixtures hanging from the ceiling forming a cluster of bubbles that will catch your attention at all time–hopefully while sober.
We summed up the tour over a Prosecco Mojito, the most refreshing cocktail for a hot summer day and eating samples of ‘Cubanos’. That’s what I would call an “escape” to the real taste of South Florida. For those who liked it, Lauren was gracious enough to give a copy of the recipe for this contemporary take on the classic Mojito.
Food may be the most important part of any food tour, but there’s a lot you get to learn beyond the delicacies and drinks. The Downtown West Palm Beach Food Tour has a story to tell and it is a unique experience to discover the hottest trends in this thriving community. Nothing that has been written here can surpass the joy to explore culture and history, taste the food locals eat, go to the places locals go.
Here’s your ticket to this adventure: www.westpalmbeachfoodtour.com
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