If there’s one thing that stands out about Restaurant Year 2013 it’s that this is the year South Florida grew up as a serious national dining destination. Not just Miami, but our little corner of paradise too. The quality of local restaurants has never been higher, and there are more high-quality restaurants opening every day. Which didn’t make it easy for me to pick the best restaurants of all the ones I reviewed in 2013. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. That’s a pretty good problem to have. And I’m looking forward to an even more problematic 2014.
The Grove (187 NE 2nd Ave., Delray Beach, 561/266-3750). Partners Paul Strike and executive chef Michael Haycook and chef de cuisine Meghan O’Neal have made this modest, minimalist little restaurant into a stellar outpost of inventive, exciting contemporary American cookery. It’s a taste of the Napa Valley in downtown Delray.
HMF (1 S. County Rd., Palm Beach, 561/290-0104). The Breakers’ posh, elegant reimagining of the former L’Escalier space as a sophisticated World Tapas eatery not only raised the local small plates bar but packed in crowds from virtually the moment it opened. It’s the perfect marriage of modern cuisine and old-fashioned charm.
Racks Fish House (5 SE 2nd Ave., Delray Beach, 561/450-6718). Gary Rack has one of the surest touches in the SoFla restaurant business, and his stylish ode to New England seafood houses is his best effort yet. With exec chef Matt Danaher running the kitchen, impeccably fresh fish and shellfish gets equally impeccable care and preparation.
Sybarite Pig (20642 State Rd. 7, Boca Raton, 561/883-3200). The only thing I love more than the delightfully quirky name of this hole-in-the-wall West Boca strip mall eatery is chef-owner Daniel Naumko’s array of terrific house-made sausages and inventive sides. Oh, and the beer. If you’re a lover of fine suds, this is your new favorite hangout.
3rd & 3rd (301 NE 3rd Ave., Delray Beach, 561/303-1939). John Paul Kline’s artfully funky spot is the kind of uniquely personal chef- and ingredient-driven restaurant no area can have too many of. The wine and beer selection is unique too, and Kline’s roasted cauliflower with Parmesan mousse, bacon and caramelized onion is the single best dish I ate all year.