If you like to eat, 2012 was a very good year. Despite an economy that’s still scraping along, some high-profile closings and continuing reminders that the restaurant business is one of the toughest businesses around, restaurants to pique your senses and tantalize your appetite opened in truly impressive numbers.
If there’s any one theme of the dining year to soon depart, it’s that 2012 is the year South Florida grew up as a serious culinary destination. Miami, not surprisingly, led the way. But Miami’s boom of first-rate, chef- and ingredient-driven restaurants didn’t stop at the Dade County border. In Palm Beach County we’ve got our share too. Here (in alpha order) are my picks for the top five restaurants I was lucky enough to eat at in the past 12 months. If anything, 2013 promises to be even better.
D’Angelo Trattoria (9 SE 7th Ave., Delray Beach, 561/330-1237). The number of excellent restaurants that have opened in downtown Delray over the past couple of years is pretty impressive. But none are more impressive than Angelo Elia’s comfortable yet stylish trattoria, the kind of Italian eatery that real Italians would actually recognize. And fight for a reservation to get in.
Imoto (350 S. County Rd., Palm Beach, 561/833-5522). Not content to have created one of the best and most successful restaurants in South Florida (that would be Buccan), the extraordinarily talented Clay Conley then opened this tiny, Momofuku-esque restaurant next door that reimagines the classic Japanese izakaya as a purveyor of world-class, New World small plates.
Park Tavern (32 SE 2nd Ave., Delray Beach, 561/265-5093). Brian and Brandon, the guys behind nearby Cut 432, have done it again with their casual, unpretentious take on the modern American gastropub. An encyclopedic selection of craft beers, menu of moderately priced dishes to fit every craving and the best prime rib deal around say you should park your butt on their cozy outdoor patio and check it out.
Rebel House (297 E. Palmetto Park Rd., Boca Raton, 561/353-5888). Want to rebel against boring food, paint-by-numbers design and dull, lifeless suburban ambiance? Than this gloriously quirky and hugely energetic restaurant from the folks behind Charm City Burgers and El Jefe Luchador is the place for you. Join the revolution (and don’t miss the pork belly tater tots).
Red the Steakhouse (1901 Military Trail, Boca Raton, 561/353-9139). Just what we need, another expensive steakhouse. Right? Right. At least if it’s our local outpost of this Cleveland-based chainlet. No other major meatery offers designer beef of such impressive quality, whether raw in a superlative steak tartare or cooked with surgical precision like a massively savory ribeye. Costly but worth every penny.