Pineapple Grove used to be a quaint off-the-beaten-path little sister to Delray’s Atlantic Avenue, but it has emerged as a serious dining destination and a respite of sorts from The Madness due south. Its latest addition is The Banyan, which practically snuggles up to a handsome old banyan tree someone had the foresight to save in the push for downtown sprawl.
Proprietors and Delray residents Joseph LoRe and Miles Moriarty have ambitions that spread as wide as the banyan branches shading their patio. They built out the space with a charming contemporary vibe (we love the sleek, dressy little bar inside) and hired Chef James Skarulis in his first head chef job after working at Seagate Hotel and Dada. The menu features small plates and a large selection of crafty cocktails.
My pretty blue Aviation gin cocktail tasted as good as it looked, with Bombay dry gin, luxardo, crème de violetto and lemon. It was a promising start to a high notes/low notes dinner. In the process of shaking up the menu, Skarulis has a hodgepodge of offerings, with seafood (calamari, Maryland crab bites, Yum Yum shrimp, and blackened scallops), next to sliders, tacos, mac trios and flatbreads.
We stuck with seafood. The Maryland crab bites were full of crab chunks with a zesty, but not overly spicy Chesapeake remoulade. Think of a French dressing meets Thousand Island dressing combo. The popular Yum Yum shrimp, with a spicy-sweet Sriracha aioli, were lightly dusted with breading, and the crunch-then-sweet-end-dip was an addictive combo. The seafood net had one hole in it: The Marinade mahi evidently skipped the marinade stop and was as bland as an oyster cracker; even the grilled pineapple salsa couldn’t rev it up.
Then came the crème brulée cheesecake—talk about a happy ending. It was light and airy, the dense creaminess of the cheesecake sweetened by the crackly, torched sugar of the brulée. Made by an outside baker, this cheesecake is worth the trip all by itself.
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