Travel

9 Tasty Reasons This Florida Beach Town Is the Ultimate Winter Escape

According to a local.

January  2, 2019
Photo by Saltwater Brewery Delray Beach

One might think growing up in Delray Beach, Florida would be paradise. You're 10 minutes (or less) from the beach, one hour from Miami, and the locals (like me!) are friendly and laid-back. Instead, I dreamed of living in New York City, with its 24-hour hustle and bustle, changing seasons, and endless run of Broadway shows (I was really into theater as a kid). Now that I actually live in New York, though, I long for trips back to Florida—especially come January and February, when the novelty of a northeast winter has worn off.

When I do make it back to Delray, you're likely to find me somewhere along Atlantic Avenue, a mile-long stretch of restaurants, shops, and bars that starts at the beach. With a thriving food and drinks scene (not to mention, less crowded beaches), it's the undeniable heart of the area. It's also well worth a detour—if not worthy as a vacation destination on its own—from more popular tourist hot spots like Miami or Key West.

From a life-changing crab eggs Benedict to an always-packed taco joint serving up the best spicy margaritas, here are just a few (emphasis on few) of my favorite Delray Beach spots.

Brulé Bistro

Tucked away just a few blocks off Atlantic Avenue in the Pineapple Grove Arts District, Brulé Bistro is one of the first meals I eat after landing. I always order their crispy broccoli with hummus and smoked fish dip, but my absolute favorite is the chicken and waffles (cornbread waffles, to be specific), served with cheddar, bacon, a chipotle aioli, and plenty of maple syrup.

El Camino

You'll be hard pressed to find better tacos (served on house-made tortillas) in Delray Beach than the ones at El Camino. But even better than the food is their extensive tequila selection and signature margaritas. You can't go wrong with any variation on the menu, but I almost always opt for the guava-habañero.

Photo by El Camino Delray

Papa's Tapas

Set in a quiet shopping center just across the street from Brulé Bistro, Papa's Tapas is a must-visit for its cozy atmosphere and perfect-for-sharing bites. Make sure to order a pitcher (always a pitcher) of their famous red sangría, sizzling garbanzo beans in a peppery pisto sauce, ham croquetas, and—if you're really hungry after a long, hard day at the beach—their paella Valenciana with shrimp, scallops, mussels, and clams. (In the highly unlikely event that you're still hungry after, head just a few doors down to Two Fat Cookies for dessert.)

The Ramen Lab

For a quick, casual bite off Atlantic Avenue, check out the Ramen Lab Eatery, where they specialize in fresh, house-made noodles and poke bowls. My usual order: ramen tonkotsu with a rich pork broth, braised pork belly, and a soft-boiled egg; lobster and shrimp gyoza; and a nice cold beer.

Wood & Fire

I only checked out Wood & Fire for the first time on my latest trip home, but after just one visit you can bet I'll be coming back again and again. About a 15-minute drive from the beach (well away from the crowds of Atlantic Avenue), this hidden gem is a new local favorite for its airy outdoor bar and patio, killer wood-fired pizzas (I got the Grandma and Buffalo Chicken), spicy fritto misto (crispy calamari and shrimp), and super-friendly service.

Dada

With an eclectic menu ranging from excellent crab cakes to crispy sumac chicken, Dada has been a fixture in the Delray dining scene for as long as I can remember. It's located in one of the oldest historic homes in the area—the Tarrimore house, built around 1924—so eating here also counts as a cultural experience in my book. I prefer to dine outside underneath the huge banyan trees and string lanterns (sipping a mojito, obviously), but inside you'll find a comfortable bar and live local music most nights.

Caffe Luna Rosa

Right across the street from the beach, Caffe Luna Rosa is home to what is maybe my favorite eggs Benedict ever. They also have a delicious Italian menu of antipasti, pastas, grilled local fish, but their brunch cannot be missed. My dad and I always order the lump crab meat Benedict, plus a round of mimosas— the fresh-squeezed Florida orange juice really can't be beat.

Doc's All American

Opened in 1951, Doc's All American has been my family's go-to for post-beach milkshakes, burgers, hot dogs, and soft serve ice cream since I was a toddler. You can go to the walk-up window in a bathing suit and flip-flops for a low-key bite—there's nothing more Floridian than that.

Saltwater Brewery

Only a few minutes away by car from Atlantic Avenue, Saltwater Brewery is Delray's first microbrewery. It has a tasting room, palm tree-covered beer garden, and—the best part—a rotating lineup of local food trucks in the parking lot. You can taste a nice mix of their seasonal and special-release beers, like their Grapefruit Gose and Cinnamon Sea Cow milk stout, but I love their flagship Screamin' Reels IPA the most. As an added bonus, Saltwater Brewery gives back to ocean-based charities and uses eco six-pack rings, which are compostable and naturally degrade when left in water.

Are there any Delray Beach spots that I missed? Add them to this list in the comments!

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Erin Alexander is the Assistant Editor of Partner Content at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.

22 Comments

Amanda B. January 9, 2019
I value everyone's opinion and thank you because now I will try these places mentioned. The Columbian house is AMAZING. And if you really haven't tried Contes pizza just give if a chance
 
Brent January 6, 2019
My husband and I second (or third) Scuola Vecchia for pizza, which also has a clean, simple and decadent fettuccine alfredo (not something I typically order elsewhere, or anywhere for that matter). Take a sweater - it’s always cold in there. A few other favorites are (in no particular order): Eathai on Federal Highway (yum, yum, yum across the board). Colombian Coffee House on 5th Ave, which we just discovered in October, and has outstanding coffee (we haven’t eaten the food yet, but will definitely go on our next trip back to Delray). 3rd and 3rd, which has great food, is a dive, has no sign, but it’s in a teal building at it’s name’s location...there is an awning over the door. We also discovered The Chickpea on Congress (Boynton Beach), which has great Mediterranean quick fare - go at an off hour so you can taste a bunch of things without holding up the line. We also took ours to go so we could go home and eat with wine/beer. Lastly, we grab little things at The French Bakery and Cafe on 6th Ave - particularly the double Belgian chocolate walnut cookies!

 
Rich January 6, 2019
Over The Bridge Cafe is a must for breakfast/brunch. On weekends they do unlimited mimosas and have 8 flavors. Occasionally they do an unlimited Bloody Mary as well. Did I mention the food?! The Short Rib Hash is my favorite dish there. With an egg on top however you want it, it's amazing. The breakfast fondue is also a must try. I can't believe you didn't have this place on the list!
 
Amanda B. January 9, 2019
I agree I ate there for the first time last week and loved loved it will def be going back to try the hash o keep hearing about
 
Evelyn January 5, 2019
Hey Pho You on Jog Rd in Delray serves excellent Vietnamese food.
 
Christopher January 3, 2019
When on the " Ave " one MUST stop in Tramonti!!!
 
Kate L. January 3, 2019
I would have to disagree with the pizza comments. Scuola Vecchia is hands down the best pizza in the area. Park Tavern has a great brunch, but they also have a lot of other good food as well, and the best cocktails on the Ave!
 
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Erin A. January 3, 2019
My family friend who still lives in the area actually just recommended Scuola Vecchia! I'll confess I haven't been yet, but I'll be giving it a visit next time I'm home—he said it's fantastic.
 
Amanda B. January 9, 2019
I will try these places but you should give contes chance if you haven't tried it yet
 
Amanda B. January 3, 2019
Hello if your looking for great pizza, good deals and a welcoming atmosphere check out contes pizza in Delray Beach it's right off of Atlantic Ave and NE 2nd. Best pizza in Delray that I have had by far. Check the reviews if you don't believe me
 
Mike S. January 3, 2019
One was missed and should be in this list...Gary Rack's Farmhouse Kitchen. Excellent food...the fried zucchini is to die for IMHO.
 
Bryan January 3, 2019
Whenever in Delray we always make sure to stop by the Blue Anchor. It's been there forever and the English Boxtys are to die for. They also have a great selection English Pub style beers on draft and cask!
 
Matt January 3, 2019
Delray Beach is also home to an award winning food tour! Craft Food Tours. Reach out to me and I’ll hook you up with some tickets.

[email protected]

Thanks!
 
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Erin A. January 3, 2019
Thank you so much, Matt! That sounds awesome.
 
Amso January 3, 2019
Surf Shack on Federal in Delray. The açaí bowls after a beach day are perfection.
 
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Erin A. January 3, 2019
Ohhhh Surf Shack is a good one! Thanks for adding it to this list.
 
Diane R. January 2, 2019
Loved reading about all the Delray Beach restaurants. We are living here for 10 years and have seen the growth of Downtown. We love to eat in Cabana El Rey for Cuban food. The Paella Valencia is our favorite! Flan for dessert is amazing!!
 
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Erin A. January 3, 2019
Such a great spot!
 
Jolene M. January 2, 2019
Great list, Erin. Next time, try Park Tavern for their legendary brunch ($9 bottomless mimosas), Ziree’s crispy whole fish is incredible & Silverball Pinball Museum is the most fun adults can legally have (bonus for their weekly happy hour). Bedner’s has the best local offerings, too. I love living in Delray! So much to choose from. Hope to see you around sometime.
 
Author Comment
Erin A. January 3, 2019
Thank you so much, Jolene! I've definitely been meaning to check out Silverball Pinball Museum—it looks like so much fun. Hope to see you around, as well!
 
Al H. January 2, 2019
Further west on Atlantic at Lyons in the West Delray Marketplace you may want to check out Batch Gastro Pub. Interesting menu. Great happy hour. IMO best bartenders in town. For a great breakfast wrap try Bears Food Shack Very funky look to the place for sure but quality sandwiches. 4.7 stars on Google almost 300 reviews.
 
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Erin A. January 3, 2019
I will definitely have to check out Batch on my next trip home—thank you for the recommendation!