Once a seasonal town, Palm beach has become one of the country’s most sought after cities for those seeking a permanent residence. The movement has been accelerated by the onset of COVID-19, as many New Yorkers escaped the city for better quality of life, sunnier weather, and more accessible restaurants. The Upper East Side’s favorite restaurants like Swifty’s and soon-to-open Le Bilboquet have made the pilgrimage with their patrons, while iconic mainstay establishments like Renato’s are as popular as ever. While the industry is struggling due to major shutdowns in other areas in the country, Palm Beach residents are safely carrying on. From reimagined classics to the new and noteworthy, here are the dining spots to see and be seen this season in Palm Beach.
This elegant Italian restaurant has been nestled in Via Mizner—the historic 1923 Worth Avenue courtyard complex featuring shops and apartments—for over 30 years. Where some of the more recent entrants to the Palm Beach dining scene can be categorized as bustling and far-from-relaxing, Renato’s has kept to roots as a cozy establishment, perfect for a special occasion. The outdoor garden, where palm trees are wrapped in bright lights to match their counterparts that line Worth Avenue, evokes a romantic and charming feel, ideal for a starry night. For those with a preference for indoor dining, the ambiance is traditional but not stuffy, with red and gold coloring throughout, dim lighting, and a pianist. The family-owned restaurant is run by Arlene Desiderio, widow of founder and namesake, Renato Desiderio, as well as her son José Duran of Al Fresco Hospitality Group. Favorite menu items include the Soft-Shell Crab starter and the Rack of Lamb or Spaghettine Frandiablo for entrées, complemented by an extensive wine list and rich Italian desserts.
Although Café L’Europe is celebrating 40 years on the island, it’s recently been reimagined as a modern bistro. Though involved in the original operation, the Marcello family are new owners and have renovated the restaurant to appeal to a new generation. Once a romantic special occasion spot with a Renato’s-esque atmosphere, it now boasts contemporary elements like an open floor plan, a large u-shaped bar, and velvet furnishing with hints of blue and gold throughout—a more clubby feel. Contrary to the old establishment, the new Café L’Europe welcomes guests wearing jeans and looking for a casual bite, while still encouraging diners celebrating milestones. The restaurant hired the former chef of Chez Jean Pierre, Alain Krauss, who brought with him the classic Chez Jean Pierre dishes to the menu in addition to Café L’Europe favorites. Keeping COVID-19 first in mind, the restaurant is operating at 50% capacity, offering outdoor seating, implementing temperature checks at the door, and frequently sanitizing all surfaces.
Finding success on the Upper East Side and in Sag Harbor, Philippe Delgrange decided to bring the beloved Le Bilboquet to Worth Avenue, allowing his dedicated clientele to enjoy the hotspot year-round at their winter home. The two-story restaurant, which has been under construction overseen by investor Jane Holzer since 2019, is slated to open in mid-January. The restaurant will offer indoor and outdoor dining, and a French menu with Bilboquet classics like the Cajun Chicken, plus seasonal seafood specials.
Once an Upper East Side favorite, Swifty’s opened its doors as a pop-up at The Colony Hotel in Palm Beach for the first time last winter after shuttering its doors in New York in 2016. Following the pop-up’s success, the restaurant, owned by Robert Caravaggi, opened a permanent location at The Colony this year. “Our first season in Palm Beach was a smashing success. It was such a pleasure to see so many familiar faces and wonderful friends in our dining room, and I am elated to evolve the restaurant to meet these unique times with the launch of Swifty’s POOL,” said Caravaggi of the new opening in October. Featuring an outdoor setup poolside (giving the restaurant a much-welcomed Palm Beach twist), Swifty’s has become one of the island’s hottest reservations, attracting the same regulars that once frequented the Upper East Side location. The al fresco setup features live entertainment under the palms, and a menu serving old Swifty’s favorites like the Designer Meatloaf and Crab Cakes.
Founded in 2012 by owners Eddie Schmidt and Ozzie Medeiros, Table 26° is situated just over the bridge in West Palm Beach’s Mango Promenade district. Known as a gem among locals, the restaurant serves an extensive menu filled with all-American comfort food like the Buttermilk Fried Chicken and the Spinach and Artichoke Dip under the direction of Chef Martha Encarnacion, as well as an extensive drink list with handcrafted cocktails like the 26° North Martini. “Our commitment to believing in all that West Palm Beach has to offer and superior training and execution of the best food around will keep us grounded for many years to come. It’s a place that guests can truly call their own,” said Schmidt. In response to the pandemic, the restaurant shifted their setup so that 75% of their seating is outside in its new tented garden area, so that guests can safely enjoy themselves in an open setting.