Category Archives: Wellington Table – Signature Dish

Village Music Café Pairs Culture And Entertainment With Great Food And Drink

When it comes to music and business, timing is everything. For Steve and Donna Willey, owners of Village Music Café, that’s what makes both of them, and their business, tick.
“I just love this spot. It’s the perfect size and right at the entrance to the mall,” Donna Willey said.
This hometown treasure, now located near Barnes & Noble and Walgreens in the Shoppes at Wellington Green, first opened its doors in 2012 near Fresh Market. A few years later, not only did they need more room, but they also wanted to try a new concept, adding a café space to what was previously just a music store.
Located just one shopping plaza over, the new venue has brought a world of change, hitting a high note with both regulars and newcomers each week.
“We really see ourselves as a cultural center that brings the community together,” Donna said.
It’s a cultural center surrounded by the arts. It includes not only music lessons, live music, instrument sales and monthly exhibits by local artists, but it’s also all tied together with artisanal food. That food, along with various craft beers and wine, harmoniously set the stage for all things art.
“The stage is an integral part of what we wanted to do,” Donna explained. “Once we had that, we decided we needed to open this up to the community and bring in local artists. And that has become an extremely popular phenomenon. People love to come here and see local musicians play — and we get great talent here.”
That talent runs the gamut from jazz to rock, comedians to open mic nights, art exhibits to mixers, from the accomplished to those just starting out.
“During the day, it’s a hangout for parents while their kids are taking lessons. They grab a gourmet coffee or a snack while waiting. The kids will have a snack when they come out. In the evening, it turns into a place where the community hangs out,” Donna said.
A hangout filled with dark-toned bistro tables with high-backed seating along the back wall. Each month, paintings by local artists rotate, hanging throughout the space. A dim and relaxed atmosphere with sparkling tea lights dotting the tables create a calm ambiance, all while visitors nosh on some tasty eats.
For starters, there’s the Charcuterie Board for $20. It’s loaded with mixed meats and cheeses, including prosciutto, salami, serrano ham and capicola. Cheeses include white cheddar, port wine and smoked gouda. Marinated mozzarella balls, olives, artichokes, grapes and bread fill it all in. “We had a lot of input from different chefs that we worked with,” Donna said.
Other starters include hummus, ceviche, as well as fresh guacamole paired with homemade spinach tortilla chips for $8.
“Thursday through Saturday, we have a grill outside. On those nights, we have the full menu that includes New York strip steaks, pork chops, tacos and all kinds of fun stuff. The menu is constantly evolving,” Donna added.
From a gourmet cheeseburger, made with eight ounces of sirloin on a brioche bun served with homemade steak fries for $10, to grilled or blackened salmon with broccoli, for $13.
“It’s really having something nice to eat and a glass of wine to enjoy with the food,” Donna explained. “It’s not a place people come to drink, but people come to eat and listen to the music. It’s one of the reasons we get high-level musicians playing here, because they’re not background music. They are the focus.”
A large focus is also put on the selection of available craft beers and wines — from California wines to South American, New Zealand and more. “I had a vision of what I wanted. It came from all my time in Europe,” Donna said.
It’s in Europe that the couple originally met in 1987. Steve, a U.S. Army veteran, was stationed in Germany where Donna was in graduate school. Both had musical backgrounds. A year later, Steve was sent back to Texas, while Donna finished her studies. The two were separated, and they went on to marry others and start families.
But 23 years later, Donna got a message from Steve. At a time, both had been divorced. “He found me on Facebook, and we were reunited,” she recalled.
In that nearly quarter of a century, there was still music involved between the two. A love song that had been lost, still waiting to be heard.
“Steve had written a song called, ‘Donna Sweet Donna.’ An army buddy did a water painting and calligraphy with the lyrics. But I moved after our breakup and never got it. He assumed I just wasn’t interested anymore. He played it over the phone for me. So, that was the beginning,” Donna said.
Steve headed back to Germany to be with her. The two eventually moved to Boston, where they’re both originally from. “Boston is too cold, and Steve’s parents were down in Florida,” Donna explained.
Steve soon sold his music store in the northeast, and the search for a Florida location began, bringing them to Wellington.
It seems to have been written in the stars when they made that decision, as now they and others shine bright on the stage they created for a community of all generations and backgrounds, sharing a love of music accompanied by great food and drink.
Village Music Café is located at 10410 W. Forest Hill Blvd. near Walgreens in the Shoppes at Wellington Green. For additional information, call (561) 798-5334 or visit www.villagemusicwellington.com. Check online for weekly events and menu specials. Table reservations are recommended.

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It’s All About Quality Ingredients And Great Presentation At India Grill & Bar Imported Spices

It’s All About Quality Ingredients And Great Presentation At India Grill & Bar

Imported Spices

For nearly a decade, India Grill & Bar has been serving authentic old and modern Indian cuisine in Royal Palm Beach. The restaurant has developed a loyal following of customers from all over the region, happily welcoming new patrons as well.

The restaurant is designed to look like an Indian palace with hues of gold and a circular 400-gallon saltwater fish aquarium as the centerpiece. That ambiance, mixed with fresh, imported spices, is what restaurant manager and owner Soye Thomas said it’s all about.

“I’m from the land of spices! That’s one primary thing for us. Much of it we import straight from India. We never use powder,” he said. “We get the cardamom and organic cumin. We have dried cumin straight from India. We roast and grind all our spices right here. The flavor and aroma is so fresh and real. It’s amazing. Next, we focus on getting the best produce. Once we have that, the rest is easy.”

One of his favorite spices — cloves. “It has a spark to it,” he said. “A burst of flavor.”

The daily lunch buffet is a great way to get a taste of it all.

For starters, try the Sambar lentil soup, Tandoori chicken and vegetable samosa.

Buffet entrees include chicken tikka masala, lamb roganjosh, chicken biryani on the bone and daal makhni. For sweets, you can enjoy galab jamun and Punjabi phirni. The entire buffet is offered daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., all for $9.95.

A wide selection of light and fluffy naan is extremely popular with guests. Flavors include cheese naan that’s mildly spiced, there’s also garlic with cilantro and Kashmiri naan, which is mildly sweet with cashew and pine nuts, coconut, saffron, honey and raisins.

When it comes to dinner entrees, there are a number of Tandoori specialties to choose from — all made to order. The most popular is the mixed grill platter. It’s a combination of tandoori grilled shrimp, seasoned lamb chops and tandoori grilled chicken tikka. “We use an all-charcoal grill,” Thomas explained. “It sears all the juices inside.”

Several vegetarian and vegan-friendly options are available on the menu, as are gluten-free choices.

The restaurant also offers a banquet hall for up to 200 people. It includes a separate entrance, private bar and reception area, suited for private parties or corporate events.

There’s also a tasting room for as many as 20 people, also privately set with its own bar. In addition to the restaurant as home base, Thomas also runs a nationwide catering company known as Madras Catering & Event Production.

“We are very big into catering weddings and large events. We’ve done events at the Breakers, Boca Resort, Fontainebleau and Four Seasons,” Thomas said.

It’s at Four Seasons, JW Marriott and Hyatt where Thomas worked in management after coming to the United States from India in 1997. He used that experience and added his own twist, with now 17 years of catering under his belt. He has catered an average of 40 weddings a year, often with 300 people or more per event.

“For me, it’s very personal,” Thomas said. “The food, presentation, food culture, spices, quality of ingredients. I get to know the clients.”

It’s that same personal touch that makes India Grill & Bar a success. “Guests come here and say, ‘Wow! The food is amazing.’ But they don’t realize the chefs cooking for those weddings are the same ones cooking for them,” he said. “There are no shortcuts, anywhere.”

There are also no shortcuts when it comes to a great Sunday brunch. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., a culinary experience is topped with bottomless mimosas.

“We bring a grill to the table, a live station, dosa of all varieties,” Thomas said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for people to come and taste everything.”

For Sunday brunch, adults are $16.95, while children are $6.95.

The cuisine for both the restaurant and catering covers all areas of India with four chefs, each from a different region. “We have a south Indian chef, a north Indian chef, one from Bombay for the snacks and one from the east side to cover all the seafood,” Thomas explained.

A huge selection fills the bar, including exotic cocktails, a variety of spirits, and a large beer and wine menu.

New plans are also on the horizon for Sunday evenings, which are big in the equestrian community. Coming soon will be dinner specials, a lounge and live DJ until midnight.

Meantime, Thomas and his crew are always looking for new infusions by going on tours to India, checking out new flavors. It’s that deep passion for people and love of food and flavor that keeps them going, to the delight of many happy customers and their taste buds.

The restaurant is open seven days a week with lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 4 to 10 p.m. Delivery is available through DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats and Delivery Dudes.

India Grill & Bar is located in the Royal Plaza at 650 Royal Palm Beach Blvd. at the northeast corner of Southern Blvd. For additional information, visit www.indiagrillandbar.com or call (561) 249-7168. Learn more about the catering end of the business at www.madrascatering.com.

 

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New Piatto Bravo Restaurant Offers A Creative Taste Of Italy Authentic Italian

New Piatto Bravo Restaurant Offers A Creative Taste Of Italy

Authentic Italian

Piatto Bravo is a love story blended with a deep passion for traditional Italian food. Visions of creative and authentic dishes have come to life at the new restaurant, located on State Road 7 in the Village Green Center near Trader Joe’s.

“The food is authentic Italian, so our menu goes all the way from Northern Italy to Southern Italy. We cover the entire Italian concept,” owner Dominic Dipino explained.

Dipino and his wife, Chef Maria Amelia Baez, have a background steeped in Italian cuisine. While they grew up in the Dominican Republic, their grandparents, who hail from Italy, instilled upon them a passion for cooking and baking, with inspiration also coming from their parents. “We share the same passion, and we take it personally,” Dipino said.

Using only the freshest authentic Italian ingredients, Baez said it allows her to make innovative creations with hearty flavors.

“It’s very homey. When I thought of the menu, I thought of comfort food — what I liked having with my family at home. The Bolognese sauce, cheese ravioli. I love using Parmesan,” said Baez, who puts her own spin on the cheeses she uses. “I make my own blend of cheese. We grate different cheeses and make the blend here.”

The state-of-the-art wood-burning oven is the centerpiece of it all. Direct from Modena, Italy, it cooks pizzas evenly on a rotating floor at 600 degrees.

“We only work with wood. The perfect temperature is 600 for pizza. It cooks the pizza one hundred percent,” Dipino said. “We have pizzas with dates, goat cheese, caramelized onions.”

The pizzas come with a wide range of ingredients, from the traditional to the unique, like the Argentina pizza, which is topped with pomodoro, mozzarella, skirt steak and chimichurri aioli. Prices range from $10 to $16.

Guests can also create their own, first choosing pizza or calzone, then adding from an array of toppings that include seven cheeses to five different meats, including imported Italian sausage and pepperoni, topped with a choice of aioli. “We make our dough, our sauces and the aioli that go on top,” Baez explained. “We also have cauliflower pizza. A lot of people order it without cheese, just sauce and vegetables. People think it’s not going to be crispy, but it’s thin and crispy, made like every other pizza.”

Baez chose a number of gluten-free and vegan items for the menu, including zucchini pasta, with four dishes to choose from, like pomodoro zucchini noodles, to pesto, Bolognese and gamberoni.

All pasta is made fresh in batches each day on site. One of the most popular items on the menu is the signature dish Rigatoni di Maria, made with truffled cream, shrimp and goat cheese mousse with mozzarella au gratin. Dishes range from $10 to $18.

“We create at home,” Baez said. “We create new things. We live by it. When we’re not working here, we’re cooking at home with our kids.”

The restaurant space has been completely remodeled with a rustic yet modern flair, nestled with outdoor seating next to a courtyard complete with an oversized chess board and a tranquil waterfall. The trattoria seats 97, while the outdoor patio offers eight additional tables.

The couple, along with their developer partners, opened six restaurants where they grew up in the Dominican Republic. When considering opening in the United States, their partners had ties to Wellington’s equestrian community and suggested they expand here. “It was so warm and homey,” Baez said of the community.

The couple met early in life, while in middle school. Baez is no stranger to South Florida. She studied culinary arts and food service management at Johnson & Wales University in North Miami.

Baez then headed back to the Dominican Republic, where she worked under renowned Chef Ciro Casola, who guided her to the Culinary Institute Lenotre in Paris, where she received her specialty degrees in pastries and hors d’oeuvres. From there, she became sous chef at the Mandarin Oriental in Miami. During it all, she and Dipino rekindled their relationship and love of all things Italian. “We make magic here,” Dipino said.

The wide-ranging menu also offers risotto and paninis, as well as a number of desserts, including chocolate souffle and Toblerone mousse. A kids’ menu is also offered, as well as a daily lunch menu. It includes a large variety of homemade pasta, pizza and more offered Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. There’s also a full bar — cucumber martinis and espresso martinis are two of the specialties. Daily happy hour is from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. A full coffee bar offers cappuccino, espresso and more to top off your meal.

Hard work has paid off for Dipino and Baez, who are excited about how well the new restaurant has been embraced by the community.

“Sometimes, I can’t believe it. Believe in your dreams, work very hard. Never stop, even when things get tough,” Baez said. “This wasn’t easy. It took a lot of work and sacrifice. I have the best partner and team. We put a lot on hold. We do it out of love.”

The restaurant is open 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Delivery is available through Uber Eats, Delivery Dudes and DoorDash.

Piatto Bravo is located at 2803 S. State Road 7 in Wellington. For more information, call (561) 841-6983 or visit www.piattobravo.com.

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Oh La La Catering Creates Taste-Tempting Works Of Art In A Wide Range Of Styles International Cuisine

Oh La La Catering Creates Taste-Tempting Works Of Art In A Wide Range Of Styles International Cuisine

Love Peruvian, Spanish or French cuisine? Chef Ely Walter of Oh La La Catering specializes in it all, creating individual pieces of art with every savory bite.

Her creations come from the heart, poured from her soul — all with impeccable attention to detail.

“For me, cooking is a part of my life. It gives me energy and peace,” said Ely, whose husband Gerard Walter is always by her side with support and admiration.

“She is so humble, but she is a star in the kitchen!” he exclaimed.

Married for 17 years, the couple came to the United States in 2009, first living in Broward County, later settling in Wellington. They were attracted to the quaintness of the community, and also drawn by Ely’s affinity for horses. She grew up with many in her native Peru, alongside her mother, who is also an amazing cook.

Ely studied culinary arts for three years, along with communications and philosophy. She loved to cook for her friends and host dinner parties. At the age of 25, she set off for Madrid, Spain. It’s there she learned the art of making paella, known around the world as the national dish of Spain.

“The mothers and grandmothers of friends showed me how to make paella,” Ely recalled. “I was so lucky.”

Madrid is also where she met Gerard, who originally hails from France. She made quite an impression on him with her culinary skills. “She has a sense, an influence,” he said. “I saw what she did in the kitchen. It was precise and well presented.”

Her unique flair comes from constant experimentation. “It’s a never-ending art form,” Ely explained. “There’s always something to learn.”

In 2008, Ely entered her first cooking contest, taking second place in an international culinary challenge, coming in behind the top chef in England, who also was rated in the top 10 worldwide. This brought a realization of the gift Ely truly had. Gerard encouraged her to expand and spread her gift for infusing flavors for others to enjoy. “This is what encouraged her to move forward with her passion,” he said.

In all, Ely worked for 12 years in Spain and 10 in France before moving to the United States to create a new life. She has a number of regular clients in the French communities in Miami, mostly through word of mouth. She’s working to get that same word out around the Wellington area, where she already has garnered several awards, taking Best Dessert and Best Display at the popular Flavors of Wellington event in 2014.

“It’s traditional, sophisticated. A combination of all types of cuisine, from Nikkei. which is Peruvian food using Japanese techniques, to French, Peruvian and Criolla.” Ely said of her wide-ranging cuisine style.

One of her many specialties is creating banquet-sized paellas. She prepares gourmet meals in your home, or on location, whether it be a party or a private dinner. Need a caterer on a yacht? She has done it. She also pairs wine, as well as formal place settings.

Ely’s artistry is apparent. Each food item is like a sculpture with an immense attention to detail. “I love the traditional plates,” she explained. “Sophisticated presentation is very important.”

Some of her popular presentations are Tortilla de Patatas con Chorizo, a potato omelet with chorizo; Camarones al Ajillo con Mayonesa a la Mostaza de Dijon, which are garlic shrimp with mayonnaise and Dijon mustard; and Ensalada de Papas, a savory potato salad made with red potatoes, red onion, celery, red and green peppers, spicy brown mustard, along with vinaigrette, topped with an array of cherry tomatoes, all presented as a slice.

Ely also prepares a barbecue recipe with spareribs called Costillas de Cerdo en Salsa BBQ. She makes many traditional French items, like various types of quiche, beef Bourguignon, as well as salmon dishes and much more.

Her desserts are just as breathtaking, and the flavors are bold. Her Copas de Tiramisu is made with strong coffee, cognac or brandy.

“It’s the best gift, seeing people enjoying my food,” Ely said. “I want it to be a flavor explosion with each bite.”

Also offered are full buffets, cocktails, amuse-bouche, table-served menus, cooking classes and Spanish tapas, along with her signature paella dish.

Trailing back to her family roots, it was her mother who pushed her to cook, and Ely has kept her catering business in the family. She calls her husband her engine, who keeps her going. While her mother has since passed, her 92-year-old father lives with Ely, Gerard and their 16-year-old son, Yannick, a junior at Wellington High School.

That love among all in this family is apparent in their admiration for each other, as well as the heart and soul that spills into Ely’s inspirations. “I feel so emotional,” she said. “My hope is for people to be happy.”

That is what ignites her passion for all her unique and tantalizing creations, with hopes of an exceptional culinary experience for all who partake.

To contact Oh La La Catering, call (954) 707-2266 or (561) 309-9270, or e-mail ohlalacatering@att.net.

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Raja Indian Cuisine Brings A Flavorful Taste Of The Subcontinent To Wellington Modern Indian

Raja Indian Cuisine Brings A Flavorful Taste Of The Subcontinent To Wellington Modern Indian

A passion for flavor with a modern twist on traditional Indian food is the promise of the newly opened Raja Indian Cuisine & Bar, located inside the original Wellington Mall.

Look for the sign with the Golden “R.” Once inside, you’ll find an array of authentic treasures — dishes spanning many regions, draped in layers of bold flavors, and a dining atmosphere that’s warm and welcoming.

“We want you to have an experience,” General Manager Debarghya Bhattacharjee said.

Raja Indian Cuisine celebrated its grand opening on Oct. 30 with a luncheon buffet that was quite impressive.

“Our food is from all over India. We’re not focusing on any one regional cuisine. We have traditional Indian, such as northern India, as well as Indo-Chinese,” Bhattacharjee explained.

Raja’s owners — the husband-and-wife duo of Sunil Kayalchirayil and Sheeba Krishnankutty —call it “modern Indian.”

“Our dishes are not too common — street food, Indo-Chinese,” said Kayalchirayil, who studied the culinary arts in India.

The food is fresh, flavorful and bright with colors. The lunch buffet is a great way to sample a number of types of hot and cold foods. From appetizers, hot soup and salads, to entrees and desserts. The buffet is offered daily, Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at $12 for adults and $9.99 for children. The buffet stays open until 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and costs $14.99 for adults and $10.99 for children.

Buffet items vary daily, but two vegan and two vegetarian dishes are always options, such as Balti vegetables and mixed vegetable Poriyal, as well as three types of salads.

Flavors are spice-filled, from cumin to coriander, cinnamon, cloves and more. A variety of chutneys line the beginning of the table to suit a wide range of tastes.

“These are the accompaniments,” Bhattacharjee explained. “They go with almost all the foods.”

The accompaniments include mint, onion dip, mango and lemon pickle, which tends to be a guest favorite. “We make it fresh, in-house. It’s a long process,” Bhattacharjee said.

Appetizers include the popular samosas, a stuffed, crispy phyllo dough.

“Special items, like the goat Malabar, is from southern India. We use dry-roasted coconut. The Chicken Tikka Masala always has cream in there,” Bhattacharjee described.

Buffet entrees include items such as Tandoori Chicken and Shrimp Biryani.

Desserts are also offered, one hot and one cold, including the Galub Jamun, which are donuts in a warm sugar syrup.

Diners also have a wide-ranging a la carte menu to choose from as well. All dishes are labeled clearly by spice levels of medium or hot, as well as vegan and gluten free.

For starters, there’s the Saffron Pen Salad with radish, onion, fresh fruit, shaved carrots and cucumbers, and saffron mermaldu dressing for $6. The Lamb Shalgam soup is made with spiced ground lamb, poached egg and vegetable broth for $7. Raja’s Mix Sampler includes chicken wings, chicken kabob, paneer tikka and samosa veg pakora. It goes for $12 to get a taste of all those items.

As for entrees, there are a number of curry dishes to several vegan options, with its own section on the menu. Tandoor options include tandoori chicken, jumbo shrimp and more. A variety of Naan breads are available, from butter to garlic, Rosemary olive oil, to ginger honey — all make a savory addition.

The owners’ favorite is one of the chef specials, the Yellow Snapper. It’s cooked in a tandoor topped with curried coconut shrimp. The specials run between $20 and $25.

For dessert, the fig and honey kulfi is made with fig basil sour coulis and raspberry butter, while the mango cheesecake comes with vanilla bean ice cream and red wine rose syrup reduction.

Hot beverages range from black coffee to masala chai, and more, to top off your meal. The dining room is welcoming with deep brown wood booths and tables with gold accents on the seating.

“When you first walk in, this restaurant had its own history and light fixtures. We tried to keep it that way, but we added blue paint, which gives you an energetic vibe,” Bhattacharjee said. “When you walk in, it’s a feeling of family with a large dining table, that gives a homey feeling. In the corner, there’s a relaxing waiting area with small couches and a tea table. We have some elephant pieces from Rajasthan, also pieces from the Buddhist religion.”

Raja also features private party rooms for up to 50 people and meeting spaces for up to 12. The outdoor patio bar is getting a makeover to provide a whole other atmosphere with lots of seating. Dogs are even invited to join their families, with their own special menu to order from.

Also in the works is live entertainment from cultural dancers to sitar music. The owners plan to soon work with the Winter Equestrian Festival and expand the flavors available there.

Meanwhile, guests from Wellington and the surrounding communities are invited to visit the new restaurant for a celebration of Indian food, music and culture.

Look for the golden “R” inside the circle at the far back parking lot. It will greet you for an authentic experience with many happy and tasty returns.

Raja takes reservations, offers carryout and is working with Delivery Dudes and Grub Hub. See their Facebook page for daily specials and upcoming entertainment.

Raja Indian Cuisine & Bar is located in the original Wellington Mall at 12794 W. Forest Hill Blvd., Suite 20, with direct access through the back parking lot. For more information, call (561) 318-5383 or visit www.rajawellington.com.

 

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Ford’s Garage Serves Up Nostalgia Along With Tasty Burgers And More

Ford’s Garage Serves Up Nostalgia Along With Tasty Burgers And More

A modern take on nostalgia drives burger and beer fans to Ford’s Garage, which opened earlier this year in the Mall at Wellington Green. The growing Florida-based chain has more than a dozen locations.

“The history behind the concept started several years ago in Fort Myers. At the time, the owners came up with the idea, because that area was known as a vacation destination for Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone,” Ford’s Garage Vice President of Brand Development Tara Matheny said.

The restaurant’s décor is a step back in time to the dawn of the automobile age, feeding Wellington restaurant goers’ appetites by way of a Prohibition-era filling station. The scene is set from the moment you open the door at the entrance with its gas pump handles, flanked by two retro gas pumps.

Ford’s Garage truly gives a nostalgic feel with its throwback pieces of Americana. Several restored Ford Model Ts fill the 6,000-square-foot space for guests to admire as they enjoy a meal. “Between the history and nostalgia, the concept took off,” Matheny said.

The Wellington location, located just across from the mall’s food court, has taken off at a fast pace since its grand opening in June.

“The feel-good, innovative dining experience is filled with creativity and atmosphere,” said Keith Ledsome, a member of the Ford’s Garage management team. “You look at our nation’s history, and what momentum was behind this car, and that time is truly incredible. So, we’ve been able to develop synergy between the two. Old and new, so it’s exciting.”

The main bar has a Model T hanging as a centerpiece, complete with a working horn and “smoke” that spews from the back. A hand-pounded copper bar is aligned with neon-lit freeze rails, where customers can rest their drinks to keep them cold. Pennies adorn the far wall as a backsplash behind the beer taps.

Craft beer is part of the restaurant’s flair. There’s a selection of 150 beers in all, in homage to the Ford F-150. Even the servers get in the groove by dressing in mechanic-style shirts. “It’s the energy behind the brand and the team, going the extra mile to make it a great experience,” Matheny said.

There are many nuances to marvel at, such as the tire sinks in the restrooms as water flows through gas pumps turned into faucets. The napkins resemble shop-style rags with a hose clamp around them. Barrels serve as garbage cans, as bits and pieces of industrialism dot almost every space, sparking the imagination of both the young and old, to a different era.

While there is an extensive menu filled with salmon dishes, salads and seasonal items, the burgers are where the beef is. All Black Angus, they are served with the Ford Motor Company logo branded on the bun. Customers choose from a selection of the “Burgers of Fame” menu, which are named in recognition of community figures and each have a unique flavor profile.

“There’s a lot of good flavor profiles with the burger hall of fame. They’re a half-pound burger, fresh, never frozen, and they’re hand-pattied,” Matheny explained. “The Signature Burger in Wellington is named in honor of Mayor Anne Gerwig, which includes arugula, fried onion straws, tomato, sweet red onion marmalade and truffle bacon aioli on a brioche bun.”

The American Standard honors local car dealer Al Packer Ford, while the Model A Burger has a fried egg on it and recognizes local Olympian Margie Goldstein-Engle. The Jiffy Burger in honor of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce includes bacon and peanut butter, while the Patty Melt pays tribute to the service of fallen Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Cigo.

The appetizers also turn heads with their presentation. “Our signature appetizer is our jumbo onion rings, which come on a giant funnel tower, a piston, so it’s one more tie-in to our 1920s service station vibe,” Matheny said.

The wedge fries, as well as the secret recipe baked beans, rev up the meal as tasty and popular sides. Desserts include throw-back style milkshakes, funnel cake fries, a brownie sundae and key lime pie.

More than 300 seats between the interior and outdoor patio fill the space, which includes a pickup truck turned oversized table for a large group.

Visit during happy hour from 2 to 6 p.m. and get $3 premium well drinks and $2 off drinks and drafts. The frozen margaritas are extremely popular, as well as the five Ford’s Garage signature frozen spiked lemonades. There are more than 15 frozen drinks in all.

If you like your experience, be sure to sign up for the Motor Club Rewards, a loyalty program that offers a discount for every fourth visit.

Wellington is the chain’s first southeast Florida location. Expansion is planned across the Sunshine State to Daytona, Sarasota and St. Augustine, as well as in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. There are 13 locations currently open with several more under construction.

The Ford’s Garage team is geared up and thankful for the success it has received so far in Wellington, as they continue to mesh the horsepower of the Model T with the power of real horses in the “Equestrian Capital of the World.”

Ford’s Garage is located inside the Mall at Wellington Green at 10300 W. Forest Hill Blvd., near the Patio Verde entrance. Hours are Sundays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. For more information, call (561) 805-3673 or visit www.fordsgarageusa.com.

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The Poke Company Reframes Traditional Hawaiian Dish For Florida Fish Lovers

The Poke Company Reframes Traditional Hawaiian Dish For Florida Fish Lovers

The Poké Company is fast casual food in a build-your-own bowl, balanced with both flavor and texture in every single bite. The concept is basically sushi in a bowl, quick and delicious.

The growing franchise opened in June in the Pointe at Wellington Green. It is run by Alan Cockerham, a Florida native who hails from the Keys. He grew up in his family’s marina business. After studying marine technology, Cockerham worked as an engineer on cruise and cargo ships while traveling the world for a decade before shifting gears. He is now the first franchisee in Florida, aside from two corporate locations in Boca Raton owned by co-founders Seth Shaning and Maximo Cortese.

“I’m very picky with the quality of fish because of where I grew up. There’s no compromise for freshness,” Cockerham said. “I’m third-generation from the Keys. I’m from Islamorada. My whole family is still there. It has all been a very seamless transition, with the handling of fish and seafood. It’s all very second nature to me.”

Poké is a Hawaiian concept.

“Originally, they would take the scraps from less tasty fish, and they’d mix onions, Shoyu sauce, which is the traditional poké sauce, along with a little bit of seaweed. That’s how they’d mask the slightly gamey flavor. That’s how poké was created. It has since been adapted, and the bowl concept was introduced in California. It has become popularized and migrated east,” Cockerham explained.

The Poké Company offers sushi-grade tuna, salmon and steamed shrimp. Fish is locally sourced and remains fresh during the entire transportation process.

The first decision to make is what size bowl and how many proteins you want. “We try to accommodate anyone with allergies, or gluten free, or on the paleo diet. We have a lot of options for that as well,” Cockerham said. “There’s one family that comes in every day. They can’t have soy or gluten, so we give them the unmarinated fish, because our fish is usually pre-marinated, but we have options in the back for anyone with allergies.”

After you decide how many proteins you want, you pick your base — white or brown rice, mixed greens or cauliflower rice. You can mix and match to suit your taste.

“We’re big on tasting before you put it in your bowl. We want you to build the best bowl that you can,” Cockerham said. “We’ll nudge you in the right direction to make sure your flavors are matching up with one another.”

Then it’s time to choose your proteins. Tuna, salmon, spicy tuna and steamed shrimp are traditional poké choices, and tofu and chicken are also available for those who prefer non-fish options. From there, you move on to the mix-ins.

“The proteins get mixed in a separate bowl from the base, which is in a paper bowl. That’s where we create depth of flavor,” Cockerham explained.

Mix-ins include cucumber, sweet onion, jalapeño, edamame, cilantro and hijiki seaweed. They get mixed in a steel bowl with the protein. Then, it’s time to select a sauce.

“This is where we hammer home what we’re really about,” Cockerham said. “The chef and co-founder, Seth Shaning, worked at Nobu for 10 years. He’s classically trained.”

There are three soy-based sauces.

“The first is the company sauce, which is garlic flavored with a bit of a kick. It’s infused. So, the sauce is the base, and we marinate, or infuse, ingredients in them, to create depth of flavor. Everything we do is by hand. It makes a big difference,” Cockerham said.

There’s also the sesame shoyu. It’s a toasted sesame-based soy and is the traditional poké sauce.

“The notes you pick up are a nice sesame oil, fish sauce and coconut water,” Cockerham described. “Meanwhile, the citrus ponzu pairs well with salmon and shrimp with underlying notes of lime.”

After the mix-in sauces, come the toppings — from tempura flakes to crispy onions, wasabi peas to ginger, scallions, avocado and more. There’s an array of topping sauces that follow to bind it all together, such as spicy mayo, eel sauce and avocado lime, which is the most popular.

“We portion everything appropriately so you’re getting a good bite of rice or salad of your base with everything you choose to put on top,” Cockerham said.

The prices are right on point, too. “For the quality of food that we offer, I don’t think there’s anyone who can come close,” he noted.

A small is priced at $7.95, while a regular is $10.95. Chicken bowls start at $5.95. There are a number of drinks to add to your experience, like Japanese bottled sodas and teas, as well as fountain drinks by Stubborn Soda. A selection of craft beers from Cigar City Brewing is also available, as are several wine options.

The Poké Company is sustainability minded, trying to stay away from single-use plastic items as much as possible. All bowls are compostable paper. Lids are Ecoware, which is recycled plastic. The same with the knives, forks and spoons.

For Cockerham, cleanliness is number one. “We have no grease traps, no hoods, no ventilation. Nothing cooking in the back. That’s what’s great about the poké concept. You’re able to keep everything so clean, so fresh,” he said.

For dessert, try the key lime pie ice cream, straight from his aunt’s kitchen.

“My aunt operates out of a commercial kitchen down on Islamorada,” Cockerham said. “We brought on her ice cream, which is just phenomenal.”

The ice cream has been such a hit, it will soon be found at other Poké Company locations. There are currently four locations in all, but there will be eight by the end of the year.

Cockerham, who grew up in the “sport fishing capital of the world,” carefully chose the “equestrian capital of the world” to open up his shop. He plans to get involved with the Winter Equestrian Festival, as well as offer catering services soon, and spread his passion for poké and pairings of flavors to the sea of people in Wellington and beyond.

The Poké Company is located at 10120 W. Forest Hill Blvd. in the Pointe at Wellington Green. It is open every day 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Delivery is available through DoorDash. For more information, call (561) 323-2391 or visit www.eatthepokecompany.com.

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SoBol Brings Unique Creations Stocked With Super Fruit To Wellington

SoBol Brings Unique Creations Stocked With Super Fruit To Wellington

Serving acai bowls packed with flavorful bursts of rainforest super fruit and granola, SoBol is a different take on fast food, and Wellington is home to the first Florida franchise.

“We call it ‘the better bowl,’” said Nick Pesko, SoBol’s director of marketing. “It became so popular on Long Island after our first location opened. People kept asking, ‘Can you open one in my town?’ So, we decided to franchise.”

Wellington resident and New York native Suzanne Madison, mother of four girls, is the proprietor of SoBol’s 37th location. While there are 36 others across the northeast, SoBol’s first Florida home is in the Courtyard Shops of Wellington.

SoBol is a departure from the more typical fast food, and Madison describes it as a great alternative for breakfast, lunch or just an anytime go-to snack.

“My older daughter suffers from food allergies, like gluten and dairy. So, I’m always looking for something that’s not commonly found to eat,” Madison said. “I taught for 15 years in New York working with autistic children, many of whom are on restrictive diets. I feel strongly about the product and wanted to offer a healthy alternative to the Wellington community.”

At SoBol, you’ll get only the freshest of ingredients. “Our granola is gluten free. It’s raw oats, almonds and cashews. So, it’s protein and fiber,” Pesko explained. “The acai has an energy-boosting agent. There’s a really positive feeling you get. It’s gluten free, and vegan and vegetarian friendly. It’s vegan if you take off the honey completely. We’re dairy free. We use no dairy in any of our menu items. We’re traditionally soy, almond or coconut milk, as well as apple juice and acai juice.”

The bowls are also served up fast, making it convenient for those on the go.

“We try to keep it as simple and quick as possible, and it allows us to get you your bowl in what we hope to be two minutes or less,” Pesko said. “That’s our goal every time. So, it’s a quick service, fast-food-style restaurant, but we focus on a healthier alternative to your traditional fast food. Everyone’s looking for healthier options out there.”

The café primarily serves acai bowls and fruit smoothies. “We blend everything fresh daily and carve our fruit fresh each day for our customers, and everything is made to order, so all our bowls are customizable to whatever it is you like,” Pesko explained.

Each bowl starts with two layers of homemade granola and comes with SoBol’s puree. “If it’s the Acai Bowl, it’s acai berry that’s flash frozen that we get shipped directly to us from the Amazon, and then our blend with strawberry-banana and a splash of soy milk, that’s like a thick fruit smoothie. Then on top of that, you get fresh-cut strawberries, bananas and blueberries, as well as coconut flakes and a drizzle of honey,” Pesko described.

What’s different from other concepts, he said, is the way the bowls can be customized. “You can customize that one bowl any way that you like, so if you don’t like blueberry, you can take it off, and add any of our other standard or specialty toppings,” Pesko said.

Specialty toppings include all-natural peanut butter, almond butter and Nutella, as well as fresh-cut kiwi and pineapple.

Aside from the popular Acai Bowl, there are other flavorful options.

The Green Bowl is made with spinach, mango, banana and kale with a splash of almond milk. It’s all blended and layered between SoBol’s signature homemade granola then topped with mango, strawberries, blueberries, also with a sprinkle of coconut and a drizzle of honey.

The Pitaya Bowl features a super fruit with origins in Southeast Asia, Central America and South America. Also known as dragon fruit, pitaya is filled with several antioxidants. It’s blended with strawberries and banana to make a thick smoothie, also layered between granola, then topped with fresh mango, kiwi, pineapple, as well as a coconut sprinkle and honey drizzle.

Aside from the exotics, fruits and vegetables are sourced locally. The bowls come in three different sizes, including a kids’ 8-ounce bowl, up to a super-sized 32-ounce bowl, with prices ranging from $6 to just under $14.

Smoothies are also served fresh. Flavors range from acai, super green and very berry to pitaya plus and a strawberry banana blend.

The intimate café seats about 20, as well as some outdoor seating. SoBol is looking to expand the brand across Florida, including Tampa, as well as Delray Beach and Boca Raton.

Pesko is upbeat on SoBol’s future in the Sunshine State.

“It’s incredibly delicious and invigorating,” he said. “I think it’s what people are looking for to live and lead a healthier lifestyle.”

And for franchise owner Suzanne Madison, opening up shop in Wellington is an opportunity to become entrenched in the community with SoBol’s healthy options, as well as involve her four daughters, ages nine to 27, helping to empower them to do things on their own and showing them that they, too, can do anything they put their minds to, whether it’s for their health or their career path.

SoBol is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. They’re busiest at lunchtime and plan to offer delivery service soon. The restaurant is located at 13860 Wellington Trace in the Courtyard Shops. For more information, call (561) 631-9900 or visit www.mysobol.com.

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New Whit’s Frozen Custard Serving Up Smiles In A Cup

New Whit’s Frozen Custard Serving Up Smiles In A Cup

The newly opened Whit’s Frozen Custard in the Courtyard Shops of Wellington goes far beyond making tasty treats. The husband-and-wife proprietors, Chris and Natalie Mass, strive to bring the community together, while giving back along the way.

“We’d been looking at different markets to expand, and Wellington as a community really matches up with our core principals,” Chris Mass explained. “One of the things I learned early on is that we’re creating more than a customer experience. We’re creating memories.”

The thriving Ohio-based franchise was started by Natalie’s childhood best friend, Lisa, and her husband Chuck Whitman in 2003. The two started franchising in 2008, with expansion to Florida in 2015. Chris and Natalie Mass watched the progress, then decided it was time to open their own custard shop. They started in Stuart, and celebrated their Wellington grand opening on April 27, tantalizing the taste buds of customers with their different take on the frozen dessert.

“The difference between frozen custard and yogurt, first, is the amount of air, or overrun,” Chris Mass said. “Ice cream and yogurt have as much as 80 percent air in it. We have less than 20 percent, so we’re more dense.”

What also sets Whit’s apart from other frozen confection franchises is the small batch approach, using only the finest and freshest ingredients. It’s a daily process that starts about 3 hours before opening each day.

“First and foremost, we make the custard fresh every day,” Mass said. “We make three flavors in small batches. We continuously make it throughout the day, so it’s uber-fresh. We make a little bit, serve it, a little bit, serve it.”

Aside from vanilla and chocolate, Whit’s makes a flavor that changes daily. Along with a wide array of mix-ins, this allows guests to enjoy many combinations of the custard, which is softer than ice cream and firmer than yogurt.

“With less air, there’s a higher butterfat content,” Mass explained. “That’s actually a good kind of fat, so that gives it some of its creaminess. Then, we also use pasteurized, sweetened egg yolks, which makes for a richer version of other frozen desserts.”

The two biggest sellers are sundaes, as well as what they call “Whitsers.”

“Whitsers are where we add the toppings and blend it lightly to mix the toppings in it, but you still use a spoon,” Mass said. “We use the highest quality ingredients only.”

Toppings include fresh strawberries and blueberries, caramel, butterscotch, pecans and many more.

“The Whitmans, who started the franchise, gave us a book of 350-plus recipes for our daily flavors. We rotate new ones, but also make the favorites,” Director of Operations Amanda Bachman said.

The daily flavors run the gamut and include Maple Donut, Key Lime Pie, Bourbon Praline Pecan, Fluffer Nutter Cookie and many more. A calendar hangs on the wall, mapping out each flavor of the day for the month. The flavors, along with their descriptions, are posted on Facebook each day as well, so customers can plan their visits. There also are vegan options, made with coconut milk.

Prices start at $3.75 for a 5-ounce kids’ scoop, to a 22-ounce large Whitser for $8.75. The owners also find it extremely important to give back, including incentive programs and partnerships with schools, with what they call the “Scooper Star Award.” That’s where a student who does a good deed is rewarded with a certificate for a free single scoop, or $2 toward any other menu item.

“It’s for elementary and middle school students where they get a free kids’ scoop,” Mass said. “I distribute the certificates to administrators, free of charge, and I ask them to reward children who are being kind, generous and thoughtful. When they come into the store, we make a big deal out of it. They get to tell us what they did or what their accomplishment was.”

Creating job opportunities for young people is also important.

“We hire as young as 14 to 15. We have shift leaders who are 17 and 18 years old,” Mass said. “It gives them experience in the workforce. I’ve had some go off to college and write me to tell me how it has helped to prepare them for their future.”

Mass also extends discounts to groups within the community. In July, all healthcare industry workers and their families received 10 percent off their total. In August, its chamber members and their families. Throughout the entire summer, anyone who works for the school district gets 10 percent off their bill.

They also offer a loyalty program, where customers earn 10 percent off toward their next visit every five times they check-in. They can bank it until they have as much as 50 percent off. “It’s based on visits, not amount spent,” Mass noted.

Whit’s also features hand-packed quarts sold in their grab-and-go freezer, as well as frozen custard cakes. There’s as many as 30 different recipes that can be custom-made starting at $25. The most popular is the Buckeye Madness, which is made with peanut butter, fudge and Reese’s cups.

Mass and his wife have plans to eventually expand to Port St. Lucie and Jupiter. As for the new location, he is striving to make it a community gathering place for making memories for years to come. “Our goal is not to be in Wellington for a couple of years, but decades, so families can come for generations,” he said.

Open Monday through Sunday from 1 to 10 p.m., Whit’s Frozen Custard is located at 13880 Wellington Trace in the Courtyard Shops at the corner of Wellington Trace and Greenview Shores Blvd., next to Tijuana Flats. For more info., call (561) 855-2500 or visit www.facebook.com/whitsofwellington.

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Meathead’s BBQ Is Now Serving Up Tasty Southern Barbecue

Meathead’s BBQ Is Now Serving  Up Tasty Southern Barbecue

The newly opened Meathead’s BBQ is serving up tasty backyard barbecue straight from the smoker to your plate.

What started as a way to raise money for his kids’ school fundraisers soon evolved into a catering business, turned thriving food truck, serving up savory southern barbecue creations to scores of people craving tender meats. 

Now, those meat lovers can curb their taste buds with beef brisket, pulled pork, ribs, sausage and more at a stationary location. Meathead’s BBQ pit master and owner Marcel Hicks, along with his wife Shay and their daughters, are ready to take your order at their newly opened and much-anticipated Royal Palm Beach restaurant. “I want it to have a backyard barbecue feel, like Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina or Georgia,” Marcel Hicks said.

The corner spot is already drawing a fast and steady business in its opening weeks. It sits just a few doors down from Publix in the Crossroads shopping center at the northeast corner of Royal Palm Beach and Okeechobee boulevards. The scent of the smokehouse leads you there.

Meathead’s BBQ has the ambiance of eating in a friend’s backyard, as picnic tables topped with the company logo are within feet of the counter, and customers, workers and the owners share friendly chat.

“People ask me about the process, so I show them,” Hicks said. “Their smiling faces make me want to do it.”

Hicks has been making people smile with his grilling since he was a child and experimenting with different rubs. That’s when the South Florida native earned the nickname “Meathead.” And he’s proud to show people his craft.

“I smoke the meats in a 72-inch water smoker by Myron Mixon. We’re doing 500 pounds of meat a day just at the restaurant,” Hicks explained.

Meathead’s BBQ officially opened June 1 with a ribbon cutting and wishes of success from Royal Palm Beach Mayor Fred Pinto, who stayed to eat. Hicks is proud to be part of the community and to have his family work alongside him. “I feel so blessed,” he said.

The menu includes meat delicacies from melt-in-your-mouth beef brisket, pulled pork and pulled chicken, to baby back ribs, spare ribs and whole chicken.

“Everything’s from scratch, every day, all fresh. I smoke my brisket and pulled pork for 12 hours. Ribs and chicken for four hours,” Hicks said. “I use a dry rub. Nothing here is injected. What I take great pride in is my brisket.”

The three sauces are key. “I like playing with different flavors,” he said. “There’s the hickory sauce with a mustard inspiration from the Carolina region. The sweet sauce is based on the South Georgia-North Florida area, and then there’s the sweet spicy.”

Down home southern sides include collard greens, green beans, candied yams, and mac and cheese, along with potato salad, tossed salad, cole slaw, grilled corn, baked beans and corn bread.

The price for a half pound of beef brisket is $16, while a combo plate with two sides starts at $17. Family meals include a whole chicken with two sides for $25 and a full rack of baby back ribs with two sides for $32. Pulled pork and pulled chicken sandwiches start at $10 for a quarter pound of meat and one side.

There’s something for every barbecue lover. “The triple plate combo is one of the most popular items,” Hicks said. Another popular option is the fully loaded nachos or fries, topped with beef brisket, pulled pork, boneless ribs or chicken.

Daily lunch specials run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays. A sandwich, side and drink special starts at $8. Customers also gobble up the “Turkey Leg Tuesdays” special.

Several drinks made from scratch are offered daily and include a traditional lemonade, sweet tea and fruit punch. Beer and wine are also on the drink menu, starting at $3.

After making a name for themselves at the Wellington Amphitheater’s Food Truck Invasion and many more events across South Florida, Hicks said that there’s potential for a Jupiter location in the future. That’s another area where they’ve built a dedicated following. Also on the horizon are Meathead’s BBQ’s signature bottled sauces and pit master t-shirts.

For this family, they’re savoring the success of their hard work. This year not only marks a milestone as they open their first restaurant, but for high school sweethearts Marcel and Shay Hicks, they’ll soon celebrate their 25th anniversary — a year that is truly sterling for them.

The restaurant is open Tuesdays and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sundays from noon to 7 p.m. They are closed Mondays. Want your barbecue delivered? Delivery service is offered through Delivery Dudes and Grub Hub.

Meathead’s BBQ is located at 1232 Royal Palm Beach Blvd. in Royal Palm Beach. For more info., call (561) 249-2684 or visit www.meatheadsbbq.weebly.com or www.facebook.com/meatheadsbbqrestaurant.

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