West Palm and Lake Worth Versus Wilton Manors: Help Decide Which Dining Scene Is Better

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Clean Plate Charlie is pitting our eight best dining areas against one another in a March Madness-style bracket. Later this month, we'll crown a winner -- an undisputed champion city that can boast to have the best food scene in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Below, read up on number-three-seeded West Palm Beach/Lake Worth and number-six Wilton Manors and then vote below on which city should go on to our semifinal round.

West Palm Beach and Lake Worth: The Tattooed, the Trendy, and Hidden Haunts

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Rocco's Tacos owner Rocco Mangel runs a mainstay of downtown West Palm Beach.
If the South Florida dining scene were actually a family reunion, West Palm Beach would be your approachable-yet-cool young aunt. The one with the owl tattoo on her shoulder and a collection of sake bottles she's picked up from around the world -- a hint of edge but generally someone who gets along with most everyone around the table. Lake Worth, meanwhile, is that offbeat uncle who used to work a 9-to-5 in the big city before moving to an artist's colony, where he learned how to make his own beer out of cornhusks. Both are fun people to hang out with and certainly a welcome break from that uptight rich cousin with his overpriced
haircut or your flashy brother who can't stop looking at his smartphone long enough to interact with the rest of the fam' (you can decide for yourself what/where these familial archetypes represent).

Taking a gander first at the West Palm Beach branch of this family tree, let us consider the range it affords. On the one hand, you have the reliable and crowd-pleasing CityPlace, anchored with megapopular chains and a smattering of more interesting and independent guys. Looking at the big picture and venturing outside of those bounds -- and Lord knows you should; there is more to this city than the sanitized shopping 'plex -- you'll find snapshots of a scene that has much more to offer: tattooed waitresses serving craft beers and plates of hash at 1 a.m. at Howley's; tequila, tacos, and loud-as-hell music at celeb-chef hangout Rocco's Tacos and Tequila Bar; or the sushi star power hidden in a strip mall at Sushi Jo.

Looking next at Lake Worth, you find a rarity in a landscape primarily dominated by strip malls and big boxes -- an actual, walkable downtown that seems as if it grew organically and with character. Best of all, there are places you'll want to visit: Sink your teeth into tender house-made ravioli at Rustico Italiano Restaurant, throw back a drink with the crowd at the Cottage, or tear into a soft pretzel and Sauerbraten with elbows propped up on the heavy wooden tables of Little Munich. Off the beaten path, you'll find treasures like Sheila's Famous BBQ and Tacos Al Carbon, proof that if you dig through the family album long enough, you're bound to strike some version of gold. - Tricia Woolfenden

Wilton Manors: The Drive's Flash and Fashion, and a Few Unpretentious Foodie Finds

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Cruise the Drive for the glitz, or get it all at the Manor.
The Wilton Manors food scene, like the gay community that sustains it, is flashy and vacuous at first glance but filled with quiet smarts, charm, and beauty that reveal themselves only upon investigation. The flash is all along Wilton Drive -- massively popular bars like Sidelines and Georgie's Alibi, which are successful due less to any mixological prowess than to the fact that people like to go to places people like to go to, and restaurants where food is strictly beside the point. The aforementioned Georgie's sells sandwiches and salads mostly because people need something to blunt the impact of the bar's huge, deadly, and deadly cheap Long Island iced teas. The lovely Thai-sushi joint Galanga remains this city-on-an-island's hottest place to wear trendy clothes, and next door, Rosie's serves burgers that never seem to lose their popularity on a packed lanai.

For a really good burger, head up the street to Tropics. It's not so busy, and it serves the kind of fussy, not-quite-fine-dining that your grandparents might have had in mind when they hit the town in the '60s. It's excellent for all that, and if it's not fashionable, it's consistent. The same regulars have been going for 30 years or more, digging the congenial company and the bartenders' generous shots. And if lasagna or beef bourguignon won't satisfy, it's a short northerly walk to Acapulco Lindo, a dimly lit, unpretentious Tex-Mex joint with famously fine soup. And beyond that, on a side street, is the pearl of Wilton Manors dining -- tiny Le Patio, where you can enjoy South Florida's best French peasant food prepped and served by two lovely European lesbians.

Wilton Manors is a walking city, and if you explore beyond the tasteful glitz of the Drive, there's nothing finer than leaving your car in one of the hood's (rare) parking lots and venturing aimlessly through the scattered throngs. A drink at Matty's, a meal at Tee Jay, another drink at Boom, a coffee at Java Boys, dessert at one of the Drive's multiplying gelato shops -- or you can get them all at the Manor, the vast nightclub/bar/restaurant/bakery where the management has somehow made room for fashion and flavor beneath a single roof. - Brandon K. Thorp




Click here for a full list of cities in our Food Town Throwdown.
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5 comments
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Lpk
Lpk

What happened to South Florida Seafood Restuarant?  An old but great place for good seafood and a lot of it.

TonyB
TonyB

Ummm, would like to point out that Georgie's has won best burger for the past 2 years in the Riverwalk Trust's Burger Battle.  Their food is hardly "beside the point".

Justaparr8head
Justaparr8head

How can you compare them? Lake Worth is an historic city on the water...there is no comparison to the ambiance and the restuarants and night life..it's all here and walking distance too.

amber2stu
amber2stu

In Lake Worth, also try Havana Hideout for awesome, homemade tacos and salsa, right on Lake Ave., and nearly next to the Cottage, South Shore for their fine bar fare, lovely backyard garden and rockin' bands!

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