Where to get hip in Palm Beach

3/1/2017, 5:35 p.m.
At first glance, the words "Palm Beach" and "hip" might seem like strange bedfellows.
or more than one-third of Americans, the cost of a vacation will be one of their largest expenses in the coming year, according to Wells Fargo’s recent “How America Buys and Borrows” survey. Digital Vision - ThinkStockPhotos.com

At first glance, the words "Palm Beach" and "hip" might seem like strange bedfellows.

There are still plenty of prim restaurants that empty out by 9 p.m., a nod to the city's reputation as a well-to-do retirement community. And now there are political crowds heading to the new Weekend White House two miles away at Mar-a-Lago.

But there's also a burgeoning food scene in downtown Palm Beach that's drawing Floridians from Jupiter to Boca. Locals are getting into new and exciting contemporary art venues, online companies doing pop-up stores and haute couture duds for under four figures.

It may get even busier in town when a sleek train service called the Brightline debuts this summer, shuttling travelers between nearby West Palm Beach and Miami.

Still, locals and visitors might not be so eager to rush out of town to their glitzy neighbor to the south. Here's why.

Where to chow down

Buccan (350 South County Road), the American tapas restaurant, gets much of the credit as the buzziest establishment in town. But it's actually its sister restaurant, imoto (also at 350 South County Road), which doesn't even have a sign, where those in the know go to dine.

With the vibe of a Japanese speakeasy, serves top-notch, inventive nigiri (delicate slabs of rice topped with raw fish and wood-fired vegetables). At the bar, the chef -- if you ask -- will serve diners omakase style, a tasting menu of surprising small bites.

A chic Mediterranean restaurant on the top floor of the Esplanade shopping complex, Costa (150 Worth Avenue, #234) opened in January and is the perfect spot to recover after scouting out endless floors of high-end retail. Excellent agave-sweetened margaritas, an open, airy bar and unpretentious wait staff and vibe are just the tonic.

Luca Moriconi, the 35-year-old chef at Jove Kitchen & Bar (2800 South Ocean Boulevard) in the Four Seasons is challenging the "bad hotel restaurant" stereotype with contemporary Italian food served in a sleek atmosphere. One of the best Italian restaurants in South Florida, much of the produce is sourced from a nearby farm.

The kale and ricotta stuffed pappardelle is life-affirming, as is the roasted white chocolate mousse made by pastry chef Bashar Al Shamali.

Renowned Canadian chef Laurent Godbout's first restaurant outside of Canada, Chez L'Épicier (288 South County Road) opened in Palm Beach in mid-2015. He takes his traditionally haute cuisine casual at this laid-back bistro. The avocado tartare is not to be missed, but reservations are recommended on the weekend to enjoy it. Chez L'Épicier also serves a discounted -- not a word usually heard in Palm Beach -- happy hour.

Where to shop, shop, shop

While shopping in Palm Beach can feel like a who's who tour of luxury brands, smaller boutiques from independent and lesser-known brands are emerging. In November, Marco Cimmino (209 Worth Avenue), a 35-year-old Neapolitan, opened his eponymous store on Worth Avenue. He handpicks all of his clothing from Italy, some of which he designs himself, like purple and blue sparkly alligator sneakers. (They sell out quickly.)