DELRAY BEACH, Florida, October 24, 2015 – Delray Beach, the “Village by the Sea,” is a popular tourist destination and consistent winner of awards such as the most fun small town in America and one of America’s happiest seaside towns. It is a small town with about 64,000 full-time residents – and 62,000 annual visitors – situated between Boca Raton and West Palm Beach.
Unlike its larger neighbors, Delray Beach has maintained its small town feel despite its growing popularity.
The heart of Delray is Atlantic Avenue, home to unique restaurants and shops, which ends at the wide sand beaches of the Atlantic. Delray boasts extensive live entertainment every night of the week, and host almost non-stop festivals during “season,” from October to April.
While visitors delight in all things Delray, many fall prey to visiting only those well-known establishments that light up Atlantic or that dominate tourist magazines. For visitors who want to experience local Delray, following are a few locals-only tips:
Shopping. Atlantic Avenue offers an enormous variety of shops selling Delray Beach memorabilia, Lily Pulitzer clothing, art, and beach-ware. There are several good surf-ish shops at the east end of Atlantic, and other stores sell unique jewelry, new-age gifts, and beach clothing. For locals, there is one surf shop that stands out among the rest: Nomads.
Technically, the shop is located north of the Delray Beach borders in Briny Breezes, but it is worth the trip. Nomads Surf Shop first opened in 1968 and has remained true to its classic surfer roots. The store was founded by East Coast surfing legend Ron Heavyside, who became the largest surfboard manufacturer on the East Coast.
Nomads feels like a surf shop should, and everyone who works there is happy to talk surfing, skateboarding, or just general beach-talk. While you’re there, go next door to Richie’s Seaside Deli for one of the best sandwiches in Palm Beach County. (4655 N Ocean Blvd, Boynton Beach Fl 33435, 561.272.2882)
The Beach. True, tourists generally have little problem finding the beach. Go east. But Delray beach is divided into three distinct sections. If you head straight east on Atlantic, you will hit the most crowded, and most touristy, part of the beach.
During the summer, and especially during holidays like the 4th of July, this section can be jam-packed and feel a bit claustrophobic. It is by far the most popular stretch of Delray’s beach. If you are a kite boarder, a volleyball player or a paddle boarder, head south. The area near Anchor Park (A1A and Casuarina) has volleyball courts set up and paddleboards and sailboats for rent.
The north end toward George Bush Boulevard is a favorite for locals. It is not guarded, and despite the prohibition against dogs on the beach, many locals bring their dogs to this quieter part of the beach. The City allows privately-owned sailboats on this portion of the beach, so you will often see Hobie sailors here setting up “sail camp.”
A word of caution: the north end does not have bathroom facilities or food/drink vendors. The area from Atlantic to Casuarina has restrooms, a few restaurants and soda machines, but your best bet is to pack your own cooler.
Food & Entertainment. Delray is built on family-friendly, so there are few true bars in town that don’t cross the bar-restaurant line (although there are a few, which we will mention in a minute). You can find gobs of all types of live music at a variety of venues on any given day in Delray. Local artists Mike Mineo, Big Medicine, the Flyers, and the Funkabilly Playboys are just a few noteworthy acts.
Restaurants in Delray are plentiful, and there is something for everyone. You can walk up and down Atlantic and try your luck, or you can go for some of the lesser-known local favorites. Here are our picks:
J&J Seafood Bar and Grill. There are a lot of great restaurants in Delray, and at the very top of the list is J&J. Chef-owner John Hutchinson creates gastronomical yumminess six days a week, and is always, always right on target. J&J has amazingly fresh seafood, tremendous oysters, and rich, wonderful sauces.
No happy hours here, because J&J is all about the food. It is, in our opinion, the best meal in Delray Beach. Tina Hutchinson is a warm hostess, Armando shucks the best oysters in town, and Kathleen and Orla are the poster children of the server industry. It is not inexpensive, but J&J is worth every penny.
Top recommendation: Yellow tail with lobster sauce over champagne risotto. Absolutely spectacular. (634 E Atlantic Ave, Delray Beach, FL 33483, (561) 272-3390)
Yama. This Delray gem is tucked away in Pinapple grove, just two blocks north of Atlantic Avenue. If you think one sushi restaurant is just like every other Sushi restaurant, you have never been to Yama. Everything at Yama is special. They have more than sushi, so if someone in your party isn’t a big raw fish fan, don’t let that stop you.
The lemon flounder sushi and the snapper with Asian pear are two of our favorites.
The Yama roll and the Mexican roll are excellent choices if you want to go with a roll instead of sushi. We suggest sitting at the bar and letting the chef choose your selection. (200 NE 2nd Ave #110, Delray Beach, FL 33444, Phone:(561) 266-9929)
Third & Third. The most local of local places in Delray is Third & Third, located at the intersection of NE Third Street and NE Third Avenue. You will have to look twice, because there are no signs, no advertisements, no billboards. Just a blue house-looking building with a parking lot full of cars.
Third & Third is warm and vibrant, with a great bar and plenty of tables and couches. There is always good music and a very local feel. Owner and chef John Paul (JP) Kline has also created an exceptional small plates menu perfect for dinner or late night. It is the quintessential Delray neighborhood hang out.
Even if you don’t live in Delray, Third & Third will treat you like a local. (301 NE 3rd Ave, Delray Beach, Florida 33444, (561) 303-1939)
Beer Trade. Beer Trade is like visiting your cool older brother’s first house, complete with serve-yourself beer on the honor system and outdoor seating that looks like it is made from wooden crates.
Located off Atlantic on NE 4th Avenue, it is usually frequented by locals looking for a good place to relax and have a cold beverage. Beer Trade has an enormous selection of bottled and canned beers (like 300) and also sells wine and soda.
Co-owners Gene Playter and Greg Sanchez have created something truly special in the space. Gene is almost always at the restaurant, and if he’s not, the rest of the amazing staff will take good care of you.
The big surprise? The food is amazing. It might look like a cheetos and nuts kind of place, but far from it. Everything on the menu is exceptional with a gourmet flair. Our favorite: caprese salad with crab and avocado. If it’s not on the menu, they’ll happily make it for you. (145 NE 4th Ave., Delray Beach, Florida, (561) 808-7304)
Bamboo Fire. Right next door to Beer Trade is family owned and operated Bamboo Fire, offering home made Caribbean food in Delray Beach. It is fresh, it is authentic, it is awesome. If you are craving roti, come to Bamboo Fire. The owners are on-site every day – Chef Beverly Jacobs cooks while husband Donald Jacobs welcomes guests.
Their personal pride comes through in every bite of cabrito or jerk pork taco (with homemade shells). The owners’ daughter, “Smiley,” is a server at the restaurant and is will offer a suggestion or two if you don’t know where to start. And she is quite a character. Bamboo Fire is true Caribbean, so don’t expect a quick meal.
Everything is made to order, so it can take some time. Sit back, relax, and enjoy. (149 NE 4th Ave, Delray Beach, FL 33483, (561) 749-0973)
There are two must visit bars in Delray, both uniquely Delray in their own way.
O’Connor’s Pub in Pineapple Grove is a true old-fashioned Irish pub, with great music, friendly servers and an incredible atmosphere. It is usually filled with Delray locals out for a pint and an evening with friends. It has a shuffleboard table which is in use when bands are not performing and it has an outside area.
O’Connor’s does not serve food at night, but does have great sandwiches for lunch. It also regularly hosts some of the best local Delray musicians. O’Connor’s is also one of the last surviving locations that allows smoking inside. (210 NE 2nd St, Delray Beach, FL 33444, (561) 330-0022)
Finally, there is Kevros Art Bar, which is everything that is wonderful about Delray rolled into one artsy, unique location. Like other Delray venues, Kevros has fantastic music and is decorate
d with amazing murals and photographs. It also has an open jam night not to be missed. Owner Kevin “Kevro” Roust is a local artist with a flair for the amazing. As the web site says, “It’s a full liquor bar, but it’s not just a bar; it’s an art space, but it’s not just a gallery; it’s a studio, but it’s not just a place; it’s your place, an oasis in a world gone mad.” The mostly locals crowd is welcoming and warm, and trust me, you will see things at Kevros that you will se nowhere else in Delray. (Kevros Art Bar, 166 SE 2nd Ave, Delray Beach, FL, 33444, http://www.kevroart.com/)
So the next time you come to Delray, make sure to visit at least a few of the local secrets. They are guaranteed to make it worth the trip.