West Palm Beach quietly becomes cool

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For my sister-in-law’s birthday, I booked four of us with the West Palm Beach Food Tour.  Despite positive reviews, I wasn’t expecting much.  My perception of the area, from past visits, was not great.  On the west side you had CityPlace (now Rosemary Square) which is basically an over-the-top outdoor shopping mall.  Boring. The rest of the town, my memory told me, was run down and not at all a place I’d choose to go.  On the east side is a bridge to the island of Palm Beach, which is a whole different thing.  But the food tour reviews were great, so I figured we’d give it a shot.  We were very glad we did.

A walkway below a bridge which connects West Palm to Palm Beach.
Street art is now everywhere, including under the bridge.

The city of West Palm Beach has resurged as a cool city.  Now, instead of retired shoppers on the one hand and poverty on the other, we found a city dominated by hipsters.  Our time was spent getting to know some of the awesome food choices now available downtown, but the town clearly also has a vibrant art and music scene.  The city’s hipster-coolness was confirmed when we returned the next day to find that the area which had hosted the farmer’s market on Saturday now hosted a Vegan-fest on Sunday.  No, I’m not personally vegan, but it’s cool.

Our tour guide, Jonathan (pictured above), was excellent.  And the food, at every stop, was awesome.  We were lucky to do the tour on a Saturday when the Green Market was running.  This made it possible for Jonathan to include additional stops at the market, with Ganache Bakery chef Jamal Lake as a highlight:

Here’s a very brief rundown of the rest of the tour:

We loved Hullabaloo’s food:

And Hullabaloo’s outdoor seating:

We tried to return to Hullabaloo for brunch the next day, but decided to pass on the hour long wait.

Dr Limon served up awesome ceviche.  Yes, it’s a chain restaurant, but a good one…

The Colombian proprietor at Salento Coffee offered us delicious Tinto coffee and pandebono (a Colombian cheese bread).  We’ll definitely be back!

We finished up with an incredible cubano sandwich and specialty cocktail at the Blind Monk.  We liked this so much that my wife and I returned the same evening for happy hour and tried almost everything else on their small food menu.  Everything was delicious.

And here are some pics of street art we found along the way:

Where to stay?

I haven’t yet stayed in a West Palm Beach hotel (I never wanted to before), but now I’m excited to see two attractive options opening soon.  A hotel called The Ben is already taking reservations for March.  It is a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel which is their boutique-ish brand.  I’m especially excited about this one because it’s both very close to the inter-coastal waterway and right near the action downtown.  Another not-yet-open option is Canopy by Hilton, which also looks awesome.  A couple of options available today are a Hyatt Place and a Residence Inn (a Marriott property).

If you go, keep in mind that this would not be a typical Florida beach vacation.  Palm Beach’s public beach isn’t far, by car, but you can do better if your goal is to spend each day in the sand and sun.

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