By Eric Barton
Out in front of the Delray Beach restaurant and bar Boston’s not a single parking spot is available. They’ve long ago been claimed by sunbathers who spent the day on the sand and patrons now crowding happy hours. But then, parking won’t be needed for this trip, because this is the most optimal way to do Delray’s dining-and-drinking mecca: by chauffeured limo.
Our night starts in the back of a Maybach, offered for the night by the luxury brand’s owner, Mercedes-Benz. The Maybach is a stretched sedan full of appointments. The rear seats extend like beach loungers, sterling silver champagne flutes hide in the armrest, and the floor mats are soft, plush and snow white.
The Maybach pulls up in front of Boston’s, where Saturday-night drinkers and diners have crowded the outside tables to catch sunset’s light show. We head upstairs to Boston’s fancier sister restaurant, 50 Ocean, and its views of the sea. This is one of those restaurants seemingly unmindful of trends and oblivious to ups and downs, because the food is prepared classically – and exceptionally. We order the lobster roll, and it was everything a lobster roll should embody – the freshest meat and a buttered bun.
As we eat, the Maybach is double-parked. We easily pick it up outside Boston’s to head to our next spot. Sure, Delray has been built with walking in mind, with sidewalks that make Wynwood and FAT Village jealous, but then it’s hot. And there’s a Maybach available.
Maybe in other places, the Maybach’s midnight-blue body, sculpted upward slowly from nose to tail in one graceful bell curve, would turn heads. But this is a city of Lambos and McLarens, so it blends into the traffic on Atlantic.
We head to Honey, a place that has been many establishments over the years. It was recently taken over by the always-busy 32 East. Now the restaurant’s famed chef, Nick Morfogen, is upping the club vibe with a menu of charred tuna and ribs and rigatonicini in veal Bolognese and bar snacks like always-changing spiced nuts that you won’t stop eating. The place feels like South Beach from when you were younger, with long-and-low couches in the roped-off VIP area and backed leather barstools that form a wall of beautiful people. The deejay is playing old-school Motown, and the bar is putting out modern cocktails, with, for instance, salt and pepper and a sprig of rosemary on top of the celery juice cocktail. It’s good too, no great, with pepper that sticks to your lips and a kick that magically makes you want more.
The Maybach comes in handy for the few humid blocks over to a quieter section of north downtown Delray to 3rd and 3rd. If you’re a local, it may already be your favorite spot. There’s no sign. The darkened windows of what looks like a low-rise apartment complex give no hint of the lively crowd inside. There’s a Cheers-style bar running in a circle and tables scattered around. The artwork is eclectic. So are the customers, from the guys who just got off a fishing boat to the done-up girls ready for a night out to the couples hitting the two-for-one wine. We like 3rd and 3rd immediately. The small plates confirm our thinking. They include the super-tender sliced skirt steak over sweet boniato mash and seared snapper with skin so crispy you can hear your fork snapping through it.
No car is needed for the short walk to the next big hotspot among many hotspots, El Camino, around the corner from the forever-popular gastropub, The Office. The low tables are packed with people and plates full of Mexican-style street corn and brisket quesadillas and Southern California fish tacos. But it’s the bar, which breezes between inside and outside, that’s overflowing. The classic margaritas, after all, are three bucks all day. Kiwi and smoked pineapple and spicy avocado make their way into kicked-up margaritas. At midnight the bar switches to a special late-night menu.
That’s the simple truth about Delray these days. As some entertainment districts thrive and die and then thrive again, Delray continues to kill it. Bars need happy hour menus and then regular dinner offerings and then different late-night specials, because the crowds are never leaving.
Now, a long drive back home awaits. We call the Maybach’s driver. He picks us up along Atlantic, where cars are crawling. In the back of our car, Charlie Parker is playing, the seats are extended, and the stars are dotted along what looks to be the world’s largest sunroof.
This, in the back of a Maybach, is truly how to do Delray.
If You Go
The Luxury Limo
Limo and car services abound in South Florida, but for the luxury way to Delray, splurge for a supercar. Several companies offer hourly rentals with drivers behind the wheel of an Audi A8, Maybach or Rolls-Royce. Expect to pay about $400 an hour.
3rd and 3rd
Deliberately off the beaten path and hard to find, 3rd and 3rd is busy from happy hour to late night thanks to the drink specials and fantastic small plates. Good service, casual and friendly.
301 NE Third Ave., Delray Beach, 561-303-1939, 3rdand3rd.com.
Far from the trendy part of downtown and from the trends that often guide new concepts, this fish house is the upscale version of Boston’s. Surf and turf and seared duck breast come with a side of second-story ocean views.
50 S. Ocean Blvd., Delray Beach, 561-278-3364, 50ocean.com.
El Camino Delray
Tacos and quesadillas inspired by Mexican street food compete for attention with margaritas ranging from inexpensive to the crazy concoctions with avocado and smoked pineapple. It’s tucked away into a small side street spot, but the vibe is always set to fiesta.
15 NE Second Ave., Delray Beach, 561-865-5350.
This is what happens when a good chef takes over a nightclub spot that could never seem to hold on to an owner. At Honey, it’s 32 East’s Nick Morfogen who designed a sharable menu for people crowding low-slung couches and tables in the VIP area.
16 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach, 561-270-7187, honeydelray.com.
Power and safety features and all of the latest Mercedes tech abounds under the sweeping hood. But this car is about the back seats, where most of its owners will spend their time stretched out on loungers and equipped with fold-away trays, high-def TV and more. Champagne for the tucked-away flutes sold separately. $190,275.
Mercedes-Benz of Coconut Creek, 4250 N. State Road 7, Coconut Creek, 954-406-1167, mbcoconutcreek.net; Mercedes-Benz of Delray, 1001 Linton Blvd., Delray Beach, 561-291-6095, mercedesbenzofdelray.com; Mercedes-Benz of Fort Lauderdale, 2411 S. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, 954-949-0623, mercedesbenzoffortlauderdale.net; Mercedes-Benz of Pompano,
350 W. Copans Road, Pompano Beach, 954-644-4832,