By Jan Norris
The locals were waiting to say “welcome back” to John G’s when it reopened Sept. 10 in its new Manalapan site in Plaza del Mar, and already the restaurant is settling in.
“Things are going so smooth,” said Wendy Yarbrough, one of the “kids” of founder John Giragos. “They are so excited to have us here. I got a beautiful bouquet from Evelyn & Arthur (dress shop) yesterday.”
But there were anxious moments during the move, especially from brothers Keith and Jay Giragos, the cooks. “Keith for one was worried about our customers. ‘What if they don’t come back?’ or ‘What if they don’t like the new place?’”
Their fears seem put to rest now that the famous line that forms down the sidewalk is back — with most of the diners longtime customers.
These diners will find much that’s familiar in the former Callaro’s Steakhouse space, including the same menu served at the beach. Reupholstered chairs and freshened tables, plus lighter décor brighten the space, but there’s “John’s Room” in the front window — a few tables outfitted in the classic red leatherette, with photos of the casino restaurant and John G. himself looking over his diners.
“Sure, we miss the ocean — who wouldn’t miss the ocean? But hey: How about that parking lot! It’s free!” she said, making reference to the meters that caused a good deal of angst for many diners on the beach.
“I’m really pleased. It’s just been unbelievable,” she said. “I think dad would like it.”
They’re open for breakfast and lunch, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. A few nights of dinner could be in the works, but for now, Yarbrough said, they’re just settling in and “doing what we know best.”
John G’s arrival with its hordes of customers will have a good deal of company in its new home at Plaza del Mar.
This month, The Gym in Manalapan, a two-story fitness facility, will open with a limited number of memberships available, according to Stephanie Young, marketing director for the plaza. The Gym is the concept of area residents Pamela and John Murphy.
Jim O’Keefe, general manager, said the 8,700-square-feet gym features state-of-the-art exercise equipment downstairs, and a private area upstairs for one-on-one personal training, nutritional counseling and baseline testing. Yoga, Pilates and sculpt classes will be offered, and in good weather, done outside on the terrace — a quiet garden area overlooking the waterway.
Also in the plaza, a number of clothing and accessories retailers are opening, Young said, including Sea Stallion Traders, a menswear store selling fine clothing as well as casual resort wear.
Angela Moore, noted for its collectible beaded bracelets, bright casual dresses and hand-painted home accents and ornaments, moves into the old Evelyn and Arthur annex shop space.
Evelyn & Arthur reopens its popular annex in triple the space of its old shop.
A café serving lunch and dinner is planned for the center courtyard, and a live stage will feature a variety of performances by a panoply of acts, such as stage theater, Broadway and band music, and an illusionist. Entertainment is planned at least once monthly, with two night performances and one matinee scheduled.
A grand opening is in the works for January, once the community is back, to unveil the revitalized center, Young said.
“We’re trying to bring back the Plaza del Mar that the community told us they want — all the shopping, entertainment and restaurants,” Young said. “It’s such a beautiful plaza.”
A possible trademark infringement of the name Art, Beats and Eats from Royal Oaks, Mich., helped the Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative decide to change the name of its Atlantic Avenue event to On the Avenue.
The inaugural event, scheduled for 6:30-10:30 p.m. on Oct. 6, will center on the city’s centennial celebration.
The Centennial Committee has created a “stroll through time,” with bands representing different decades, and performers in period costumes. On each block of the avenue, vignettes will portray cultural and historic events in the city, including photo exhibits and the opening of a 1986 time capsule.
It kicks off with a mayoral parade and cutting of a birthday cake, old-fashioned games, entertainment and a scavenger hunt.
It’s combined with an Oktoberfest, with German music, food and beer with five restaurants set up in the center of the avenue.
Admission is free; the Oktoberfest beers, a vodka tasting, and restaurant offerings are priced individually. Get tickets to these online at www.ontheavedelraybeach.com.
Diners can get in on the trendy Dining in the Dark dinners — SoLita in Delray Beach’s Pineapple Grove is offering the blackout meals every other Wednesday (Oct. 5 and 19), or by private party booking.
“I thought it was just a gimmick at first,” said Steven Dapuzzo, owner of SoLita. “I went to one in Fort Lauderdale at Market 17, just to see what it was about. I was really surprised. It’s really true what they say: Your food tastes different if you can’t see it before you eat it. You don’t have a preconceived notion of what you’re eating, so the flavors are much bolder and you can pick out individual tastes.”
Diners are seated in SoLita’s lounge — totally blacked out with curtains once the meal starts. No wristwatches with lights or mobile phones are allowed. Servers wear night-vision glasses. “They look ridiculous, right?” said one.
Once everyone notes any foods they are allergic to or can’t eat, a five-course meal is presented course by course, set on plates arranged directly in front of the guests to prevent as much spillage as possible.
Wines are served in rocks glasses. “Stems are dicey,” Dapuzzo said. An extra napkin offered serves as a bib — a good idea, since using hands instead of forks is encouraged.
“Chefs eat with their fingers, right?” said Anthony “Radar” Risoli, SoLita’s chef.
Diners aren’t given a menu but encouraged to guess the foods, such as beet salad, grilled snapper or shrimp SoLita with house tartar sauce. A few “ringers” are thrown in. A night we visited, tender ostrich and chewy faro, an Italian grain, stumped most.
With no lights, conversation flows readily among the guests — and gets silly. A soundtrack of ’70s dance music started once the room darkened. “Are we supposed to dance in the dark, too?” one wondered. “Maybe pole dancing?” another quipped.
The menu will vary, Dapuzzo said, since many Dinner in the Dark diners want to return with friends — many in our group immediately booked the next dinner. “We’ll keep it interesting,” he said.
The dinners are $59 for five courses (a four-wine flight is $20 extra). Reservations are required; call 899-0888.
Lori Durante of the Museum of Lifestyle and Fashion History is launching a monthly culinary tour to pair with her narrated bus tours of historic Delray Beach. Food enthusiasts will travel by bus and on foot to historic areas of Delray and Boynton, and make at least two restaurant stops along the way.
“We announce the restaurants the day of the tours,” Durante said. Some of the restaurants on the list of possible visits include Gol! and the Sundy House in Delray Beach and Hurricane Alley in Boynton Beach — all three in vintage buildings.
The three-hour tour picks up and drops visitors at the Boynton Beach Mall. They are scheduled on the third Saturday of the month at 11 a.m.; cost is $20 for adults 18 and over; children under 18 are free.
For information, call 243-2662 or visit the website at www.delraybeachbustours.org.
SpoonFed, the new farm-to-table restaurant from chef Glen Manfra, is scheduled to open early this month where his short-lived appropriately named Pop-Up was. The Atlantic Avenue restaurant, formerly the Atlantic Ocean Club, has been transformed with wood floors and tables, and opened up as a dining space. It will be open daily year-round, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner serving an American menu sourced locally when possible.
Area greenmarkets return this month. The Delray GreenMarket on Fourth opens for its season Oct. 15 at its home on Southeast Fourth Street, where the road is blocked off for vendors selling fresh produce, prepared foods, vinegars, oils, handmade cheese, fish dip, golden crabs, sauces and more. Freshly made butter and raw milk, which is labeled “not for human consumption” due to USDA regulations, are available. Every week, says Lori Nolan, greenmarket director, there’s a quasi petting zoo on site, with a wide variety of live animals brought by the farmers and ranchers to show where the foods come from. Opening day will feature live entertainment and other activities. The market is free, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In Lake Worth, the renamed Lake Worth Farmer’s Market, Waterside returns to the Intracoastal location Oct. 15 at the northeastern foot of the Lake Worth bridge. Director Peter Robinson has a number of special events planned for the market, including several market brunches, to benefit area nonprofits. “They were really popular last year, so we’re doing more this year,” he said. Market vendors sell gourmet baked goods, grass-fed beef, Florida seafood, fresh produce, herbs and plants, jewelry and a number of prepared foods. The market is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Ocean Avenue Greenmarket opens its season with a new name — CCC’s Green Market, under the auspices of Community Caring Center of Boynton Beach. This market is open daily, with the Secret Garden Cafe, a produce market and an Urban Farming Project. On Tuesdays, Gratitude Tuesday $5 dinners return — find out about these meals by getting on the email list: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Pumpkin Patch arrives Oct. 15. Call 368-4261 for vendor information or youth group volunteer opportunities.
— Jan Norris is a freelance writer, find her at www.jannorris.com.
Thom Smith is on assignment.