What is aioli? A straightforward definition will tell you that it's a provençal sauce made of garlic, olive oil, egg yolks, and lemon juice. Most people call that just a fancy word for mayonnaise. But you'd be wrong. There's so much more love that goes into a fresh aioli than your average jar of Hellman's.
When you venture into Aioli, the one-year-old breakfast and lunch spot in West Palm Beach, you get the sense that this place — like its name — is more than just your average sandwich shop. And that's thanks to its owners, husband-and-wife team Melanie and Michael Hackman.
A part of the Palm Beach culinary scene for more than a decade, Hackman says he worked his way through some of the area's most prominent kitchens on the Island during the course of his 14-year career. A self-described master in the art of French and European fare — from sauces, stocks, and pastas to preparing fish, meats, and pâtés — Hackman cooked for hotel restaurants including the Breakers and the Four Seasons, as well as Cafe L'Europe.
Several years ago, Hackers says he decided to step away from the hectic schedule of being a full-time chef to become what he calls a "chef-trepreneur" and restaurant consultant. Last year, he fulfilled a lifelong dream to open his own establishment with Aioli, an industrial-chic eatery and juice bar that caters to the local lunch crowd.
The Hackman's opened Aioli in September 2014, located off the southernmost stretch of Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach in an unassuming spot in one of the city's many shopping plazas. Aioli, however, brings a tranquil departure from the norm, situated in a spacious end unit that faces the street.
Open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Aioli offers a short list of breakfast and lunch options, which include salads, sandwiches, and a list of vegetable and fruit-based sides that change daily. The house favorites are the turkey and brie sandwich (thick-sliced fresh roasted turkey on toasted walnut-encrusted bread with cranberry aioli, arugula, and melted brie, $10.75) and roast beef and caramelized onion (house roasted beef with cheddar cheese, homemade horseradish, and caramelized onions on ciabatta, $10.75). Sandwiches come with a choice of one side — usually a daily vegetable prepared with a light vinaigrette or simple dressing, like the crunchy-fresh chickpea and squash medley pictured here, flavored with fresh dill and a hint of lemon juice.
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If you're thirsty, there's no beer, wine, or liquor — but there's a damn good fresh-squeezed lemonade, sometimes spiked with seasonal fruit. The lemonade has acquired such a following, customers buy it by the bottle to bring home.
"We specialize in casual, locavore foods and gourmet to go," says Michael, who also cooks dinners to-go and provides large group catering services. "Why make a reservation somewhere when you can have the best table in town right at your own home?"
Aioli is located at 7434 S. Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach. Call 561-366-7741 or visit aioliwpb.com.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.