Oh Phyllis G, Riddle Me a Riddle
Ten thousand food critics can't be wrong. Seems like everybody who's ever written a word about cuisine in South Florida has fallen under the spell of Phyllis G's Enigma (2717 N. Federal Hwy., Delray Beach 561-243-6377). "Culinary adventures await," blathers the Palm Beach Post. "Amazing..." crows the Sun Sentinel. "Deserves to be crowded every night." Gentlemen of the press, this genie is here to tell you: Your wish is granted. But just like in the fairy tales, you have to be careful what you ask for.
Phyllis G's has been open for a little over a year. And it doesn't take reservations. Thus, we found ourselves, not long ago, cooling our heels in the place's little bar, wondering if we'd regain our good sense and bolt before some table of geezers finally screwed up the will to vacate. Naturally, we were desperate to know what the fuss was about: why snowbirds flock to Phyllis G's like Central Park pigeons to Wonderbread, squeezing into the parking lot around this converted gas station with their Benzes and Caddies.
A perusal of the menu only deepened the mystery. Chicken caesar? Veggie burger? Philly steak and coconut shrimp; calamari and chicken pesto penne? Garlic bread, mozzarella sticks? The only menu less inspired is over at TGI Fridays. Still, we thought, it ought to be possible for this amazing kitchen to wave a wand over the ubiquitous Bahamian conch chowder and induce ecstatic reviews. No doubt Phyllis' calamari would leave her competitors weeping over their inferior plates of flash-fried squidlets. And if the only dessert you're serving is "Adita's Cuban flan," it's going to voodoo the local pod-people into cravings they never knew they had. Right?
"Is our dinner on the house?" some codger was screaming in Brooklynese accents. "Or do you think you could bring me my bill?" Nearby, a table of four fully grown adults was waving a carafe wildly for a sangria refill, chanting "Wine, wine, wine!"
It was going to be a long night. And indeed, nothing we ate or drank at Phyllis G's had the magical power to shorten what seemed a centuries-long wait, or turn the clientele from horses' asses into swans, or spin those paper napkins into cloth ones. In fact, when all was said and done -- the so-so sangria quaffed, the caloric calamari consumed, the South Beach snapper sniffed at, and the steak pizzola pried free from its Chef Boyardee-esque mound of spaghetti -- if I've had a more forgettable meal in the past year, I've forgotten it.
There was no magic to our bill either -- the cash demanded was hard and cold. The real enigma at Phyllis G's, we thought, was why any two people would wait in line to spend almost $80 for what amounts to bar food.
Call me the Wicked Witch of the South. I'd rather stay home and brew my own toads.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to South Florida dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.