Rabbit tostadas. Gator sausage. Wild boar tenderloin. They're all on the menu -- or have been -- at Coolinary Cafe in Palm Beach Gardens, which opened in March.
Tim Lipman, the 32-year-old chef/owner, and his wife, Jenny, are the cool kids behind this hip 47-seat eatery. Lipman has an arsenal of standards -- starters, sandwiches, salads, and main plates -- that change seasonally and offer a little more flavor than your average menu. What's most impressive, however, is that he changes his specials menu twice daily.
"We changed the menu daily [at Little Moir's], and having to wrap your head around the idea of putting out 10 to 15 new dishes two times a day -- that's tough," Lipman told Clean Plate Charlie since making the decision to leave the Little Moir's establishments to open his own kitchen in the Donald Ross Village shopping Center in Palm Beach Gardens.
These days Lipman limits daily custom creations to a soup ($3-$5), and a few variations on sandwiches ($8-$12), main plates (around $13 for lunch and $20 for dinner), and desserts ($4-$6), all presented alongside his standard seasonal menu. The end result is representative of the Coolinary motto: food that is honest, fresh, simple and refined.
A Florida native and resident of Abacoa, he is also steadfast about product sourcing, buying as much as he can close to home: produce from The Peddler in Juno Beach, milk from Daikin Dairy in Myakka, honey from McCoy's in Loxahatchee, and eggs from Lake Meadow in Ocoee. And what he can't buy local, he grows himself in community gardens his team has established nearby.
Lipman, who has been cooking since he was a teenager and trained at Palm Beach's Lincoln Culinary Institute, doesn't confine his food to a single concept or theme. Rather, he and his team of chefs -- many of them former Little Moir's employees -- take inspiration from their surroundings to create the day's menus. For example, he says, "One day I came into the restaurant and an Outkast song was playing,
talking about 'fish and grits.' So I made a curry shrimp and grits dish
Unlike the menu, which is largely experimental and colorful, the restaurant itself is clean lines and neutral and muted palette of grays, greens, black and light wood tones, "so patrons can focus on what's really important -- the food and the company they are with." You'll find plenty of color on the menu, however, where housemade sausages, short rib burgers and waffles are just some of the many foods you'll find tweaked wit special ingredients for an extra dose of character.
Lipman is most excited for the winter harvest, a time
when Florida produce is at its best, he says, and in abundance. He's already thinking about offering alligator on the menu again, and was experimenting with wild boar sausage when we arrived.
Some diners, he admits, have trepidation about trying the unusual meats, but he wins them over. "People always bring friends with them that aren't too experimental," said Lipman. "But, every time, they always leave happy."
He offered Clean Plate Charlie samples of some of his signature dishes, including:
Boneless southern fried chicken ($13 for lunch/$18 for dinner), served with a grilled lemon and prepared with coleslaw and fresh-pressed jalapeno cheddar waffles:
Fried chicken and waffles at Coolinary Cafe.
His signature starter, rabbit tacos ($11), is currently being served as a tostada, and is chock full of early fall vegetables -- radish, carrot and yellow squash. That will change, however, as the dish continues to feature "whatever is fresh from the garden."
Rabbit tostada with local seasonal vegetables.
Desserts are dressed-up comfort foods, like the vanilla panna cotta ($5.50), made here with fresh green figs drizzled with local honey, and a few dots of strawberry and blueberry jam.
Wash it all down with one of nearby Tequesta Brewery's craft beers, always on tap alongside a rotating selection of microbrews. Also available: boutique wines and housemade lemonade, hand-pressed daily with whatever fruits and herbs the kitchen has on hand. Below: a fragrant watermelon basil variation, served in a mason jar with chucks of watermelon bobbing along the rim.
Coolinary Cafe in Palm Beach Gardens.
The Coolinary Cafe is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., serving lunch and seating dinner at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Only two reservations for parties of six or more are taken each night. If you want a seat, be sure to get there early and reserve a table for larger groups.