When our beloved iconic South Florida restaurants swap ownership, find new leadership in the kitchen, overhaul menus -- even redecorate -- the changes aren't always welcome.
But luckily, at Benny's on the Beach in Lake Worth, all the recent changes seem to have been for the better. And a lot has indeed changed since the long-standing breakfast and lunch spot reopened after the pier's renovations in 2011. Most recently, management announced veteran chef Jeremy Hanlon as a partner and executive chef of the popular, beachside eatery.
Benny's on the Beach has been serving the Lake Worth community for more than two decades, opening its doors in 1986 and giving patrons what is quite possibly one of Palm Beach County's most spectacular oceanfront dining locations, at the foot of the Lake Worth Pier. Today, the landmark establishment is best-known for its breakfast, brunch, and lunch menus -- as well as its extensive cocktail menu -- both favorites with locals and tourists alike.
Despite the success of the current menu, Hanlon has become a driving force behind the restaurant's most recent evolution toward a more elevated service and food program; he is overseeing all culinary and restaurant operations alongside partner and Benny's owner Lee Lipton.
To date, Hanlon's work has brought him around the world, cooking for establishments in cities like New York, Chicago, and Palm Beach. In South Florida, Hanlon cut his chops with acclaimed chef Daniel Boulud and was part of the culinary team at Boulud's flagship restaurant in Manhattan as well as Café Boulud in Palm Beach. Most recently, Hanlon honed his skills abroad at Michelin-starred restaurants in Spain and France.
Since arriving at Benny's on the Beach in January, Hanlon's goal has been to revamp the menu using his refined technique and classical French training. To do so, he's decided to incorporate a series of new dishes that will be featured as specials over the course of the next few weeks. To decide which specials make it onto the new menu, he's asking patrons for their help.
Over the next few weeks, Hanlon will be presenting six new dishes on several special menus. Each dish, priced $8 to $20, will offer a few breakfast and lunch options, and diners are asked to give their input using comment cards to help select which dishes will make it onto the new menu, said Hanlon.
"Already we've had really great feedback, and we've still got about eight more weeks to go and about 20 dishes," Hanlon told Clean Plate Charlie. "Everyone is excited to be seeing new dishes and getting a chance to help select what stays."
Standouts from the first "Fearless Favorites" menu -- which debuted last week -- include the Banana Bonanza, a stack of fresh-baked banana bread prepared French-toast-style, then stacked with sliced banana, powdered sugar, and whipped cream cheese. There's also Hanlon's take on the pork roll with the Jersey Boy sandwich, a thin-sliced Taylor pork served with three eggs over-easy and melted American cheese on a fresh-baked sub roll. The Maple Bacon Explosion is nothing more than dessert disguised as breakfast: vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, brown sugar, maple syrup, and bacon served as a milk shake or sundae.
"My thought process, coming from a fine-dining environment and classical French training to a casual setting, is to keep it simple," said Hanlon. "Good food is all about using the right technique and quality ingredients. Here, we're on the beach, so our goal is to deliver the freshest ingredients, with some new flavor combinations people might not be familiar with. It doesn't need to be complicated, and you don't need to spend $40 to have an amazing meal."
Benny's on the Beach will be offering several more special menus over the next ten weeks; to help trial new dishes, simply stop by the restaurant for breakfast or lunch -- and be sure to ask your server for a comment card.
Benny's on the Beach is located at 10 S. Ocean Blvd. in Lake Worth. The restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Visit www.bennysonthebeach.com, or call 561-582-9001.
Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.