For months, the sign in the window at 517 Clematis St. has promised the coming of a new establishment for downtown West Palm Beach, the hint of wood-fired fare, charcuterie, artisanal beer and craft cocktails.
This Friday, all questions over what that means will be answered with the grand opening of Hullabaloo, the latest gastropub concept from South Florida restaurateur Rodney Mayo. Taking the place of The Lounge, Hullabaloo is the latest sophisticated watering hole for the oft-forgotten half of West Palm's downtown strip.
The concept at Hullabaloo focuses on "craft everything," Mayo told Clean Plate Charlie. A word that's thrown around a bit too much these days, it's an idea that -- at Hullabaloo -- goes one step further than well-picked microbrews, artisanal fare, boutique wines and hand-crafted cocktails. Here, even the coffee, being sourced from small-batch roasters, will have a that specialty element.
Like Mayo's other gastropubs, including the French-inspired Tryst in Delray Beach and Asian-themed Kapow! Noodle Bar in Boca Raton, Hullabaloo will also be serving a refined selection of small plates, here Italian-themed with things like charcuterie, wood-oven fired pizzas and handmade pastas -- something the entire stretch of Clematis has yet to offer.
According to managing partner Jon Elu, who ran Mayo's The Lounge for the past 15 years, the restaurant's name holds no particular meaning.
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Inside, the decor is minimalist and clean, New York City loft meets Little Italy. The 1,700-square-foot space features a glossy, white-washed brick wall to the left, dotted with circular red and black leather booths paired with white marble tables. To the right is an expansive bar with plenty of seating to encourage both drinking and eating. It's also where you'll find the restaurant's open kitchen, with a wood-fired stone hearth as a focal point.
The wood stove is also the heart of the menu, used to cook many of the dishes prepared by executive chef Fritz Cassel, including the fire-grilled pizzas. Be sure to snag a spot across from the exposed prep area, which doubles as an intimate chef's tasting area, and offers an excellent view of the kitchen at work.
Additional seating can be found out back, as Hullabalooo shares the communal outdoor patio with Mayo's neighboring establishment, Longboards, the surfer-themed New England-style seafood and raw bar that opened in July 2011.
The bar serves up dozens of craft beers and microbrews both in the bottle and on tap. There's also over a dozen hand-crafted cocktails with ingredients and flavors as colorful as the music legends they are named for. Small-batch bourbons, rum, vodka, tequila and gin team up with fresh muddled herbs, bitters and spices like star anise, cinnamon and cloves to make various concoctions like the Roy Orbison, Kurt Cobain, Freddie Mercury and Janis Joplin.
"We don't even have a walk-in cooler. It's more like a reach-in, which means I don't have any other choice but to cook with all fresh ingredients," Cassel told Clean Plate Charlie.
As a result, Hullabaloo will be running daily and weekly chalkboard specials, many of which will highlight charcuterie, fire-roasted "pizettes," and handmade pastas topped or filled with seasonal ingredients.
The restaurant's opening menu includes several salads, a variety of smaller sharing plates and a few meat and seafood-based entrees. It begins with "fresco" items like an heirloom tomato and housemade buratta salad, or house-cured fennel salmon served with toasted flatbread and a soft-poached egg ($12 to $16).
Next up are "pintxos," the Spanish version of bar snacks served here as the house fire-toasted almonds seasoned with garlic and rosemary, charcuterie plates, flame-roasted marrow bones with orange marmalade, or fire-roasted Brussels sprouts doused in bacon aioli and topped with candied pine nuts ($6 to $14).
Cassel expects mainstay dishes will include a braised duck ravioli served with calamari, grilled asparagus and lemon crema, a zingier version of sour cream ($22). Another favorite: the cheese-less white clam pizza seasoned with thyme and arugula on housemade dough ($14).
Larger plates offer plenty of Northern Italian meats and seafood, like the pan-seared bronzini with polenta, or a roasted pork and porcini risotto accented with bacon and fire-charred Brussels sprouts ($19 to $26).
Still craving a bit more flavor on Clematis? Don't worry.
"We need more restaurants on Clematis St.," said Mayo, who has plans to re-open his sushi and cocktail den, The Lounge, across the street on the second-floor space next to Respectable Street, with the possibility of a "craft" coffee bar below. "There's not a lot of places for foodies in downtown West Palm Beach. I want the 500-block to change that."
Hullabaloo will be open seven days a week from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. for the next several weeks for dinner and late-night dining, and will begin opening at 11:30 a.m. daily for lunch by the end of February.>For more information visit the restaurant Facebook page, or call 561-655-9747.