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Restaurant Reviews

On Becoming a South Florida Regular

There are three types of regulars, though they're not mutually exclusive. There are those who patronize a place because their friends own it and hang out there. Take the crew that's often at Laser Wolf, who dated/went to high school with/are in the same social circle as the people on both sides of the bar.

The second type of regular has found a menu, cooking style, and price point that resonates.They've honed in on the chef or a bartender who takes care of them. They might bring their friends here. They might have parties here. Or they might come here three times a week after work and sit in the same chair. Yet this regular is more remote from the staff and other customers than the first.

The third type is the one who lives a stone's throw from a place. These are the most fair-weather regulars if they move quite a bit. Or else they're not, if they're rooted to a home for a long time. This is a relationship of convenience.

I was reminded of this when I ate at the Checkers Old-Munchen pop-up over the weekend, the place that's staged at Diner by-the-Sea as the original Pompano location is rehabbed after a March fire.

While talking with Old-Munchen owner Matt Moore, a white-haired guy in a black shirt blazed into the shop, kind of flustered and out of breath.

"Find the place?" Moore leaned back on his stool and greeted the man, whom he clearly knew. "It

took me two days, but I finally did." The man kept getting lost

and would turn around to return home, frustrated. "Grab a seat." said

Moore. "I'll take care of you."

It struck me that this guy missed his local so much that he'd go two towns

out of his way to find this temporary location. He was in good company,

since half the place was filled with Pompano regulars. Matt pointed out

clusters around the 30-seat shop.

This is a different scenario from the one at Trattoria D'Angelo,

the subject of this week's review, where I went with friends and sat out

on the deck. Sure, Angelo Elia has quite a following, with five

restaurants and a stand-out name in this area's

restaurant scene.

Yet on the back porch at a table of four, I was one of several tables

filled entirely with visitors. We were all new. Despite this, service

didn't waver; it was great. Yet the back patio isn't where the regulars

hang out. Like a lunchroom cafeteria, this area is marked for tourists

and visitors. The bar and the tables closer to the kitchen? Those are

for regulars.

Meeting the regulars is one of my favorite benefits of this job. It has

allowed me to meet scores -- perhaps hundreds, by now -- of the people who

live here, find out what they do, and learn why they call a restaurant or bar a home

away from home. They have helped me get to know South Florida more than

anything else in my job.

This week's Wall Street Journal dedicates a column to The Regulars, one in particular who spends $4,000 a month at his local. In the article, they're defined as people who visit a place at least three times a week. "Regulars are everything in our business," says a coffee-shop owner.

Restaurateur Danny Meyer of Union Square Cafe and handful of other well-regarded places, talks of the need to balance regulars and visitors. "You need fresh blood, because, look, regulars die. They divorce. They move. They become regulars at other places. Things happen."

Looking for a place to become a regular? If you're a Delray resident,

consider becoming one at Trattoria D'Angelo, since the food, drinks, and

service are delightful.

If you've already got a seat somewhere with your name on it, what's your place, and what's the draw?

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Food Critic
Contact: Melissa McCart

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