South Florida's best attributes are its waterfront and beachside bars and restaurants. Whether they're on the Intracoastal Waterway or steps from the beach and ocean, they offer everything you could want in a vacation getaway — but, lucky for you, are located right in your own backyard.
Spots like Guanabanas and Sailfish Marina specialize in seafood. Some of them, like Benny's on the Beach, have survived hurricanes. Still others, including Boynton Beach's Two Georges and Banana Boat, draw crowds for their live music lineups, potent cocktails, and lively atmospheres.
In Palm Beach County, there are plenty more options for waterfront dining. Here is our list of the best spots to sit back and sip a cold beverage, order up some grub, and enjoy the view. This list includes everything from a casual happy-hour spot overlooking a marina to a fine-dining establishment with an upmarket menu and an Atlantic Ocean panorama.
10. Prime Catch
700 E. Woolbright Road, Boynton Beach. Call 561-737-8822, or visit primecatchboynton.com.
If Prime Catch doesn't snare you with its water views and polished interior, its skillfully prepared food will do the trick. Prices are expensive yet reasonable for on-the-water dining, and the food delivers. Such appetizers as corn-meal-dusted oysters and pan-seared shrimp will get your dinner off to a rousing start. Follow that with a choice from one of the most varied fish menus in South Florida. Grilled, fried, broiled, or sautéed, the fish is fresh and filleted on premises — and prepared with care by chef John Calandro. Perfect for when friends and relatives visit and for happy occasions.
1095 Florida A1A, Jupiter. Call 561-406-2210, or visit facebook.com/utikibeach.
Last August, Jupiter welcomed a new waterfront establishment to its already upscale-casual waterfront dining experience. This new establishment overlooks the water, with plenty of outdoor seating. Need some shade? A number of tables sit under an extended roof — yet are still outside on the spacious deck overlooking the nearby docks. Start off with Mrs. Peters Fish Dip, a seared ahi tuna wrap with avocado and mango; or the Island BBQ Shrimp Flatbread. In addition to fresh seafood and island-inspired cocktails, the largest draw is the view, which — day or night — offers an uninterrupted panorama that includes the Jupiter Lighthouse.
8. Waterway Cafe
2300 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens. Call 561-694-1700, or visit waterwaycafe.com.
For decades, sunshine-seeking crowds have flocked to the dock-like outdoor decks at Waterway Cafe in Palm Beach Gardens for food and drink with a water view. Drinks and seafood come at decent prices, and the outdoor floating bars are a hot spot to drink piña coladas and rumrunners while watching boats cruise past. Here, happy hour is Monday through Friday and starts at noon. Go for Sunday brunch, when adults can indulge in an omelet station, carving station, and full breakfast menu for $15.95 per person, with $10 bottomless mimosas or $6 bloody marys.
7. Sailfish Marina
98 Lake Drive, Palm Beach Shores. Call 561-844-1724, or visit sailfishmarina.com.
Just over the Blue Heron bridge that leads to Singer Island, you'll find Sailfish Marina, a restaurant located at the edge of the water with a view of the Intracoastal Waterway and just a stone's throw from the Palm Beach Inlet. Come the weekend, it's the place to be on a beautiful afternoon. Show up during the week, however, and it's just as grand: On Thursdays, the restaurant attracts hundreds of people along the nearby docks for a sort of "dock party" that includes live music, food, arts and crafts, and — of course — a beautiful view. The splendid setting's only challenge is parking, which is tight, and you often have to walk the nearby neighborhood streets to get there from the public parking lot a few blocks away, but it's all worth it. With a recently redesigned interior and a new bar and plenty of outdoor seating to watch the sunset, this is one of the best waterfront restaurants around. Sailfish Marina also offers one of the area's most fish-forward menus, and the bar program offers all the usual Florida-style favorites. Go for a lunch, brunch, or dinner and feel like a sight-seeing tourist for a day.
6. Old Key Lime House
300 E. Ocean Ave., Boynton Beach. Call 561-582-1889, or visit oldkeylimehouse.com.
This pastel-hued waterfront structure was built in 1889; the restaurant didn't come around till a century later. Old Key Lime House is a huge draw for tourists and locals who frequent the Chickee-hut bar on the water and come for its seafood by car and boat. The island-themed eatery is known for its Caribbean flair with foods — shrimp gazpacho and coconut fish fingers are typical starters, but clams, fish dip, and peel-and-eat shrimp make for a bar menu or small meals. Think mergarita chicken with a Key lime beurre blanc, island-style mahi, and coconut shrimp. Expect Florida — not Maine — lobster tail served with a mango butter. The place rocks on weekends, with boaters and beachgoers coming in for drinks and apps and staying till the wee hours to hear the band. Expect a wait for dining tables indoors on weekends in season. And don't ask for separate checks — they don't do them — and don't tip if you're more than a party of six — it's included. But save room for the signature Key lime pie.
5. Tides 41 Restaurant
200 E. 13th St., Riviera Beach. Call 561-899-4844, or visit majesticprincesscruises.com.
This floating restaurant offers dockside dining at its best — on a boat. When hundreds of Palm Beach County residents bemoaned the loss of nearby Tiki Waterfront Sea Grill in 2013, the next best thing set up shop just few feet away aboard the Majestic Princess II docked at the Riviera Beach Marina. In the summer of 2014, Tides41 became the area's only floating restaurant, offering dockside dining for lunch, happy hour, and dinner Tuesday through Thursday. The menu boasts a variety of seafood, appetizers, signature cut steaks, burgers, salads, and desserts. Also an official part of the Majestic Princess Cruise line, the ship docks during the week for a casual waterside eatery and bar that — come Friday, Saturday, and Sunday — also sets sail, taking guests on sunset dinner cruises.
4. Benny's on the Beach
10 S. Ocean Blvd., Lake Worth. Call 561-582-9001, or visit bennysonthebeach.com.
This longtime Lake Worth establishment has lots going for it. For starters, it's located directly on the city's pier, with oceanfront views. It's got an amazing brunch menu. And it's equally well-known for its cocktails. Changes have been afoot lately, however; when the spot reopened after the pier's renovations in 2011, the restaurant brought in new executive chef Jeremy Hanlon, also a partner in the popular beachside eatery, and he's been mixing a lineup of gourmet-style dishes along with the restaurant's classic favorites for close to a year. Luckily, none of our favorites came off the menu, and that includes a list of eggs Benedict variations. The menu offers several options, including the California: fresh-sliced avocado, tomato, and crispy bacon.For years, Benny's on the Beach has been serving the Lake Worth locals. Today, the landmark establishment is best-known for its breakfast, brunch, and lunch menus. Sometimes folks get rowdy, and the people-watching — old sunburned guys in Speedos and hotties in bikinis — is supreme. Here's to hoping Benny's keeps its same beach-shack charm, killer views, and creative comfort fare.
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960 N A1A, Jupiter. Call 561-747-8878, or visit guanabanas.com.
Guanabanas opened in 2004, originally nothing more than a surfer hangout where you could grab a sandwiches on the go. Five years later, operating owners Jon Sullivan and Chad VanBoven have transformed Guanabanas into one of Jupiter's most coveted restaurants. No longer a place to grab simple meals on the run, today the menu offers an abundance of dishes made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients and delivers one of the best dining experiences in Palm Beach County. The restaurant's outdoor, tiki-style seating has been carved into a jungle-like grotto overlooking an inlet waterway just west of A1A. Here, a stellar Caribbean- and Latin-inspired menu is executed by executive chef Vinny Trupia, who has mastered sourcing Florida seafood and produce to make each dish sing with flavor and color. That includes menu favorites like Floridian fritters, the restaurant's sustainable take on the conch fritter. Your trip to Guanabanas wouldn't be complete without a tropical drink or cocktail from a bar that reflects a similarly exotic theme. The bar offers a wide array of Florida beers, as well as a rotating selection of specialty craft brews. There are also more than 30 rums from around the world and a section devoted to unique tequilas. Try the white and red sangria, then grab a pastel Adirondack chair overlooking the water and know this is why you live in South Florida.
2. Hudson at Waterway East
900 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-303-1343, or visit hudsondelray.com.
A new waterfront eatery and bar — one of only a few overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway in downtown Delray Beach — opened late last year, known as Hudson at Waterway East. Located across from Deck 84, the new spot garnered whispers for months as it prepared to open in the space formerly occupied by the city's historic Old Calypso restaurant, a longtime seafood establishment that closed in 2013. Owner Sam Bonasso (and partners Joe McCullough and Rita Wilson) designed a stunning, 7,000-square-foot venue that offers the perfect outdoor waterfront space for dining and socializing. Hudson's menu serves urban comfort food with a focus on all-natural meats, hand-crafted pasta, local produce, and a variety of fresh-catch fish. The beverage program follows all the current trends, highlighting craft and local beer, small-batch spirits, and a wide assortment of wine. Here, guests can order modern renditions of classic and original cocktails and barrel-aged spirits. The drink program gives a nod to the name: The restaurant has partnered with the Hudson whiskey distillery, the first pot-distilled whiskey produced in New York post-Prohibition. That makes it the perfect place to cheers your worries away.
1. 3800 Ocean
3800 N. Ocean Drive, Riviera Beach. Call 561-340-1795, or visit the hotel website.
At this upscale restaurant inside the Palm Beach Singer Island Resort & Spa, giant windows encircle the dining room and offer the kind of oceanside view that inspires Instagramming the scene with hashtagged declarations like #paradise, #staycation, and #ballin. The food is no less picturesque. Chef Dean Max — a seafood guru and fresh-ingredient devotee who runs Marriott's sister restaurant 3030 Ocean in Fort Lauderdale — helped launch the place, and now the team of chefs that runs 3800 Ocean emphasizes local ingredients and partnerships with a variety of Florida producers. Adventurous diners should try the "kitchen table" experience, where five guests sit at a kitchen-side table and are treated to a menu that's never repeated. The direct oceanfront views don't hurt either.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.