The Grove Restaurant Opens in Delray Beach; Chef Worked for Grant Achatz in Chicago at Alinea and Next

There is certainly no dearth of places to eat in downtown Delray Beach. Thai, Italian, French, sushi, organic, farm-to-table, fine dining, or counter service ... A new restaurant opening in the area almost isn't even news.

But recently, just off the main path of Atlantic Avenue on Second Avenue, in the area known as Pineapple Grove, a notable small restaurant quietly came into being amid the bustling downtown scene. The Grove's co-owner and chef Michael Haycook says he and his team chose the small location for a reason.

Haycook said, "We had to be off Atlantic. We're very small -- 26 seats inside and

outside -- but since we're so small, we have freedoms that larger

restaurants don't. We are concentrated on doing things with some great

ingredients but with a modern twist. We wanted to open early, soft, and


Haycook is no newcomer to either the restaurant business nor the South Florida food scene, nor is his partner Paul Strike - who handles the font of the house. Haycook was sommelier at both DB Bistro and Suma in Miami and Strike worked at Area 31. Their resident chef, Meghan O'Neal learned her stuff from the hottest chef in Chicago -- she worked at Grant Achatz's restaurants Alinea and Next, where she was chef de partie and sous chef. Indeed, the team intends to incorporate some of the innovative techniques and molecular gastronomy tricks that Achatz is famous for, although Haycook was mum on specifics for now.

They opened quietly in early November. Haycook calls the cuisine "contemporary American" but he hesitates to classify at all, not wanting to box himself in.

"We do a complete overhaul of the menu every week - four appetizers, four entrees, and four desserts. The prices range 9 to $14 for appetizers, $20 to $26 for entrees, and about $8 for desserts. We have beer and wine. We offer eight different beers and those change frequently - all small craft beers. For wines we have about 100 labels, some esoteric varietals.  We just try to keep it fresh every week."

Haycook says they are looking to do a bigger grand opening in mid-December with the first of many wine pairing dinners. Though he promises the meal will be several courses --  all on the adventurous side with interesting ingredients and techniques -- he remained vaguely mysterious and declined to pin down a date.

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