Who leaves a successful, established restaurant to rescue a historic, dilapidated house and start a new business from scratch -- in a city no one identifies with any sort of dining or nightlife scene?
Chrissy Benoit, former chef-owner of Havana Hideout in Lake Worth, who has already tasted success serving hungry customers in South Florida. And she's ready for more: Since selling the Hideout to former employees, Benoit's moved south to open the Little House in Boynton Beach.
Benoit, who has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, just finished working with the Boynton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency after taking over the renovation of its historic 1930s Ruth James Cottage, restoring 800 square feet of Dade County pine from floor to ceiling, then moving the whole darned house a few miles away to 480 E. Ocean Ave. When she heard news that the house was being given away to whoever pitched the best business concept, it was a project she couldn't refuse. She won the contest, and a year later the final product is a tiny home transformed into a bright, cozy eatery with an approachable menu meant to celebrate Old South Florida.
Benoit knows real pleasure can be found in some old-fashioned, hometown cooking. As a result, the debut menu is full of wallet-friendly dishes that include salads, snacks, main plates, and dessert, all touching on childhood favorite recipes -- some comfort food, a few Southern gems. Each is given offbeat touches, and there are dishes to please vegans and the gluten-free crowd too.
"It's just a bunch of yummy food," said Benoit. "I want this menu to always be creative. You're not going to find these dishes, this way, anywhere else."
Her favorite dish at the moment: a vibrant pickled beet salad ($6) made with local summer beets so tender that they melt on your tongue. She pairs it with fresh cilantro and toasted walnuts and dresses it all in a brown sugar-infused vinaigrette on a bed of baby arugula.