Over the past 18 months, the restaurant's cofounders have worked to transform the space (previously occupied by Pampas Grille and, before that, McCormick & Schmick's) into a custom-designed establishment offering Autry's unique perspective on Southern American regional fare.
Autry, a North Carolina native who spent close to a decade working with dozens of South Florida's fresh food purveyors from fishermen and farmers to local artisans, says her main inspiration has been to use consciouslysourced ingredients while embracing the traditions of American cuisine.
"This project, from every aspect, is about regional cuisine," says Autry. "Over the years, the idea of farm to table has been overused and often abused. Really, that's how every chef should be thinking — you should always be trying to source local and support the people around you whenever possible. But, with the reality of being a 300-seat restaurant, for me that isn't realistic. Instead, I source as much as I can regionally, which means going further into the Southeast from Louisiana to North and South Carolina to find the seasonal ingredients I need."
As a result, the Regional Kitchen & Public House is very Southern-inspired, adds Autry, who will be cooking alongside chef de cuisine Sam Horrocks. The menu features a wide range of dishes, from fresh Florida seafood to hearty, homestyle fare representative of Autry's 15-year culinary career that also earned her a spot as one of New Times' Ten Best Chefs in Palm Beach County.
Take a detailed look at five of Autry's favorite dishes from the Regional Kitchen & Public House's opening menu:
5. Pickled Shrimp.
"Thanks to my Southern roots, I grew up eating a lot of pickled shrimp," says Autry of the simple preparation that can be found from the Atlantic beaches of Florida all the way to the bayous of Louisiana. While it's a great summertime dish, the annual shrimp run happens around the state of Florida at the beginning of winter and runs into spring — a time when locally caught shrimp are most bountiful. The dish at the Regional will feature such shrimp served chilled and seasoned with a house Old Bay spice blend and complemented by sweet onions, roasted tomatoes, avocado, and radish.
4. Tomato Pie.
"This is a pretty Southern thing, basically like a tomato sandwich inside of a pie," says Autry. "But I'm excited about it because it combines my two favorite things: tomatoes and cheese." The pie begins with a savory pie dough created by the Regional's in-house pastry chef, Sarah Sipe, whom Autry has been working alongside for the past seven years in one capacity or another. Together, the two have created a number of from-scratch items that can be seen across the menu, including the tomato-and-cheese-stuffed pie made using regionally sourced tomatoes, sharp cheddar and fontina cheeses, and caramelized onion married together with "just a touch Duke's brand mayo." Autry calls it the perfect sharing starter.
3. Florida Seafood Stew.
"This dish was inspired by the Florida red chowder that hails from Northern Florida," says Autry. "I did a lot of research on Old Florida cuisine, and this has become one of my all-time favorites." The Manhattan-style chowder is popular during the winter months, when Florida farmers are already harvesting fresh tomatoes, crisp celery, and sweet carrots which are pureed to thicken the broth in place of cream. At the Regional, they're simmered along with the coast's bounty, including Florida shrimp, cobia, and Sebastian Inlet clams.
2. Lemon Meringue Tart.
"Sarah [the pastry chef] and I worked together on putting together a dessert menu that would give people a number of different options to indulge," says Autry. "We knew we wanted to do some smaller desserts, so we created a section that's called 'Just a Smidge' — two- or three-bite desserts that don't leave you feeling stuffed." While the lemon meringue tart (pictured above) offers a larger portion with a side citrus salad and rose sorbet, the duo's hand pies — which will change seasonally according to what's ripe and fresh — are even smaller. For the opening menu, the featured selection is a celebration of the end of summer, a small pie you can cradle in the palm of your hand rife with peach and mango.
1. Deviled Crab.
"Growing up in the mid-Atlantic and coastal South, the local seafood place always had a deviled crab on the menu," says Autry. "The dish reminds me of summer vacations with my family, and I knew I wanted to have one on this menu." The Regional kitchen uses Florida blue crab for the dish, and — like a twice-baked potato — the crab meat is removed from the shell and mixed with a pickled celery remoulade, then stuffed back in before serving. Autry says to think of the dish as a "deconstructed crab cake," given a final topping with a classic torched Béarnaise sauce and crispy chopped herb gremolata.
"It’s been an amazing opportunity creating this menu that combines the influences of Florida living with recipes inspired by my Southern roots," says Autry. "After almost two years in the making, deciding every detail from top to bottom, I couldn't be more excited to finally share it with everyone."
The Regional Kitchen & Public House. 651 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach; 561-557-6460; EatRegional.com.
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.