Two of the best restaurants in the country live in Delray Beach – and a third lives in West Palm Beach – if you believe this week’s Yelp rankings of its Top Restaurants in 2022.
While we’re loathe to dignify yet another national website claiming to know our restaurants better than we do, in this case, the Yelpers are right, even if their choices are a bit head-scratching.
Wine Room Kitchen and Bar, a wine-and-charcuterie wonderland on the touristy Atlantic Avenue crawl, ranked No. 31 on the list, with Yelp highlighting the venue’s dizzying lineup of 2,500 wines, 80 varieties of cheeses and meats, full dinner menu, retail shop and side speakeasy bar that, indeed, functioned as an actual speakeasy in the 1920s. The 8,500-square-foot restaurant, whose wine program is overseen by general manager John Bates, features a novel-length menu ranging from Prime New York strips to a cava-brined double-cut pork chop.
A charcuterie board offered at the Wine Room Kitchen & Bar in Delray Beach. The space is a combination retail wine and cheese shop, wine tasting room, bar, speakeasy and restaurant, with a secluded dining room in the rear. (Mike Stocker / South Florida Sun Sentinel)
In particular, Yelpers raved about its Enomatic dispensers, a self-serve system offering tastings in 1, 1 ½ and 5-ounce pours, unlocked with plastic cards bought out of the front wine shop.
Another Delray Beach institution down the street, Dada, ranked No. 46. For 20 years Dada has served braised short ribs and mushroom tikka masala beneath a ginormous, 100-year-old banyan tree and historic house strung with market lights. Yelp liked that Dada – so named after the 1920s art movement when the house was built – had 12 mojito recipes and a “killer weekend brunch,” with treats such as French toast bread pudding and crab cake Benedict.
The third restaurant, Sassafras in West Palm Beach, came in at No. 56, with Yelp championing the 150-seater’s fidelity to Southern staples. Sassafras, which debuted in February 2020, a month before the pandemic, comes from Subculture Group, the same restaurant outfit behind Dada. Yelp, in particular, liked the chicken and dumplings with black truffles and chanterelle mushrooms, the cornmeal-and-buttermilk battered fried chicken, and root beer-braised ribs.
Yelp, for its part, says they crafted this restaurant list by crowdsourcing feedback from “Yelpers for their favorite dining spots,” and by using criteria such as the number of submissions, ratings, reviews and geographic representation.
Which is where the head-scratching part comes in. Wine Room and Sassafras have a grand combined total of 400 reviews on Yelp’s platform, while Dada – ranked lower than Wine Room – has more than 2,000 reviews.
While each restaurant’s quality helps us forgive Yelp’s oddball sampling size, do they all really outshine every eatery in Miami? The Magic City is curiously absent from these rankings, and there are arguments worth making for, say, Marcus Samuelsson’s Overtown gem Red Rooster, or The Bazaar by Jose Andres, or even Danny Serfer’s 10-year-old comfort-food oasis Blue Collar.
Sassafras restaurant in West Palm Beach features contemporary Southern cuisine, such as boiled peanuts and fried chicken skins “cacio e pepe,” along with fried chicken, shrimp and grits and pork chops with cornbread pudding. (Mike Stocker / South Florida Sun Sentinel)
The full list of winners can be found at Yelp.com.
This article was originally written by Phillip Valys and published on the South Florida Sun Sentinel.