Brandon Belluscio, Brian Albe and chef Anthony Pizzo are at it again.
Four years ago, the trio opened Cut 432 — a high-style, high-priced steakhouse set improbably in an Atlantic Avenue storefront. It has everything the big steak chains have, but eating at Cut means supporting a locally owned business while taking in the local scene. The restaurant doubled its seating capacity after just 18 months in business.
Now comes 4-month-old Park Tavern, another riff on American fare that's already a Delray Beach darling.
"We really wanted to get into the casual segment," Belluscio says. "We thought the tavern was just something that really hasn't been done with all the tap beers and the hand-crafted cocktails and the comfort food. The tavern gave Tony a chance to go in a little bit different direction but still stay in the American theme."
Although Park Tavern has a Second Avenue address, it faces Atlantic Avenue. Worthing Park separates the restaurant from the avenue and provides a wonderful breathing space from the pedestrians that crowd the sidewalk. The restaurant seats about 160, inside and out, but Belluscio says everyone wants to be outdoors — even in the heat. So dress casually and sit outside.
Inside, the walls are covered with reclaimed wood painstakingly salvaged from old pallets and then stained. It's the handiwork of Park Tavern mixologist Matty O'Connell, an old friend of the owners, who also painted a Stars and Stripes mural on the back wall. Concrete floors and Chicago brick add up to an authentically rustic tavern.
Our waiter, in jeans and apron, was so friendly we were tempted to ask him to join us for dinner. He knew the menu and the impressive beer list equally well, making recommendations based on our beer-drinking history. The beer list couldn't be more current, and includes Category 3 IPA from the brand-new Due South Brewing Co. in Boynton Beach. I'm sold on the IPA, smooth but with just the right amount of bitterness.
It would be easy to come here for beer and appetizers. I can recommend deviled eggs ($8) with blue cheese in the filling and bacon bits for salty crunch. Warm pretzels ($7), served with a creamy mustard sauce called Red Dragon Fondue, will have you ordering another craft beer. Spicy ahi tuna tartare ($16) isn't so spicy, but it's refreshing with toasted hazelnuts. Crispy pork belly ($12) is served with apricot mostarda and watercress.
Pizzo understands that not every item on a tavern menu has to be rich, cheesy or otherwise overindulgent. So there are some nice salads on the menu, and a raw bar that features everything from oysters and clams to ceviche and Florida crab.
If the tavern vibe steers you toward the Tavern Burger ($13), you will not be disappointed. The beef is ground in-house and served with locally grown tomatoes and onions on a lightly toasted bun. It's $2 more for cheddar or blue cheese, house-smoked bacon, caramelized onions or sauteed mushrooms. Burgers are served with crispy fries or a house salad. The sandwich lineup also includes a veggie burger ($14) and a shrimp po' boy ($16).
There are also some very good entrees. Crispy-skinned local red snapper ($25) is plated with fava beans, wild ramps and lemon-basil corn broth. Barbecue ribs ($24) are fall-off-the-bone tender and accompanied by grilled corn bread and green-apple-jalapeno chutney. All that steakhouse experience shines through in the filet mignon ($32), this one served with fries and a green peppercorn-brandy sauce. Only slow-roasted prime rib ($29) was a disappointment. It was simply a bad cut, and too fatty to be rescued. Not even the creamy scalloped potatoes could save this slice of beef.
We almost forgot about that prime rib once the creamy mascarpone cheese cake ($10) arrived. I remembered this dish from Cut 432. It's incredible: a cross between cannoli filling and cheesecake. Similarly good is the Kitchen Sink cookie ($8), a combination of heath bar, marshmallow, white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate and fudge brownie. How could any of that be wrong?
The trio who owns Park Tavern and Cut 432 are still in their 30s. I can't wait to see what they cook up next.
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32 SE Second Ave., Delray Beach
Hours: Dinner daily, lunch beginning in October
Reservations: Suggested on weekends
Credit cards: AC
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Conversational
Outside smoking: No
For kids: Highchairs, boosters, menu items on request
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: $5 valet or street parkingCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun