Tonight is the grand opening of Hullabaloo, the new gastropub and craft cocktail bar in downtown West Palm Beach, but the party started early with a sneak preview for invited guests last night that definitely put the staff to the test.
The small 1,700-square-foot space in the 500 block of Clematis Street that was formerly home to The Lounge was packed to the gills for most of the night as the many friends and associates of owners Rodney Mayo and Jon Elu enjoyed free drinks and small bites. One guest described it as “The Lounge meets Kapow,” which is as accurate a description as any. The owners have taken the somewhat generic Lounge format and jazzed it up with a creative food and drink menu, just as Mayo and his partners did at the cozy spot in Boca Raton that houses Kapow! Noodle Bar.
Guests at Hullabaloo were greeted last night by classic jazz and ragtime music performed on keyboards by a solo musician just outside the front door. The music was also piped into the bar, complementing the vintage vibe. Within hours, the party had spread to the half-dozen tables on the sidewalk.
It’s tough to come up with a unique and exciting concept in today’s bar and restaurant scene, where new establishments continually push the creativity envelope, and patrons have seen just about everything. But leave it to South Florida nightlife kingpin Rodney Mayo to move the bar even higher.
Imagine walking into a small, dark space that evokes a New York City loft. It’s simple, clean and dark, illuminated only by candles and low lighting. Huge red-and-black leather booths span one wall, with reproductions of 1940s-era Eames chairs scattered about. Dead rock stars such as Freddy Mercury and Jim Morrison stare eerily from framed black-and-white photos. The sound of ’30s and ’40s jazz fills the air, while the smell of Italian-influenced gastropub food crafted in a wood-burning oven wafts throughout the room. Patrons sip craft beer, wine, coffee and unique cocktails. Welcome to Hullabaloo.
Like its name implies, Hullabaloo is poised to cause a commotion. Mayo and his managing partners will introduce Hullabaloo – located at 517 Clematis St. in downtown West Palm Beach – with a grand opening party next Friday (Jan. 25) from 5 p.m. until 3 a.m. There will be a private, invitation-only party on Thursday, Jan. 24. “We’re going to have a ragtime band play at the opening,” Mayo says. He also promises complimentary beverages and food tastings.
A worthy New Year’s resolution for any mixologist would be to break away from the norm and explore alternative ingredients to make your cocktails stand out from the crowd. Today’s explosion in creative craft cocktails makes it difficult to decide what direction to take, but luckily there are some great experts in the field to guide us.
I had the opportunity to learn from one such expert recently at the 2012 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival at Walt Disney World, where Freddy Diaz of AlambiQ Mixology in Miami presented an educational and entertaining seminar on behalf of the Peter F. Heering Co.
The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, now in its 17th year, offers much more than the opportunity to eat and drink your way around the Disney theme park’s World Showcase promenade at some 30 food and beverage marketplaces. That’s the highlight, of course, but devotees have long known about the special events and distinctive touches that make a trip to Epcot a must-do every fall for foodies and Disneyphiles alike.
The appetizer-sized portions at the marketplace booths are priced in the $4-$8 range, while drinks are $3-$6. The festival is included in the daily Epcot admission price, but most of the special events cost extra and tickets must be reserved in advance. Go to EpcotFoodFestival.com for more info. Click here to see menus and photos from all the participating marketplaces.
Spanning a record 46 days, from Sept. 28 through Nov. 12, this year’s festival will continue a recent trend toward a bigger and better event as guests become ever more demanding of what they expect from craft food and beverages. Beer and cocktails have a higher profile, and the event is also thriving on its association with celebrity chefs and the growing foodie culture in general. As a fan of television’s Food Network and other culinary programming, I have to count myself among that group.
Last year, The Atomic Grog’s experience at the festival was enjoyable beyond expectations. [Click here for the review] Look for even more extensive coverage in 2012. In preparation, here’s a list of 17 things that make this year’s International Food and Wine Festival distinctive and worth looking forward to.
Unbeknownst to most of South Florida, a craft cocktail revolution has swept the country over the past decade, elevating mixology to heights not seen since the heady days following the repeal of Prohibition. With rare exceptions, our tourism-driven marketplace has no room for this kind of creativity.
But since opening in April 2011, Sweetwater Bar & Grill has with little fanfare become the area’s preeminent hidden gem for inventive adult beverages, plus gastropub-style food that’s just as decadent and delicious. The cocktails are indeed outstanding, but Sweetwater’s true triumph may be this perfectly timed head-on collision of the craft food and drink movements.
In 2012, being under-the-radar doesn’t necessarily mean a dingy back-alley location in the wrong part of town. Sweetwater is located in plain sight on South Federal Highway in Boynton Beach, but it might as well be a secret unmarked speakeasy. While foodies flocked to Delray Beach’s Atlantic Avenue and West Palm Beach’s Clematis Street, locals in south-central Palm Beach County probably thought they had Sweetwater to themselves.
But despite no advertising and little traditional media attention, word has slowly but surely circulated about the unique dining and imbibing experience awaiting at Sweetwater. We joined the chorus, raving after our initial visits in June and July. But teasing you with just a taste is quite unfair. To truly enjoy this establishment, you have to go for the gusto and sample items from across the menu, as we had the pleasure of doing on multiple occasions this summer.
Boynton Beach’s Sweetwater Bar and Grill, one of the cool off-the-beaten-path treasures of the South Florida cocktail scene, will vastly expand its scope of entertainment this Saturday when DJ Mike “Jetsetter” Jones spins some out-of-this-world “retro-active” tunes.
“Sweetwater Goes Swankadelic” starts around 9 p.m. and will likely continue into the wee hours at the small, year-old speakeasy on Federal Highway, just south of Woolbright Road. Sweetwater’s classic and inventive cocktails and decadent small-bites menu have garnered rave reviews from many critics, including The Palm Beach Post and New Times.
Liz Balmaseda wrote in The Post in early June that Sweetwater “exalts its boozy identity, wraps itself up in a speakeasy aesthetic, and defies its unexpected location in a Boynton Beach plaza. Yes, rarely thrilling Boynton Beach is home to Sweetwater Bar & Grill, one of the county’s funkiest bars.” She praised the “fresh and wild infusions, barrel-aged rum, mad assortment of bitters and homemade syrups, extensive craft beer menu and nicely curated wine list.”
A new dining and drinking option will soon be emerging on Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach, featuring both delicious, gourmet small plates and high-quality adult beverages.
Hullabaloo promises “wood-fired grub,” a charcuterie, craft cocktails, and artesian beer. The “coming soon” sign at 517 Clematis beckons you to “drink, eat, raise some ruckus.” When it opens this summer, it will take over the small space adjoining Longboards, formerly occupied by The Lounge.
And there are other exciting plans for the 500 block of Clematis, as we found out last night after touring the future Hullabaloo and talking to owner Rodney Mayo. He and partner Scott Frielich have assembled an impressive portfolio of cutting-edge dining spots (Longboards, Kapow! Noodle Bar, Dada, Tryst, The Dubliner, Howley’s), and Hullabaloo looks to be yet another distinctly original concept. (Mayo’s brother, Michael, will also be on board as a part-owner and manager.)
It’s a good sign that the blossoming interest in mixology and cocktail culture is reaching mass appeal when exhibits pop up at acclaimed art galleries. One such gallery, the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach, is taking a highbrow approach to an intoxicating topic with a fine art exhibit that premieres tomorrow (Dec. 15) and runs through March 11.
Titled simply Cocktail Culture, it’s one of the first multi-disciplinary exhibitions to explore the social rituals of the cocktail hour through the lens of fashion and design. It features more than 150 objects, including attire, accessories, ads, decorative arts, illustrations, photography and more from the 1920s to the present.
The show is like a travelogue through decades of cocktail history, from the 1920s jazz age to today. Each decade features a different cocktail (the Flapper, the Prohibition, etc.), plus period clothing, objects and accessories. Also included are advertising illustrations and movie clips.