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.
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.”