16 Mar THE MAPPETITE MILE: A DAY IN DELRAY

When my parents bought their apartment on Delray Beach in South Florida there wasn’t much to this town but for a sleepy stretch of Atlantic Avenue that started at the beach and ran due west – a standard formula for many a seaside Floridian town.

In the 1980s and 1990s Atlantic Avenue was reminiscent of much of small retailers in America, albeit at the ocean – aged storefronts that had, for the most part, lost their allure to the mall. The upper middle class WASPS and WASP wannabes of Delray ensconced themselves in neighborhoods and apartment complexes along Ocean Boulevard and got in their cars to drive to the Town Center Mall in Boca Raton while “downtown” Delray slowly decayed. Not to say a handful of old school establishments – the auction houses, cheesy beach shops, a couple of fish houses and greasy spoons – didn’t hold their own, its just that they were few and far between and offered little visual engagement for a stroll along main street.

A path to Delray Beach

As far as beaches go, the public ones were always fine, if a bit honky-tonk, but with pristine and quiet sand dunes steps away from our door we had no reason to stray from our ocean back yard. For years the 10 minute bike ride into Delray meant a stop for the New York Times at the DELRAY NEWS stand, a smoothie or veggie juice at the NUTRITION COTTAGE juice bar and a brief treasure hunt at the BETHESDA BARGAIN BOX thrift shop. Fast forward to the 21st century and this is no longer the sleepy Delray of yore.

The five or so blocks of Atlantic Avenue from the the beautifully landscaped ocean dunes to Federal Highway are all about the beach with flip flops and bathing suits as wardrobe essentials. When nighttime falls Botox and breasts abound on scantily clad age defiant gals and guys that walk the six block stretch that make up Delray’s main strip from Federal Highway west to Swinton Avenue.

WANDERBUY

The Snappy Turtle, Delray Becah

There are a lot of shops if you’re game is touristy beach attire, randy frocks for your inner-bad girl, frumpy clothing for the senior set and galleries for really bad art. It’s all fun for a cursory browse but best to keep your wallets in your pockets lest you’ll be left with buyer’s remorse.

For preppy minded fashion head straight to the SNAPPY TURTLE and the C. ORRICO LILLY PULITZER shop or take a step back in time, not necessarily to shop but to admire, at MERCER WENZEL, a Delray department store for more than half a century. We’re also a fan of HUBER’S PHARMACY – a welcome yesteryear reprieve to the homogeneity of CVS and Rite Aid. Speaking about yesteryear – there’s the BETHESDA BARGAIN BOX thrift shop and the DELRAY BEACH ANTIQUE MALL though, in this world of EBAY, these days it’s slim pickings for that special vintage find.

 

STOPTASTE

Like many a popular touristy seaside resort – the main drag of Delray Beach is crowded with a slew of mediocre restaurants. Hopefully you’ll know to stay clear of any eats house with a hostess standing out front beckoning you in – make no exceptions in Delray.

Nothing fancy about BOSTON’S but it’s been around forever and we’re a fan of the basic beach grub and ocean views even if the live music and sports bar antics can be a bit down market. Play it safe a couple of doors down with a burger and fries at the SHAKE SHACK copycat resto BURGERFI. Once again you’re here for the on-the-beach-eats and views.

Doc’s All American, Delray Beach

 

You might pass over the very unassuming BLUE ANCHOR but if so you’d be missing out on decent and inexpensive English pub grub. If pizza is on your mind skip over the MELLOW MUSHROOM and head for one of the pies at ANTHONY’S COAL FIRED PIZZA on Federal Highway, just a few doors off Atlantic Avenue. For luncheonette Americana style take a nostalgic spin at THE GREEN OWL where egg salad and grilled cheese sandwiches will leave you with a smile. Of all the scenester spots – and there are too many to count – the sidewalk bar of THE OFFICE is a gimmicky watering hole for see-and-be seen Delray crowds with decent comfort food. When it comes to a good American meat-minded organic-edged meal the numbers have it at CUT 432 STEAKHOUSE and 32 EAST. The recently minted PARK GRILL is likely to be an enduring favorite owing to its menu of satisfying bistro plates. It gets a bit fancier and pricier at the fish-centric ATLANTIC GRILLE but that’s to be expected at this restaurant nestled in the high brow SEAGATE HOTEL & SPA.

If it’s food on the go, get ready to be underwhelmed from the themed type offerings that include a crepe shop, Philly cheese steak stand, a couple of faux lobster roll shacks and mediocre pizzerias. For a picnic at the beach the NUTRITION COTTAGE has top notch sandwiches and healthy-minded groceries as do the offerings from the GREENMARKET on South East 4th Avenue, Saturday mornings, October through May. My sweet tooth had us at the

reliably quirky BEN & JERRY’S, the old world parlor charms of KILWINS and, al fresco at the retro drive-in of DOC’S ALL AMERICAN, though this one is more about nostalgia than an amazing scoop.

WALKSEE

The Sandoway House & Nature Reserve

To start off, there the ocean. It is a charmer with lush dunes and wide beaches. Weekend crowds make it a bit too public so best to make it a Monday to Friday outing or head to the far ends of the shoreline where it quiets down and you’re less likely to have unwanted noise or a crease and crevice to disturb your view. For the naturalist take a stroll through the gardens of THE SANDOWAY HOUSE, a Delray treasure from the early 20th century. Atlantic Avenue has its palm tree-lined charms along with an Art Deco edge to some of the buildings, most notably with the weathered but enduring COLONY HOTEL.

 

Lots of events throughout the season so, if arts and crafts are your thing, check with the DELRAY BEACH CHAMBER OF COMMERCE. Often there’s a community event at the Old School Square, a Mediterranean revival standout that’s just a block away from the DELRAY BEACH TENNIS CENTER and side streets dotted with wooden frame Key West style homes dating back to the 1930s, architectural rarities amongst the current day condo-ization of South Florida.

Ah, all the charms of a day in Delray.

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