32 East Atlantic Avenue
Delray Beach, Florida
Written and Photographed by: Tom House
Food & Service: What more can be said about this iconic restaurant on “The Avenue” in Delray Beach, Florida that has not already been said? Well here at DinnerReviews.com© we can come up with plenty more to say, so read on and enjoy!
Let’s start with the astonishing fact that 32 East is enjoying its 18th year in business! When it all began, there was only 4 -5 other restaurants on Atlantic Avenue, and Delray Beach was more commonly known as DULLray Beach! 32 East was the best restaurant on the street then hands down. How many restaurants are here in 2014? We stopped counting at about 80 restaurants directly on or in very close proximity to Atlantic Avenue. That is truly amazing, and a testament to 32 East and its longevity in this over-saturated market, and today 32 East is still the very best restaurant on The Avenue without a doubt!
We asked owner Butch Johnson, “What has been the secret of your successful longevity at 32 East, and what drives you to keep going at this pace after so long?” Butch replied in his typical relaxed manner, “I realized long ago that after 18 years in this same location, longevity ‘doesn’t just happen’. Our daily goal at 32 East is excellence.” Butch continues, “Everyday excellence requires passion, talent and sacrifice from every member of our professional team, starting with the girls in the office and at the front door. This includes the entire service and support staff, the dedicated managers and extremely talented kitchen team led by Executive Chef Nick Morfogen. Without the continued best efforts from all members of our team, we would fail.” Butch finishes with one of his dependably good natured, jovial comments, “It ain’t easy being old and good…and I mean that personally!” We also know that Butch’s staff love working with (not for) him. If we had a Greatest Owner / Boss Award at DinnerReveiws.com©, we would certainly award it to Butch Johnson.
We settled in for a much anticipated dinner in one of the cozy booths along the wall and were quickly approached by our server Michael. We left our appetizer choices up to Chef Morfogen. Soon we were enjoying Crispy Fried Gulf Shrimp & Solace Farms Okra Tacos, with an Avocado-Dill “Aioli”, Pickled Banana Peppers, Cherry Tomatoes and Bibb Lettuce. This totally gourmet taco is so delicious, and a true Morfogen style creation. Chef Nick’s daily changing menu not only reads well, but always tastes even better. Some other menus “out there” read well too, but the food just does not taste as good as it sounds. That will NEVER happen to you at 32 East!
On this night, Chef Nick had just received an unusual vegetable called Wing Beans. They are quite popular in Thailand and other Asian countries by the way. He roasted them in his wood burning oven and topped the dish with a fried egg for us to enjoy as a snack. He had not even worked them into his next menu yet, but because we are “foodies” he wanted to share some with us. During the off-season or an occasional slow night, and if time allows Chef Nick will create a family style dining experience for your party. He chooses every course for you and serves smaller portions until you have had enough. The cost can be a bit higher and is determined by the foods you eat, but if you are lucky enough to experience this dining style at 32, it is guaranteed to be unforgettable.
General Manager John Bates checked with us just as our main courses were being served. He admired some wines we brought in to drink that night (there is a corkage fee if you bring your own), and made sure we were enjoying everything. John is very wine knowledgeable and always happy to help his servers and guests with 32 East’s extensive “boutique” wine list that he and Butch hand selected from hours of painstakingly enjoyable tasting sessions.
We do recommend however purchasing your bottles of wine from 32 East’s more than 300 bottle “boutique wine list” at the restaurant to enjoy with your dinner, and don’t be afraid to ask for guidance from Mr. Bates or any of 32 East’s knowledgeable servers. There are always several trained Sommeliers on staff on any given night, from servers to John Bates in management.
As soon as I saw Pumpkin Swordfish on the menu I knew what I would be having for dinner. It arrived super thick, nice and hot. Tonight’s preparation is Atlantic Pumpkin Swordfish on Wood Fired Root Vegetables and Organic Hawaiian Sweet Potatoes, finished with Mushrooms, Carrot Puree and succulent Madeira Veal-jus.
This is an amazing piece of fish if you can find it, and made even more incredible with Chef Nick’s touch. My guest enjoyed Speared American Red Snapper which was supposed to be served on Butternut Squash Creamed Corn with Crispy Fingerling Potatoes, Poblanos and Local Greens, but he asked for a different “set”. Chef Nick is famous for his rice salad preparations, so at our request he served the Red Snapper over Cherry Tomato, Organic Eggplant, Chopped Vegetable & Jasmine Rice Salad tossed with a Castelvetrano Olive Vinaigrette.
There is a seasonal appetizer that Chef Nick is famous for and goes especially well with red wine. We did not have it on this visit but I highly recommend it for my readers. Oak Fired Prosciutto Wrapped Bartlett Pears with Maytag Blue Cheese, Marcona Almonds and topped with Upland Farms Cress.
You have to taste this one to believe it! Another meal that is one of my all time favorites here is Venison. Although not on the menu all the time, when it is… you should definitely indulge. I have always felt Chef Nick has an affinity towards winter time style cooking, perhaps due to his early roots at the heralded Ajax Tavern in Aspen Colorado (Nick also was a chef at Le Bernadin and Le Cirque)…but all his signature food creations are tremendous, spring, summer, fall and winter.
Chef Nick’s heritage is Greek (CIA graduate), and he says his cooking style is a combination of his Greek heritage and his Italian and French training. We feel that his Mediterranean style dishes are the very best you’ll find anywhere. Both our plates were cleaned completely, and yours will be too when you visit 32 East! Although we were being a bit “high maintenance” our server Michael was able to get us a side order of Duck Fat Oven Roasted Steak Fries which were the accompaniment to the Rib Eye steak on the menu. They are incredible and so good for you… well maybe not.
The menu choices were amazing as always this night, and some of the other dishes available included Grilled Cedar Hangar Steak on Gruyere Cheese Mashed Potatoes with Balsamic Mushrooms and Watercress; Duo of Jurgeilewicz Duck – Grilled Breast & Leg Confit on Marsala Wine Braised Lentils, Treviso, Dried Cherries, Pistachios and Haricot Vertes or Seared Georges Bank Scallops & Smoked Pork Belly in Ramen Broth with Pickled Shitake, Radishes, Greens, Scallions and Togarashi just to name a few. Morfogen likes to include the name brands of his high quality menu products, as well as the local farms where he makes it a point to obtain produce from whenever possible. ONLY THE BEST IS SERVED HERE.
Dessert from Pastry Chef Ana Rivera is a must at 32 East! Tonight we enjoyed Valrhona Milk Chocolate Panna Cotta with Ameretti Cookie, Almond Crumble & Morello Cherry Sauce as well as Warm Pumpkin Cake with Autumn Spiced Crème Anglaise, Toasted Pepitas & Fig Vincotto. Both are so damn good! We also love the homemade Chocolate Cashew Ice Cream, as if we needed more sweets! A couple other ice cream flavors available this night (we almost went for) are Pistachio Cannoli Cream and Cranberry Orange.
The dining possibilities and combinations are endless at 32 East. The service is impeccable but never over-bearing, and the atmosphere is warm and bistro-esque while whispering fine dining on every visit. The upstairs dining room is so perfect for private parties during the holidays and year round as well. Recently the front façade and upstairs and downstairs patios have been completely remodeled. Everything is so fresh and new at ‘32’ and ready for you!
Visit 32 East soon, where “It’s Still All About the Food!” Say hello to Butch and Chef Nick, and make sure to tell him that Tom House and Billy Wisdom from DinnerReviews.com© sent you!