Last Sunday, Mr. R took me to breakfast at one of my most favorite places on the planet.
Howley’s is a West Palm Beach institution, an establishment that describes itself as “Hip diner slinging comfort chow amid ’50s decor with a pressed-tin ceiling, full bar & jukebox.” It has had the same motto, “Cooked in sight, must be right,” since the place opened in 1950. After years of neglect, it was taken over by Subculture, who lovingly restored it into the joint it is today, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner from 7am to 2am, except Friday and Saturday when it’s open until 5am. I may or may not have rolled in drunk in the wee hours of the morning and ordered a grilled cheese and fries to soak up a little alcohol before heading home.
Howley’s is so much more than just a diner. The place has an open, funky, creative vibe. Art on display on most available surfaces is for sale. I have to confess, I had my eye on a pair of photos on canvas–black and whites of a Creature of the Black Lagoon action figure with a surfboard on the beach and on a pier looking out over the water.
There’s even a fantastic outdoor mural by local artist Amanda Valdes on the south wall.
The staff is young, tattooed and pierced, and gender fluid. Oh, and by the way, the food is great!
Sunday, shortly after we were seated in a retro-style booth, our server, a thin, much tattooed, delightfully gay man came to take our order. When I started with a mimosa, he drew a heart on his chest and declared that he and I are soul sisters. As he left to get our drinks, I couldn’t resist. “I LOVE this place,” I told Mr. R.
We enjoyed our breakfast to a soundtrack of music in keeping with the vibe of the place. When Still Feel It by Portugal. The Man came on, our server friend (my soul sister), who was helping a nearby table, broke into a fabulous shimmy. I LOVE THIS PLACE!
I love it so much, in fact, that when I set my award-winning book, FOR SPARROW, in West Palm Beach, I featured Howley’s. Yes, the book title is a link, just in case you’re looking for a great read. 😉
I hope you like this song. Fun Fact: It’s the song in the latest Coppertone ad. It just feels like summer to me. And funky diners. And happiness.
Enjoy this balmy summer evening. Be sure to hug those you love.
I love Valentine’s Day. I didn’t always. When you don’t have a Valentine, or when you have one who treats you badly, it’s just another day to endure, right? But with Mr. R. by my side, I’m a lucky girl.
Last Valentine’s Day we splurged, making reservations at SoLita in Delray Beach, a chi-chi joint that was getting a lot of buzz at the time. It was a horrible experience. I have never been treated so badly at a restaurant, by a host and servers who acted like they were doing us a favor to let us in. I vowed to pass the word as often as possible: NEVER go to SoLita in Delray Beach. In fact, avoid Delray Beach entirely.
If you want to go to a nice, romantic dinner, go to O-BO in Northwood Village in West Palm Beach. The food is incredible and they’re actually happy to have you there.
This year, if you recall, we’re scaling back, financially speaking. No fancy dinner out for us. That doesn’t mean we didn’t celebrate, though. Through the magic of free event tickets and a gift card, Mr. R. and I had a fabulous Valentine’s Day. We were blessed to have a beautiful day for Valentine’s Day. It was cool, in the 60s all day, with a biting breeze, but the sun was shining in a cloudless blue sky.
Our first stop was ArtiGras, for which we had free tickets. This year is the 30th anniversary of the three-day juried art show, held at Abacoa in Jupiter. The main attraction of ArtiGras is the Fine Arts Area, where some 300 artists exhibit and sell their work in thirteen different categories such as sculpture, photography, fiber, and mixed media, to name a few. Mr. R. and I had the best time strolling along and browsing the various booths.
I’m always drawn to the photography booths. We saw some really lovely pieces. Oh to have hit the Powerball and be able to afford some of them. As we were browsing one booth, a young couple came in, looked around briefly, and called the artist over.
“We’ll take two. This one and that one,” the husband said, pointing to two beautiful photos on steel, both about three feet wide and two feet high. I leaned over to Mr. R. “You realized they just dropped about $1,600.” We contented ourselves with just window shopping and daydreaming about the pieces we’d buy, where we’d put them in our home.
ArtiGras also has a children’s area where kids can do different art activities, a silent auction, and an area where local schools exhibit student art. The proceeds from the event are supposed to go to art education in local schools. Whether or not that happens, or how much actually goes to schools, I couldn’t tell you and I’m not inclined to do that research.
They’re very militant about being ‘green’, though. We’d only just walked in the gate when we were accosted by high school students who demanded our tickets. “We’re recycling,” they said. Alrighty, then. As we walked along, we noticed trash cans arranged down the middle of the street. They’d been decorated by local school children. I suppose they encourage people to ‘give a hoot and not pollute’ and they’re certainly more aesthetically pleasing than plain old garbage cans.
Having seen everything we wanted to see at ArtiGras, we left and headed east to A1A, the better to drive along the beach. It was cool and blustery, and the usual joggers and walkers were bundled up. We stopped to look at the water which was rougher than I’ve seen it in a long time, thanks to the strong breeze. Hardly anyone was relaxing on the beach. We watched the surf for a few minutes before getting back into the truck and heading to one of my favorite places on the planet, Guanabanas, for which we had a gift card.
Guanabanas is an entirely outdoor restaurant/bar in Jupiter between A1A and the Loxahatchee River. They feature fresh locally sourced seafood and great tropical cuisine. They have live music every night, and they have Happy Hour every day from 3-6 in the bar area.
Being Valentine’s Day, finding a table in the bar area was tough. Mr. R. ended up snagging us two stools at a tiny tree-side counter across from the bar. I immediately ordered my favorite Cat 5, their version of a hurricane, while he sensibly went with Diet Coke. We pondered ordering small plates, but the reality was that we weren’t actually hungry. We contented ourselves with our view of the river and the stand-up paddle boarders passing by, and with people watching, which was enjoyable. The head chef and another Guanabana-ite built a fire in a bowl just on the other side of our tree, all the better to set up a S’mores Station. We watched mostly kids roasting marshmallows to press into the tasty treats. After two Cat 5s and no small plates, I was more like six sheets to the wind as we made our way back to the truck, but I was happy as a clam. Well, who wouldn’t be?
Once we arrived home, I discovered that my sly Mr. R. had a couple of surprises for me. Somehow he always finds a way, which is reason #12 that I love him so much. We had a glorious Valentine’s Day. I hope you did, too.
Downtown West Palm Beach is a terrific place for outdoor activities. For example, every May the city hosts SunFest, an art and music festival along the Intracoastal waterfront that lasts the better part of a week. There’s a juried art show and performances by local bands and national acts, too. We’ve seen performers like Train, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and last year, we missed Kid Rock but caught the Dropkick Murphys.
And because for every Yin there is a Yang, each October the city celebrates MoonFest, a free one-night Halloween bacchanalia that shuts down several blocks of Clematis Street. Costumed revelers enjoy live music by local bands on the handful of stages placed along the way in the middle of the street and there are vendors selling everything from beads to t-shirts to alcohol. There’s a costume contest and the bars and clubs have special indoor events as well.
Mr. R. and I have enjoyed ourselves at a few MoonFests in our day. Who doesn’t love to dress up in costume and barhop with thousands of your closest friends, listen to all kinds of music, and, let’s face it, drink a little?
One year, Mr. R., who at the time was sporting the shaved head look, painted his whole head orange and black, and went as Jack Lantern, International Gourd of Mystery. I went as a dark fairy. Word to the wise–if you plan to join throngs of people out on a crowded street, deep-six the fairy wings. You could put out someone’s eye with those things.
Several years ago, on our last excursion to MoonFest, Mr. R. went as a Chili Miner (if you keep up with the news, you can figure out just how long ago that was) and I went as a drunk flapper. Well, I didn’t start out that way. It’s just sort of how it ended up. Probably those last five shots had something to do with it.
We haven’t made it out to MoonFest since then, though. It’s not because we didn’t have a good time–we had a blast. But MoonFest changed after that Halloween. Apparently, at some point after we staggered on home, there was some kind of a ruckus and somebody ended up getting hurt.
Enter the nannies (don’t get me started) who “just want to keep it safe for the public.” It’s no longer a free event. Not that it’s super expensive, it’s about $10 a ticket. But it’s irksome that you need a ticket at all. Because all that $10 gets you is in. You still have to buy your food and drinks, and you still have to pay covers at the bars and clubs.
Additionally, of course, how do the powers that be make sure that everyone attending the event has a ticket? They erect fencing and gates all around the area. MoonFest has lost it’s ‘block party’ feel, which for me was a huge part of its appeal. Now it’s just another money-making event for the city of West Palm Beach.
In a previous post, Redefining Date Night, I mentioned that because Mr. R. and I are economizing these days, Date Night is a bit harder to come by. We’ve become somewhat more creative but I’ve gotta be honest with you–I’m not really a ‘Pull-A-Slip-Out-Of-A-Hat-Date-Night’ kind of girl. And so it is that Mr. R. and I took advantage of an opportunity to visit our local art museum for free over the weekend.
Last Saturday, Smithsonian magazine sponsored a nation-wide event whereby you could go online to sign up for a free ticket for two that would be honored by participating museums, zoos, and other places.
From several options, we chose the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach. I had actually been there previously, but only on field trips with my first graders where I had to be responsible for preventing the little cretins from putting their grubby paws on the thousand-year-old Chinese screen. So I was excited to be able to go and just enjoy the place. And we did enjoy ourselves.
My art museum experience is somewhat limited and so I can only compare it with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. or the Musee D’Orsee in Paris, but for a fairly small museum , I think they have a nice collection. We saw paintings by Matisse, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Georgia O’Keefe, Pablo Picasso, and Jackson Pollack. They also had a special show called Wheels and Heels, featuring vintage Matchbox cars and Barbies.
One of the highlights of a visit to the Norton is the oval room housing the colorful glass ‘undersea’ ceiling by Dale Chihuly. The outer portion of the curved wall is all windows surrounded by the fountains fronting the museum so the place is a riot of light and color. When school groups visit, the children are encouraged to lie on the floor and look up at the ceiling. We contented ourselves with sitting on a pair of mid-century leather chairs, leaning back to view the display.
We made our way to the second floor housing their Chinese collection and marveled at items such as bowls, decorative accessories, and statuary, some of which were up to 3,000 years old. Mr. R., ever the entertainer, saw this Ming dynasty miniature of a table set with food and quipped, “Look! The first ever Chinese buffet.”
Funny thing about the Norton Museum of Art. It’s really just around the corner from one of our favorite places to hang out, Bar Louie on Clematis Street. So after our artsy fartsy afternoon, we found ourselves a table on the sidewalk at Bar Louie. Again, we’re economizing, so we stuck with drinks (Diet Coke for Mr. R. and Louie’s Cosmo for me) and a snack.
I love Bar Louie. They have a great Happy Hour. And we’ve always had superb service. But…it was not Happy Hour. And…we did not have the best service on the planet.
I’m thinking it’s probably because our server realized that we weren’t ordering a huge meal and figured she didn’t stand to get much of a tip. Don’t misunderstand, she was pleasant enough, but to call her inattentive is an understatement. It wasn’t busy, being around 3:30 in the afternoon, so it isn’t as if she was swamped with tables. The thing is, we’re pretty good tippers, Mr. R. and I, and we love to reward good service, regardless of the amount of our ticket. Once upon a time, he was a server, so we’re very appreciative of how hard they work.
We ended up only having our drinks and we shared the Smoked Turkey Sliders, which were amazingly delicious, by the way. But I’m a little sad. We won’t be going out like we used to, so I’m looking for a stellar experience when we do. I can’t wait for the next time.
Behold, the new hand painted wine glass Mr. R. bought me to replace the one that was broken. We got it Friday night at the Art & Wine Promenade in Northwood Village.
Artist Nicke Barefoot (I swear, she goes by that name) has a booth there every month and she sells the beautiful one-of-a-kind glasses. Each one is an original piece of art and she paints a signature bare foot on the base of each one. In addition to wine glasses, she has martini and pilsner glasses as well. Her flier says that she accepts commissions for special projects. I’m thinking this could make for a fabulous wedding gift.
At any rate, I’m thrilled with my new wine glass. A toast to my sweet Mr. R. Thanks, babe.
Northwood Village in West Palm Beach hosts their monthly Art & Wine Promenade tomorrow night. It’s the Tropical Mango Celebration so in addition to the usual artists and vendors, they’re promising mango themed menus and beverages backed by ‘island music”.
Friday night, the shops and galleries along Northwood Road will remain open and the owners are happy for you to browse. Usually, I’m a bit intimidated to enter frou-frou art galleries and antique shops but during the Promenade the business owners go out of their way to make you feel welcome. And nothing says ‘welcome’ like a complimentary glass of wine.
On our first visit to the Promenade, Mr. R. and I stumbled across Bistro Bistro, a French bistro and bakery. Mon Dieu! While sipping our wine, we pored lustfully over contents of the bakery case. Pointing to a chocolatey looking confection, Mr. R. inquired as to what it was.
“Eet ees ahhh-zuuul-nuuut,” the woman replied.
Mr. R. looked to me, bewildered.
“Hazelnut, babe,” I translated from Frenglish.
To say Mr. R. was in is a massive understatement.
If you’re local or just visiting the area tomorrow, you won’t want to miss this fun celebration of art, wine, and small business. Toss in mangoes and island music, it’ll be like you’re in the Caribbean. And if you play your cards right, maybe you can even get your “ahhh-zuuul-nuuut” on.