Along the Avenues: Wine, lobster and song in Delray

By Thom Smith

Dave Spitzer spent 40 years in the hospitality industry — working for Hilton hotels, owning a restaurant in Woodstock, Ill., and running Mike Ditka’s Da Coach restaurants in the Windy City. But about 10 years ago he moved to Delray, and the more time he spent, the less enthralled he became with corporate living. Four years ago he considered a move into a franchise, but what he really wanted was to be his own boss.
“The idea of becoming a small town merchant in this beautiful area was very enticing,” Spitzer said. “This opportunity presented itself, so here we are!”
The opportunity is Old Vines, Wine & Spirits, just east of the bridge at 900 E. Atlantic Ave., and while Spitzer considers it a “work in progress,” his program is ambitious.
“We pride ourselves on searching out good values that you won’t find at the big-box stores,” he said. “We’re all about special orders and a lot of the wine and spirits that I carry are a result of a ‘local’ asking for it.”
Tastings are a must and Spitzer has a hot one Nov. 12 that will feature wine and art. Delray artist Salvatore Principe also is a vintner. He’ll be signing bottles of his own wine from Argentina. And of course, Dave will be there with a good word and an open ear.
“I’m here every day and talk to everyone who comes in to try to learn what’s going to work best,” he said, “whether it be wine, spirits, beer, gourmet cheeses or cigars.”

Typical Thursday night (Oct. 22) at Boston’s on the Beach — good crowd to hear Breeze, the incredible cover band; baseball, football and soccer on the dozens of TVs, lots of clams being fried and beer being poured. Upstairs, however, was another story, as a few hundred invited guests chomped on stone crab and shrimp and, since it was the big party in the beachside bar’s 30th anniversary week, two obligatory birthday cakes.
“It’s been wild,” general manager Mark DeAtley said while doubling as Breeze’s soundman. “But it’s been great.”
Entertainment included Matt “Guitar” Murphy and a one-time reunion by The Groove Thangs, plus a release party for a special 30th anniversary double CD featuring acts that helped shape Boston’s musical identity. The title: One More and I’m Outta Here. Proceeds benefit the Delray police.
“We live just up the road in Gulf Stream,” said Sally Burns, who stopped by the party with husband, Bob. “We love coming here, because it’s fun and nobody cares how you look or what you wear. And we can sit outside and see the ocean. It’s the only place around where you can do that.”

The west end of Atlantic also has more Down East flavor with the arrival of Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine Lobster Roll. The airy eatery at Second Avenue opened a few weeks back, but Linda came down to oversee the Oct. 22 grand opening. A housewife turned lobsterwoman; she’s the granddaughter of legendary Maine outfitter L.L. Bean. Delray is only her second venture outside of Maine.
The showcase dish is a lobster roll: a quarter pound of claw meat (no tails) on a soft bun, with a secret herb topping, a little mayo, bread-and-butter pickles (no dills please!) and crunchy chips on the side. The price is $15.50, but Bean notes, none is fresher. She flies it in daily from her docks on the Maine coast. “You get what you pay for, all fresh claw, no celery or onion, just lobster.”
Also on the menu: shrimp, crab, stew and chowder, hot dogs, salads, smoked turkey club or chicken salad panini, grilled cheese, salads, Maine-made beer and sodas, wine and desserts, including Maine Wee Whoopie Pie.
Why Delray? Well, she found a lot of New Englanders who made the area home, and she already knew something about the place since grandpa spent his golden years in Deerfield Beach.
“I’m really on a mission for lobster,” Bean said, explaining that she’s trying to develop new markets for lobstermen and new tastes for consumers. “Lobster is considered a luxury food. It doesn’t show up on weekly menus. I want to change that. It’s a great source of protein; it’s not fried.”
And a special tip for die-hard Downeasters: The bread comes from Amato’s, famous for its Italian sandwiches. Don’t be surprised if Amato’s, too, gives the area a try. General manager John Amato was impressed by what he saw at the grand opening.

The new Omphoy luxury hotel and spa, open since Aug. 30, is taking a deliberate approach and trying not to spin its wheels in the beach sand. Nothing special to report yet, as management concentrates shifting the operation into second gear. Executive Chef Michelle Bernstein, the 2008 James Beard Award winner, continues to tweak the menu. She can also plan your wedding.
We hear that one change already is in place: Papyrus plants have been added to the reflecting pool at the entrance. Because it is rimless, a couple of souls didn’t realize the surface wasn’t solid and fell in.

His handlebar moustache was a Palm Beach trademark and so was his cooking. Matthias Radits, executive chef at The Breakers, was larger than life, so his death at age 52 in 2006 from ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) hit the hotel and the A1A community hard. To honor Radits, a group of Breakers employees formed the “Chef’s Brigade” and on Nov. 7 at 12:30 p.m. will host their first charity golf tournament to raise money to fight ALS. Eighteen holes on the Breakers’ Rees Jones Course in West Palm Beach, beverages, snacks, reception and prizes for $125. Call JoAnn Schulz at (561) 659-8434.

You’re not into Dancing With the Stars, you took your Couples Retreat in 1969 and you believe you should first read Where the Wild Things Are to your grandchildren. What’s a body to do?
Well, how about a night at the theater!
Florida Stage in Manalapan launched its 23rd season with the premiere of Two Jews Walk Into a War … . Call it a Middle Eastern Odd Couple, a comedy inspired by a true story about the last two Jews in Afghanistan during the final days of the Taliban regime. Avi Hoffman and Gordon McConnell, two veterans of the South Florida stage, bring the two schlimazels, Ishaq and Zeblyan, to life.
Through Nov. 29. Call 561-585-3433.
In Delray, Old School Square wasn’t this busy when it was really a school. World of Jewtopia comes to the Crest Theatre for an eight-performance pre-Broadway run from Nov. 11-15. Brian Fogel and Sam Wolfson have combined the best of their original Jewtopia with standup comedy and audience participation into a multimedia extravaganza, even if it is only two guys.

Other Old School Square highlights:
Pinball Palooza: The Art, The History, The Game (Cornell Museum, Dec. 1 to March 28). Everything you ever wanted to know about pinball.
Winter Wonderland on Ice (Dec. 18-20). Olympic bronze medalist Jozef Sabovcik. Cabaret (Feb. 19-21). The national tour.
Song and dance from Tony Danza (Feb. 22 and 23) and Christina Andreas (March 1 and 2), and words of wisdom from “Zoo Man” Jack Hanna (Jan. 7) and movie expert Robert Osborne (March 25).
“We keep getting stronger. The quality is still there and we’re bringing in a national tour,” Old School Square marketing director Melissa Carter said. “We’ve been able to keep the variety and have something for everyone.
“Now the cabaret community in New York knows about us and they want to come here. So it’s working for us. And you can’t go wrong with Christine.”
As in Christine Ebersole, Tony winner for Grey Gardens and 42nd Street, from March 15-17, and Adam Pascal, Tony nominee for Rent and fresh from the movie version, on April 5 and 6.
For reservations and information, call 561-243-7922. See you at the theater.

Thom Smith is a freelance writer. He can be reached at

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