Budget-friendly Palm Beach Restaurants

Key lime pie at Testa’s Restaurant in Palm Beach

A great thing happens in Palm Beach County during the summer: The snowbirds return to the North. For me, mainly that means a shorter commute to work and less time spent cursing at other drivers in my car. But it is also signifies the start of something else: time to pretend I’m rich and play on the island of Palm Beach.

As the town’s wealthy seasonal residents empty out for the summer, the restaurants lure new guests in with summer specials. This means a chance to try some of the best (read: expensive) restaurants in the area for a fraction of the cost.

My dream is to someday have the famous Sunday brunch at The Breakers (Can we talk about the fact that it has more than 30 desserts? Sounds like Heaven freakin’ on Earth.), but as far as I can see that’s still $90 and just a leetle out of my price range. My mom told me sometimes they lower the price during the summer, but I can’t find any indication that they are this year.

Nonetheless, there are still plenty of good options. I tried two this past week. Testa’s, which has been a staple on the island for 90 years, offers authentic old-fashioned Palm Beach dining. The restaurant opened when the town of Palm Beach was only 10 years old. You can’t beat Testa’s sunset menu, which is easily the best meal deal on the island. For $14.99, the three-course menu includes an appetizer (garden salad, garlic bread or eggplant), entree (everything from seafood to chicken pasta to steak) and dessert (ice cream, but can be upgraded for $2.95 to one of the restaurant’s signature desserts).

The garlic bread appetizer was actually the best thing I ate at Testa’s. I had the regular bread, but for an additional cost you can get it topped with bleu cheese, mozzarella and tomato. Mmm.

Testa’s signature dessert is the famous strawberry pie. It was drenched in a strawberry syrup that was a little too sweet for me, but I know others rave about it.

But the one I was really excited to try? Michelle Bernstein’s restaurant at The Omphoy Ocean Resort.

Michelle Bernstein got me to eat octopus. My parents have officially been owned. All the work that they’ve done for 23 years to try to get me to eat seafood was one-upped in seconds as Bernstein herself delivered a small bowl of the grilled octopus starter to our table at The Omphoy Ocean Resort in Palm Beach.

Let’s be real. If anybody could get me to eat a dish as exotic as octopus, it would be Bernstein. One of the best parts of my job is how often I get to eat at great restaurants. I hear “chef talk” often, and Michelle Bernstein is a name I hear over and over again. Called the “Best Chef in the Southern United States” by the James Beard Foundation, her restaurant has been toward the top of my dining out to-do list basically since I started a dining out to-do list.

Last week I got to sample the restaurant’s summer prixe-fixe menu. For $35, you get an appetizer, entree and dessert. For a price comparison, on the normal dinner menu at Bernstein’s an entree alone averages $33 and an appetizer averages about $15. That’s nearly $50, without a dessert. I’d say the $35 for a complete meal – complete with a view of the ocean – is totally worth it, considering it will probably be the best meal you have all summer.

As for the octopus, the fear of eating creatures from under the sea that I’ve held onto since childhood was instantly forgotten as I munched on the dish, which contained fava-bean hummus, celery and fava-bean salad, lemon vinaigrette and, of course, grilled octopus. It didn’t even taste like octopus! Actually, let me correct myself. It didn’t taste how I thought octopus would. I’d always assumed octopus would be well, I can’t think of any other way to say it, disgusting. But Michelle Bernstein’s would be better described by another D-word: delicious.

Some of my favorite dishes (thanks Kelly of Shamin Abas PR for the pictures!):

The Greek watermelon salad is the perfect summer appetizer! The tomatoes, cucumbers watermelon and feta cheese are light and refreshing.

The gnocchi carbonara was a favorite at our table. With cheese, peas and proscuitto, it was melt-in-your-mouth good.

Loved this veal with lemon, cherries, capers and celery puree.

A peek at the “PB Taste” three-course menu at Michelle Bernstein’s
$35; Available Sunday to Thursday

First Course:

Shrimp Tiradito: chilled shrimp, soy, peruvian delicately spicy sauce, popcorn
Watermelon Greek: tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese
Gnocchi Carbonara: fresh peas, melting cheese, prosciutto

Main:

Veal Scallopine: celery puree, cherries, capers, lemons
Salmon: corn puree, succotash, shaved fennel salad
Chick Pea Panisse: stewed tomatoes, kale, mushrooms

Dessert:

Hot Chocolate Filled Doughnuts: with caramel pot the crème
Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches: minty chocolate
Passion Fruit Panna Cotta: orange gelee, seasonal fruit

13 comments

  1. Phyllis Tormo says:

    Is this the same Jennifer who couldn’t even swallow green beans unless she could wash them down with coke?
    Grandma

  2. lolly says:

    I just found this post after a google image search for “Testa’s Strawberry Pie”
    Love it. Forwarding to my father. My mother grew up in Palm Beach, and we spent a lot of time there growing up- my parents still do. My dad is a creature of habit, and literally will not eat anywhere other than Testa’s. He’s there twice a day. His favorite menu items: Garlic Bread, Stawberry Pie, Key Lime Pie.

    : )

    PS- Breakers Brunch = great photo op, but overrated. Go to Greens Pharmacy, sit at the counter, and get a Breakfast Sandwich and a short-stack. Best five bucks you ever spet

    • Jennifer Tormo says:

      Hi lolly! Thanks for the comment. I’ve been to Green’s! It’s a classic. It’s good to hear you say The Breakers brunch is overrated. It’s a dream that’s eluded me for years, so that’s comforting! :)

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