It seems as if everyone’s going tapas. The small plates concept traditionally served alongside sherry or wine in Spain can be found in restaurants featuring just about any cuisine you can imagine. Check out The Naked Grape, a veteran on the scene in Wilton Manors or the recently opened Max’s Social House from Dennis Max, whose Max Group already has two restaurants (Max's Harvest in Delray Beach and Max’s Grille in Boca Raton) and a special events venue.
Max’s Social House
116 NE 6th Ave, Delray Beach
Max’s Social House in Delray, housed in a charming 1925 cottage, focuses on small plate dining (with a few entrée size portions thrown in for good measure) and cocktails crafted from small batch artisanal spirits and infusions, organic juices and fresh hand-picked garnishes.
The well-thought-out food menu uses local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients whenever possible. At Max’s, the majority of the dishes are fairly priced and most are perfectly prepared (my grilled octopus was a tad overcooked, probably by just a few seconds, but that’s all it takes to turn rubbery). But, that was the only slip-up in a meal that satisfied on all other counts.
We began with the warm, creamy Stilton dip, served with house-made potato chips. Chorizo stuffed dates wrapped in house-smoked bacon, could have had crispier bacon and, at $9 for four dates, was the only dish I felt was overpriced. Chilled shrimp arrived with Key lime honey mustard dressing. They were so perfect in their simplicity that all they needed was a squeeze of grilled lemon accompaniment. Vito’s burrata featured a generous portion of the signature cheese (similar to fresh mozzarella) served with white beans, olives, peppers, onion, baby carrots and a kale-lemon pesto.
There are a number of side dish options, which you can order separately or in a combination platter. They average $5 a plate, the combination of all five is $21. The garlic-parmesan fries with black truffle aioli and baby carrots with a honey chili glaze are perfectly fine, but not remarkable. Better bets are the crispy Brussels sprouts or cauliflower steak.
We were so full we couldn’t contemplate an entrée, but on following visits I want to try the Akaushi short rib served with mac-n-cheese or one of the sandwiches; a killer burger, and a Kobe style hot dog served Vietnamese báhn mì style with Sriracha aioli, crispy onions and jalapeno or classic with house-made stout mustard and Brussels-kraut.
Save room for dessert for you will want to savor the banana cream pie served in a mason jar topped with bruleéd bananas, or the ultimate chocoholic brownie topped with caramel ice cream.
The Naked Grape Wine Bar & Tapas
2163 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors
The Naked Grape on Wilton Drive is a cozy little spot with a few outdoor tables. And while the name may seem to indicate that they’re all about the grape, the food is equally tempting. Start with one of the traditional dips and spreads such as hummus, artichoke dip, truffled mousse, liver pate or the yummy peppadew glazed goat cheese gratin; all are served with scoopable edibles and priced around $10. If you’re looking for something a little heartier, check out the mix of artisanal cheeses with classic elbow macaroni served in an individual iron skillet, meatballs or crab cakes. The Swiss cheese fondue is great for a romantic date. It is served with cubed bread, but you can add apples and ham to the mix as well.
The flatbreads are offered in both traditional and gluten free versions and run $10-$14. Among my favorites is the combination of sautéed wild mushrooms served on a thin crust lavash with mozzarella base, then topped with goat cheese and fresh herbs. The shrimp and chorizo is topped with roasted red peppers and shaved manchego. The star offering though features fig jam, prosciutto and mozzarella topped with arugula, thinly sliced red onion & balsamic fig dressing.
The Naked Grape offers half off bottles of wine on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and happy hour all night on Thursday. It also offers a monthly wine and cheese tasting. The next tasting is being held on Monday, March 16. Since it occurs on St. Patrick’s Eve, the event will focus on purveyors following “green” practices. The cost of this tasting is $25 per person, and pre-paid reservations are required to guarantee a place at the tasting.