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Deep-pocketed Northerners are still flocking to South Florida and snapping up our empty restaurant spaces, with the latest example, Meso Beach House, landing on Delray Beach’s Atlantic Avenue this fall.
Meso Beach House, a Mediterranean-style restaurant born in New York’s Westchester County, will open its first sister location at 900 E. Atlantic Ave., where the touristy drag meets the Intracoastal. With a craft-cocktail bar, patio raw bar and seafood-focused Mediterranean menu that spans grilled octopus to whole roasted branzino, Meso’s trendy fare is designed to hook tourists and the local boating set, owner Bobby Khorrami says.
Perhaps the most exciting part of opening Meso, he says, is its promising location on the waterfront, nowhere near New York.
“Delray Beach is our future,” says Khorrami, whose newly formed B Conscious Hospitality Group runs Meso and its flagship, Meso Mediterranean Cuisine in Rye, N.Y., with two silent partners. “The last few years in New York, especially during COVID, were a struggle. Without Broadway shows, without hotels, it chopped the legs off our businesses.”
For Khorrami, 49, betting his fortunes on South Florida is an act of redemption. Sluggish pandemic sales in 2020 forced him to close his New York City eateries Adella, in Hell’s Kitchen, and his farm-to-table bistro the Tillage, in Midtown.
With zero COVID restrictions, lower taxes and cheaper licensing permits, South Florida is a better alternative, he says. He signed a 20-year lease last week for the 8,500-square-foot restaurant, which replaces Argentinean steakhouse Che!!! that shuttered here in late June. Khorrami suspects the space, which includes a 120-seat patio, deck and a 100-foot-long boat dock, will debut by early November.
He describes much of Meso’s menu, still being finalized, as “60% hip, trendy seafood dishes with a Mediterranean background” plus vegan and meat entrees. A signature dish, for example, is its one-pound lobster spaghetti with housemade bucatini in a reduction of brandy and heirloom cherry tomatoes. Meso’s vegetable lasagna layers grilled eggplant, wild mushrooms, peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, topped with dollops of pistachio pesto and tofu cream. There are also rosemary-crusted lamb chops and Iranian Shirazi salad (with rainbow cherry tomatoes, cucumber and red onion).
Khorrami, who lives part time in Delray Beach, plans to source mahi-mahi and grouper from local fishmongers. A patio oyster bar will showcase oysters, crab, lobster and three catches of the day.
“When you walk over that bridge or pull up to the dock, it’s like you’re walking into a Mediterranean seaside spot on the coast of Spain or Greece,” Khorrami says.
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Northern restaurants, perhaps once driven to South Florida by immediate pandemic woes, now see the region as a permanent home base, says Tom Prakas, whose Boca Raton commercial real estate broker Prakas & Co. handled Meso’s lease.
“Restaurants have had it up there and Florida is the beacon of light for them going forward,” says Prakas, describing at least “10 to 15 more big-name restaurant groups waiting in the wings” to bring their talents to South Florida.
Khorrami says Meso will also showcase live music acts on its Intracoastal-facing patio.
“We put our sweat and blood in this,” he says. “The real-estate market has exploded and the locals have opened my eyes. It’s the right time and place.”
Meso Beach House, at 900 E. Atlantic Ave., in Delray Beach, will open this November.