Sometimes when you live in paradise, you let the tourists have all the fun. Take, for example, the Royal at the Raleigh Hotel. People staying at the hotel for a conference or some sun get to enjoy the food and ambiance of this alfresco dining experience, but we locals probably aren't aware of its existence between lobby and poolside.
Passing through the Raleigh's art deco lobby, you exit toward the pool -- and directly into the dining area of the Royal. A tiki hut houses a bar, and a large tree decorated with lights and lanterns is the focal point of the space. As beautiful as it is by day, the space really sparkles at night.
The Royal's menu is classic American food with a modern twist. For lunch, tuna Niçoise ($15) features tiny quail eggs, and the Cuban sandwich ($14) is elevated by the use of slow-roasted pulled pork. The dinner menu offers fresh local grouper and mahi-mahi (both $25). A New York strip, at $55, is the priciest entrée on the mostly reasonably priced menu. The Royal also serves breakfast daily and Sunday brunch.
Chef John DeLucie heads the Royal and commutes back and forth from New York, where he is the executive chef/proprietor of New York's the Lion and founding chef of the Waverly Inn. DeLucie says Raleigh Hotel management, impressed with the Lion, approached him.
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His goal for the menu is to bring locally grown fresh products to the table and to try to go with items that are seasonal -- without falling into Miami tropical clichés (you won't find fish in coconut/guava/mango sauce on the menu). "The techniques are Italian and French, but the food is American," DeLucie says. "All you ever want to do as a chef is to get the basics done consistently right."
For a peaceful lunch with friends or a dinner under a lighted tree canopy, the Royal combines good, simple food with a really beautiful setting. It's a great excuse to visit South Beach -- and locals don't need a plane ticket.