Seated at a table inside his Brick & Barrel gastropub, Chef David Schroeder smiled when he discussed the growth of West Palm Beach’s Lake Park neighborhood.
“There is fresh energy in this area,’’ Schroeder said. “I’m kind of old… and I’ve only been here two years.’’
Understand that two years is a lifetime in the South Florida restaurant world, so indeed, Brick & Barrel, as it begins its third year, is closing in on elder statesman status.
But Schroeder and Lake Park are just getting started. For example, three microbreweries are expected to open this year in Lake Park, beginning with Coastal Karma Brewing, which is set to open this month. And word keeps getting out about Schroeder’s outstanding menu at Brick & Barrel, boosted in part by a successful showing at the season’s first Swank Table at Swank Farms in Loxahatchee this past December.
Schroeder’s Swank Farms menu included pork belly, lobster benedict over johnnie cake and collard greens and fried chicken thighs.
“It was the first time we did (Swank Table) by ourselves and it was awesome,’’ Schroeder said. “We’re really proud of what we did. Since it was the first one of the season, the bar was high – maybe we pushed it a little bit higher.’’
The same can be said of what Schroeder has done with Brick & Barrel as a catalyst in revitalizing Lake Park’s downtown area. The Swank Farms menu was a microcosm is Brick & Barrel’s menu that includes an outstanding boneless fried chicken dish with collared grins and sweet corn casserole; scallops and risotto with chive cream sauce; ham and cheese croquettas; scotch egg; and a buffalo chicken sandwich that might be best in South Florida.
“The diversity of the menu and why we do the things we do for the menu is always fun to explain it people,’’ said Schroeder, who cut his culinary teeth at restaurants such as Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro in Yountville, Calif. “It’s food I love to work with and things that excite me and that I want to eat when I go out. I think that really translates as to why something is on the menu.’’
In other words, Schroeder’s goal is to not only make good food, but make good food that is interesting.
“Not just ‘Why is the fried chicken good?’ My line cook makes the best collard greens I’ve ever had; the sweet corn casserole is my mom’s recipe. You take those three things and put them in a dish, of course it’s going to be good. How can it be bad?’’
Now that’s raising the bar.