When was the last time you walked through Northwood Village? This amazing little part of town, tucked between 23rd and 25th streets, is West Palm Beach’s oldest historic neighborhood and has all the charm of a small-town main street.
The way Northwood Village looks today reminds me of what I imagine Clematis Street looked like in its very first years. Rows of small buildings built by owners looking to find their fortune during the Florida boom era of the 1920s.
By the end of that decade of incredible growth, Clematis Street had changed the skyline of West Palm Beach while Northwood Village remained frozen in time.
By the 1970s the street was mostly shuttered and abandoned and so it remained until 2005 when the City of West Palm Beach started work on bringing back and injecting new life into this historic street.
Agora Mediterranean Kitchen, at N. Dixie and 24th St., is one of the area’s many success stories. Formerly a Turkish market, the space was converted into a restaurant that’s now heralded by Trip Advisor as the No. 1 restaurant in West Palm Beach.
“When we started we changed everything – the only thing that’s left is the four walls,” says owner Semih Arif Ozdemir as he gives me the grand tour.
“I missed my mom’s cooking, so I brought her here and she trained all the staff and created a menu with all her home-cooked dishes,” he adds. “Turkey is in the center of all the continents, split between Europe and Asia, with Africa right below. I collected art from each continent and keep it here in the restaurant. Everyone who comes here finds something that reminds them of their home.”
The quirky Bohemian feel starts at Agora and works its way through the 400 and 500 blocks. The initial revitalization was fueled by the city and Community Redevelopment Agency who, over the years, upgraded the streets, planted new trees and provided grants for facade improvements and small businesses.
Restaurants were the first to establish themselves. Cafe Centro opened in 2006 and quickly became a popular dining place. Soon, art galleries, consignment stores and boutiques took advantage of the renewed interest and investment in the area.
Anchoring the west end of Northwood Road is Lot 23, an artist-in-residence program where you can find many local artists such as Craig Mcinnis, Steve Brose, Mayling Pao and Anthony Burks teaching and creating art in the studio.
Across the street you’ll find Pétanque Kitchen & Bar. After closing Le Rendez-Vous on Datura Street in downtown, the Parisian brothers Olivier and Edouard Delrieu moved to the 500 block of Northwood Road. At Pétanque you can sit inside or on the large back patio, enjoy food from the gastropub-style menu and listen to live music on most nights.
If you’re planning to visit the area, take advantage of the many events that are put on throughout the month. ArtWalk is held the second Saturday of the month and Food Truck Roll-In is on the third Wednesday.
Art Night Out is the area’s flagship event and takes place the last Friday of the month. You’ll find music and street art, and each of the stores open their doors to the hundreds of people milling through the area enjoying the evening.
Art lovers, make sure to catch an Open Studio Tour which takes place once a year during Art Night Out. Jump on a trolley and visit a dozen art studios in the neighborhood, ranging from warehouse-style galleries to beautiful artist lofts and creative spaces. It really is a terrific time.
Back at Agora Mediterranean Kitchen, Semih talks about the vibe of Northwood Village.
“The restaurants here are all friendly,” he says. “Hutton, Table 427, Malakor Thai, Cafe Centro, it’s like a big family. If I close early, I’ll go to one of their restaurants, and if they close early they’ll come to mine.”
Semih adds, “I love that my friends come and visit me. How often do you visit your lawyer or mechanic? When you cook food everyone comes to see you.”
Pictured above: Shown is a sampling of offerings from the menu of Agora Mediterranean Kitchen, currently rated the No. 1 restaurant in West Palm Beach by Trip Advisor and representative of the dining, arts and shopping revival taking place in Northwood Village. Photo provided by Agora Mediterranean Kitchen