Thomas Keller Plans to Revive an Iconic South Florida Restaurant

Wine

Thomas Keller is set to open a new restaurant in Palm Beach, Fla. When is still unclear. What we do know is that it will be located at 221 Worth Ave., the former address of the locally beloved restaurant Ta-boo. Based on documents filed by the property owners, we also know that there are plans for interior remodeling, but, outside of repairs, no plans for any major exterior changes—including the signage.

A letter of intent drafted by Dailey Janssen Architects says of the project: “The Ta-boo restaurant is a landmark on Worth Avenue serving the town and residents since the 1940’s. It is deserving of preserving and restoring.”

Ta-boo: An Icon that Drew Frank Sinatra and John F. Kennedy

In May 2023, Ta-boo was forced to close due to an eviction suit after 82 years in business. The bar and restaurant had been a popular local hot spot, drawing celebrities visiting South Florida and local regulars. But it needed renovations, and when a new owner purchased the building in 2019, it did not renew the lease.

Less than a week after owner Franklyn DeMarco shuttered the doors, it was confirmed that Thomas Keller took over the lease and would be opening a new restaurant in its place.

The Palm Beach town council is set to meet next week to review a business development proposal that includes expanding the current space into the neighboring building. 219 Worth Avenue Holdings, LLC, which filed the eviction complaint that led to Ta-boo’s closing, is cited as the applicant on the new development proposal that seeks to use the added space as, “BOH kitchen office space and … ancillary cooking and storage area,” according to a Planning, Zoning and Building Department staff memorandum.

Further details of the interior remodel promise to reflect the past: using similar materials and colors, restoring existing murals with the help of the original artist and even proposing the new bar in the same location as the current one, all “in keeping with the restaurant’s historic ambience.”

Ta-boo has been a must-dine spot in Palm Beach since 1941. (Lucien Capehart Photography/Getty Images)

Keller: A Global Culinary Name with Florida Roots

Keller was born in California, but his family moved to Palm Beach in his youth. As a teen, he worked his first restaurant job as a dishwasher at the Palm Beach Yacht Club, where he eventually worked his way up to cook. Keller also attended local Lake Worth Community High School and Palm Beach Junior College.

Last December he visited his high school alma mater and spoke to students in the culinary program about a restaurant’s legacy. “My aspiration today in my life is to make sure my restaurants are generational restaurants.” With over 80 years behind the name, a new Ta-boo could be just that.

As with any project seeking government approval, there are no guarantees on how long the project will take. “We are finalizing the design and plan,” Laura Cunningham, his wife and business partner, told Wine Spectator. “When ready, we will be releasing more information in late 2024.”

Keller owns several restaurants across the country, including five Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners, most notably Per Se in New York and the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., both of which have earned the prestigious Grand Award.


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