The Pelican Café

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The Pelican Café

By Lynn DiMenna for Cabaret Scenes

Since recently relocating to Florida, my husband and I have had many new and inspiring experiences discovering theaters, restaurants, and a variety of different performance venues on the gastronomically and musically rich Treasure Coast. But none have been so gratifying as our recent experiences at The Pelican Café in Lake Park, a few exits north of West Palm Beach.

Promoting itself as having a “Nantucket meets the Florida Keys” vibe, this charming, New England-style restaurant sets the tone immediately with a stately, four-foot-high, bronze pelican greeting you at the entrance, a white, wooden rail that surrounds the premises, and the sparkling lights that encircle the outdoor dining area visible from the turn off US 1.

However, on two recent visits, what also distinguishes The Pelican Café are the warm, smiling faces of the owners, Mark Frangione and Karen Howe, welcoming you at the door. One instantly feels like a guest in their home and, despite the expected hub-bub of a restaurant gearing up for a sold-out evening presenting fine food and entertainment, they remain cool, calm, collected and in close contact with their patrons at all times.

Karen & Mark Frangione

From the minute we enter the brightly lit main dining area, all nautical navy and white with framed paintings of colorful sailboat spinnakers and striped beach umbrellas, we know we are in for something special. On our first night there, we head to the bar and, as we wait for the music to begin, we observe a well-trained, attentive band of crisply attired waiters serving drinks, explaining menu options, and taking orders. Impressed, we watch the owners as well embracing their regulars, shaking hands with newcomers, and creating an overall feeling that we were all in the right place at the right time.

Sounds easy enough, but how often does that kind of TLC actually happen in any kind of restaurant establishment? It takes a tremendous amount of effort and passion to create an atmosphere where diners, wait staff, music buffs, and performers can all come together knowing they will be supported, treated respectfully, and encouraged to give their best and expect the best in return.

Coincidentally, on our return visit with friends, and seated at a table in an adjoining room, I was pleased—but not surprised—to read the following quote by Madeline Bridges on the menu: “Give the world the best you have and the best will come back to you.” How very appropriate!

And speaking of the menu, it’s filled with treasured recipes gleaned from both Grandma Frangione’s kitchen and years of experience in some of the finest restaurants in Greenwich, CT where both Frangione and Howe learned their craft.

From Mom Frangione’s Sunday sauce to the little “pasta pillows” that accompany a unique and delicious shrimp dish, the menu is extensive and varied and, depending on whether you’re there for breakfast, lunch or dinner, offers some of the most scrumptious doughnuts, pizza, paninis, and pasta dishes in the area.

It’s a winning formula—dedicated, supportive owners, delicious food, lovingly prepared and vocal and instrumental performers who understand how to connect with their audience and enhance a dining experience.

It all comes down to the love the Frangione/Howe team has for what they do. There’s an equally revealing quote on their website. As Albert Einstein once said, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow.”

Add love to that mix and it really IS the secret of life.

The Avery Sommers with Michael Anthony Masci dinner show is reasonably priced at $45 plus drinks, tax and gratuities and good times await you on September 7 when they return to The Pelican Café.

Lynn DiMenna

Lynn DiMenna has enjoyed a multi-faceted career in the entertainment world. She’s been guest vocalist with the Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Count Basie orchestras, as well as a featured “girl singer” with the Stan Rubin Orchestra and The Tavern on the Green All Stars. As a cabaret headliner and CD recording artist, her shows have played clubs from New York’s Stage 72 at The Triad, Metropolitan Room, Laurie Beechman Theater and Birdland to L.A.’s Gardenia. For nearly two decades, she hosted cabaret-focused radio shows in the New York metropolitan area, and now is a contributing writer and reviewer for Cabaret Scenes magazine and its website.