Sleek and modern, The Ray boutique hotel makes its debut in Pineapple Grove Wednesday, Sept. 1, bringing some shiny-new dining offerings to downtown Delray Beach’s expanding restaurant scene.
Those offerings include a rooftop bar and restaurant, a classic grill helmed by a well-known Las Vegas chef, a lobby bar and a coffee shop. And opening closer to winter is a modern Japanese restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Akira Back, a former professional snowboarder turned chef with some 16 restaurants across the globe.
There may be no waterfront views at this hotel, but you can spot the ocean shimmer from the rooftop pool deck on a clear day. The Ray, which is part of Hilton’s Curio Collection of boutique hotels, sits about a mile west of the beach at 233 NE 2nd Ave. Its terraces and windows may offer cityscape and sidewalk views, but the hotel’s interiors echo Delray Beach’s tropical setting.
Designed by Gonzalez Architects of Miami, The Ray marries a modern tropical look with big-city flair.
“In terms of location and uses, the hotel is urban. In terms of the design, we’ve made the architecture tropical modern,” says Jordana Jarjura, president and general counsel of Menin, the Delray Beach-based development company that built The Ray and also brought the city the Delray Beach Market food hall in April.
Just as it did for the food hall project, Menin partnered with Clique Hospitality for the hotel’s food and beverage component. Clique also operates Lionfish and Johnnie Brown’s restaurants in downtown Delray Beach.
Menin and its lenders are banking big-time on The Ray. The development company bought the land in 2016 for $26.6 million and later secured a $72 million loan to construct the hotel project, according to the Real Deal and other industry publications. In July, Menin took out a nearly $86 million loan from lender Acres Capital Corp. to refinance the project.
The designers who worked on the 141-room hotel focused on materials native to Florida, says Jarjura.
“We do live in South Florida and have that tropical vibe,” she says.
The food and drink offerings carry echoes of the setting as well.
Here’s what to know about The Ray’s restaurants and bars.
Ember Grill offers outdoor dining
Ask The Ray’s executive chef Joe Zanelli what diners should expect from the hotel’s main restaurant and he’s quick to respond: “The greatest neighborhood grill — that’s what they should expect.”
The 4,700-square-foot Ember Grill features an open kitchen and interior bar. The space may be brand-new but the chef says he detects an old-soul feel about the restaurant, which seats 272.
“It’s one of those rooms that seem timeless to me,” says Zanelli, a longtime Las Vegas chef who has worked with top chefs including Wolfgang Puck, Michael Mina, Laurent Tourondel, Daniel Boulud and Andrew Carmellini. “It’s modern and chic but still has rustic elements, and there’s a great open kitchen.”
That kitchen’s star player is a hybrid Josper grill and oven powered by hardwood charcoal. Hence the menu’s many grilled and roasted dishes like the Peruvian-spice-rubbed roast chicken that’s served with ají verde sauce, the Veracruz-style branzino, and any of the steaks that Zanelli bastes with bone-marrow butter.
Zanelli approaches the menu with equal measures of creativity and respect for “the classic American stuff.”
“We’re trying to put together a menu that’s the greatest hits of great comfort food,” he says. “We’re taking recognizable dishes, then trying to pair them with what’s happening in South Florida.”
- Hours: Ember Grill serves dinner Monday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., on Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. A Sunday brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Happy hour is offered weekdays from 5 to 7 p.m. Lunch service is expected to start in October.
- Good to know: Ember Grill offers plenty of outdoor seating at its (dog-friendly) patio. Diners can access the restaurant directly, without walking through the hotel.
Riding the mini-trend of rooftop bars (such as Spruzzo at The Ben, Treehouse at the Canopy hotel and Topside at the Beacon on Love Street in Jupiter) is The Ray’s casual and breezy Rosewater Rooftop.
The bar and small-plates restaurant shares the 22,000-square-foot rooftop with the hotel’s pool deck, offering seating capacity for more than 450.
With its own restaurant kitchen, Rosewater offers a menu that meanders a bit as well, taking inspiration from global flavors.
“It’s global street food, lots of shareable items rather than your appetizer-entrée-dessert thing,” says Zanelli.
That means a menu that’s focused on shareable starters and mezze, dishes like a hamachi tostada with smoky morita chilies and cashew cream, wagyu beef carpaccio with miso onion jam, crispy local shrimp with gojuchang aioli and ancho-rubbed lamb ribs with bitter orange glaze. A slate of creative sushi rolls and skewered bites (like soy-glazed chicken and spicy eggplant) round out the rooftop menu.
Like at all of The Ray’s food-and-drink spots, you can expect some snazzy cocktails for the pairing at Rosewater Rooftop. Snazzy in terms of looks, not excessive ingredients.
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- Hours: Rosewater Rooftop serves lunch daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., dinner from Wednesday to Sunday at 4 p.m. to closing. The Golden Hour (happy hour) happens Wednesday to Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m.
- Information: RosewaterDelray.com
- Good to know: Rosewater Rooftop has a private dining room that seats 54.
Meet the ‘Intoxicologist’/head bartender
Head bartender Eric Hobbie, better known as The Ray’s “Chief Intoxicologist,” believes “you eat and drink through your eyes first.”
“I want five pictures taken of the drink before you taste it. I want you to see it from across the room and say, ‘I don’t even know what that is, but I want one,’” says Hobbie, who has created signature cocktails for Rosewater, Ember Grill and Lobby Bar.
Those snapshots may not reveal Hobbie’s primary focus: the classic inspiration for each cocktail.
“I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, but make classics,” says Hobbie, who also takes inspiration from The Ray’s executive chef, Zanelli. (“Chef Joe’s got one of the best palates in the business,” he says.)
Zanelli favors cocktails that are recognizable beyond their presentation frills.
“You can look at any cocktail on my menu and say, ‘Oh, that looks like an old fashioned or a gin and tonic, but with a twist,’” he says.
Some of his more decorated drinks include the Garden of Eden cocktail at Ember Grill, which is served in a white ceramic flower pot with pineapple leaves and edible plants.
“It looks like a centerpiece. When you see it, you’ll tell your friends and get 1,000 likes,” says Hobbie of the drink that’s made with Tito’s vodka, lime juice, pink peppercorn and herb syrup. “It’s a play on a gimlet. You can’t put it down.”
At Lobby Bar, Hobbie serves his Hard Day’s Work cocktail in a mini bathtub that’s complete with bubbles and a souvenir rubber ducky.
“It’s a play on a vodka sour,” he says of the drink that’s made with vodka, lemon juice and honey syrup.
Those bubbles in the mini-tub? They’re made of aquafaba, the whipped liquid from canned chickpeas and other legumes.
The Ray’s Lobby Bar
The Ray’s Lobby Bar is a meandering affair.
“There’s no shortage of seating,” says Menin’s Jordana Jarjura. “There are lots of small areas to sit and eat and work and have cocktails.”
There’s no dedicated food menu for the bar, says chef Zanelli, but there will be a full range of craft cocktails, wines and beers.
“I love a good hotel lobby bar,” says Jarjura. “We wanted this one to be more intimate, more traditional, not some humongous bar.”
- Hours: Open Sunday through Thursday from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Stingers for lunch or breakfast
For those who seek a quick breakfast or lunch, they’ll find it at Stingers, the hotel’s counter-service café. It offers grab-and-go items as well as a la carte dishes that are prepared onsite.
Expect signature coffees and teas, a selection of pastries, healthy options like egg-white bowls and smoked salmon, pressed juices and snacks.
The café offers some seating and it opens to the lobby and bar area, where many more seats are available. There’s a patio dining area as well.
- Hours: Stingers is open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily, offering breakfast, lunch, snacks and specialty coffee, tea and juice.
Named after its celebrity creator, Akira Back is a modern Japanese-leaning restaurant inspired by Chef Akira Back’s life and global travels as a former professional snowboarder.
The Korean-born chef is by no means a cultural purist. The dinner menu at his Akira Back restaurant at Four Seasons hotel in Seoul, includes a truffle-scented tuna pizza, a chicken-chorizo enchilada and octopus croquettes.
- Hours: Akira Back, which is expected to open closer to winter, will serve dinner only.
- Information: The chef’s website, AkiraBack.com, offers a glimpse of his numerous concepts.
- Good to know: The restaurant can be accessed from the street without entering the hotel lobby.
THE RAY HOTEL
- Located at 233 NE 2nd Ave., Delray Beach