September 24, 2021

Music Arts

Spearheading Arts Excellence

Food, drink guide to The Ray’s eateries, bars

7 min read

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. 

The Ray hotel opens Sept. 1 in Delray Beach's Pineapple Grove district. The hotel is part of Hilton's Curio Collection.

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.

A look at the lobby area at The Ray hotel in 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.

At Ember Grill, Maine lobster and sweet corn ravioli are tucked into corn pudding and served with asparagus and lemon butter.

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.”

A look at Ember Grill's dining room at The Ray hotel in Delray Beach.

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.” 

A Lady in Red cocktail is served at Ember Grill. The drink combines Angel's Envy bourbon, strawberry syrup, honey, lemon and Peychaud's Bitters. The restaurant is located on the main floor of The Ray hotel in Delray Beach.

Ember Grill

  • 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. 
Yellowtail crudo is on the menu at Rosewater Rooftop, located atop The Ray hotel in Delray Beach.

Rosewater Rooftop

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. 

An artist's rendering of Rosewater Rooftop's open-air dining area. The bar and restaurant is located atop The Ray hotel in Delray Beach.

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.

Baked Alaska is served at Rosewater Rooftop, located atop The Ray hotel in Delray Beach.

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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Rosewater Rooftop shares the top of The Ray with the hotel's pool deck. The new boutique hotel is located in Delray Beach.

Rosewater Rooftop

  • 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.
At Ember Grill, a tumbler gets an espresso-sugar rim for a Muddy  Waters cocktail (in shaker), which combines bourbon, vanilla simple syrup and chocolate bitters. In the coupe glass, which is rimmed with cilantro sugar, the Love Potion cocktail is a mix of citron vodka, cucumber and strawberry syrup.

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. 

Dry ice adds the steamy visuals to a chilly Tee Time cocktail at The Ray hotel's Lobby Bar in Delray Beach. The drink combines hibiscus tea syrup, fresh lemon juice, plus strawberry and lemongrass-infused vodka, all shaken and poured tableside for two.

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. 

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