The Chalet


Was it the best lunch ever because it was the last lunch there?

The Chalet Suzanne defined Old Florida to me: the cobbled cypress, the low-ceiling dining rooms, the vintage china, the trademark bubble gum pink paint. For 83 years it ruled Florida’s high-end dining experience decades before we all became foodies. Until Sunday.

At the Chalet, diners from around the world would enjoy a truly five-star experience featuring the legendary moon soup and lobster Newburg while watching a gator make his rounds in the lake. In the Chalet’s heyday, you could fly over from Palm Beach, land at the adjoining airstrip, eat like a king alongside Johnny Carson or Burt Reynolds or maybe even an astronaut, then spend the night at the inn before taking off in the morning with a belly full of Swedish pancakes.

But for us locals, the Chalet was the place where brides were feted, girlfriends held long gossipy breakfasts and friends got their first jobs as teenagers. What began as a small tavern in an orange grove was discovered by Duncan Hines in the 1930s and remained in the same family until it closed its doors over the weekend.

The plan was for me, my husband and our friends to have one last meal there before it closed for good. Reservations were made weeks ago. Breakfast was skipped in preparation. After starting off with a perfect 31 Fizz (gin, orange, grenadine and vanilla cocktail) we ordered the four course “leisurely lunch” where we were bombarded with fine cuisine for three and a half hours. Somehow, afterward, we hoisted ourselves up the long brick staircase for the last time.

The Chalet’s property is currently for sale. The dishes and other antiques scattered throughout the restaurant and inn will be sold through a private sale. I’ll be there, bidding on the green turtle soup tureen that served as our centerpiece yesterday.

And imagining just one more meal.

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