New to restaurant biz, Delray trio build ‘Banyan’ eatery in Pineapple Grove from scratch

Miles Moriarty (left) and Joseph LoRe (right), co-owners of Banyan Restaurant & Bar, opening in Delray Beach’s Pineapple Grove neighborhood, stand near the banyan tree outside their eatery with head chef James Skarulis (center). (Photo by Lulu Ramadan / Palm Beach Post)

DELRAY BEACH — They’re the business managers, the construction crew and the creative minds behind an eclectic menu at a small eatery near the decades-old banyan tree on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 2nd Street.

Joseph LoRe and Miles Moriarty, who co-own Banyan Restaurant & Bar, opening in Delray’s Pineapple Grove art district, aren’t just funding the venture, they’re building it themselves from scratch, alongside head chef James Skarulis.

“This is a small place, but this is ours,” Moriarty said. “And when people step inside, they’re going to feel that.”

Banyan is slated to open in early December on a street with a stretch of popular restaurants, such as adjacent The Grove, Max’s Harvest and Brule Bistro, just a stone’s throw north.

Banyan, named after the towering tree just outside the restaurant, will set itself apart, Moriarty said, with its menu — influenced by family recipes — and a dedication that can come only from men who have spent about a year gutting the restaurant and building it up.

“I’m probably going to be sleeping upstairs,” Moriarty said with a laugh.

The Banyan trio, all Delray Beach residents, hopes the highlight of the restaurant will be the food, described as “new American eclectic” — which translates to “a good mix of just about everything,” Moriarty said.

Skarulis, who is taking on his first head chef position but has worked at Delray hotspots like Dada and the Seagate Hotel, is a Maryland native, and will work with a northeast specialty: seafood. But the menu will also feature mix-and-match specialty tacos, mac-and-cheeses and sliders.

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“When I tell people they can have three different kinds of mac-and-cheeses on one plate, I basically get a customer for life,” Skarulis said chuckling. Many entree items, like a braised short-rib, are products of a collaboration between Skarulis and LoRe’s family recipes.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to be about great food,” LoRe said.

While price points aren’t set in stone, appetizers will likely range from $12-$18, with entrees ranging from $22-$35, LoRe said.

The restaurant and full-service bar will be open-air, with a retracting front facade, and will seat about 28 inside and 55 outdoors under a black awning.

“We spent the year getting a pulse of the place, learning what’s going on,” LoRe said.

Moriarty added: “We really got to know Delray and this just seemed natural.”