Fine Dining Favorites: In Conversation with Clay Conley & The Buccan team

Nestled on the side of South County Rd, steps away from our favorite Worth Avenue shopping is Chef Clay Conley’s James Beard nominated and critically acclaimed Palm Beach restaurant, Buccan.

A truly vibrant dining experience, Buccan serves up inventive American cuisine made with the freshest ingredients from the very best sources.

Buccan’s signature small plate/ big flavor creations are served in a warm and welcoming space – one that we’re all clamoring to get weekend reservations for!

Fresh, creative dishes and a consistently elevated dining experience have kept us coming back to Buccan since it first opened its doors in 2011, followed by Imoto and Grato, a restaurant group built by partners and friends Clay Conley, Sam Slattery and Oliver “Piper” Quinn.

So how do you create one of the most desirable dining experiences in Palm Beach County?

As they say, it takes a village- so we talked to the whole lot of them.

Keep reading for history and insights from the culinary crew – and make sure to get those reservations in! (Hint: we share some insider tips from the General Manager in this interview!)


TSG: For those not familiar: describe the Buccan cuisine in 5 words or less.

BUCCAN: Inspired, evolving, eclectic, genuine, neighborhood

TSG: You’ve managed to create one of the most desirable local dining experiences, including being named Palm Beaches “hottest spot” by Forbes. What do you attribute this to?

PIPER QUINN: We’re still very humbled by our success, but we attribute it to the fact that we had the vision and courage to create something in Palm Beach that hadn’t existed before. We didn’t mold it around a culinary style that was previously assumed necessary to attract diners to that market. We took a risk and created a place WE would want to eat- a place we knew would always evolve and appeal to a more adventurous palette, set in a more casual ambiance. More than ten years later, we’re very proud to have become an iconic culinary destination simply by staying true to that vision.

 

TSG: Can you share any exciting menu additions for this season?

CLAY CONLEY: We’ve added a plant-based section to our menu, but it’s been interesting to see how universally these selections appeal to our guests. Our Cauliflower “Tabbouleh” is proving to be just as popular as a shared plate option as our Steak Tartare. I think what used to be considered “options for vegans” are now just considered unique and flavorful ways to experience plant-based foods.

 TSG: What’s the best day/time to dine at Buccan for a lowkey evening? When are you the busiest?

ANDY BOLES (GM): During season every night has the potential to be a Saturday night at Buccan & Imoto.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be more tame.  If you would like a quieter dining experience, we always recommend a reservation on the earlier side.  Expect the restaurant to be at capacity by 7 pm each night.

 

TSG: Go-to weeknight meal at Buccan? What about at home?

SAM SLATTERY: The Sweet Corn Agnolotti and the Squid Ink Orecchiette- two of our most popular dishes- are particularly great weeknight go-to meals that also seem to do very well since we’ve launched delivery and take-out here at Buccan. It’s no surprise why, as they are also two of our most hearty, rich and comforting dishes, which is sometimes what we crave in the middle of a long work week.

 TSG: Any upcoming events/highlights?

SAM SLATTERY: We have some exciting things happening at our Sandwich Shop next door, primarily the fact that some of our customers’ favorite items will be available for purchase. Several of our salad dressings, including the lemon vinaigrette that is on many of our salads and that our customers love, will be packaged and available to take home this season. Guests can also purchase jars of cookie dough so they can make our popular jumbo chocolate cookies at home.

 

TSG: What’s the best seat in the house?

PIPER QUINN: There’s no better seat at Buccan than a Chef’s Table seat. If you’ve ever seen our chefs in the middle of a dinner rush in high season on a Saturday night, you would understand why. It takes a special breed to enjoy that sort of pressure while simultaneously executing perfect cuisine…. it’s a beautiful thing to witness.

 

TSG: Do you offer modifications for dietary restrictions?

ANDY BOLES (GM): We will always accommodate dietary restrictions and give the high attention necessary to all food allergies.  The kitchen and front-of-house staff are trained to know all ingredients in each menu item and to avoid cross-contamination.  All major allergens are listed on our menu. Personally, I appreciate each dish Chef Clay conceptualizes.  The flavor combinations seem to always work in harmony.  That being said, if a guest would like a plain steak with a side of our delicious fries. Our kitchen will happily prepare it.  There are no big egos in play.  

 TSG: Tips for getting reservations in season?

ANDY BOLES (GM): As we all know, in-season reservations are at a premium in Buccan & Imoto.  Your best bet is to be a good planner.  Our books open exactly 30 days in advance.  Set a reminder on your phone and reserve online or call the restaurant.  

  

TSG: Where do you source ingredients from?

BUCCAN: Swank Farm and Kai Kai, among others.

 

TSG: How did it feel to be nominated for a James Beard award?

CLAY CONLEY: It’s always an honor to be nominated by the James Beard Foundation. I’m grateful for the continued recognition, which would not be possible without our team and their inspired approach to cooking. But as honored as we are when we receive these recognitions, we’re committed to being a team that will never rest on our laurels. We know we need to continue to create dishes that leave our guests with pleasurable and memorable culinary experiences, which means we cannot stop innovating or considering new approaches to our technique.

 TSG: What’s the most rewarding part of being a local business owner?

SAM SLATTERY: We love that Buccan has become such a popular destination and achieved national recognition. But at its heart, Buccan truly is a hometown restaurant. We opened here more than a decade ago on County Road, and here we still remain- the same concept, the same Chef, the same team, and the same loyal regulars that come both in High and Low Season. It’s incredibly rewarding to serve the same community of locals- many of whom have become dear friends over the past decade- who continue to support us, provide their honest feedback, and encourage our growth and progress as a restaurant team.

 

TSG: What are some common ties between the sister restaurants?

PIPER QUINN: Although the concepts are quite different at Buccan, Imoto, Grato, and the Sandwich Shop, the commonalities our guests will find in all of their menus is that they are all chef-inspired and therefore ever-evolving based on things like seasonality, new techniques or unique ingredients- things that Clay and his team are inspired by an excited to share with our guests.

Visit Buccan at 350 S County Rd, Palm Beach, FL 33480, open daily.