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A different kind of casual café is in the works for West Palm Beach’s South of Southern neighborhood. For the lifelong friends bringing the place to life, The SoSo restaurant is a culinary dream with buddy film qualities.
Kye Akavia and Alex DiSchino, both 31, grew up in the SoSo district, went to school together, played lacrosse, pursued studies in Boston and landed jobs in the hospitality business, sometimes far from West Palm Beach.
But in recent years, they’ve turned their attention to the old neighborhood of their memories. It was a mix of childhood memories and modern research that guided them as they worked to create The SoSo, which they describe as a “fast-fine” café with a hyper-local focus.
They plan to open by mid-March.
And while the café would add another indie element to the district’s eclectic collection of emerging businesses -- like the gourmet butcher shop Palm Beach Meats, which sits next door -- its neighborhood focus is less about the trendy than it is about the throwback.
“When Kye and I think of SoSo, we’re not thinking about the business district. We think of the SoSo we grew up in. We think of family – the families of four or five whose kids skateboarded at Phipps Park,” says DiSchino, who grew up on South Dixie Highway, where his father, the locally famous hairdresser Cosmo DiSchino, operated the Cosmo and Company salon.
In conceptualizing The SoSo, the partners dreamed up a place that would offer approachable but chef-driven dishes in a quick, convenient way. Meal orders are placed at the cashier and delivered to your table by a runner.
“The idea is elevated food in a convenient and casual atmosphere,” says Akavia. “We want to take that approachable luxury route, where you have fine dining food but with a more casual, laid-back atmosphere.”
Modern-American menu with Latin, Asian influences
The kitchen is in the hands of local executive chef/partner Cesar Brea, whom Akavia met while working as manager at Kapow restaurant on Clematis Street. Brea, DiSchino and Akavia dreamed up a casual, modern-American menu.
“We’re taking classic café staples and adding Latin American, Mediterranean and Asian influences,” says Akavia.
The SoSo’s menu will feature a mix of sandwiches, salads, daily soups and a rotation of dinner offerings. Brea, who will add fine-dining touches to the menu offerings, also will add options – such as the Dominican-inspired SoSo Sancocho stew – that pay homage to his roots and to an old family recipe.
To drink, The SoSo will serve a selection of local bottled beers, wines on tap and brunch cocktails like mimosas, Bellinis and sangria.
The tweaked-classic menu, vintage inspo and neighborhood memories come together in the newfangled frame known as “fast-fine.” It’s a restaurant service model Akavia and DiSchino became familiar with while living in big cities outside of Florida.
“It’s been taking off in larger cities. You have that quick service but with an extra layer that’s refined,” says Akavia, who spotted the trend when he lived in Los Angeles.
DiSchino says he came to appreciate the fast-fine model when he lived in Boston.
“These models were popping up all over my neighborhood at places where you get really high quality food super quickly,” says DiSchino, who was particularly impressed by Tatte, a bakery/café with nearly 20 locations in the greater Boston area. “It’s a high-end bakery and it does amazing brunch dishes seven days a week.”
He and Akavia hope The SoSo’s fast-fine approach will cater to their intended demographic – busy neighborhood families seeking quality meals in an easy, friendly setting.
Located on South Dixie Highway and Murray Road, the spacious, 50-seat café structure allows for indoor and outdoor dining areas as well as room for a dedicated area for takeout and prepared grab-and-go meals.
The building, which formerly housed a storage facility for a local appraisal company, has been a fixture on Dixie Highway for decades.
“I’ve been driving past this location for years, wondering what the inside looked like. And, lo and behold, here we are,” says Akavia, who grew up on Murray Road.
DiSchino and his family bought the building in June 2020.
“It was this cool, 1960s building and we fell in love with it. The entire front of the building was sliding-glass doors,” says DiSchino.
“Cool” factor aside, the place looked like a storage warehouse, he says. “It had one air-conditioning unit and the backyard was a complete wasteland.”
For structural reasons, they couldn’t keep the sliding-glass doors but did install floor-to-ceiling windows to create a sense of flow from the city into the café.
“We tried to keep the cool ‘60s vibe. I’m really proud of that,” says DiSchino. “We wanted to build a place that was neighborhood-y.”
Says Akavia: “We’ve kind of built this space to have a modern feel but with an inviting warmth to it.”
The friends, who live in the old neighborhood, have long shared a love of culinary and have trained extensively in the field. So it was just a matter of time that they’d come together for a restaurant project, they say.
“Well, we didn’t talk about this when we were 9,” says DiSchino. “We were too busy making fun of each other.”
The SoSo restaurant
Expected to open this spring at 4802 S. Dixie Hwy, West Palm Beach
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: West Palm restaurants: SoSo to open in South of Southern neighborhood