At first glance, it’s just a drugstore on Clematis Street. You need a few things, so you go in.
And inside, it hits you: there’s a restaurant in here, too. It has a soda fountain counter and stools. It’s black and white tile, high ceilings, Art Deco-style lighting fixtures and yes, the commodities one finds in a pharmacy.
Welcome to City Pharmacy and The Dispensary, two businesses operating under one vaulted roof.
The Dispensary is the restaurant side of the operation, and owner Christian Wiebel clearly loves this work of art and wants his customers to feel the same way. Seating is limited to seven tables, plus the counter. The high ceiling and expanse of plate glass in front means it’s spacious and light inside. The 1950s and 1960s background music suits the place, both in style and volume. There is no partition between the two businesses, so your meal includes the opportunity to observe some of downtown’s more interesting characters come in for everything from detergent to hair dryers.
The first thing you learn about the menu is that everything is freshly made and The Dispensary sticks to its culinary guns when it comes to getting good ingredients. The restaurant will not serve an item on the menu if an ingredient for it did not arrive or was not available fresh. That may annoy some diners, but it’s to The Dispensary’s credit that they adhere to their standards, even when a customer’s not happy about it.
The menu meanders between classic diner/soda fountain favorites and modern fare. Breakfasts include waffles, omelets, biscuits, eggs Benedict and chicken fried steak, but duck bacon is one of the side meats you can choose. In a nod to the local Latino influences, there’s huevos rancheros, with tomatillo sauce, black beans and pico de gallo all served on a corn tortilla. The Dispensary omelet (two eggs, Gruyere cheese, tomatoes, onions and peppers) was light, fluffy and generously filled, and with the biscuits, butter and jam, served as both breakfast and lunch on a recent Saturday.
Lunch offers an iceberg wedge as well as a caprese salad (fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes), a BLT and a black bean burger; meatloaf and a mahi-mahi Reuben. Desserts from behind that stunning fountain counter include banana splits, milkshakes, egg creams, cherry pie and red velvet cake.
Service is fine-dining excellent, with a glass never empty and a dirty plate never left on the table. Prices are on the higher side: breakfast $5.75 to $12.50; salads and sandwiches $7.50 to $14.50 and sweets and fountain drinks $2.50 to $5.75. There’s a price to pay for nostalgia and childhood remembrance sometimes. The Dispensary has taken the old-time drugstore soda fountain, updated it just enough turned it into a place to eat and a preserved piece of downtown history.
The Dispensary, 416 Clematis St., West Palm Beach, FL. Phone (561) 531-6559. Open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (kitchen closes at 5 p.m.) and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Sunday. Note: the pharmacy operates the same hours as the restaurant. The Dispensary has no liquor license.