Tim Klinefelter grew up in a small town with a total graduating class of fewer than 100 students. Everyone knew each other, and no one locked their doors at night.
After attending the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, Klinefelter decided to leave his rural town behind for new opportunities. He didn’t find fulfillment at his first job in Charleston, South Carolina, but the now owner of Hutton in West Palm Beach soon discovered his passion in the restaurant business.
The gig that launched his career was as a server before being promoted to assistant manager, and eventually general manager, of Pearlz Oyster Bar.
“ I sort of took it as far as you can take it,” Klinefelter says about his quick rise through the system. “I wasn’t creatively learning anything anymore.”
Yearning for his next challenge, Klinefelter decided it was time to open up a restaurant of his own. One of the owners at Pearlz said he would financially back Klinefelter if he were to do just that. “I told [the owner] what my concept was and what I wanted to do, and he told me to pack my bags and come out here for a while to find a location,” he says.
He gave himself six months to find a space, and happened upon the up-and-coming neighborhood of Northwood, which had a similar vibe to Charleston. “This made me feel like I was at home,” Klinefelter says.
With Northwood’s eclectic, artsy feel as the backdrop, Klinefelter opened Hutton this past summer.
Hutton doesn’t offer a course-driven menu. It is a seafood restaurant where fresh oysters are shucked right behind the raw bar. Klinefelter calls the concept “small-plate minded,” so it’s best to order a bunch of different plates to share with one another.
Don’t expect to see the same fish on the menu. “I don’t want to run red snapper every single day,” he says, “and I don’t want the seasonality that you get with fish because then you have to change the menu.” Instead, guests can order from the daily specials with different seafood options each night.
“I call it ‘boutique seafood,’ food for foodies,” he says. “It’s really about having some nice flavor profiles, and using unique starches and vegetables to basically heighten the seafood that’s on there.”
The menu is full of items influenced by Klinefelter’s Charleston background and frequent trips to New Orleans. Most popular are the freshly shucked chargrilled oysters with a Tabasco garlic butter sauce that’s plated alongside French bread.
There are plenty of other favorites, such as the seafood and grits special served with stewed okra, cheddar grits and Creole gravy and deviled eggs with shrimp, curried crab and tuna tartar with a dab of wasabi. And even though seafood takes the spotlight, Klinefelter raves about the foie gras beef sliders. “We put a little horseradish on the bun. We take the certified Angus beef burger, rub a little bit of a bourbon glaze on it and then we pan sear foie gras, and put that on top of fried shallots,” Klinefelter says. And what’s a southern restaurant without some indulgent desserts? Hutton serves everything from buttermilk pie to banana pudding brûlée.
Stop by for happy hour or stay for dinner. You may just want to try one of the specialty cocktails (named after oysters, of course), including the Salt Aire from Prince Edward Island. It’s a play on a dark sea salt brownie made with dark Godiva chocolate, vanilla vodka, a dash of real vanilla and Kahlua, shaken and poured into a martini glass rimmed with salt and cocoa.
And with Hutton’s outdoor covered patio, stay awhile for live jazz music in the evenings and live music offered on Fridays and Saturdays. Plus, there’s Sunday brunch. A quote on Hutton’s 1930s-inspired interior says it best, “You gotta shuck a lot of oysters to find a pearl.” So shuck away.
Hutton, 407 Northwood Road, West Palm Beach / 561.847.4085 / huttonnorthwood.com