I was reading some of the comments over at http://www.historicpalmbeach.com/ about things people remember and loved about growing up in West Palm Beach. One restaurant that got more mention than any place else was Proctor’s Restaurant. It was the type of restaurant which is becoming so rare – family run, inexpensive and always good.
Proctor’s is the story of two families – there really was a Proctor at Proctor’s. The restaurant opened in 1947 on Dixie Highway just north of Belvedere Road. H.D. Proctor and his son H.D. Proctor Jr. ran the restaurant that featured seafood fare. Their most famous was the “All the fish you can eat” meal of golden fried fish fillets. In August of 1964, the Proctors sold the restaurant to a couple from Europe, Charles and Gertrude “Trudy” Seigner. According to the August 18, 1964 article in the Palm Beach Post, the Siegners paid $50,000 for the business and leased the building from the Proctors. At some point in the late 1960s or early 1970s, the restaurant moved about 100 yards to the south and to the opposite side of the street. I don’t know if this was an existing building or one they had built. Then, in 1975, they moved for the final time to an old A&P grocery store located across the street. It added 50% more serving space and a larger parking lot.
Proctor’s menu was so simple – a good selection of seafood entrees, both fried and boiled, along with a few steaks and chops, and fried chicken made fresh to order. When you ordered the chicken, you were told it would be a 20 minute wait. They also had daily specials such as pot roast on Mondays or corned beef and cabbage on Thursdays. This was real old school fare! The all-you-can-eat fish was delicious – served with french fries and a cole slaw that was finely chopped and delightfully sweet-and-sour. If everyone at the table ordered fish, your meal was typically served within 5 minutes! If your appetite was not huge, you could order the 2-piece meal and save a few dollars. My cousin told me that he was thrown out of Proctor’s more than once as he and his teenage buddies would get the “all-you-can-eat” and just keep eating…and eating, until they were asked to leave.
The “line” was always something to be dealt with, especially in the season from December through April. It started to form around 5 PM, and would begin to taper off around 7 PM. As in the postcard above, the line was typically around the building, but it was worth the wait. As you got closer to the door, you would get a number. The number set was used so much that they were all taped over on the top where they fit on the number stand. Proctor’s also had a busy take-out window. They closed during the month of September for vacation, and we would count the days until they reopened again.
Trudy was typically out front seating parties at tables, while her mother was at the cash register well into her 80s. Charles was in the kitchen, making sure the high-quality was maintained. The waitresses stayed for many years and the staff all around was very stable – it was just a great place to work.
They also had wonderful homemade desserts such as “Mississippi Mud” or the “Better than Sex” cake – who could resist that? The Seigners were also animal lovers – they fed and cared for a feral cat colony, even buying an old house at the back of the property so that the cats would have shelter from the weather. There was always a red collection box at the cash register for the Animal Rescue League.
The restaurant closed in 2006 when the property was sold to a spa operator. I have often wondered why they did not sell the business itself, but all good things must come to an end. The best approximation to their fish dinner is at John G’s on Lake Worth Beach. It’s close, but not exact.
If you have any more details or memories about Proctor’s, please leave them in the comments.