Steakhouse owner Ralph Lewis has led a dramatic expansion of his family’s Okeechobee-branded restaurants in the past five years. As his iconic Okeechobee Steakhouse turns 76 in West Palm Beach, Lewis continues to fire up new food concepts elsewhere in the county.

Most recently, Lewis expanded his Okeechobee Prime Barbecue operation to unique settings, staging weekend pop-up events at a popular Jupiter Farms farmhouse café and a waterside tiki hut in Riviera Beach. 

Now, Okeechobee’s weekend barbecue is a permanent, week-long feature at the folksy Taylor Farmhouse in Jupiter Farms. On Monday, July 24, Lewis and his Okeechobee team took over food and service operations at the restaurant and music venue, popular for its sprawling backyard, bonfire-lit setting and live music stage.

“Barbecue and drinks in the pines” is how Lewis describes the experience at the indoor/outdoor restaurant, which boasts 100 seats outside. “It’s definitely a destination kind of place. It’s very unique. You can come out and relax," he said.

The restaurant will keep Taylor Farmhouse as its name, Lewis said.

“It’s branded already. That’s what people know. It’s not worth fixing what’s not broken,” said Lewis, who praised the restaurant’s owners Chris and Elizabeth Taylor for creating the local hub. “They’ve done an amazing job.”

The Taylors, who will devote more time to their Hobe Sound restaurant, Taylor Beach House Café, opened their Jupiter Farms restaurant on a 2-acre plot in 2018.

“It’s really become a beloved spot in the community. The community fiercely supported us, even during Covid when the dining room was closed,” said Elizabeth Taylor, whose Jupiter Farms customers sometimes would ride over to the restaurant on horseback and park their horses in the farmhouse’s corral while they dined.

Taylor said she and her husband are “excited to pass the baton” to Lewis.

“It’s like passing off our precious baby to incredibly wonderful, caring hands. My husband and I believe Ralph and his team will nurture what is there and take it to another level. It could not be placed in better hands,” she said.

She has seen their farmhouse restaurant grow in popularity, drawing ever-expanding local crowds to its spacious grounds. 

“I’m so proud and thrilled with what that place has become, but I feel it has outgrown my husband and me. Ralph has a team and the resources, and he is just a fabulous restaurateur,” Taylor said.

Lewis said he will expand the Farmhouse’s hours after Labor Day, opening on Sundays. He plans to keep the set-up and staff as is. He’ll also keep the restaurant’s best-selling comfort food dishes on the menu, he said.

The Okeechobee Prime Barbecue name and brand will not be a focus at Taylor Farmhouse, Lewis said, but it will help transform the menu by adding smoky favorites from his onsite smoker. 

“It will be the same barbecue as we have at Okeechobee Prime Barbecue,” Lewis said, referring to the popular roadside stand he opened across from his West Palm Beach steakhouse in May 2019. 

What began as a Memorial Day weekend stand that year now drives a full-on barbecue mission for Lewis.

Taylor Farmhouse is not the only unique location that has seen weekend pop-ups by Okeechobee Prime Barbecue. On weekends, Lewis parks a barbecue trailer at the Rybovich North marina, just south of Blue Heron Boulevard in Riviera Beach.

Just like at Lewis' main Okeechobee Prime Barbecue stand in West Palm Beach, customers can order directly from the trailer at the marina. They can enjoy the barbecue at the marina’s large tiki area, which offers views of the boats and surrounding waters.  

“That tiki and that view is so nice,” Lewis said. “It’s worth coming out to enjoy.”

The Okeechobee Prime Barbecue enterprise is part of the Lewis family’s growing presence in Palm Beach County, where his grandparents opened what is now considered to be Florida’s oldest steakhouse in 1947.

The expansion has been constant:

∎ In 2017, Lewis opened a 7,000-square-foot catering operation and events space in a lot behind Okeechobee Steakhouse. 

∎ In 2018, the steakhouse family welcomed the Okeechobee Prime Meat Market across a side street. The following year, the Okeechobee Prime Barbecue stand debuted in the meat market’s parking lot.

∎ In 2021, after the pandemic devastated the catering operations, Lewis opened Okeechobee Prime Seafood restaurant in part of the event hall building space. That restaurant closed last year.

∎ In May 2022, Lewis teamed up with three longtime Okeechobee Steakhouse managers to open Lewis Steakhouse in Jupiter

∎ In November 2022, he opened the more casual Lewis Prime Grill in Loxahatchee.  

∎ Daily at Taylor Farmhouse Café: 16891 Jupiter Farms Rd., Jupiter Farms, 561-747-8221.

Hours: Until Labor Day, open Monday through Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m. After Labor Day, open Monday through Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m., Friday from 5 to 10 p.m., Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

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