Amid the chaos of 2020, a laid back, Caribbean restaurant opened its doors here in the western communities. Izzy’s Empanadas, a family-owned and operated establishment located in the Village Royale (Winn-Dixie) plaza in Royal Palm Beach, strives to provide quality and unique meals to every customer who visits.
Opened in early October, Izzy’s in Royal Palm Beach is the second location for the restaurant. The first was established four years ago in West Palm Beach and has been known to be frequented by locals and out-of-towners alike, perhaps one of the most notable being famed NFL coach Tony Dungy.
The restaurant offers more than 30 different empanada options, ranging from beef to pork to crab to blueberry to peach to chicken and cheese and more.
“We have the best empanadas in town, according to the customers,” said Leon LaBeach, the restaurant’s founder, owner and operator.
LaBeach is a local veteran and father of eight, and he opened the restaurant after a near-death experience that became a catalyst in his drive to pursue his dream. According to LaBeach, he wanted to be able to look back at the end of his life and see that he had met his entrepreneurial aspirations.
“I decided to just use my own funding and open up these restaurants so I could accomplish my goals and my dreams,” LaBeach said. “Part of that was, if they’re successful, then my kids would benefit from it, and they can take it over.”
Most of his children have grown up and have careers of their own, LaBeach explained, but he wants to leave a tangible legacy for his three younger children, Nicholas, Cameron and Isabella (or “Izzy,” the restaurant’s namesake).
“I named it after my daughter,” LaBeach said. “She always wanted to be, in some form or another, in business, even though she’s young, and so I wanted her to get started early.”
LaBeach and his mother, Marjorie Scales — who also works in the restaurant — are from Jamaica, and they honor their birthplace with the classic Jamaican meals on the menu, such as oxtail and jerk chicken. But empanadas are, naturally, the main focus.
“I want the customers to get a new experience,” LaBeach said. “I want them to have a different option other than burgers and tacos. I want them to get different options to eat.”
LaBeach initially planned to open five Izzy’s Empanadas locations in Palm Beach County. Like many small businesses in recent months, however, Izzy’s took a hard hit during the virus pandemic.
“It has been rough,” LaBeach said. “The landlord has been working with us… They keep us abreast of all the information that we need to know, and they’ve been great.”
LaBeach also had to put his pursuit of higher education on hold.
“I actually went back to college — full-time college with a restaurant, kids, a full-time job and everything,” LaBeach said. “COVID-19 hit, and I was three classes away from getting my bachelor’s degree when the college shut down.”
LaBeach also had to think of new cuisines to coax back his clientele.
“When COVID-19 hit, we kind of delved into the Caribbean food in the other location, just to keep our head above water — because empanadas were cheap and didn’t bring in enough money,” LaBeach said. “So, when we came over here, we just brought it over.”
Locals are not complaining.
“Oh man, I’d say if you want to fall in love with this place, order the oxtail or the jerk chicken empanada,” said Jay Howard, a regular.
Howard has indeed fallen in love with Izzy’s Empanadas, but said its draw lies in more than the food.
“It’s the owners — they’re here, they’re present, they greet you with a smile, they greet you with that positive energy,” Howard said. “It doesn’t matter what type of day you’re having, when you walk in here, it’ll change it for the more positive.”
Howard went on to stress the importance of patronizing local small businesses for this very reason.
“The experience that you get here — it’s not a commercial experience,” Howard said. “It’s something completely original, and if you want places like this to continue to grow in our community, you need to make sure you come out and support.”
Howard said that Izzy’s is the ideal atmosphere for escaping, relaxing and just briefly getting out of the house.
LaBeach is proud of the fact that, regardless of what happens to Izzy’s Empanadas, simply starting and owning his own business is already a dream come true.
“The reward is, whether I succeed or fail, I accomplished that mission,” he said. “I can check that box.”
His advice to others contemplating the next steps in following their dreams?
“I tell everyone, ‘If you never try, you’ve already failed.’” LaBeach said. “So, try. You never know what could happen.”
Izzy’s Empanadas is located at 1155 Royal Palm Beach Blvd. in Royal Palm Beach. The restaurant is open every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
For more information, call (561) 508-2791 or visit www.izzysempanadas.com to check out the extensive menu options.