Chef Taylor Wilson Carries on Family Tradition

The Gafford’s executive chef extends his family's business with the unveiling of Palm City Social

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Blackened Faroe Island salmon with house chimichurri and tropical salsa over basmati rice and local vegetables. Photo by Justin Broderick
Blackened Faroe Island salmon with house chimichurri and tropical salsa over basmati rice and local vegetables. Photo by Justin Broderick

Chef Taylor Wilson and his family have made a name for themselves on the Martin County food scene. Their casual-meets-upscale restaurant in Stuart—The Gafford, named for Taylor’s great-grandparents, Robert and Virginia Gafford—marked its eleventh anniversary in 2023. What better way to celebrate than with a brand-new concept?

The main dining area. Photo by Justin Broderick
The main dining area. Photo by Justin Broderick

Last October, Wilson and his parents opened Palm City Social, a casual dining spot that aims to be a gathering place for all. “Palm City Social is an open concept with a lively dining room spilling over to the bar area,” says Wilson, who remains executive chef at The Gafford. “It’s more of a social gathering place, where The Gafford is more of an intimate setting.”

The restaurant is the latest endeavor from a family with a long lineage of food service. Robert Gafford was a cook in the U.S. Air Force. Wilson’s dad, Rick, went to culinary school and, prior to opening The Gafford in 2012, worked as regional vice president at Brinker International Inc., where he oversaw a third of the country’s On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina locations. “I grew up watching my dad,” says Wilson, 35, who trained at The Art Institute of Dallas. “I think every boy kind of idolizes his father and wants to be like his dad.” 

Charcuterie board. Photo by Justin Broderick
Charcuterie board. Photo by Justin Broderick

While his parents have an ownership stake in Palm City Social, the property is allowing Wilson to spread his wings while continuing the family tradition. He has curated a mouthwatering menu that incorporates ingredients from local farmers and beekeepers, with entrées ranging from burgers and sandwiches to steaks and seafood and including some comforting, hearty dishes. “The chicken Milanese, short rib grilled cheese, and
double-bone pork chop are our top three sellers, followed by our filet mignon,” says Wilson.

Seafood bisque with Maine lobster and lump blue crab. Photo by Justin Broderick
Seafood bisque with Maine lobster and lump blue crab. Photo by Justin Broderick

An expansive, rotating wine list is accompanied by tasty cocktails like the old-fashioned and a variety of martinis. Two of the most popular are the Brown Sugar Bourbon Espresso Martini and the Blackberry Bramble.

Chef Taylor Wilson and his father, Rick, outside Palm City Social. Photo by Justin Broderick
Chef Taylor Wilson and his father, Rick, outside Palm City Social. Photo by Justin Broderick

The open, inviting space is perfect for a family outing, happy hour, girls’ night out, business dinner, or date. Aqua green and cream-colored upholstered chairs and booths combine with gold accents and fixtures throughout, giving the restaurant a sleek ambience that evokes mid-century modern with an Art Deco flair. The inside dining area seats 151, while a (dog-friendly), outdoor patio accommodates 80 more. 

Wilson hopes patrons will enjoy the new hot spot as the social hub he envisioned it to be. For him, it’s another place to be with his family and make memories. “It’s pretty cool to be able to work with your family every day, have this close relationship, and build something together that people enjoy,” he says. 3162 SW Martin Downs Blvd., Palm City; palmcitysocial.com; 772.254.4247 ϖ

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