Written by James Biagiotti, Marie Speed, and John Thomason (and our special panel of local insiders)
It was the best of times—it was the worst of times—but the last year has been one for the books. The Best of Boca was never better than this year; Here are the highlights, the lowlights and the many hits and misses of local drinking and dining in 2020.
BEST RESTAURANT NEWS
Hometown restaurants reinvent their business models overnight to function as takeout places to try to survive the COVID lockdown. And their customers rally behind them.
5 DISHES WE’D WALK A MILE FOR
- Wahoo bites from Papa’s Raw Bar, 4610 N. Federal Highway, Lighthouse Point, 754/307-5034, https://papasrawbar.com/
- Orange dragon roll from Sushi Yama, 7050 W. Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton, 561/362-6416, http://sushiyamaonline.com/
- Flaming saganaki from Rafina, 6877 S.W. 18th St., Boca Raton, 561/409-3673, http://rafinaonline.com/
- Porcini ravioli from Josie’s, 1602 S. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach, 561/364-9601, https://www.josiesristorante.com/
- A V&S Italian sub, 2621 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton, 561/395-5206, https://www.facebook.com/V-S-Italian-Deli
PLACES WE STILL MISS
• Uncle Tai’s
• Maxwell’s Chophouse
• Rack’s at Mizner, especially that lobster salad
TAKEOUT HEAVEN DURING THE CORONA CRISIS
• The complimentary brownies from Houston’s
• El Jefe Luchidor’s spicy corn on the cob and its quesadillas
• Everything at Farmer’s Table Express
MOST CREATIVE USE OF RESTAURANT AFTER CLOSINGS
Shortly after restaurants are ordered closed, Oceans 234 in Deerfield Beach becomes a to-go market for food, produce and household staples, and the elusive paper goods.
MOST UNUSUAL CONCEPT
Rex Baron opens at Town Center, featuring fine dining in a handsome atmosphere, a special virtual reality room—and a dystopian backstory that no one understands. But never mind, we’d go here for the hot lava table alone, or the steakhouse chips.
COCKTAIL WE ARE LOVING THESE DAYS
The Quarantini, of course. How else did we get through two months of solitary?
FOOD MECCA(S) WE ARE WAITING FOR
Crocker Partners’ “Restaurant Row,” on the northeast corner of Town Center and Butts Road next to Town Center at Boca Raton, will have several restaurants and is scheduled to be under construction by now—and the new downtown Delray City Market food hall, purportedly the largest in Florida with 35-plus vendors, scheduled for a 2021 opening.
Prime Catch at Woolbright and the Intracoastal in Boynton Beach is transformed into a sleek and bright upscale seafood venue—complete with offshore bar and tie-up for boats. In a place where you can count the number of waterfront restaurants on one hand, this is mega news.
GO-TO LOCAL FAVES
SEAFOOD WORLD, still the place to go for hog snapper, 4602 N. Federal Highway, Lighthouse Point, 954/942-0740, https://papasgonelocal.com/
WHALE’S RIB, for bloodies and rock shrimp and whale fries, 2301 N.E. Second St., Deerfield Beach, 954/421-8880, https://www.whalesrib.com/
TIN MUFFIN, the original Lades Who Lunch spot, 364 E. Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton, 561/392-9446, https://www.facebook.com/The-Tin-Muffin-Cafe
MAX’S GRILLE, still the best seared tuna, radiatore pasta, wings, etc., etc., 404 Plaza Real, Boca Raton, 561/368-0080, https://www.maxsgrille.com/
ARTURO’S, for the antipasti cart, the veal, the wine, the everything, 6750 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton, 561/997-7373, https://www.arturosrestaurant.com/
KATHY’S GAZEBO, because Old World fine continental dining never sounded so good, 4199 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton, 561/395-6033, https://www.kathysgazebo.com/
TUCCI’S, for neighborhood pizza and Italian we love, 50 N.E. First Ave., Boca Raton, 561/620-2930, http://www.tuccispizza.com/
TRATTORIA ROMANA, bring on the Bolognese, bring on the noise—we’re ready for a table NOW, 499 E. Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton, 561/393-6715, https://trattoriaromanabocaraton.com/
OLYMPIA FLAME DINER, when a vast diner menu—with all the bases covered (including yummy Greek specialties)—is all that will do. And how can you start the day better than with an Alexander The Great omelet? 80 S. Federal Highway, Deerfield Beach, 954/480-8402, http://olympiaflamediner.com/diner/