Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Best of Boca 2021: Food & Drink

After 14 months of near-isolation and a slow return to normal, Boca and beyond is back–and better than ever!

Written by James Biagiotti, Marie Speed, John Thomason & our merry band of pundits and pranksters

It’s been a year like no other, but our town and our region kept ticking along, making new strides in local development, innovative ideas and the promise of a bright future. Here’s a roundup of the people, places and possibilities that defined 2020-2021—and point to great days ahead.

BEST NEW RESTAURANT

Steak and seafood from Copperfish

Copperfish at the Shoppes of Boca Center (where the late great Uncle Tai’s used to be) is already a winner, even though it opened only months before the pandemic began. The sleek high-end restaurant maintains its commitment to “responsibly caught and sustainable” seafood and shellfish, but we are partial to the completely and irresponsibly decadent crab cakes.

BEST GO-TO AFTER A LOUSY DAY OF WORK

Our crack research team says pizza is hands down the universal comfort food after a bad day—think Dominic’s, Tomasso’s, Augy’s Sicilian, Renzo’s, Dave’s New Haven (the list is endless), but other proven winners are Habit Burger, New York Grilled Cheese, Happy Hour at City Fish Market, the Buffalo sliders with fries at J Marks, radiatore pasta at Max’s Grill. Or a martini. A martini, like pizza, always works.

  1. Curbside pickup is a dream come true.
  2. Cocktails in a bag is an idea whose time has come—and we hope it stays.
  3. The idea of fast casual food gets progressively more refined as what used to be simple takeout items morph into more ambitious dishes with fresh, locally sourced ingredients and a deft hand at preparation. Think Flybird’s chicken pot pie, Death By Pizza (Delray), Oliv U Mediterranean bowls, and more.
  4. Meal kits become a thing, as cooking from home assumes a whole new dimension. Buy the fixings already put together to-go at Publix or Fresh Market, or shop around between several delivery options, including Hello Fresh, Fit Food Fresh, Farm to Fork, Meals By Chef B and more!

SIZE MATTERS AWARD

A larger and more comprehensive Joseph’s Classic Market moves to Town Center at Boca Raton, this time with outdoor patio seating. Joseph’s already had it all, but this time more is more. The end-all, be-all grocery market has hot and cold prepared foods, a pizzeria, bakery, meats, cheeses, seafood, wine, pastas, you name it.

MENU ITEMS THAT HAVE JUMPED THE SHARK

  • Cauliflower everything
  • Fish tacos
  • Avocado toast
  • Pork belly
  • Short ribs
  • Re-engineered mac ’n cheese
  • Burrata
  • Bacon
  • Beets and goat cheese salad
  • Fried calimari
  • Sweet potato fries

WORTH A TRY

We know the usual suspects—Trattoria, Arturo’s, La Nouvelle, Kathy’s Gazebo, Max’s, and on and on—but there are a few little unassuming places that slipped onto our radar as well:

Oli’s Fashion Cuisine at The Boardwalk in West Boca is one of the great ones in Boca (there’s one in Wellington as well) with a stellar menu and very, very good food. We love the menu, from imaginative appetizers like grilled avocado wedges and lobster deviled eggs to signature tacos, flatbreads, entrees, bouillabaisse, lobster risotto. There’s a reason this is fashion cuisine; its style is timeless.

Press Gourmet Sandwiches in the Polo Shoppes (where TooJays used to be) is a new favorite lunch go-to, started by two Johnson & Wales’ chefs who began with a Miami food truck and migrated up here less than a year ago. Try the Sentinel sandwich, a melty steak and cheese number that is a Philly sub gone to college.

Tacowa Korean Barbecue and Taco on east Palmetto Park Road is a yummy find—kimchi everything plus tacos, bowls and a swoon-worthy spicy pork barbecue.

Butcher & Bar on East Ocean in Boynton Beach is so worth the short drive. The butcher side has regionally sourced clean meats and poultry, bone broths, side dishes; the bar side offers a changing battery of impossibly good craft sandwiches. Try the classic porchetta or the steak panzanella salad.

Grelma Bakery at the Shoppes at Logger’s Run is an Italian bakery people are beginning to notice. From bomdini to croissants to pagnotta bread and fresh pasta dinners assembled and ready to bake, this is yet another go-to hidden gem you need to check out.

The Standard in Royal Palm Place is purportedly a new hangout for the younger set with 21 TVs and a menu that speaks to the demo through corresponding favorites like Caesar salad, wings, tater tots, kimchi fries, etc., etc. But there is also Veuve Cliquot at $30 a pop—so we’re not sure this is your typical FAU student.

This story is from the July/August 2021 issue of Boca magazine. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine.

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