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Dec 27, 2013 07:14 AM

Food-Focused New Yorker Seeks Great Food in PBCounty

Back again for a second winter south PB County. We've been here a little over a week and have returned to a few of our favorites from last winter:

PIZZERIA OCEANO, LANTANA: Although several friends have been turned off my the structures of the menu and dining "rules," we love this place, which is probably my #1 in the area overall. A few days ago four of us began with their splendid fried green tomatoes and proceeded to devour all three of the daily pizza offerings. (We had just arrived and I neglected to take notes; sorry for lack of detail here)

CAFE LA BUCA, POMPANO: Stick to the appetizers and pastas, skip the mains, and you can have a very good-excellent meal here, as we did a few nights ago.

Their Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta ($13) have joined the Slivered Roasted Red Peppers ($12) as my favorite appetizers from the tavola calda in the glass case in front. Their version of Mozzarella in Carozza (they call it spiedini, $12) is decadent and delicious. Dinner for 4: Three apps and two pastas (Paparadelle Bolognese, $20) and a long pasta with cherry tomatoes topped by a full round of burrata ($28), and a bottle of imported water, $6. Total: $96.46 before tip.

The restaurant is still BYOB.

BUCCAN, PALM BEACH: Excellent dinner here; already booked a return visit. Among the highlights:

Warm brussel sprouts "Caesar," topped with a pair of Boquerones (white anchovies). Essential!

Hot Dog Panini with Sauerkraut and Gruyere. My partner devoured this happily, and will order again!

Duck Confit Pizza with Warm Balsamic Jam. Terrific interplay of flavors.

Maple Glazed Pork Belly. I order pork belly quite often.
Having just had what might have been the best rendition of my life at The Test Kitchen (CapeTown), the bar was set very high. The Buccan kitchen sent out a creditable contender; I loved this dish and will order again.

With one additional dish (Trout Salad, good but not a "WOW!"), and one glass of Riesling, the total tab for two of us was $84 before tip. Service was efficient and very friendly. Buccan will join our rotation this season.

PUNJAB, BOCA RATON. We expected the worst and were pleasantly surprised by this Indian restaurant located in a non-descript hotel on Federal Highway.
Nowhere near the level of London, or even Manhattan or Queens Indian, but if you have a hankering while in the area, this might fit the bill. Service is accommodating and helpful. The decor, contrary to reports, is just fine. Wines by the glass are fairly dismal, but prices of a few bottles bear a low markup.
I did not taste all dishes, but will say that the tandoori chicken, ordered by my partner, was moist, and my lamb chops were meaty, if not browned enough. Appetizers I tasted were good. (Sorry, again, for lack of detail; we were in a group of 8 and I was too busy talking to take notes)

Price per person, with ample food, was $31 per person before tip.

SO: What else should be on my list? We had a good meal last year at Sybarite Pig in West Boca; should I plan a return?

I read about a new place in the Wyndham Hotel, Boca, The Farmer's Table Boca. The emphasis on healthy eating does not seem to augur well for taste, or creativity, but wonder if CHers have been and care to comment?

I would love to hear from the regulars here--where can I find interesting, well-prepared food in the area from around WPB south to Deerfield? Not looking for Italian or Chinese, as we get great versions at home, but will consider anything if exceptional.

Many thanks!!

Here are a few of my comments from last year, to give you an idea of our taste:

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  1. Welcome back - thanks for your update.

    I am sure I will run into you at PO one of these days.

    Certainly agree about PO and Buccan being at the top of the list in PBC.

    I can't recall if you have been to Coolinary Café yet. If not, you should definitely give it a try or two. Daily menu updated 2x a day on FB. I'd love to hear your thoughts. I am a big fan and many others - though not all - are as well.

    Bombay Café surrounding motel just finished a 1+ year overhaul so perhaps the restaurant and kitchen were updated too. It's always ranked lowest in the area Indian for me but I shall give it a another try.

    It's a bit beyond your normal scope, but here's an idea. Plan a trip down to Oakland Park Blvd and US1 to visit Hot and Soul. A mom and pop place that you might just love. Read their story and their website... and then get the daily menu posts on FB.
    If you have a small group, sit at the counter and talk food with the terrific owners Christy and Mike.

    On the same trip, you can plan a stop at the nearby Funky Buddha Brewery (NOT the Boca location) and have some tastings of their world-class specialty beers. Even if you are not a beer geek, some of their best stuff might just get you interested. If they have Last Snow, get it.

    Also if you are interested in "interesting, well-prepared food" then you should check out Calypso just a few blocks south of La Buca. Simple but ultra fresh Florida/Caribbean oriented seafood in a fun, casual environment.

    BTW I have been afraid of Farmers Table for same reason - no fat! no oil! no butter! Hmmm.... No CharlieDelray

    8 Replies
    1. re: CFByrne

      A couple of ultra-casual places you also may want to check out...

      Bay Bay's Fried Chicken - right by PBI airport

      Troy's BBQ - on US1 about 5 miles S of PO, in Boynton. Quintessential BBQ shack / dive. Hours and menu subject to whim of owner. Fri/Sat early eve your best shot. Take out only.

      1. re: CFByrne

        CF I knew I could count on you for interesting tips! I will be heading to Troy's as soon as I can, and the rest will now be on my list as well.

        I have a friend who lives in Hollywood so I will try to schedule dinner with them at Hot and Soul..will give me an excuse to get down there..

        I never did make it to Coolinary last winter (just a little too far), but I will make it my business to go this year...

        Now, do you mean Punjab, or is there another Indian named Bombay Cafe?

        Thanks every so much..will look forward to many more discussions here!! (Also made note of a place in Delray.....)

        1. re: erica

          Troy's is not in the best neighborhood... so be prepared. Also, forget the menu, probably easier just asking "What do you have" rather than going through the whole menu at the door and hearing "Sold out", "Not ready yet" or "Huh". :-) And their sauce is quite mustardy - if you actively dislike that, maybe ask for sos.

          Bombay was a typo - I meant Pubjab. But yes there is a tiny tiny Indian place called Bombay Cafe - in Boca, hidden off Glades near FAU.

          Thirdly, good luck in your adventures... :-)

          1. re: CFByrne

            Four of us had another dinner last night at La Buca in Pompano. Margherita pizzas..large size, quintessential classic Margherita..well worth $17 tag. We had two.

            Same with appetizers of roasted peppers and brussell sprouts. With half order of linguine with clams, 2 pizze, and two bottled waters, total before tip, including twolarge pizze: $87 before tip. BYOB.

      2. re: CFByrne

        Coolinary Cafe is definitely worth a visit - I had the fried chicken every time I went - you can order all dark meat - it's delicious!

        Also agree with Buccan, the best food I had down there - amazing people watching too, sooooo Palm Beach!

        Oh and I really liked Troys BBQ just north of 17th Street (I think) - love the mustard bbq sauce! (But then - I hadn't had the fatty brisket from Mighty Quinn at that point - which has spoiled me for all other BBQ)

        Hullaballoo - was good too - I liked it - but certainly had some misses - Plaid shirts everywhere - Williamsburg wannabe! But in a good way -
        I didn't have a chance to try much else that I liked very much

        1. re: harryharry

          HarryHarry... not sure which BBQ place you are talking about.

          Troy's is in Boynton Beach... on US1 btw BB Blvd and Hypoluxo.

          Then there's Tom Jenkins BBQ in Fort Lauderdale... on US1 above 17th St Causeway.

          Hullaballoo have not heard much about it... would like to hear more...

          Next to Longboards, from the Dada/Kapow/Etc folks...

          1. re: CFByrne

            oops - meant McCrays = it's a trailer on the side of the road in Riviera Beach - and Mighty Quinn is in NY - just used it a frame of reference.

            1. re: harryharry


              Three of us had an early dinner in this attractive eatery (well-appointed with Restoration Hardware-style distressed wood dining chairs and wide-striped cotton banquette upholstery) that opens off the expansive swimming pool area of the Wyndham Hotel off Glades Road in Boca Raton, just across from the popular Seasons 52 restaurant.

              Menu offerings, highlight local farms and the menu mentions the kitchen's lack of butter and other dairy in preparation; both were at the same time, an attraction and a cause of trepidation for me.

              I need not have feared

              While I am not according a rave, this handsome, yet somewhat conventional spot in the Wyndham Hotel, convenient to east-west and north-south highways, will remain on my radar for decently priced lunches and dinners.

              There may well be more exciting options in the area, but since we are newcomers who often need a place convenient to friends who live in the Miami/Hallandale/Lauderdale areas, we will keep this one on our list for the time being.

              I began my dinner with a take-off on the traditional New Year's Hoppin' prepared in this kitchen, a rich bean and kale soup. ($6) If this neglected the traditional ham hock, it was not missed by this northerner. I liked this soup very much. With a complement of a loaf of great bread, so far not in evidence, this could be a full dinner...

              One dining partner was not enamored of his Miso Soup, complaining of the excessive saltiness, but I did not sample, so will not comment.

              While the very good Kale and Carrot Salad, ($11) that ubiquitous bar-menu standard, could not rise to the impossibly high bar set by Brooklyn's Battersby (before expansion), it was nevertheless very good. I would certainly order this dish again.

              Ditto my Grass-fed Jackman Ranch Beef Burger with onion-fig jam (is there any dish that that jam cannot elevate??), ($17 with an addition of Blue Cheese); this was very good!

              One fellow diner was pleased with his lasagna, ($15) prepared with seitan (take into account that this person is a frequent traveler to the off-the-beaten-path towns and cities of the Italian peninsula), and is a die hard traditionalist! He likes his meat, so I take his thumbs up as a big compliment to the kitchen at Farmer's Table.

              Second fellow diner, who is less well-versed in restaurants, and food in general, was not taken with the version of Short Ribs. I consider the quintessential version of this dish to be the one turned out by CRAFT in NYC (compliments to Jean Georges, and to Sytaunton's Zynodoa!) and this did not come close, but no one would have expected this, and it looked good enough to me, at $22.

              Chocolate desseret, shared by three, was only fair; with two glasses of wine, bill for three totalled $112 before tip.


      3. Taste of India in West Palm Beach on Okeechobee Blvd just west of the Turnpike is the best Indian I have had locally. Coolinary Cafe between PBG and Jupiter is a must and just 1 mile from it is Leftover's Cafe for the best seafood in PBC.

        1 Reply
        1. re: freakerdude

          Thanks for the tip on Taste Of India. Any more info on what style of cooking or where they cooks/owners hail from? It is difficult to tell from the reviews online, so I would appreciate more info before making the drive....

          After the relatively good meal at Punjab in Boca, I am not as leery as previously about sampling south Asian food here in south Florida@!

        2. feel like you missed out on the pelican...

          the pelican in lake worth hits the spot every time. they do breakfast (typical diner fare), and indian breakfast and weekly dinners (fri night).

          hidden gem and hate releasing the name but the owners and the place are both fantastic...enjoy.

          6 Replies
          1. re: sis22sis22

            Thanks but interested mainly in dinners....curious about Pelican's Friday night Indian fare, although as I mentioned above, would not put that cuisine at the top of my list while in SFlorida. Open to anything interesting and well executed, though.

            We had a very good lunch at Michael's Genuine and will give details once I return to home base..

            1. re: erica

              This winter we have eaten most of our restaurant dinners at
              three spots: Pizzeria Oceana, La Buca, and Buccan. We love each, for obviously very different reasons. Just want to give a pubic thanks to all three for providing some fantastic food memories!

              This week we had our first dessert by the new pastry chef at Buccan, in Palm Beach. Strawberry/rhubarb was not my favorite flavor profile--that is, until I tasted the new confection whipped up by this very talented female chef (sorry I did not ask her name). By now we have tasted many, many dishes there and not one has been anything less than very good. Many have been exciting. Will be returning tonight for a last taste before heading north next week. Yes, it is crowded and scen-ey, but it is also a pretty spot, with mostly very professional wait staff. And oh, that food! We are lucky to live within driving distance!

              1. re: erica

                E have you been to Boulud at all?

                I love Buccan too, but feel like I definitely need to give Boulud a shot soon.

                Hmm - maybe for my BDay dinner next week!

                1. re: CFByrne

                  If you like Indian food try Indus in West Palm Beach.


                  I have been to London's top Indian restaurants and this place is as good as the Michelin rated ones in London.

                  Check out the on line reviews. I wish they would open a second location near me in Boca Raton.

                  1. re: CFByrne

                    CF: I have not. We have a few by DB in NYC, and it seemed like it was a bit more "fancy" than we usually like...but if you recommend, we will certainly put it on the list for next winter season. I'm still hoping I can get one more chance at Oceana before I leave!

                    1. re: erica

                      Oh yes, I forgot... no sense going to DB here if you're based in NY - duh.

                      Don't go to PO tonight tho - closed special event.

                      If I make it to NY this summer I'll probably hit Roberta's (as I do every trip now) - which I like up there, the way you like PO down here!