Earlier this year, I made another trip to the Boca Raton area, but this time a bit busier and with less chance for food exploration. Top of the list, though, was Shake Shack. I always think about Shake Shack when visiting New York, but never want to give up stomach space for a burger there when so many other good options exist.
Boca’s another story. A mediocre food scene meant time for Shake Shack, which had opened since my last visit to the area. This “shack” is adjacent to the Whole Foods shopping center, across the street from Florida Atlantic University. I can see that Shake Shack would have high appeal to students looking for a decent, lower-cost meal. Beyond the Shack’s shakes, there’s beer and wine, which makes this more than the usual burger joint.
My focus, though, was on the burgers (and the fries). For all the hype, I was a little disappointed. Not bad, though. If I had no expectations, I would have been pleasantly surprised. I like the soft bun and the overall simplicity of the burger, with decent meat flavor. But that beef could have used a little more salt (plus a little less cooking time), and I’d probably prefer iceberg lettuce instead. Furthermore, the crinkle-cut fries were just ordinary. For my money, Charm City Burger in Deerfield Beach remains the best bet for burgers in the area.
Pastrami and pizza are two items I tend to eat each time in Boca Raton, which is in many ways “New York South.” Due to a busy schedule, no trip this time to one of the many Jewish delis in the area. Instead, we took advantage of delivery service from Pickle Barrel. I’m not sure they’re truly “home to the world’s largest sandwich,” but the portion was generous. And the lunch deal was decent, running about $9 for a sandwich, choice of side salad (albeit small), and a can of soda. Sandwich options are typical, ranging from tongue to tuna to turkey breast, but by default I went with pastrami, and was satisfied.
Pizza choice this time was based on proximity, which meant Nino’s of Boca. Again, a typical menu, ranging from the usual appetizers to pastas and parmigianas, but I stayed the normal course to sample the simple cheese pizza. Oh…had a salad as well to keep things healthy, but the pizza was the primary goal. It was good, though not great, with some blistered bubbles but lacking the little oil slick I like to see on top of the cheese. Sauce flavor was just a little flat compared to Dominic’s 1, my preferred choice in Boca Raton.
En route to Boca Raton, immediately upon landing at Fort Lauderdale Airport, dinner was nearby at the interesting Hot & Soul restaurant. The menu is quite eclectic, some items given names that range from cute (like Tuck Your Bibb and Yahoo for Wahoo!) to provocative (like Go Fork an Egg and Gnaughty Gnocchi).
I’m a little suspicious of any kitchen that tries to pull off a multi-ethnic menu, as it would take an extraordinarily talented chef to excel in diversified cuisines. Hot & Soul tackles the challenge gallantly. None of the dishes especially amazed me, and the flavors actually started to blend together a bit over time. But all-in-all, everything was good, and I can see this restaurant appealing to locals who want a whimsical, ever-changing menu. Here’s what I sampled:
“Hunk a Meat”
“Sweets & Beets”
Aunt Dewey’s Gumbo
Dark chocolate, pistachio and sea salt bark