Buckle up, Boca. There’s a new cheesecake in town – and we’re not talking about Junior’s.
Amazing as it is, Junior’s fluffy, cake-crust, New York cheesecake will meet its match Tuesday, Dec. 6. That’s when Rappy’s Deli opens at Boca Raton’s new Park Place plaza.
We had a taste of the dessert at a recent preview lunch. Restaurateur Burt Rapoport, who created the Rappy’s concept as a tribute to his late grandfather’s New York Jewish deli, offered the cheesecake without much commentary at the end of a multi-dish lunch.
The cheesecake recipe was brought to Rapoport’s, his grandfather’s lower east Manhattan deli, by a Swedish pastry chef. It was the first cheesecake served in New York, says Rapoport, who grew up in an apartment above that long-closed deli.
The cheesecake: a fluffy, cream-cheese intense filling atop a thin cake crust. It’s divine stuff.
Rapoport is not making a big deal of it. “When something’s good, people will find it,” he says.
The rest of the menu is just as rooted in the New York deli concept, but presented with a modern spin. A Reuben is turned into a spring roll for Rappy’s Pastrami Spring Roll appetizer, which is stuffed with caraway-scented braised cabbage, Gruyere and Thousand Island dressing. Don’t fret, traditionalists, there’s a classic Reuben as well.
As delicious as the cheesecake: Rappy’s classic pastrami, to be made in-house. The meat is brined, smoked over a mix of hardwood, then steamed. The result is layer upon layer of flavor, a stack of pastrami that needs only a couple slices of rye bread and a smear of coarse-grain mustard. There are healthy offerings: chicken soup, health slaw, veggies.
The menu is extensive, with offerings for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner: caviar, shareable “noshes,” soups, entrée salads, large plates, blintzes and latkes, a mountain of hot/cold sandwich options, dogs and wursts (hello, pastrami-wrapped dog!), burgers and melts, Reubens and Rachels, “Bubby’s chicken in a pot,” shakes and desserts, plus a full bar.
Rappy’s will first open for lunch and dinner next Tuesday. Brunch begins on Saturday, Dec. 10. Breakfast will be served starting Monday, Dec. 12.
Rappy’s: Opens Tuesday, Dec. 6 at Park Place plaza, 5560 N. Military Tr., Boca Raton; RappysDeli.com
New York cheesecake lovers, your reward is as near as Boca Raton. Junior’s Restaurant and Cheesecake is open for business after a wait that surely seemed interminable to fans of its rich, fluffy namesake dessert.
The Brooklyn-based restaurant debuted this week at Mizner Park and is serving lunch and dinner. (Breakfast service starts within a few weeks.)
The debut was short-lived before the threat of Hurricane Matthew came knocking. As most of the restaurants in Palm Beach County’s “cone of concern,” the new restaurant closed Thursday due to the storm. It reopened for business Friday.
Owned by Alan Rosen, grandson of restaurant founder Harry Rosen, Junior’s has breathed retro Deco style into the former Ruby Tuesday’s space, where it can seat 225 diners.
On the menu: deli classics like matzo ball soup, potato pancakes and blintzes, plus charbroiled steak-burgers, sandwiches galore including pastrami, various Reuben renditions, and open-face beef brisket, salads and desserts (hello, red velvet cheesecake!).
Of course, the main attraction is the Famous No. 1 Original Cheesecake.
It’s an inspiration he relegated to back-burner status for decades: the familiar embrace of a Jewish deli.
Restaurateur Burt Rapoport knows that embrace better than most. His grandfather owned a deli for 50 years. His father managed it for many of those years. The lower east Manhattan establishment was home to Rapoport and his family – literally so. They ate most of their meals there, and they lived upstairs.
The vintage Rapoport’s deli was a traditional dairy restaurant, meaning it served no meat but plenty of blintzes, breads, fish dishes and potato soup. This is where a young Burt would grow up (on bowl after bowl of that hearty soup) to be a third-generation restaurateur and an influential figure in Palm Beach County’s hospitality world.
Now the restaurateur behind some top south county concepts (Deck 84, Henry’s, Burt & Max’s and Bogart’s Bar & Grille) has a deli-themed spot on deck in Boca Raton, inspired by those old Manhattan memories.
Rappy’s Deli will open in November, says Rapoport. The newest member of Rapoport’s Restaurant Group will debut in Boca’s new Park Place, a soon-to-open plaza on Military Trail, between Yamato and Clint Moore roads.
“I felt it would be great to go back to my roots,” Rapoport said in an interview this week.
Named after his late father, Ray “Rappy” Rapoport, the new restaurant is more “deli-themed restaurant than classic deli,” he says. He describes the concept as “soulful Jewish food with a modern interpretation.”
The casual spot will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and will boast a 30-foot deli takeout counter as well as a full, indoor-outdoor bar, says Rapoport, who laments that true Jewish delis are few and far between in the country.
But there’s good news to be found amid the “glorified diners with zero atmosphere,” he notes.
“Now you see this resurgence with younger people who are reinventing delis all around the country,” says Rapoport. “So maybe the time is right to do this thing.”
The menu will mesh old school Jewish food with “a lot of fun items,” he says.
Expect franks in a blanket wrapped in puff pastry that’s sprinkled with “everything bagel” seasoning, deli-style sushi in the form of nova-wrapped tuna salad, pastrami spring rolls and house-smoked pastrami dishes. Also on the menu: classic chicken in a pot, corned beef and stuffed cabbage, plus homemade mustard, malts, boozy shakes and sweets.
UPDATE: Due to looming Hurricane Matthew, Max’s Grille’s official birthday party has been postponed until Tuesday, Oct. 18, at 8 p.m.
ORIGINAL POST: Call it a millennial makeover. Just in time for its big 25th birthday, Boca Raton’s iconic Max’s Grille has closed for renovations.
The Dennis Max-owned restaurant, which closed after dinner Sunday, will debut its refreshed look on Thursday, Sept. 22, at 5 p.m.
Workers will replace the kitchen floor, replace ceiling soffits, reupholster banquettes in deep-red tufted leather, and add a white granite top to the outside bar and new wicker seating to the patio. Updates will continue later (while the restaurant is fully functioning) and, in a stroke of nostalgia, the bar overhang will be restored to its original state.
The updates, which come nearly six months after area flooding damaged the restaurant, have forced the delay of the second annual “Bar Brawls,” a local bartender competition.
However, the restaurant is on track to celebrate its 25th birthday on Oct. 6 Oct.18, when it hosts a bash for its designated VIPs and its former and current staff.
Said Max via new release: “We are excited to celebrate our 25th anniversary this year by revitalizing the restaurant, inside and out.”
Serving modernized American classics to packed houses daily, Max’s Grille is the only of the original Mizner Park restaurants that remains.
Max’s Grille: 404 Plaza Real (Mizner Park), Boca Raton; 561-368-0080; MaxsGrille.com
Owned and operated by the Arruda family for 11 years, this bakery is well known for its freshly baked loaves of pao Frances. But Gabriel Arruda, whose family owns the place, suggests a few must-have bites:
The coxinha (or little chicken drumstick). “It’s the most popular thing here,” he says. It’s a teardrop-shaped chicken croquette that’s filled with shredded chicken and cream cheese, then fried.
The flan. “It’s out of this world,” he says. It’s made in a Bundt pan and it’s rich with heavy cream and cream cheese.
The pao de queijo (cheese bread). Magically, it’s gluten-free. It’s made with yuca instead of wheat flour, says Arruda.
Casa do Pao (House of Bread): 22829 N. State Road 7 (just south of Palmetto Park Road), Boca Raton; 561-852-8390
Picanha Brazil Restaurant
Perched on a corner of the plaza, this casual restaurant sets out a sumptuous buffet daily, complete with traditionally grilled meats, a large variety of salads, sides, entrées and desserts. You pay just under 9 bucks a pound for your buffet selections. Word of warning: It’s easy to load your plate here. It will weigh more than a pound before you know it.
Don’t miss: the array of Brazilian candies available for sale at the cashier on the way out.
Amid the selection of Brazilian canned goods, Brazilian tapioca, coffees, teas, juices and candies, you just may find a bin of jilo, a small green, eggplant-like fruit. You’ll also find house-made Brazilian sausage and charque (dried, salted beef) and other specialties.
Maybe it’s the general ease in restaurant traffic that’s to blame for the displays of creativity by local chefs during summer. It’s the season when chefs tend to indulge their artistic whims more freely, when multicourse dinners can extend into double digits.
The chefs-having-fun motif can be detected on Wednesday late-nights at Grato in West Palm Beach, where chef/co-owner Clay Conley fires up a selection of rock-themed pizzas. At 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays, he cranks up the classic rock and serves up pies with titles like Wavy Gravy (Sunday gravy meat sauce, creamy buffalo cheese, basil), Rocket Man (fontina, Parmesan, tomato, caramelized onion, rocket greens), and L-O-L-A Lola (an oddly shaped, pepperoni-topped pizza). The special pizzas are served only Wednesday nights during Grato Rocks. (Grato: 1901 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-404-1334; GratoWPB.com)
Elsewhere, there are some notable multicourse feasts. At Jardin, the new-ish, chef-driven eatery on Clematis Street, chef duo Jordan Lerman and Stephanie Cohen (husband/wife) have kicked off Monday night “Chefs’ Grand Tasting” dinners.
And by “grand” they mean 15 courses. The dinners, which run through Aug. 29, are intimate affairs, limited to the first eight guests who reserve each week. The special dinners showcase an imaginative tasting menu (it changes week to week) that’s inspired by local ingredients. Monday grand tastings start at 7 p.m. and cost $100 per person. Add $40 for wine or cocktail pairings. (Jardin: 330 Clematis St., West Palm Beach; 561-440-5273; JardinRestaurant.com)
Meanwhile at Twenty Twenty Grille in Boca Raton, Chef Ron Weisheit’s 15-course summer dinners – offered for 20 guests – are so popular, they’re selling out. Grand tasting dinners at the small eatery are scheduled for June 30, July 1 and July 2. The feast costs $150 per person. (TwentyTwenty Grille: 141 Via Naranja #45, Boca Raton; 561-990-7969; TwentyTwentyGrille.com)
Goodbye, chicken fried steak. Hello, organic kale and apple slaw.
Restaurateur Gary Rack is revamping the Delray Beach space now occupied by his Fat Rooster eatery. Sometime in May, Rack’s Farmhouse Kitchen moves into that Atlantic Avenue spot, bringing with it a “farm-fresh” eating concept with more healthy options.
That means a fade-out of sinful Southern food and fade-in of veggie-laden dishes, salads with names like “Kale Yeah” and flatbreads (“farm flats”) baked with whole grain flour and sprinkled with “power seeds.” That said, Farmhouse seeks to serve meat lovers as well with dishes such as bison meatloaf, grass-fed skirt steak and heritage pork medallions. Fish and chicken offerings will be available as well.
It will be the second location for the Boca Raton-based Farmhouse Kitchen, which opened at Royal Palm Place in November 2014. This is not the first time Rack switches out one concept for another. Farmhouse replaced Table 42 in Boca.
In addition to serving lunch and dinner, the upcoming Delray spot will serve brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
“Gary Rack carefully considered this transition from Gary Rack’s Fat Rooster to Gary Rack’s Farmhouse Kitchen,” Rack’s GR Restaurant Group said in a news release. “There is an overwhelming positive response from likeminded locals who claim Farmhouse Kitchen is a brand champion.”
Fat Rooster, which serves its final meal on Mother’s Day, had the crow-worthy distinction of serving what one industry magazine called the best chicken sandwich in America.
That winning sandwich is a stack of sweet potato waffles, Southern-style fried chicken thighs, sorghum, peanut and benne seed slaw and pickled watermelon that’s macerated in jalapeño-infused whiskey.
The “Hen-Loving Waffle” sandwich may soon be gone, but her creator will remain: Chef Matthew Danaher, Rack’s restaurant group’s culinary director, oversees Farmhouse Kitchen.
It was the best New York souvenir I ever received: a single slice of Junior’s cheesecake from Brooklyn.
My sister bought it for me some years ago just before she headed to the airport for her flight back to Miami. She gave it to me less than an hour after she landed. By the end of the night, it was gone. My belly was happy.
By mail: The traditional New York-style cheesecake sells for $38.95 at JuniorsCheesecake.com. The site offers many varieties of this cake as well.
In person: In New York, Junior’s has locations in Brooklyn, Times Square, the Grand Central Station Terminal. It also operates a restaurant at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut and a bakery outlet in Burlington, NJ.