By: Shaina Wizov Contributing Writer
Boca Raton may be known for its gorgeous oceanfront properties along A1A, the occasional celebrity sighting, and plastic surgery, but there’s more to this little beachside suburb — and that comes in the way of food and drink. There are plenty of staples that have been serving customers consistently good meals for years, that haven’t fell into the awful employee turnover trap that all-consumes so many restaurants that open in this area, and that continue to delight us with the classics despite so many hot new trends on the market.
Let’s start with one in particular — Uncle Tai’s Hunan Cuisine. Tucked away in Boca Center, this is where you can find upscale Chinese food and impeccable service in a quiet, intimate atmosphere. This is no Chinese buffet; this is fine dining. The prices may be a bit hefty when you’re ordering a la carte, but the portions are large enough to share among friends or have for leftovers. They do also offer a Sunset Menu, available from 5-6:15 p.m. where entrees come with choice of egg roll or chicken skewer, choice of vegetable soup, wonton soup or salad, and ice cream or cheesecake for dessert. Entree prices range from $15.25-$18.95.
Uncle Tai, regarded as the high priest of Hunan cooking, started this family operation back in 1979 with his first restaurant in Houston, TX. He opened the Boca location in 1987 and it has been serving locals some of the finest in Oriental cuisine. The menu offers something for everyone, whether you’re vegetarian, Pescatarian or a diehard meat-eater. While some of the dishes are very traditional and straight-forward, like General Tso’s Chicken or Beef and Broccoli, there are a lot of nontraditional dishes that may pleasantly surprise the palate of someone who may not normally veer out of the norm. Take the Edamame Lettuce Wraps, an appetizer that is perfect for sharing. Two large lettuce leaves are filled with a mixture of sauteed edamame and small-diced vegetables packed with all the flavors you’d expect from classic Oriental cooking. It’s messy to pick up and eat, so it might not be the best thing to order on a first-date, but it is definitely a must-have on date No. 2.
Uncle Tai’s offers a bevy of specialities, including their most popular Crispy Beef, and for seafood lovers, the Jumbo Shrimp and Scallops served Szechuan style are a winner. You can let your server know just how spicy you’d like your dish and they’ll be happy to oblige. Even the most spicy dish won’t be that spicy (unless you ask for it); this is Boca, after all. Vegetarians will jump for joy when they see the variety of veggie dishes available. Things like eggplant sauteed in a slightly spicy garlic sauce and mixed with bell peppers, sauteed cabbage with hot pepper sauce, and sauteed vegetables mixed with tofu. The options are endless, and everything seems to please customers. They must be doing something right — they’ve been here for 30 years. Uncle Tai’s is open daily for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. (10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays).
After you’ve gone out for a nice night of good-quality Chinese, plan your next Boca Raton dinners around these other local favorites that have built their reputations on keeping guests happy through out the years.
The Tin Muffin: First things first, check out the bathroom as soon as you get there. It’s so well known, it should be its own entity. You’ll love anything you order — but make sure to get a glass of the homemade iced tea. The Tin Muffin is open from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Tom Sawyer: This is the place to go for breakfast. They’ve been in Boca for 32 years and according to their website, have served over 62,000 people, won 24 awards and have 105 dish varieties on their menu. Tom Sawyer is open daily for breakfast from 7:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. for lunch.
V and S Deli: This deli was established in 1985 and is known for its authentic, just-like-Grandma-makes it Italian eats. Subs, salads, and Italian staples like eggplant parmesan, lasagna, and sausage and peppers; it’s a little taste of Italy right here in Boca. They cater too! V and S is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. They also offer free delivery Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.