Ruth’s Chris Steak House on US One in North Palm Beach. Like Uncle Larry She is NOT aging gracefully – just getting more expensive!

Marty and Tony occasionally twist my arm into going to Ruth’s Chris Steak House on US One in North Palm Beach. Last night’s dining experience snapped my arm off at the shoulder joint. Here’s a few low lights of the evening.

We started with a side order of onion rings and there were only enough for us to have one ring apiece. It wasn’t hot or crunchy so I quickly got over my disappointment of not having two. The House Chopped Salad was fine but we slowly discerned they staffed the kitchen to match the lack of a crowd in the dining room. Fortunately Tony has a new love so we did not notice how terribly long it took for the meats to come.

Marty and I ordered the Porterhouse for two at the bargain price of eighty-five dollars. We asked for medium rare and it came with a warm brown center – adding a touch of crunchiness to the chewy Strip portion. Their steaks are like the price of gasoline. The Cowboy Rib-eye with tax and a 20% tip is now only $62.33. For those of you who don’t eat meat the chicken – which used to be excellent was dry enough to have been cooked yesterday.

My favorite side used to be potatoes Au gratin. When they came out looking like potatoes floating in a cereal bowl we asked what happened and our server, who must be living in the Whitehall Retirement Home in Juno Beach said with a cracked voice – “sir, they’ve changed the recipe.” How do you change the recipe of Potatoes Au Gratin which have been around for centuries.

For our final insult – make that touch of the evening we ordered the hot Raisin Bread Pudding with an extra side of the sauce hot also. You guessed it. The Bread Pudding and sauce came straight from the refrigerator. We asked for the Bread Pudding to go so we could warm it up at home and for the check. Bill Gates would have probably thought four hundred dollars for what we had was fine but not an old retired guy living on fixed income.

I’m sorry I won’t be able to review this once fine restaurant again but slow service, overcooked meat, dry chicken, cold bread pudding at prices I haven’t seen since I filled my gas tank up are too much for –

Uncle Larry

Le Fogata – on Northlake in Lake Park – Keep on Driving

If “Le Fogata” is Spanish for the Italian slang “Fahget about it” then it is correctly named.

For many years Marty and I have driven by “Le Fogata – Fine Mexican Cuisine” on Northlake – and often thought we should stop in and try it because there are so few good Mexican restaurants around.

My advise to you – keep on driving. I’d say more but I have to take two Tums washed down with an Alka-Seltzer before the revulsion of the food products leaves me worshiping at the porcelain altar.

Uncle Larry

Chowder Heads – Driftwood Plaza – Good Food and Friendly Service – Casual – Excellent Value – “B”

Marty and I joined our friends Russ and Peggy on a quest to check out Chowder Heads in the Driftwood Plaza on US One in Jupiter. We had a fun evening. If you sit inside you get to meet their humorous and smart-aleck bartender Harry. Harry has a tough job choosing between the two kinds of Chardonnay they offer – the better of the two comes with your own metal screw top. Suffice it say their wine list is not the reason we like Chowder Heads and will definitely go back. The good news is you can bring you own wine for a fifteen dollar corkage fee.

We ordered all three of their “Wicked Good” Appetizers plus their fresh and crispy but moist fried oysters. The Crab Martini, Fried Clams and Fried Oysters were all great! When we go again I will also order a side of their Onion Strings as a sharing appetizer. When hot they were as good as onion rings get. We hear their bisque and Clam Chowder is excellent but we had so many apps we moved on to entrees.

All four us highly recommend the “Hot Lobster Roll” and preferred it to the cold lobster roll. The crispy, buttered bun and steamed lobster is a winner. The sides – including the onion strings, french fries, and Jimmy Co’s Slaw were all good as well.

For dessert things sort of bottomed out. They weren’t bad but were sort of on par with the wine list.

Reading my review you will get the impression Chowder Heads is a “carbohydrate” and fried foods joint. For us it was because that’s what we like. However, they also offer salads, fresh raw oysters and a variety of shrimp and lobster for our friends who eat healthy or actually like food that isn’t fried. This is really a good New England Seafood place – what Cod & Capers wants to be. I could be wrong but I don’t think they serve any variety of meat or chicken.

The outside seating is pretty nice with the sound of the Driftwood water fountain. Our server Ashley is a great kid and all the servers work as a team and helped each other out. Ed the Host, Harry and all the servers were friendly and helped make Chowder heads a place we will try again soon.

We enjoyed the food, service, casual atmosphere and thought Chowder Heads is Excellent Value.

Uncle Larry

HMF – A Grand Hotel Bar and Tapas Dining worthy of The Breakers

HMF – Great fun and adventurous libations and food for a night out with someone special or a lively party of fifteen in a setting that will never tire your eyes.

The Breakers in Palm Beach is not only one of the Grandest Hotel properties in the world it is also blessed with a Family ownership group that no matter the economic climate is committed to investing millions of dollars each year to keep this Grand Old Lady looking like a sophisticated model from the pages of Vogue.

This year’s most obvious improvement is the HMF – a 6,500 square feet Grand Hotel Bar with Tapas Dining which blends the historical features of the Breakers north wing with a colorful and tasteful modern decor. HMF is the Breaker’s family nod to its founder Henry Morrison Flagler and features a throw back look with: Beautiful women in black, specialty drinks from the period and the sixties – a full wine list – popular and “craft” beers – an open Sushi Bar with a myriad of fresh Sushi and Sashimi – forty tapas food items ranging from apps and salads to pizza and pasta to “The Food Truck” and of course five desserts.

Within just weeks of opening HMF has become the “it” place to visit on Palm Beach. As is always the case the Breaker’s family welcomes “locals” like Marty and I who come to enjoy this Grand property and sleep at home. Even valet parking is complimentary when the restaurant validates your life – OK maybe not your life – just your parking stub.

For those of you who have been to The Breakers you may wonder where HMF is located. Turn left in the main lobby and right into the north wing which used to be the Tapestry Bar and Le’ escalier. Seven million dollars ($7,000,000) later this large open space has been carefully designed to give you the feeling of a grand open bar with generous space and yet the table setting we had for a party of five gave us a feeling of intimacy where we could have our own party and actually hear each everyone’s conversation.

With my cold we invited three of our “dining friends” to join us and sample as many tasty treats as we could hold. All five of us give HMF our highest marks for ambiance, fun, good drinks and Larry Marty and Friendsadventuresome food options. These are the items we particularly enjoyed. There were many we didn’t get to try and you will find many different and unique food choices for your personal taste.

Drinks: Personally I like to taste the alcohol. However, we did find three specialty cocktails that we really enjoyed – The Redhead – Mojito Royale and for openers the Frescavescent. Note – the Drink recommendations come only from Uncle Larry and Saint Marty as our three Dining Friends don’t drink alcohol.

Apps: Warm Onion and Reggiano Dip and HMF’s House Made Fingerling Chips.

Pasta: Orecchiete, Tuscan Duck Sausage and Wild Mushrooms.

The Food Wagon: Wagyu Beef Sliders – Korean Short Ribs – Duck Bao Buns – Shitake Potstickers.

Desserts: Warm Vanilla Bean Tapioca – Gianjinja Chocolate Torte.

Uncle Larry Rates HMF: Drinks 7 – Food 7.5  – Service 9 – Ambiance 10

The Breakers new HMF is a must see place for adventurous diners who enjoy and good time and want to see what seven million dollars can do in a Grand Space.  It is particularly well suited for going with a group of friends for a unique evening. However, HMF is not a traditional restaurant. It’s not meant for a two or four top that are looking for a conventional salad, entrée and out the door. Besides, some people don’t like to look at beautiful women while being served their drinks, food and desserts.

Uncle Larry

Two Restaurants for the price of one

Marty and I can see the end of the tunnel on our Virus but we get so tired by evening that we have “dined out” for lunch the last two days. Here’s our review on our two lunch choices: Houston’s in Boca and Cod and Capers in North Palm Beach.

Houston’s in Boca: As you know Palm Beach Grill (PBG) is our favorite place in Florida. PBG is owned by Hillstone Restaurant Group – which also owns Houston’s and is changing the name in Boca soon to Hillstone Restaurant. We had lunch today at what is still Houston’s in Boca and from the crowd they had for lunch on a Tuesday they must be doing something right.

When we were seated we told the server we were regulars at PBG and he immediately responded by saying sort of sheepishly “well you know PBG is an upscale version of Houston’s.” If PBG is an upscale version of Houston’s he may have meant that Houston’s is a down-scale version of PBG. We asked for a straight up Margarita with Milagro Repisado and he sadly told us that their entire Tequila list consists of two (2 – shock) Tequilas – Patron Silver and the House Gut Tequila. I didn’t believe him so I feigned the need for the Men’s room and went to the main bar – where sure enough I was told they have a total of two Tequila offerings. Not good – not good at all for Margarita drinkers.

We ordered two food items we have at PBG: Tuna Burger and The French Dip. Both were good but the bun was much thicker and drier on the TB and though I asked for it medium rare and moist it came medium and somewhat dry. The FD was good but the meat seemed to be a slightly lower grade and was very chewy. We had to take small bites so as not to choke on it.

There is no need for you to drive to Boca to Houston’s when you have PBG much closer to home.

Cod and Capers (C&C): Cod and Capers is more of a fresh fish market than a restaurant. There is only seating for about 30 diners inside and another 35 or so outside. We chose to sit outside because it was cold inside and unfortunately it began to rain and blow and down went the curtains and the ambiance of El Fresco dining. At best I would describe the ambiance of C&C as very casual.

We read in the PB Post the Lobster Bisque was to die for – then get ready to die. It was “pasty” and came to our table cool. We asked the server to heat it and he brought it back pea (or it that pee) warm. The taste was good but overall this headliner item only gets a 4 out of 10. The Post said their number one and fabulous item is their lobster roll. When I hear lobster roll my mind goes to the sea food roll in the Seafood Bar at the Breakers. My expectations were too high. C&C’s lobster roll is what a Midwesterner would call a toasted hot dog bun with small bites of lobster – a sufficient amount of lobster but so small as to remind you of yesterday’s lobster special.

As a fresh fish market it looks great with a wide selection of shell and fresh fish items – similar in price to Carmine’s and about a thirty percent premium to Publix – which we like for their fresh salmon. The staff was friendly, the hostess particularly attractive so overall I will give C&C a 5 out of 10, which is a two steps below what I give Jetty’s and Kee Grill.

On balance I can’t say that I recommend either Houston’s in Boca or Code & Capers but I’ve been to worst places.

Uncle Larry

Rocco’s Tacos – Palm Beach Gardens – “Horses for Courses”

There’s a saying in golf – “horses for courses” – that simply means that some golfers like and do well on some golf courses while others don’t. By using this illustration I am not implying nor do I want you to question if the Rocco’s Tacos shredded pork is equine in nature – it’s just that even though tonight (Friday) Rocco’s was filled to the brim with people looking for people – it’s not for Uncle Larry or Saint Marty.

Let’s talk about what is really good at Rocco’s: Guacamole prepared table side – Quesa Fundido – their home made chips and Negra Modelo on draft.

What is OK to mediocre? The rest of the food!

What is bad? The Margaritas are shockingly bad – unless you like them with lots of flavors. We asked for ours to be made with minimal mix and they tasted like over the top sour lime-aid. I paid for tequila but I’m not sure it was in the drink. Believe it or not – two sips and we just gave them back. Additionally, the volume level of the music played in the indoor dining room is beyond loud on the weekends. As I write this review my right ear is still aching. The noise level at Rocco’s makes Palm Beach Grill sound like a funeral parlor. Not only could we not hear each other talking we were literally blown away with the painfully high musical volume.

If you insist on checking out the people scene at Rocco’s in PBG sit outside. However, don’t look for Larry and Marty as this is our second review, the first being on 2/12/2012. Trick me once your fault – trick me twice mine!

Uncle Larry

Matteo’s Garden Club Restaurant – Palm Beach – Very Pleasant and Reasonable

Marty and I dined last night with our friend Ali at Matteo’s Garden Club Restaurant in Palm Beach – located one block off the Ocean at 140 Sunrise – 844-6300. Matteo’s is a small dining room that seats 72 inside and a few outside tables with umbrellas. I believe it used to serve as a club for the adjoining Condo Association and this is its first year under Chef Matteo and his wife/manager. I understand in season it is quite busy with the Seniors who live in the Condo and that was also reflected last night. Other than the staff Uncle Larry was one of the younger diners and that doesn’t happen often.

Overall we thought it was a very pleasant dining experience and quite reasonably priced for The Island. In fact it is reasonably priced compared to the full service dining rooms in North County. We tried a variety of dishes and quite enjoyed the food.

For apps we liked the Granny Smith Apple Ravioli with Sausage. Usually I don’t like to mix my food groups but the apples were in the ravioli and it had a brown butter/apple sweet sauce that was delightful and brought it all together. The three moist and nicely seared Diver Sea Scallops were very tasty.

We shared a second course of Penne Bolognese and it was just OK.

For entrees we had the Veal Shiitake and it was very good. The veal, mushrooms and side of spinach souffle were all excellent. Our second entrée – Osso Bucco was very flavorful but they must have been running low on the meat budget as it only had about four bites of meat as opposed to the generous portions I am accustomed to when ordering Osso Bucco. It was also their most expensive item at $32 so I think you can fairly assume we wouldn’t have the Penne and Osso Bucco a second time.

We had two desserts and they were outstanding. The Chef’s special Fresh Strawberry Napolean was filled with whipped cream and delicious. Personally, I couldn’t stop eating the Almond Macaroons. They were really more like a moist cookie stuffed with a rich almond paste and I only shared one with Marty and Ali. It’s hard to feel good about yourself when you eat four very rich cookies.

Their wine list was modest in size and price. We had a Jordan Chardonnay for $45 and I ordered a nice glass of an Italian Tuscan for $10. If you have a favorite wine you can bring it for a $10 corkage fee.

Overall we had a good time and would recommend you give Matteo’s Garden Club Restaurant a try. They are open for lunch and dinner. It won’t make you forget Chez Jean Pierre or Palm Beach Grill but it was tasty, reasonably priced and nice for a change.

Uncle Larry

Coolinary Cafe – A relatively new – Small 50 seat – Creative – Friendly – Value Priced – Enjoyable – “Fresh and Local Ingredients” restaurant in PBG/Jupiter.

Coolinary Cafe is an enjoyable, small and friendly restaurant in Donald Ross Village that Marty and I have tried twice now. If you like Mike Moir’s Food Shack and or Leftovers you will like Coolinary. The Chef and his wife/ manager worked with Mike Moir and you can see it in the “creative” combinations of food groups.

“Creative” cooking to me is another word for mixing various good groups in one dish – which I don’t care for and is why I’m not a regular at Food Shack. If I want fried oysters that’s what I want and I don’t like them on a bed of lettuce with orange slices. On our first visit to Coolinary we tried the daily special appetizers and entrees “as offered.” Marty thought it was fine but I just can’t look at a plate combining fruit, eastern spices, waffles and fried chicken. Once I separated the Boneless Fried Chicken from the other ingredients and spices I didn’t want I really enjoyed the chicken. Other than being boneless it reminded me of how my Mother’s chicken used to taste.

Call me old fashioned and maybe even stubborn but on our second visit we saw dishes that looked good to us and we ask the Manager to simply leave off the things we didn’t want. No problem. As I said they are small and friendly.

Last night we particularly enjoyed the daily special shrimp and grits. We like grits and ask for an extra portion in trade for other items offered in the dish. The Chef prepared the most delightful and moist sour cream and plabano Grits Cake on the side. It was delicious and I sure hope they put it on the menu.

We also had the daily special dessert – “sweet fried dough.” We asked for a small portion of confectionery sugar on the side and Decaf Caps. When we sprinkled the powdered sugar on top and sipped the outstanding and large decaffeinated cappuccino I could have closed my eyes and thought I was having breakfast in New Orleans.

Coolinary does not have a full liquor license but does have a long and interesting list of beers and a small, interesting wine list.  Diners may bring their own wine for a $15 corkage fee. We absolutely loved the “Arrogant Bastard Ale – You’re Not Worthy.” It reminded us of a slightly darker Chimay – an ale brewed only in Belgium by local Monks.

You know how Uncle Larry hates to recommend a new restaurant, in a strip mall, without a full liquor license that serves creative dishes with mixed food groups. Nonetheless for Coolinary I’m going to have to make an exception and encourage you to check it out for yourself. Their phone number is 249-6760.


Water Bar and Grill – Spoto’s Latest Attractive Creation in PBG. Two Words – Don’t Do It!

OK, if you are still reading this sad review you are either mocking me that “Don’t Do It” is more than two words or – heaven forbid you are beginning to understand “The Mind of Uncle Larry.” Two words couldn’t possibly summarize how bad Water Bar & Grill’s food, wine list and service was tonight.

Our friends Steve and Apryl treated us to dinner and thank God for them I recommended the place. The four of us agreed this is the WORST VALUE restaurant we can remember – period. It’s advertised as “fresh fish.” Yet nothing on the menu is from local waters. We had three apps, three salads and four entrees and I’m not going to waste your time or mine telling you how dry and mediocre they were.

I will tell you they were expensive. The “fresh fish” items, mostly from the local waters of Ecuador averaged $28 and any “topping” you wanted “only” cost $8. Add it up friends – we are talking $35 plus for a fish entree that you would be disappointed with at Duffy’s.

If you insist on dining on the PGA strip eat at JAlexander’s for half the price and twice the quality. If you want truly fresh fish and a real wine selection for a little less money stick with Captain Charlie’s Reef Grill in Juno. For fresh oysters and excellent Sushi try The Dive Bar in Jupiter. If you want great crab cakes, fabulous service and drinks – go south to Palm Beach Grill.

What ever you choose don’t make it Water Bar & Grill and no matter what don’t tell me we didn’t warn you!

Water Bar & Grill: Apps  C; Salads  C; Service C; Wine selection & value  D; Food D; Overall D.

Rocco’s Taco’s – Never have so many gathered for so little!

Rocco’s Taco’s opened in the Commons on PGA Blvd in Palm Beach Gardens this week and we unfortunately went there tonight. Like a child born early in the third trimester there are more problems than I can describe in this post.

Despite a “pre-tip” to the Bar Tender the drinks are just OK – the food is mediocre and the service is not as good as the food. When we gave our food order the server asked if we could point it out on the menu to her as they were just learning on the fly.

As a Margarita, Beer and Tex Mex Food joint Rocco’s must depend on the party atmosphere and the sharply dressed young people who came looking for other sharply dressed young people. Sadly Marty and I came in the hopes of really top shelf Margaritas and good quality Tex Mex. We were disappointed!

The only thing that took longer to get than our bill was our car from Valet. Only Marty’s steadfast prayer life prevented a scene at the Valet stand. There isn’t any good reason I can tell you to try Rocco’s Taco’s in PBG.

If you want decent drinks, excellent Guacamole and Queso Fundido with Chirazo in North County stick with Cabo Flats at Downtown at The Gardens. At least they have plenty of parking and the Movie Theatre is nearby.

If you want great Margaritas and fabulous food drive another fifteen minutes south to Palm Beach Grill and have a truly top shelf evening. Sorry I couldn’t be more positive and give you more input but I have to go now to take two Gas-Ex and brush my teeth for the second time.

Uncle Larry