Bocaaahhhh Dahhhhling….

Unfortunately for me, I live in Boca Raton, FL. Now let me be clear, I love my house. My house is my sanctuary. I think if I did not have such a sanctuary I would have gone postal by now. You see, being that I am not from New York, I am not Jewish, and I am not loaded… I really can’t relate all that much to this area. And if I had known, I would never have bought my house here in Boca. Instead I would have chosen say… Hollywood if I wanted to be that south, or Lighthouse Point could I have afforded it, Jupiter if I did not need to be close to where I worked at the time… or Deerfield had I been smart at all. But it was a situation that, coming from Los Angeles and San Francsico for so long and commuting in the worst traffic on earth, I wanted to live close to work. So the house i bought was bike riding distance to work. The company since moved further away but it was still not highway driving. Anyway…

Boca is like some freakish time warp. The average age in West Boca where I live is approximately 65. They are mostly retirees who for some strange reason are absolutely miserable. Why? I have yet to figure this out even after seven years here. And trust me, this is one of the most manicured, clean, crime free, open road, no traffic areas in South Florida. I just can’t figure it out. Beyond that you would think that it would be retiree prices here, say for groceries or eating out. Nope. The Publix around the corner from me is one of the most expensive Publix stores in this area. I can literally drive three miles south and go to another Publix and buy the exact same product for less money. And I do! I feel it is my duty. EVERYTHING is so overpriced it is ridiculous! Gas. Food. Clothes. Dry cleaning. Car wash. Pool supplies. You name it. Again, drive a few miles south, save some money.

You would think my biggest complaint would be the prices, or that horrific driving of senior citizens who can no longer see or react in a reasonable amount of time. And those things are bad. But do you want to know the single worst thing about living in this hoity toity area. THE FOOD. In the seven years I have lived here I have never found a good restaurant. NEVER. Again drive a bit longer than few miles in any direction and you can find better food… but as far as take out, delivery, or a quick bite at a neighborhood eatery? HA! Non-existant.

What is going on here? I mean seriously, I know Florida is all about chains. There is no such thing as a Mom-and-Pop anything here… but there is a such thing as management. Gordon Ramsey would have a field day here. Here’s a perfect example…

Right next to the very expensive Publix there is a space in the stale stuccoed strip mall that has seen about four different eateries turn over in the last four years. But a new one opened about three months ago. A Greek place. Now this is no nice dine-in sit-down linen napkin restaurant. It’s more of a take out place with some seating. So when my guy and I tried it the first time we were ecstatic! Being a vegetarian I got a falafel pita that was overstuffed and delicious, piping hot with a side of fresh Greek salad with bright red delicious tomatoes (yes imagine that! a good tasting tomato!) and fresh feta cheese, olives, pepperocini, and yummy dressing that was not loaded with salt. My guy got a traditional gyro again, overstuffed with a side of salad and his was delicious as well. And it was relatively inexpensive! We got a side order of dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) too. Came to a whopping $20-something for two of us… or something close to that. We loved this place. We could both eat, and eat well. I mean a place that I am not stuck just having salad or a side dish is a true find and that this one is right around the corner!? Win win win! And this place kind of seemed a bit mom-and-pop. There was an older man in there every time we went, and he was cooking, cleaning tables and ringing up customers. There was a woman who seemed a bit over medicated, but was chatty, she seemed to be the man’s wife (we assumed) and they both basically ran the show.

We frequented quite a bit and I was getting a bit nervous as it was always seemingly empty when we would go. I wanted to make sure this place stayed around soI told everyone I knew about it. And we did soon see it getting more and more traffic. We also noticed a new cook. He seemed familiar with the old man and we noticed him cooking more and more.

Fast forward a couple months now and the food has slowly taken a serious decline. Over the course of the last two months or so every time we have ordered from there it has gotten worse and worse. Especially when the new guy was cooking. WHAT HAPPENED??? Last night was the topper… by the time we were ready for dinner it was close to 8pm and we decided to order take out, got it home and …. wow. My falafel looked like it had been flash fried twice, it was dry as cardboard and had the same consistency, and was way over salted. The salad had wilted lettuce, rotten tomatoes!, and terrible feta. The dressing was now all oil, the pita bread had a funny taste and the grape leaves had a twang of odd vinegar/citris that almost burned the tongue. I threw mine away not even denting it. Now I ask you… is this because of the lack of patrons? Because all you had to do is try this place once and you knew it was a find. Is it the high rent? Why cut costs on the FOOD QUALITY? What is flash frying the falafel twice cutting out besides taste? Why not just raise the prices a bit and advertise more?

And so here we are again. Back at the same spot again. No choices. All I do is cook! And I am not really complaining as I absolutely love to cook and thoroughly enjoy it. In fact I have seriously on more than one occasion thought about changing careers to become a personal chef or somehow cook for a living. But sometimes ya really just need a break! But as soon as I get over the fact that I have food in front of me that I did not slave over, as soon as I taste it… I wish I had slaved. Either that or I wish I could get a refund.

So sad. There are cities, towns, that take total pride in their foods. Boca is not one of them. Thankfully if I drive about 9 miles north to Boynton I found a farmer’s market that I love that gives me inspiration and an alternative to the expensive and poor quality Publix’s produce… and I simply just cook at home.

It’s the little things…


~ by Michelle Sammartino-Zeto on June 10, 2010.

One Response to “Bocaaahhhh Dahhhhling….”

  1. I lived in Boca for 2 months. I know what you’re talking about. I did like the valet parking at the mall though.

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