Junior’s of New York, Louie Bossi eateries coming to Boca Raton

Two high-profile restaurants are coming to downtown Boca Raton: Louie Bossi, from the owners of Rocco’s Tacos, and the first Florida location of the iconic Junior’s Restaurant, of New York.

The expansion of these two brands to Boca Raton comes as the city is poised for explosive growth, with the addition of thousands of new rental apartments, two hotels and more stores.

Mizner Park soon will be home to Junior’s from Brooklyn, New York. Junior’s, famous for its Junior’s Cheesecake, will be taking the space formerly occupied by Ruby Tuesday. The casual American chain closed last year.

Louie Bossi, a creation of West Palm Beach’s Big Time Restaurant Group, will open at the Hyatt Place being built in the heart of downtown. The restaurant will be attached to the 14-story, 200-room hotel, set to open in October at the southeast corner of Federal Highway and Palmetto Park Road, said Dave DeMay, vice president of Kast, the project’s builder. Big Time owns Rocco’s Tacos and City Cellar restaurant, among others.

Both restaurants will open by year-end, with Junior’s hoping to open in September.

Why Boca Raton? Listen to the restaurants’ owners.

“There’s a city coming out of the ground and that corner is going to be the Times Square of Boca Raton,” Big Time partner Todd Herbst said of the Hyatt Place site. “The downtown is on fire. That’s why we’re opening there.”

Junior’s Alan Rosen, a third-generation owner, said he was looking to open a restaurant in Boca Raton, which he called “another borough of New York.”

Rosen knows the area well because his father lives in Delray Beach.

So when Rosen was told in December about the Ruby Tuesday space by restaurant broker Jeff Sussman, Rosen hopped on a plane from New York three days later.

Rosen said he spent a Tuesday scouting the restaurant location and all the new construction going on nearby. He signed the lease that afternoon.

“I think it’s fantastic what’s going on down there,” Rosen said.

Sussman, the Boca Raton restaurant broker who handled both deals, said Junior’s will give new life to Mizner Park.

And Louie Bossi will “start to activate” the downtown, creating a pedestrian-friendly scene where people walk from their homes to nearby eateries, Sussman added.

For years, Boca Raton business owners have yearned to have a downtown as lively as Delray Beach’s Atlantic Avenue.

“And at last, we’re seeing the maturation of this city,” said Sussman, of Sussman Realty.

At Junior’s, plans are to build a 270-seat restaurant, including indoor and outdoor seating. Also included will be a full-service bar and a bakery. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be served.

Rosen is thinking of an Art Deco-inspired decor, with dashes of the celebrity memorabilia featured in the New York stores.

New Yorkers know about Junior’s, but for those not from the Northeast, Rosen described the food as “Brooklyn comfort food,” featuring 200 items that include not only pastrami, brisket and corned beef but also chicken Parmesan, salads and chicken fingers for the kids.

In short, “the most traditional New York restaurant there is,” Rosen said.

Of course, Junior’s world-famous cheesecakes have made the restaurant and bakery a beloved destination, especially at the Brooklyn location, a landmark since 1950. Over time, Junior’s expanded to Times Square, Grand Central Terminal and Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut.

But while some things change, the cheesecake recipe never does. It is 65 years old, 19 years older than Rosen. Rosen said Junior’s sold nearly 3 million cheesecakes last year.

Louie Bossi’s first location opened last summer on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. Herbst said it’s been busy from the start. The restaurant’s Italian food is fresh and the wood-and-brick interior is inviting, he said. Everything is made in-house, too, including the breads and eight different types of pasta.

All that homemade food requires a large kitchen, which requires a large restaurant space. Herbst said the Hyatt Place location delivers: It’s 8,000 square feet inside, with another 2,000 square feet outside for patio seating.

Also coming: a big bar and a bocce ball court.

Both deals reflect the surge of new business moving into Boca Raton, attracted by residences under construction.

Last week, Clive Daniel Home held a grand opening, showcasing a two-story, 70,000-square-foot store filled with furniture, rugs and home accessories. The $16 million store, at the northwest corner of Glades Road and Second Avenue, employs 65, including more than two dozen designers.

The fresh, contemporary furniture clearly is geared toward urban living, with sofas and furniture sized in scale for apartments. This contrasts with oversized, ornate and often dark wood furnishings that dominate some furniture stores catering to large, country club homes.

Mayor Susan Haynie told grand opening attendees that 2,000 rental apartment units will be opening in Boca Raton’s downtown alone. Another 2,500 are opening west of the downtown.

“And every one of those units needs furniture,” Haynie said.

Downtown projects include the whopping 849,092-square-foot, nine-story, 373-unit apartment and retail complex called Palmetto Promenade, being built east of Federal Highway on Palmetto Park Road. The apartments will be ready to lease starting in July.

Another big project on the horizon: Penn Florida’s Via Mizner, an 830,000-square-foot, three-tower, mixed-use project at the northeast corner of Camino Real and Federal Highway.

The first phase features 366 apartments, slated to open this year. The project also will feature the luxury Mandarin Oriental Hotel, set to open in 2017.

Alexandra Clough writes about the economy, real estate and the law.

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