Juicy Lucy, aside from being juicy (and a burger), is a messy girl. Her smoky char envelops a heap of pimento cheese, which melts and dribbles all over the place.
The mess is inevitable when you pick up this beast of a burger at the new MEAT Eatery & Taproom in Boca Raton and attempt a bite. A fork and knife won’t do much to contain the cheesy, saucy mess. (Note to self: Do not wear white when dining here.)
But she’s worth it, that Inside-Out Juicy Lucy burger ($12). Every bite is sublime as it contrasts the hearty, 6-ounce patty with rich, peppery cheese. And the burger, just one in MEAT’s lineup of stellar burgers, is made better by a side of the eatery’s decadent duck fat fries ($2.50).
When I learned Islamorada’s MEAT Eatery and Taproom opened an outpost in Boca Raton recently, I had a culinary hallelujah moment.
I first worshipped at Chef George Patti’s temple of bacon, burgers and other meaty delights during a Florida Keys vacation last year. His original MEAT Eatery is a tiny but mighty spot, tucked into a small strip plaza on Mile Marker 88.
Despite its size, the place stands defiantly carnivorous in the larger ocean of seafood-centric eateries. To those who might ask the obvious – “Who goes to the Florida Keys for burger?” – MEAT has a bold reply that usually involves house-smoked meats, fresh-ground chorizo burgers, duck fat-cooked potatoes and grown-up shakes so good they’ll make you forget paradise beckons just outside the dim space.
Patti and his business partner, sommelier Tom Smith, opened the original MEAT in 2012 and quickly realized the concept – a sliver of a place serving a well-curated selection of quality burgers, meats smoked and ground on premises, homemade condiments, craft beers, adult shakes, micro-brewed sodas – could and should be replicated.
They ventured into Boca, having charmed the locals with Patti’s pimenton-laced chorizo sliders and Nutella-Guinness milkshakes at this year’s Boca Bacchanal, opening MEAT’s doors July 1. Part of the draw for the duo – who also recently opened SALT Fusion Cuisine, a more upscale seafood eatery in Islamorada – was the space.
MEAT anchors a first-floor corner of the Cendyn Spaces (shared office space) building. During the work week, the flow of office workers and locals gives life to the building.
If you drop by on a Sunday, as we did, the space may seem sterile and corporate at first. But fear not and venture inside. You’ll find a burger joint warmed by brick décor walls, stainless steel touches, hand-scrawled chalkboard menus listing the day’s rotation of draught beers and some vintage brew signs.
And you’ll find a terribly tempting menu. Aside from the Lucy, there’s a decadent version of Patti’s smoky chorizo burger ($8.50), a 5-ounce, house-made chorizo (Spanish-style sausage) patty topped with American cheese and a smear of lime-cilantro aioli. There’s Lucy’s more demure gal pal, Nancy Pants ($9), a 5-ounce Angus cheeseburger that hits the spot.
For lighter appetites and vegetarians, there’s MEAT’s BOCA burger, a mix of farro, quinoa, mushroom, edamame and beets tucked into a lettuce wrap ($13).
But there are many good reasons this place is named MEAT. Perhaps the most egregious of these is the Cow & Pig Burger, a 5-ounce Angus burger topped by a 5-ounce chorizo patty topped with beer-braised onions, provolone and American cheese ($16) – it’s ridiculously tasty. We’re told the hardcore pile on additional toppings, such as a fried egg (.75) or house-made bacon ($1).
There’s more than burgers here. There’s Wisconsin-style beer cheese soup ($5), salads, hummus ($4.75), fried corn on the cob ($3.50), house-made chicharrones (pork rinds, $5) and, for the extremists, a foot-long, half-pound Wagyu beef hotdog they call The Home Wrecker ($18).
Pulled pork, pulled chicken, a lobster roll and lobster mac-and-cheese round out the savory menu.
But one of my favorite reasons to dine here involves MEAT’s sweet side, namely its milkshakes crafted with homemade Nutella ice cream. MEAT spikes one Nutella shake with Guinness.
It’s the most heavenly sip – and, unlike the messy Lucy, it’s easily shareable.
MEAT Eatery & Taproom
ADDRESS: 980 N Federal Highway (Cendyn Spaces building), Boca Raton
PRICE RANGE: Inexpensive to moderate
HOURS: Open Monday through Friday from 8 to 10:30 a.m., then 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from noon to 9:30 p.m.
CREDIT CARDS: Major credit cards
RESERVATIONS: Walk-ins welcome
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes, including restrooms.
NOISE LEVEL: Laid back, manageable
FULL BAR: Craft beer and a nice selection of wines are served; two separate bar areas
WHAT THE GRADES MEAN:
A — Excellent
B — Good
C — Average
D — Poor
F — Don’t bother