Boca – 358 North Park Avenue Winter Park.
The corner of North Park Avenue and Canton has been somewhat the “Kiss of death” for restaurant openings and closings over a number of years and problematic to say the least.
But then a couple of years ago along came Boca! Who, by a thoughtful and sensitive remodeling gave the location a new lease of life and turned this “problem child” location into a top class bistro style restaurant.
A large central bar now dominates the front restaurant with high tops and restaurant seating dotted around the bar and overlooked by a wood burning oven and semi open kitchen. There is more seating in the rear of the restaurant complex which can also double up as a group dining and special events space.
There is excellent outdoor seating that wraps around the restaurant and the windows open up on cooler days to give that much appreciated indoor/outdoor feel.
The ambience and friendliness of the staff is such that you feel like a local in a very short space of time which is part of the reason why Boca has quickly become a neighborhood favorite and established and cemented its position on the Park Avenue dining scene. To create a balance between a busy central bar area and seated restaurant is not always easy, but one that seems to work well here.
Boca clearly has a passion for local produce and as all exponents of the “Farm to Table” movement, report that they only use seasonal, fresh ingredients, sourced from local suppliers wherever possible, thereby securing food provenance and ensuring sustainable and responsible food governance. Sounds complicated but we are what we eat, and if I can eat something of quality that was gown or reared locally then I think it becomes a “no brainer”
In terms of service, Laura, my server was attentive and knowledgeable which is a must with any bistro style menu as dishes and food combinations may be quite different to what an average customer is used to eating.
Great dishes I sampled:
Sambuca P.E.I. Mussels – A bowl of Prince Edward Island Mussels which are just the right size (neither too big or too small) in a Garlic, Herb and Cream Sambuca broth. The Sambuca did not overpower this dish and gave just the correct amount of Aniseed flavor. Order more bread to soak up the broth as it is not to be wasted.
Boca Chopped Salad – With so much made of fresh ingredients a salad is always a good test of the claim and I am happy to say this salad was outstanding, comprising of Romaine lettuce, Chicken, Red onions, Garbanzo beans, Cucumbers, Soppressata (Italian dry Salami), Kalamata olives, Caper berries, Dolce blue cheese & Red wine vinaigrette.
Boca have a “Staff Meal” that changes daily with the strap line “Just order it the Chef says you will love it” and on this occasion it was:
Short Rib Stew with Potato Cakes and Fried Egg – A true Bistro style meal and it was difficult decision between this dish and the Corned Beef Hash but the Potato Cakes won me over. The Plating was perfection (as with all of the meals) and the light and airy potato cakes were filled with the superb Short Rib Stew and topped off with a perfectly cooked Fried Egg over easy. Those of you who read my reviews on a regular basis know my fondness for comfort food. Well add this dish to the list!
Truffle Parmesan Fries – Small item with BIG impact. They say “Manners maketh the Man”. I say “Fries maketh the Meal” some of the best fries’ I have tasted.
Boca have a great selection of Flatbreads and you can see them being prepared and fired in the wood burning oven, my favorite is the Fire and Smoke Flatbread – Smoked Portobello mushrooms, Peppers and Zucchini, Spicy mango chipotle puree, Smoked gouda. Great with a glass of La Posta Malbec whilst people watching from the bar or at one of the sidewalk tables.
The wine list at Boca continues the responsible trend with indicators across the extensive list that depict and describe wines as (S)=Sustainable (O)=Organic White Wine (B)=Biodynamic.
They have great section of local beers on draught and by the bottle as well as some of the best hand crafted cocktails in Orlando.
Insider tips for Boca:
- Look out for their Dinner for 2 to Go – Always $29 and includes a rotating entrée with side, house salad and dessert. Serves two guests. Monday-Friday: 4pm-9pm – TO-GO only – See web site or Facebook page for details
- They also have a “Shift Drink” to complement the “Staff Meal” see the chalk boards for details
- Boca has a semi-private space for groups, meetings and special events.
- Join the BOCA Club where they will keep you current with Boca promotions and events, as well as email you a free entrée worth $24.99 during your birthday and anniversary months! – See web site for details.
- Park Avenue can be tricky for parking, but the parking garage off Canton (just across the street) has free parking on the upper levels for 3 hours on most days – See parking garage for details.
- Boca has other locations in: Tampa – Riverview and Sarasota as well sister locations at Atlantic Beer and Oyster just around the corner and a “Speak Easy” above the restaurant called “Park Social”
- Want to know more about their sustainable food provenance? Download the “Dirt” magazine from Boca web page.
This review is well overdue as I have been a regular at Boca for some time (which is a testament in itself) so whether you snag a bar stool and “Belly up to the bar” for some great wine, beer and cocktails and watch the world go by, or have some of the best Bistro style food available, don’t miss out on this Park Avenue delight and neighborhood favorite.