Paula Montes and Ellen Bechtle at Abe and Louie’s restaurant (Melanie Bell)
One of Boca Raton lawyer Ron Kaniuk’s best memories of growing up in New York City was having his father take him to the legendary Peter Luger’s Steak House in Brooklyn.
Now that he’s living in South Florida, Kaniuk, senior counsel at Sachs Sax Caplan, said he’s found the next best thing: Abe & Louie’s.
The Boca Raton steakhouse, which has another location in Boston, opened nine years ago. And while it’s in a strip shopping center, don’t let the location fool you. This is Boca Raton, after all. From the moment the valet takes your car, you know this is as upscale a restaurant as you will find anywhere in South Florida.
The ambience is reminiscent of a Gay Nineties dining room with mahogany paneling, gold leaf ceiling, elaborate bronze chandeliers and pastoral oil paintings adorning the walls.
The wait staff is decked out in coats and ties, and the service is so solicitous you only have to gaze around the room and a manager appears by your side.
“I saw you looking around and thought I could help,” he said.
“No,” we responded. “We were just admiring the decor.”
The prices are sky high, but no one seems to mind. I was a bit stunned when the check came ($115 for three people) to see we were charged an extra $10 for the side of grilled mushrooms and an extra $8 for berries on the creme brulee. But others I spoke to who frequent the place say the price is worth the experience, especially for special occasions.
My group of five visited Abe & Louie’s on Good Friday, so the place wasn’t full. I hear Tuesdays and Wednesdays are busy “power lunch” days with business types packing the place.
A basket of assorted bread, rolls and crackers, some home-baked, and fresh butter starts every meal. I ordered the Boca chopped salad with steak, which was chock full of feta cheese, tomatoes, radishes, black olives, onions and pea sprouts, and came with a tasty dijon vinaigrette. It was so big I wound up taking half of it home.
My colleague started his meal with the beef Carpaccio appetizer for $16. The seared sirloin strips cut ultra thin were layered in a circle and beautifully presented in a deep china bowl. A heaping serving of arugula lettuce tossed with oil, halved cherry tomatoes and a sharp white cheese anchored the center. The dish was served with buttered, toasted thin baguette slices.
For his main course, he ordered the wood-fired barbecue chicken sandwich with melted aged cheddar cheese, bacon and caramelized onions for $12. He also ordered a side of diced and sauteed crimini and portobello mushrooms, which we all sampled, on our salads or sandwiches. Although pricey, they were buttery, garlicky and delicious.
Another lunch companion was Jill Weiss, a partner at Dimond Kaplan & Rothstein and president of the Palm Beach County Bar Association. She ordered the pan-seared tuna nicoise salad with grilled artichoke, potato, heirloom tomato, egg, haricot verts and olives, served with a lemon vinaigrette, for $17. She pronounced it fresh and delicious, raving in particular about the heirloom tomatoes and the vinaigrette. “It was so good I poured the whole thing over it,” she said.
For dessert, we split the vanilla creme brulee with mini chocolate chip cookies. My colleague ordered fresh berries to put on top. The rich dessert hit the spot.
Weiss calls Abe & Louie’s “a great place to conduct business.” She lunches there about twice a month, either networking with other lawyers or treating clients.
“It’s much quieter than the Capital Grille,” she said. “I like it because you can have a conversation there and actually be heard across the table. A lot of places you cannot. It’s pricey—it’s definitely a higher-end lunch—but you get what you pay for.”
The eatery is also a favorite of Larry Corman’s. Earlier this week, the Boca Raton-based Greenspoon Marder shareholder took his four staffers to lunch there to celebrate “administrative professionals day.”
“In Boca, we have so many amazing restaurants, you don’t want to get into a rut going to the same place all the time,” noted Corman. “It’s a beautiful facility, very nicely decorated, the service is excellent, and the food quality is the best.”
If visiting for lunch, Corman orders a chopped shrimp salad. At dinner, he’ll opt for one of their steaks, all Midwestern corn-fed beef aged at least six weeks on the bone for maximum flavor.
“You see a lot of businesspeople and professionals,” he added. “I invariably see someone I know when I go there.”
Another fan is Rick Simpson, president of Legacy Bank of Florida. He lunches there once every couple months with clients, enjoying a steak or a steak salad.
“It’s kind of the most upscale restaurant in the area,” he said. “I like the ambience, the food is excellent, and the service is perfect.”
Kaniuk, who has had a condominium and homeowner association practice in Boca Raton for seven years, can’t even count how many times he’s been to Abe & Louie’s. Like my colleague, he favors the barbecued chicken sandwich, sans bacon and cheese.
“I generally go with potential referral sources, bankers, accountants and property managers,” he said. “I don’t go to see and be seen. I go because it’s nice.”