It's a Thursday night in March at Abe and Louie's steakhouse, and you can practically hear the sound of self-satisfaction.
Judging by age and suntans, most customers look to be basking in retirement. It's still winter in most of the country, yet the assembled snowbirds, locals and vacationers are feeling good about being in Boca Raton and having the bucks for a meal at what has become one of Palm Beach County's favorite steakhouses.
Abe and Louie's first opened in Boston in 1998. You have to figure someone who wanted to escape Beantown winters thought Boca Raton would be a great spot for a second location. It opened here in 2005.
On its 10th anniversary, Abe and Louie's is still among the finest steakhouses in South Florida, although service could use some tightening up. As we expected, the quiet table we'd requested was set and waiting when we arrived at 8 p.m. But our waiter was distracted and seemingly overwhelmed. Three times during our meal, we had to flag down other employees to help with simple requests, such as water refills and fresh cutlery.
Two-star service and four-star food, however, still make for a very good meal. It starts with tuna tartare ($10), with avocado, cucumber, crème fraiche and caviar with a pleasant wasabi finish. If you can find a better cup ($6) or bowl ($10) of clam chowder in Palm Beach County, send me an email. Abe and Louie's wears its New England roots well.
Caesar salad ($12) has just the right amount of creamy dressing, the Parmesan croutons adding a nice crunch. Thickly sliced beefsteak tomatoes ($12) are served with blue cheese and red onion. The only disappointment among appetizers was wood-fired bacon ($15). I've had crispy, thick-cut bacon rashers served to me in other steakhouses. But here, they're greasy and limp.
The menu offers 19 entrée choices, and you can never go wrong with the skillet-blackened, prime corn-fed beef. Cooked perfectly, the 16-ounce, center-cut, aged new sirloin ($50) hardly needs a steak knife. A regular knife will do. I'm a fan of prime rib ($49), and delighted that it can be had with horseradish sauce or simple grated horseradish. I'll take grated any day. The kitchen ought to watch the amount of rock-salted crust it puts on a plate. The saltiness was overwhelming with some bites.
Lobster is a specialty, of course, and if you like rich preparations, go for lobster Savannah ($54), in which the lobster is removed from the shell and then mixed with mushrooms and peppers in a sherry cream sauce. The mixture is returned to the shell, topped with Parmesan cheese and browned. It is delicious.
We also had lobster in one of the signature side dishes, Abe's lobster macaroni and cheese ($27), which also gets a crispy Parmesan crumb. Creamed spinach is exceptional ($12), as are Brussels sprouts with brown butter ($10).
After dinner, we shared peach crisp ($8), with roasted peaches, cinnamon oat crumbs and vanilla ice cream. Key lime pie ($8) gets a topping upgrade with mascarpone whipped cream.
Desserts are a little old-fashioned, perfectly in keeping with the woody, saloonlike dining room. Here's to 10 more years.
Abe and Louie's
2200 W. Glades Road, Boca Raton
Cost: Expensive-very expensive
Hours: Dinner daily, lunch Sunday-Friday, brunch Sunday
Reservations: Strongly suggested
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Conversational, even when full
Outside smoking: No
For kids: Highchairs, menu items on request
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Complimentary valet