Tomahawk steak

Tomahawk steak at Red in Boca RatonRed, The Steakhouse (Benjamin Rusnak / Courtesy / August 16, 2012)

three half stars

One of the best steakhouses in Palm Beach County is hiding in plain sight.

The 4-month-old Red is on Military Trail, just south of Glades Road, but if you know this part of Boca, you know you've got to loop around to find it.

Hint: It's attached to the Wyndham Hotel, but has its own entrance facing Military.


Pictures: Zombie Walk in downtown Fort Lauderdale

The bright red lobby could use a little more decoration beyond paint. But once inside the door, the place comes together. There's a big gorgeous bar on one side with roomy booths. The other side of Red houses the dining room with wooden floors, red accent walls and comfortable arm chairs set around white linen-covered tables. The lighting is exquisite. So is the music.

This is Red's third location. They first opened in 2005 in the Cleveland suburb of Beachwood. South Beach came in 2009, and Red has been serving its certified Angus prime aged beef in Boca since April.

Maybe it's because I lived -- and loved living -- in the Midwest for a decade. But I feel like my favorite Midwestern value — a decided lack of pretension — is on constant display at Red. The staff is so friendly you can almost forget that you spent forty-nine bucks on a 14-ounce filet.

Yes, it's expensive, but what steakhouse isn't these days? Although $16 for sweet and spicy black beans — even a generous serving to share — is perhaps out of line. Keep in mind that, unlike many restaurants, the kitchen makes everything from scratch, from mayonnaise to ranch dressing.

Chef de cuisine Jarod Higgins grew up in South Florida before making his way to Rhode Island for culinary school and some high profile chef gigs. He moved back to South Florida last September to work at the South Beach location before taking on Boca. He works under Red's executive chef and partner Peter Vauthy, who spends most of his time in Miami Beach.

I love when restaurants think about bread service, and here a shallow plate with parmesan cheese and red chili pepper is brought to the table. After drizzling the plate with olive oil, diners run crusty bread through this addictive concoction.

The night we dined at Red, the chef sent out a refreshing amuse bouche of vanilla-infused watermelon.

Oysters Rockefeller ($22) might not be on the menu, but Higgins says it can be made on request any time. West coast oysters are lightly floured and quick fried before being set on top of creamed spinach. I also loved the hot finger peppers ($14) stuffed with Italian sausage and covered in tomato sauce.

Fans of sweet salads will like Red's house salad ($9): baby greens, candied walnuts, goat cheese and raspberry vinaigrette. A classic Caesar ($9) is indeed classically prepared — romaine hearts, Parm-Reg, herbed croutons — but like the house salad it was just a bit overdressed.

The menu includes lots of seafood, from whole Maine lobster to a different wild salmon preparation every day. Higgins says they source as much local seafood as possible. Pasta choices include: linguine and 24 clams in white or red sauce ($31); bucatini with meat balls ($26); and house-made pappardelle with veal and beef ragout ($29).

Every steakhouse needs at least one standout chicken dish. Here, the Ashley Farms double breast ($28) is brined, pan roasted and finished in the oven. The result is an incredibly moist breast with just the right amount of gloriously crispy skin.

The stars of the menu are the steaks. The two we tried were perfect: perfect seasoning, perfect temperature. Prices start at $36 for a six-ounce filet mignon and rise to $59 for a 24-ounce bone-in porterhouse. A 16-ounce rib eye is $39.

Sauce ($4) choices include Bearnaise, chimichurri, green peppercorn, gravy and horseradish creme fraiche. That last one would be perfect on the prime rib, served Sundays only. It's $28 for a 10-ounce cut and $36 for 14-ounces. The chef marinates the beef for a day before slow roasting.

Desserts are as satisfying as the savory side of the menu. If you can't settle in on a dessert, share the tasting trio ($15): chocolate cookie crust mini cheesecake; Key lime pie with graham cracker streusel and toasted meringue; and doughnut holes with raspberry jam.

Red, The Steakhouse

1901 N. Military Trail, Boca Raton