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A picky diner finds contentment at a fine-dining chain restaurant in Boynton Beach

12-ounce prime rib cooked perfectly

The Village Tavern, one of about a dozen eateries in a national chain, provides a fine-dining experience in Boynton Beach

The Village Tavern seen from Gateway Boulevard

“This is a restaurant I would come back to,” my wife, one of the world’s pickiest eaters, purred contentedly as she devoured a bright pink, thick slice of prime rib ‘with a baked potato.  “This is cooked perfectly.”

Her remarks referred to The Village Tavern in Boynton Beach, which I had stumbled upon while searching on Yelp! for a restaurant that served prime rib, one of my wife’s favorite dining choices.

Knowing that this was a chain eatery did not deter us. Let’s face it, some of the best steakhouses in South Florida are chain outlets.

The Village Tavern’s dining room

Located at the northern end of Boynton’s bustling retail strip on Gateway Boulevard, it’s not easily seen from Congress Avenue, the nearest cross street, and there’s little neon to let you know it’s there. Judging, however, how busy it was on a recent summer Friday evening, people have no trouble finding The Village Tavern.

Both the bar to the left of the vestibule and the dining room to the right, which faces the open kitchen, are large spaces, but the noise level, at least in the dining area, was just a soft buzz from the multitude of conversations taking place.

The bar at The Village Tavern

And it’s easy to find contentment here. The menu is lengthy, hitting all the popular menu clichés – salads, flatbreads, burgers, sandwiches and more. But there are steaks, seafood and additional offerings that make it an almost-veto-proof dining experience.

A gratis basket of crisp dinner rolls is delivered upon request and will be refilled if desired. Menu prices points are reasonable with appetizers ranging from $7.75 for bruschetta to $11.95 for wings. Entrees start at $15.95. That rare prime rib, a 12-oz. cut, was $26. Burgers start at $12.95. Everything on the menu, we were informed, is cooked from scratch.

The wine list is long and deep, focused largely on California appellations. There are some 40 by-the-glass offerings, priced about 2.5 times retail. They’re half off on Wednesdays.

Shrimp and grits

I was quite satisfied by my entrée, Southern Shrimp and Grits ($19.95), a classic dish from The South given a modern spin. It’s prepared here with applewood-smoked bacon, mushrooms, green onions, Anson Mills organic stone-ground grits and Gruyere cheese (as opposed to the traditional cheddar). An otherwise simple dish, this was an unexpected mélange of textures and flavors. The shrimp, not huge, but not tiny, were firm. And the large portion was quite filling.

Our server, Dan, was eager, friendly and always managed to stop by at a time when a beverage glass needed to be refilled. He commiserated with my wife when she complained that the dessert she might have ordered, Godiva chocolate cake, was only available with a topping of vanilla ice cream, not chocolate. The dessert that we did share, crème brulee, proved somewhat disappointing. It appeared to have been pulled out of a cold box and given a quick torching. The custard was warm in spots and ice cold in others and the caramelized sugar coating atop it could have used more crunch.

The Village Tavern is not a large chain. There are fewer than a dozen units nationwide, mostly in the Southeast, Denver, Arizona and, oddly, the Philippines. The chain was established in 1985 in Winston-Salem, NC, by restaurateur Scott Richardson, in the former dairyman’s cottage of the R.J. Reynolds estate. He traveled the country visiting restaurants for menu ideas that he ultimately borrowed and improved upon. The Tavern’s chicken grill — essentially grilled chicken on a hamburger bun — came from Mick’s in Atlanta. For the taco salad, Taco Bell was the inspiration. And the eatery’s crab cakes resulted from three days of research around Baltimore and Washington that produced 15 to 20 recipes that were the basis for The Village Tavern’s offering

Overseeing the chain’s corporate kitchen is the well-credentialed Mary Grace Viado, a 2001 grad of the Culinary Institute of America, who also trained at such top New York restaurants as Daniel, Aquavit, Le Cirque 200 Aureole, Payard, Cafe des Artistes and Le Bernadin. It’s apparent that those working under Viado at the local level are delivering a top-notch experience.

With fine dining experiences limited in Boynton Beach, The Village Tavern should be among the top choices for a diner in the area. I know we’ll be returning.

The Village Tavern

Renaissance Commons, 1880 N. Congress Ave., Suite 170

Boynton Beach, FK 33426

561-853-0280

thevillagetavern.com

 

 

 

 

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