Ke’e Grill in Boca Raton endures with familiar fare and professional service

Kee Grill at night (photo by Kee Grill)

Professional service, teak decor and food that won’t wow anyone under a certain age

Dining trends may come and go, but never at the Ke’e Grill in Boca Raton, where the fare is familiar, the setting attractive, the service professional and the early dining specials a good value.

Even on an offseason weekend evening, Ke’e Grill in Boca Raton is bustling. From the early bird dinner through the prime dining hour, there’s a constant influx of well-dressed diners who fit the area’s traditional 55-plus demographic as well as a few extended families with kids in tow mixed in. (Walkers, BTW, are checked near the front door.)

The main dining room

Decorated in stone, teak wood and tiki bar umbrellas, Ke’e (pronounced key) Grill could easily be mistaken for a country club dining room, It has been satisfying area locals for two decades, amazing longevity for any restaurant.

Ke’e Grill’s endurance lies in its appeal to those who don’t want any surprises, IMHO.  Dishes mostly are well executed, but lack verve, much like the food in a hotel, designed to appeal to the broadest clientele.

Bowing to the request of my nonagenarian mother-in-law, who adores Ke’e Grill, I put aside my aversion to early bird dining. We arrived at Ke’e Grill 30 minutes before the end of special pricing with my spouse, my brother-in-law and my sister-in-law, who were too jet-lagged to disagree with the choice of restaurant. Entrees on the early bird menu are in the $20 range— about $10 lower than the regular menu. The price includes a house or Caesar salad as well as two sides (two sides also come with entrees on the regular menu).

Seated quickly, we were soon greeted by our friendly, but professional, attentive server, Ricky, ready to take drink orders before we’d barely settled in.  Alcohol, it seems, is key to the bottomline here as evidenced by the almost triple mark-up over retail for wines. The house early bird wine, Coastal, is $6 a glass— a dollar more than a 750ml bottle will cost you at Total Wines up the road. One of my wine-pricing  benchmarks, Meiomi Pinot Noir, is listed at $48; at Total it’s $17. Fortunately, during the summer most wines are offered at a 25-percent discount. We ultimately opted for a bottle of 2016 Murietta’s Well The Whip, a white blend from Livermore, Calif., for $34, or a more reasonable double retail markup.

Bread is delivered promptly. The garlic bread is warm, soft and only mildly flavored, reminding me of the kind you find in your supermarket’s freezer case and then you heat up in your toaster oven.  That was a good thing, because I didn’t have to worry about filling up on it.

Salads are crisp, a blend of finely cut romaine, carrots, a few red onion rings and a couple of cherry tomatoes. Dressing comes on the side in a china cup, no plastic here, but the thick, house vinaigrette, or maybe it was honey mustard (I could not tell, but I ordered vinaigrette) adds a dab of contrasting color to the greens, but little more.

Signature Blue Crab cakes with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables

Swordfish piccata with Spinach Maria and mixed vegetables

Two types of crab cakes are listed on the menu: Blue Crab Cakes and House

Signature Crab Cakes. I asked Ricky how they differed and he explained that the former are topped with a crabmeat remoulade and finished with further baking; the latter are plain and accompanied by a mustard sauce. I opted for the House Signature Crab Cakes with a side of mashed potatoes and a medley of vegetables. My plate, delivered accurately by a food runner, consisted of two ice-cream-scoop-sized balls of crab, cooked with minimal breading—or seasoning, accompanied by a pile of bland pureed spuds and a helping of over-cooked veggie strings. The mustard isn’t really a sauce, but perhaps a dish of Gulden’s Spicy Brown. It helps to liven the otherwise muted crab, but it’s not quite what I expected. I also tried the restaurant’s signature Spinach Marie, a spin on creamed spinach, but didn’t care for its thick, gummy texture,

Hawaiian Filet Mignon with a double helping os mashed sweet potatoes

Grilled salmon with mushroom and asparagus

Hawaiian filet mignon medallions come dressed in a sweet, teriyaki-like glaze, perfectly cooked and perfect for my no-fussy-food spouse. who has a sweet tooth.

Swordfish piccata. nicely presented, was a thick slab of fish topped with capers. Surprisingly, it’s a bit over-cooked and less flavorful than you’d expect, or maybe you would if you’re a Ke’e Grill regular.

Salmon with crabmeat topping was cooked perfectly, but the sides of mushrooms and steamed asparagus were limp and lifeless.

Key Lime Pie

New York-style cheesecake

Desserts were familiar. Apple crisp, Key lime pie, strawberry shortcake or New York cheesecake, the last, accompanied by a dash of fresh whipped cream and fresh strawberries, was perfectly just okay. The Key lime pie, met all-around approval.

There’s just regular coffee and decaf to finish. Would you really expect espresso or cappuccino here? Tea? There’s Lipton’s, green or chamomile.

Ke’e Grill won’t ever be my first choice for dining. There are far too many more places nearby that offer more interesting, inventive and exciting cuisine, but it’s solid enough to guarantee that older, finicky dinners will leave quite satisfied. I just hope I don’t become one of them as I age.

Ke’e Grill

17940 N Military Trail #700, Boca Raton, FL 33496



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