PAM: Let me begin by saying…we don’t eat red meat. Still we recently headed for Burger Fi for lunch. We’re rebels!
GERRY: I did some homework on the name: It's a combination of "burgers" and "fries." Never would have made that connection -- assumed it was a takeoff on Wi Fi or some such. It has its roots in Florida, and is now one of the nation's fastest-growing chain restaurants.
PAM: This chain burger place has several locations, but we opted for the one on PGA and Prosperity. Serving food from the corner spot in the strip center, home to TJ Maxx; Bed, Bath, Beyond; CVS and more, there was a bustling lunch crowd. Parking is ample, but snagging a slot right in front, which is actually the side of the building, is a bit of a challenge. But, it is free, and walking a few extra steps before and after lunch can’t hurt. Location bonus? Shop for a variety of goodies, then a quick pop-in for a bite of lunch.
GERRY: It's that shopping combo that is worrisome. Ha!
PAM: Once inside, everyone must queue-up, large menus are visible, then orders are placed at the counter. A large numbered placard is provided signifying your order, to be placed on the table. The actual decor/design is a bit reminiscent of Burger Shack, very light, modern, with metal tables and chairs. Strip center hip, for sure.
GERRY: It does have a sleek, modern vibe. Very clean, not junky. I did notice there were a few tables also available for outside dining.
PAM: As this is what I refer to as a half-and-half dining experience (you place order, they deliver food to your table), there is not significant staff interaction. However, no complaints. As everywhere we go these days, help is needed…BurgerFi is hiring. This is where service plays into our lunch. Without beating the COVID situation into oblivion, staffing shortages impact actual time for restaurants to fill orders promptly. Opting for take-out today, our wait was a bit longer than anticipated.
GERRY: Agree -- the pandemic has taken a toll on staff resources across the board, but especially in the food services industry. Our wait did seem long, considering there weren't that many people lunching the day we were there. But other than that, no problems with the service.
PAM: Our fare today could not have been more simple: Chicken tenders and fries. Both were enjoyable. My ample serving of fries, similar to Five Guys, did tend to harden as they cooled, however.
GERRY: While the pieces were on the small side, my chicken was delicious. I liked the coating in particular. We picked two of their "chef-crafted sauces" -- BBQ and Ranch. The regular order of fries was big enough for both of us to enjoy. Next time I want to try their onion rings, which are ginormous. We'll leave it to the beef-eaters out there to vouch for their burgers (although they do offer a veggie burger featuring a Beyond Meat patty). It was a good meal for about $10.
A fun, family place, we will return to sample other, non-burgers, at Burger Fi. Remember, we’re a couple of rebels.
Our latest episode of Strip Mall Dining takes us to the home of the Olympics, Japan, with a stop at Hayashi Japanese Restaurant, located in Gardens Towne Center at 4202 Northlake in Palm Beach Gardens. It's just down from Publix, and there's plenty of free parking available.
For us, the location is a bonus: One of our favorite sweet stops, Nothing Bundt Cakes, is at the northern end of the same shopping center. Lunch plus one of their delicious mini-bundts -- a great combo! But we digress ... back to Hayashi:
PAM: The cozy, yet spacious interior was pleasantly light and airy. We were invited to select any table, so we opted for a booth by the wall. A few minutes in, we realized our table was equipped for table-top cooking. Not required on this day, but will be fun in the future.
GERRY: Preparing food at your table is like having a personal chef. I like there are lots of booths, a plus for social distancing. The choice of their piped-in music was interesting. As you said, it didn't match the ambience.
PAM: We were promptly greeted by the only visible server in the place, who offered us menus and took our drink orders. Staffing seemed sparse, as we only saw and interacted with one person. But she was efficient, even if a bit hurried.
GERRY: Yes, by the time we left, it was filling up and she had her hands full. Like just about every restaurant we visit, signs were up soliciting help in all categories of restaurant work. It's going to take a while for staffing to get back to normal levels for sure.
PAM: The lunch special menu offered an ample variety of sushi. However, as I have been anxious to try Katsu Chicken ($8.95), that was my choice. My entree came with choice of Miso soup or salad and a side of white rice. Opting for the soup, I did not regret my decision. It was, hands-down, the best Miso I have had in years. Likewise, my thin, crispy battered chicken was perfectly cooked, and the rice was light and flaky. I do use soy on rice. The sauce for the chicken was a bit heavy for me, but Gerry enjoyed it. The iced tea was fresh, and frequently replenished which was appreciated on a warm July day.
GERRY: They are well-known for their sushi, but that's not me. I like my fish cooked. Since we've been researching Sando, or Katsu-style chicken, I wanted the same thing. Our server recommended I try the Lunch Box version ($10.95), which came with the perfectly cooked chicken, rice, dumplings (two fried, one steamed), light strips of zucchini, watermelon and other side goodies, along with soup or salad. I went with the salad, which had a ginger dressing that was divine. I did enjoy the tangy dipping sauce and actually borrowed what Pam didn't use. Once again, we had to have a to-go box.
We don't have anything negative to say about Hayashi. The food was well prepared, and there's a lot of it. Friendly service as well, and there's a lunch special for just about every taste. We'll definitely be back.
This week, Pam and I decided it was time to get our Greek on, so on a friend's recommendation, we set out for Souvlaki Grill II, located at 523 25th St. in West Palm Beach for lunch. Here's our report:
PAM: The restaurant is located on a busy thoroughfare between US Hwy 1 and Dixie Highway. It's in the Northwood area, where you'll find a variety of unique, colorful shops and eateries with attractive curb-appeal.
GERRY: On street parking in front of the restaurant is at a premium, but cars tend to move in and out quickly enough. We snagged a place, immediately, across the street from the entrance.
PAM: The exterior clearly identifies the place as Greek, through blue and white colors with distinctive, Greek-style lettering. Stepping inside, there are a few metal tables, and a small counter with seats facing the window. If you prefer to dine al fresco, there are tables on the sidewalk as well. We chose indoors, as the weather looked threatening. It was a wise choice as the skies opened up and poured rain midway through our lunch. Large menus are placed above the order/preparation area, so I had to step away in order to peruse the selections. I tried not to be overwhelmed on this first visit.
GERRY: You place your order at the counter and when ready, the food is delivered to your table. A lot of their business seems to be take-out, which looked to be very popular.
PAM: As I warned the friendly staffer behind the counter who was prepared to take my order, this was our first time, so she offered to go over the menu with me. I would never have asked her to do such a task during busy lunch time, but it was an appreciated gesture.
GERRY: They do have an extensive menu -- pretty much anything Greek you would want. I overheard a diner raving about their grilled octopus. I'll have to take their word for that; octopus is a little out of my wheelhouse!
PAM: I kept it simple by ordering a Greek sandwich, with a side of Greek potatoes. It arrived as ordered, wrapped in a cone of paper-grilled chicken, fully-loaded, on soft, warm pita bread. The filling was ample, spilling onto the plate. I am very picky about how potatoes are prepared. Many times they are so completely over-cooked there is no taste. The Greek potatoes I ordered on the side were cooked and seasoned to perfection. Delicious. Drinking from Styrofoam is not my favorite, but the iced tea was fresh and tasty.
GERRY: I went with the Souvlaki Chicken Platter, which came with two large skewers of grilled chicken, Greek or Caesar salad (I went with Greek) and one side dish ( I opted for the Greek potatoes). The Greek salad arrived first, and it was a bowl of deliciousness. Tomatoes, lettuce, olives, red onions and feta cheese, which I happily passed to Pam (she loves her cheeses). The chicken was flavorful and tender, and I agree -- the Greek potatoes were topnotch. So much goodness.
PAM: No room for dessert on this restaurant excursion. Maybe next time, but I would rather just have more Greek potatoes! I see many return visits to Souvlaki’s. Dine in or take-out!
GERRY: I second that!
PALM BEACH GARDENS_Our quest to sample strip-mall restaurants this week took us to Italy by way of Palm Beach Gardens, with a stop at Giovanni's. Located adjacent to the Home Depot at 3900 Northlake, Giovanni's has been serving up authentic Italian cuisine for 18 years.
PAM: There is ample free parking, and the location is excellent, as it is in the same strip center as Home Depot (for Gerry, and True Treasures, a home goods consignment store, for me).
GERRY: Shopping and dining sharing a parking lot -- a classic two-for-one.
PAM: The restaurant is intimate, but not so small you share conversation with other diners. Large windows front the parking lot, so watching people coming and going to Home Depot is added entertainment. I enjoyed having lunch at a table with a real tablecloth. Fittingly, it was red. You get the Italian vibe without it being overdone. The music piping through their audio system was not what I expected. I am old-school in that I wanted to hear Dean or Frank kind of music. A small nit-pick.
GERRY: When you enter, it just feels Italian. You walk down a short corridor to be seated, which opens into a dining room where the tables, as you said, have real tablecloths. The placemats even have fun facts about Italy. Agree with the unusual music selections -- didn't expect rap while dining Italian.
PAM: As we opted for an early 11:30 lunch, the place was not busy, and we were invited to sit at any of the square tables. The round tables hold more people. Our server was prompt to deliver menus, and check on our drink order, which was iced tea. She was efficient, and friendly.
GERRY: I second that. Our server took good care of us throughout the meal. Quick refills on the iced tea, and you know how I love my iced tea.
PAM: We ordered garlic bread with cheese to get things rolling. It arrived in a basket and was fresh and generously seasoned. I do prefer my bread to be more lightly toasted, as I feel if over-toasted it loses a bit of flavor. Still, the soft portion was delicious. My selection of breaded chicken breast parmigiana, with a side of pasta, arrived and the serving was huge. I opted for penne, and it was covered in just enough sauce to allow the perfectly cooked pasta to shine. The sauce on both the chicken and pasta was absolute perfection for my taste. I sprinkled a few red pepper flakes and dry Parmesan over the top. It was not needed.
GERRY: I liked the crunch on the garlic bread, which also featured the optional mozzarella cheese. My choice of entree was breaded chicken Milanese with a side of angel hair spaghetti.. There was enough food for two people! My chicken was cooked perfectly, and so tender. I also loved the pasta sauce. We had to have two to-go boxes for sure.
PAM: Tiramisu is a favorite, and each restaurant brings their own flair. Naturally, I had to order it to sample their version. However, after making a significant dent in my entree, the dessert was packed-up, along with my remaining food, for the ride home. Eaten later, their version of Tiramisu is excellent.
VERDICT: Giovanni's remains one of our favorite places for Italian, and a great value to boot. We had two drinks, an appetizer, two entrees and dessert for less than $35. Try it, and like us, you'll be a regular, too.
Visit their website.
From left: Garlic Bread, Chicken Parmigiana and Chicken Milanese
Here at North Palm Beach Life, we are always sitting around, thinking up schemes. Sometimes they even work, then again. Hence, Summer 2021, as we try and exit the unending pandemic, we decide to seek new-to-us restaurants to sample that also are located in strip malls.
Our first restaurant on the list was recommended by two friends we trust. Why? Because they have taste. So we head for lunch at Golden Pavilion, located in a strip center at 201 US Highway 1, in Jupiter. Here's our take:
PAM: Of course, Gerry and I arrived at what could be considered breakfast in some circles, 11:30. We had the place all to ourselves. More arrived as the clock pressed on, and several take-out orders zipped past our table.
GERRY: One thing we liked right away is the serene atmosphere and Zen-like vibe. You could feel your shoulders begin to lower.
PAM: The first thing to note is I am a slow eater. Slow Always have been, and the food came fast at the Golden Pavilion.
GERRY: It did come fast, and it should be noted we had good service throughout the meal. Our wait-person made sure we had plenty of tea and was attentive without being intrusive.
They offer a good selection of lunch specials in the $7-8 range, which includes soup and rice. While we looked at the menu, our server brought us a bowl of fried won-ton and two sauces, one sweet and one spicy. We started with an order of Steamed Pork Dumplings (delicious), iced tea, Won-Ton Soup, Honey Chicken with Steamed Rice (Pam), Sweet and Sour Chicken with Fried Rice (Gerry) and of course, fortune cookies.
Our overall impression:
ATMOSPHERE/DECOR: Pleasant, calm, inviting.
SERVICE: Prompt and efficient.
FOOD: Hot, delicious and lots of it.
VALUE: Four stars (our of 4).
PAM: Now, back to my eating like a land-turtle.: I could not finish one thing before another arrived.
The upside with lingering over my food? Dinner is all set for tonight. Love those take-out containers!