Boca: Kitchen, Bar & Market – Tampa, FL
Sometimes, we here at Eat a Duck have to find new eateries through hard research and much brow furrowing disappointment, often bordering on real world detective work. Other times, a tasty feast just seems to fall in our lap. Regrettably, we seem to find ourselves in the former situation more often than not. However, this was not the case when I stumbled upon Boca while searching for a place to eat in Tampa. I realize that last sentence makes no sense if you skipped the title of this piece (shame on you!). While Boca: Kitchen, Bar & Market had been on Logan’s radar for weeks, it was a surprise for me. Nestled among the nondescript law firms and chiropractic offices, we found a little gastropub that looked as if someone had plucked it straight off the foothills of Santa Barbara.
It didn’t take long after we were seated to realize that we were probably in for a treat. As our server explained, everything was sustainably sourced, “farm to table” to coin a hip phrase. It’s all well and good to throw buzzwords around as many establishments do, and not to sound insulting, but Tampa isn’t the town I think of when I want to sample a forward-thinking menu. Thankfully, after a short scan of the menu, I could tell Boca was the real deal.
Let’s get down to business though, you’re here for the food, no? On this first visit, I was joined by the girls of Eat a Duck for a balmy outdoor lunch, sadly Logan couldn’t make it, I’ll get to the next visit in a moment. The first thing to catch my eye was the rye braised bone marrow accompanied with rye caramelized onions, stone ground mustard and lightly toasted baguette slices. For an entrée, I was driven more so by the desire to keep my wallet somewhat filled rather than my stomachs urges, not a common occurrence mind you. Not that my choice of the OMG prime house burger was in any way settling for less. It was topped with the traditional fixin’s, lettuce, white cheddar, pickled onions, tomato, BKBM sauce and a side of pomme frites, truffled at that!
Had money been no object, a few options would’ve included a braised short rib with potato hash and burrata tomato gratin, or slow roasted porchetta with tuscan potatoes, exotic mushrooms, grilled chinese long beans with a blood orange and purple watercress salad. The lobster pot pie with shrimp, clams, fingerling potatoes, mirepoix and bouillabaisse was another contender. Luckily, mine and Logan’s better halves were there to fill the table with two more tasty items. Penne with tomato dusted jumbo prawns, baby heirloom tomato, wild mushrooms, truffle butter, Parmigiano Reggiano joined a glistening “black and bleu” flatbread of smoked tenderloin, caramelized onion and braised wild mushrooms.
It was a joyous occasion when everyone took their first bites of food, with well-balanced if carefully planned flavors. The one surprise was the tomato in the penne dish that turned out to be what I suspect were green tomatoes as they had a pleasantly sour twinge. It was the perfect combo to the earthy cheese and mushroom combo.
We recently visited Boca for brunch before our long trek back to the east coast. This time, the other half of Eat a Duck was there for the party. Brunch isn’t usually my meal of choice, what with my usual breakfast avoidance tactics. This time however, an item appropriately named “the hangover panini” had me at first sight. Sausage, bacon, cheese, caramelized onions with two scrambled eggs? It was a no-brainer. I’m glad Logan was there though as he manned up and ordered the mystery “staff meal”, not knowing what to expect, only that he’d “love it” according to the chef. Leave it to one aspiring chef to blindly trust another, and with good reason. His dish arrived, with a generous dollop of fresh made grits, flanked by prawns and drizzled with a sweet and spicy sauce. If I’m honest, it kicked my panini right in its toasted buns. I didn’t let on, but I would’ve finished off the whole plate by myself.
The table winner had to be the bread and jam board. Despite a small kerfuffle involving a certain “nutbutter” that tasted suspiciously of peanuts, it was a delicious spread, including pineapple, strawberry, and a tart cherry jam with a possible cranberry twist. Various breads in both toasted and untoasted preparations accompanied the preserves. It was sort of a breakfast antipasto.
After a write-up like this, I think it goes without saying that Boca: Kitchen, Bar & Market should be on your radar if you’re looking for good eats in Tampa. But what do I know?