Deck 84 in Delray Beach: Nothing Groundbreaking, but This Is Why We Live in Florida, People!

Deck 84 in Delray Beach: Nothing Groundbreaking, but This Is Why We Live in Florida, People!
Photo by Candace West
Executive Cheff Chuck Gittleman shows us the Grilled Key Lime Mahi. Click here to see more photos from Deck 84.

Slap! A long, fat fish hit the cleaning station with the force of a sledgehammer.

"Now that, my friend, is a nice catch!" a tipsy bystander roared to the fisherman, who stood on the dock, cleaning and scaling his fish. The fisherman's shipmates also admired the specimen that would soon become their dinner, then stepped off their boat and began moving toward the calypso music and the party going on at waterside eatery Deck 84, the latest casual American restaurant to hit Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach.

My boyfriend and I watched with a tinge of jealousy. We'd love to have a boat — and if we'd arrived on one, we would have had an easier time finding the restaurant, which is situated on the Intracoastal Waterway in the spot formerly occupied by Busch's Seafood. If you're driving east on Atlantic Avenue, you'll see the turquoise awnings for Deck 84 underneath the bridge only as you're about to cross it. Though its address suggests otherwise, Deck 84 is not accessed by Atlantic Avenue. Instead, hang a right just before the bridge. You have to valet ($3).

Grilled Key lime mahi: pineapple rice, sautéed spinach, and crispy plantains.
Candace West
Grilled Key lime mahi: pineapple rice, sautéed spinach, and crispy plantains.

Deck 84 has an indoor dining area with bamboo walls and travertine floors and a giant glass panel that the restaurant heralds as a "bubble wall," but that's just a shiny term for a window. Wide-open rooms are saturated with turquoise and dotted with oranges and brown, mimicking a Caribbean sunset. Despite the bright colors, the inside feels slightly stale, like a cross between a sailboat-themed bar you'd find on a cruise ship and, well, every other casual waterfront restaurant you've stepped foot into during the past ten years.

The deck, however, is another story.

When we arrived on a Sunday afternoon about 5 o'clock, the hostess informed us that there would be a 35-minute wait. Fine by us — time to enjoy a couple of Deck 84's signature cocktails.

The restaurant's website had beckoned us to "Discover Key West in the heart of Delray Beach. " Actually, this wasn't a bad substitute for Duval Street — and it made the painful four-hour drive unnecessary. Although the mood is more Blue Mojito at the Hyatt than Hog's Breath Saloon, most of the patrons were still in beach attire. One of them, a wide-eyed girl in her 20s with glossy lips, sashayed in wearing a bikini top and shorts (and a pair of five-inch stilettos — reminding me that we were in Delray, not Key West). She was served promptly.

You could easily fit all 35 of your closest friends at the bar, and the energy here might even inspire you to whip out your phone and invite them all for a drink on the spot. The seating was plentiful, including stools that are like miniature love seats for two, many of them covered in sandy towels. Flat-screen TVs (featuring NASCAR, oddly) blared above the working bartenders — all clad in jeans and white boatman's shirts with rolled sleeves. A one-man calypso band pounded his drums, and most people could not resist moving a body part or two to the beat.

When our buzzer sounded, we rounded up the bartender to settle up before heading to the hostess stand. By the time we made it there, she told us we'd have to wait a few more minutes because we took too long and she'd given our table to someone else. Normally, this would annoy me, but I think the calypso music had gone to my head.

Eventually we were led to a wooden picnic-style booth in the corner. Crossing from the bar area to the on-deck dining area, the music is lower, the crowd is older, the vibe less beach-party and more Grandma-friendly. I nearly tripped over a chocolate Lab (the patio is also dog-friendly).

As for the menu... Deck 84 is owned by Burt Rapoport, the man behind Boca eateries Bogart's, Henry's, and Max's Grille. His name has also rolled on the credits for roughly 20 other South Florida establishments over the years. Rapoport's not angling for any sort of creativity award. He has a successful formula, and it includes chicken lettuce wraps, baked spinach dip, Cobb salad, sirloin burgers, and maple-ginger-glazed Scottish salmon. Rapoport brought executive chef Chuck Gittleman from Bogart's to Deck 84, which Rapoport is calling his "signature achievement." He signed a 25-year lease. So far, his bet is paying off: The place was slammed.

Reasoning that a restaurant serving bar food is only as good as its sliders, I ordered Deck 84's Black Angus version ($10). The patties, draped in plenty of Deck sauce (ketchup, mustard, mayo, and relish) and topped with a blanket of gooey caramelized onions, were tender, juicy, and packed with flavor; thick-cut pickles provided a hit of contrast. We added sweet potato "tater tots" for $2, which were not as fun as their name led us to believe: They were underseasoned and undercrispy.

Our craving for deep-fried euphoria was satisfied just a few seconds later as we bit into the crispy shrimp ($12), a towering, parchment-lined cone filled with a generous portion of beer-battered tempura shrimp. They were served with two dipping sauces, a creamy classic tartar and a sweet Thai chili.

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7 comments
Leah Melneczyn
Leah Melneczyn

I think the review was outstanding and honest..Not everyone needs to be "compensated" or part owner to be involved in the critique of an enviroment. Good job on the posting! I think Sarah should go to more places and identify and observe more of the surroundings and write more.. I felt the cold glasses, the cool wind, the hot sun, tasted the tropical and my ears heard the music play as I read this article.Waiting for more♥

Lmelneczyn
Lmelneczyn

I think the review was outstanding and honest..Not everyone needs to be "compensated" or part owner to be involved in the critique of an enviroment. Good job on the posting! I think Sarah should go to more places and identify and observe more of the surroundings and write more.. I felt the cold glasses, the cool wind, the hot sun, tasted the tropical and my ears heard the music play as I read this article. Waiting for more♥

Bobbyb
Bobbyb

This reviewer is obviously a part owner or was comped? Deck 84 is a joke - with terrible music - way too loud! The food is ok (some very good!) but the service is terrible, and the customers, for the most part, drunks. People surround the place smoking cigerretes and drinking. Its a BAR folks, not a resteraunt....and even the drinks are overpriced. We will not go back, even on "Tuesdays." Suugest you avoid unless your 20 and from Boca.

Big O
Big O

Nothing more than "The Office " on the intracoastal. High hopes dashed on the shore with mediocre food and inattentive service. Tsk ! Tsk ! Ya coulda been a contender Rappaport. Instead ya went for a place w booze and let the food take a back burner.

Herm
Herm

Wow! Deck 84 got their meatballs into the top 100 dishes list the other day and now they get a raving review from Sarah Cupcake! What a coincidence.

Don't believe it. It's not the truth.

 
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