Openings and Closings

First Look: The Mexican in Boca Raton (Cali-Inspired Food and a Mural by Wynwood Artist Ruben Ubiera)

Dennis Max was working the room Monday night at his just-opened restaurant, The Mexican. The dining room and bar were packed, with few open seats in the house, but the restaurateur managed to find an empty stool to pull up to the four-top where I was seated during a free dinner for local media. Max -- who lays claim to numerous Palm Beach County restaurants like Max's Harvest and Max's Grille, among others -- wanted to sing the praises of the gentleman, Ruben Ubiera, seated to my right.

Ubiera -- named Best Street Artist of 2012 by our sister paper, The Miami New Times -- is responsible for the large blue and white mural that takes up an entire wall in Max's restaurant. Max said he was looking for an artist who could capture the vibe of the street art he saw decades ago in southern California and Ubiera was the man to get it done. Ubiera's creation, a layered piece drawing on a range of styles, is anchored by a busty, sombrero-wearing badass wielding two guitars and holsters full of booze.

See Also:

- The Mexican Opens in Boca Raton

- Dennis Max to Open the Mexican in Boca Raton

- Murals Are Springing Up on Walls in Downtown Hollywood

Though the mural packs the most visual punch, there are other touches that add some personality to the dining space, not the least of which is the halved vintage VW bus. There, kitchen staff prepare some of the dishes in sheltered view of customers. A light fixture adorned with thick glass bottles in the main dining area is an example of upcycling (to use a tired word) done right.

The food, like the decor, is a tribute to Southern California, where Max grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. The guacamole is made to order and Ubiera said it was some of the best he's had outside of Cali. Dishes from the "Mexican Street Food" section are said to be inspired by the humble eats that Max fondly recalls, though they certainly don't come plated like they've been served out of the side of a food truck.

No surprise here that the drink menu is heavy on top shelf tequilas and tequila-based cocktails (including the Dirty Sanchez, which is presumably not named for the sex act), but the other house cocktails are worth a sip as well. The cucumber watermelon martini ($12) was fantastically refreshing, with muddled cucumber and watermelon and a hint of agave. Be warned: It goes down real easy.

Beer lovers won't find a lot of choices aside from beachy selections like Dos Equis, Corona, and Tecate. Mezcal and a small wine list round out the grownup drink menu. Designated drivers can steer towards the infused water, classic Jarritos soda, or Coca Cola from Mexico -- you know, the stuff made with real sugar in the glass bottle that tastes ten times better than the American version.

Right now, The Mexican is open only for dinner, but lunch service is expected to be added sometime in the near future.