Step into Tucker Duke's Lunchbox in Deerfield Beach and you might not be able to look at burgers the same way again. Why? Owner and executive chef Brian Cartenuto, winner of the fifth episode of the Food Network's first season of Cutthroat Kitchen, makes one so monstrous, you'll be hard-pressed to find a comparable version.
Today, you can get a perfected rendition of his Cutthroat Kitchen burger, which beat out the competition and helped secure his win, at the new South Florida Tucker location for Cartenuto's lunch counter-concept eatery where over-the-top burgers, Southern-style blue plate specials and creative small plates revolve around his own dedication to the local, sustainable and seasonal philosophy.
Born and raised in Niceville, Florida, Cartenuto opened his first Tucker Duke's Lunchbox in his hometown in 2011. It was the restaurant's namesake Tucker Duke burger that took the spotlight and catapulted the spot into local stardom, a towering combo of onion rings, American cheese, lettuce, tomato and a good amount of Tucker Duke sauce, his version of the Southern-style comeback dressing.
After much success, and riding on the coattails of his 2013 win on Cutthroat Kitchen, Cartenuto met with friends and current business partners Jay Oakes and John Cortes to plan a second South Florida location, which they opened in February in Deerfield Beach. The establishment serves lunch and dinner with indoor seating inside a bright, industrial-chic setting with brick and wood-planked walls, an exposed duct work ceiling, and diamond-plate metal accents. A comfortably large L-shaped bar offers a comfortable space to grab one of the local craft brews on tap and a meal.
The menu mirrors the list of burgers, which has grown from the original Tucker Duke to a dozen specialty burgers priced $7 to $12, each named after a friend or employee's dog. There's the mondragon, topped with six slices of bacon, a fried egg, two slices each of American and cheddar cheese; it is, at once, everything his good friend loves (and vehemently hates) between two buns, proving Cartenuto's often comical approach to food and life. That same playful -- somewhat sarcastic -- attitude has followed him to Deerfield, where he's enacted the restaurant's No. 1 rule, which comes as a warning on each menu: you can't change the Tucker Duke burger.
In addition to the burgers, Tucker Duke's offers up a list of snacks, salads, sliders and blue plates. The snacks include comfort food favorites, from fried pickles and mini corn dogs, to a chicken quesadilla and popcorn dressed in maple syrup, butter and bacon ($4-$8). The blue plates consist of half-a-dozen selections that include pork belly, grilled shrimp and grits, roasted salmon and smoke beef brisket ($13-$16). Each can be paired with a glass of wine off a short but tasteful list, or a craft beer by the bottle or on draught. For dessert, choose from a few favorites: apple fritters, ice cream, a s'mores take and Cartenuto's favorite, the churro crawler.
"The real difference between me and the other guys is in the service," Cartenuto told Clean Plate Charlie during a recent interview. "Here, the waitress will remember your name, your order, and make you feel at home."
This weekend is the perfect time to visit the restaurant, which will be hosting a special Cutthroat Kitchen Viewing Party on Sunday, March 23rd at 10 p.m. to celebrate the first airing of Cartenuto's second appearance on the Food Network show. Tucker Duke's will be offering free food (maybe even what he cooked on the show) and pouring local brews to celebrate. For more info call 954-708-2035, or email [email protected] You can also check out the website at www.tuckerdukeslunchbox.com, or like them on Facebook.
Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.