The food — especially the chef's chicken wings— is worth raving about.
"Our passion has, and always will be, about the whole experience," says Beer Trade Co. cofounder Gene Playter. "Here, we take food just as seriously as we take our beer selection."
The serve-yourself craft beer bar opened its first location two years ago, a hidden gem off NE Fourth Avenue in Delray Beach. At the time, Playter and his business partner, Chris Sanchez, wanted to recreate the laid-back, locals-hangout atmosphere they'd discovered while visiting similar establishments during their travels to various cities along the East Coast.
Today, the duo's casual beer bar and restaurant is known for its extensive selection of craft beers by the bottle, all served to guests via an honor system. Fort Lauderdale craft beer lovers should be familiar with a similar business model used at Riverside Market. Patrons can help themselves to any of the more than 300 bottled beers in glass-front cases, a selection Playter says changes day-to-day with as many as 30 to 45 new brews arriving each week.
The new flagship Boca Raton space — formerly Sonny's Gelato Café off Federal Highway — will offer customers the same beer and food menu as the original haunt but with a few notable improvements. It will also be the design standard moving forward as the team expands with both company and franchisee locations, adds Playter.
The interior space is nearly identical to the Delray Beach Beer Trade Co., complete with a customized mural by artist Paul Mericle, wall-mounted TVs, and several communal tables. An outside area features a large patio boasting nearly double the exterior space, complete with a beer garden lounge outfitted with casual wood bench seating, high-tops, and an outdoor bar where still more beer will be available on tap.
A larger kitchen will also allow Boca Raton staff to add dishes you'll only find at the new location. This includes all-new flatbreads prepared with a homemade pizza dough and a variety of creative toppings and seasonings.
The kitchen churns out several appetizers, a few salads, and a number of entree-size dishes filed under "The Rest." Top sellers include chefs Justin Tavenner and Elivs Sanchez's special beer-marinated chicken wings, best when tossed in the house honey-jalapeno or honey-Old Bay seasoning.
Other favorites include pulled pork sliders (slow-cooked for seven hours); buttermilk chicken tenders (brined for six hours and served with waffle fries); and a Buffalo crabcake sandwich (Buffalo seasoned Maryland blue crab topped with tomato and blue cheese dressing).
There's also a list of grilled cheese sandwiches; once a daily "market price" special, Playter and Sanchez have narrowed it down to several full-time favorites. This includes the new Cuban grilled cheese (slow-roasted pork, freshly sliced ham, Swiss cheese, and mustard on thick-sliced ciabatta bread) and the Stephen (a California reuben-style sandwich made with corned beef, homemade coleslaw, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing on ciabatta).
"When we first opened, we had to train our guests about the concept," says Playter. "Today, we see our regular customers helping new people every day. It's a very supportive community, and we've seen such an amazing organic growth. We couldn't be more thankful."
Beer Trade Co. Boca Raton. 2151 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton; 561-362-0447; Facebook.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.