Boca's Not Just for Fogies: Flanigan's Seafood Bar & Grill in Boca Raton

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Night Watch is a regularly-occurring nightlife column by Tara Nieuwesteeg.

Boca is not renowned for much except its manicured shopping plazas, delicious lunch spots, and its armies of early-bird-special-seeking Q-tips who make the roads a little less safe and the frozen yogurt shops a little more busy.

But Boca and I have a long and complicated history; our lives are as entwined as a pair of melodramatic lovers caught between adulation and detestation; constantly rolling in and out of each other's beds; packing suitcases, flinging vases, and then naming our future children. The point is, I love Boca (sometimes) and believe its bright spots should be brought to our readership's collective attention. Just because most things in Boca close before 8 PM doesn't mean the fun spots do.

Flanigan's Seafood Bar & Grill 45 S. Federal Highway, Boca Raton 561.395.4324, flanigans.net

Friday night, Flanigan's was packed with a mature crowd of half-price Heinken-sippers. The bar area lay just beyond the dining room area, with its booths, framed photos, and giant bubbling aquarium; the bar was large and oblong; its surface covered with yellowed maps. I climbed up to virtually the only free spot--beside New Providence Island--and took a look around.

The walls were crammed full of nautical and boating photos, fake life-size fish, and shells in shadow boxes; a faux grey shark hung directly overhead, life preservers dotted the décor, and the wooden ceiling beams gave the impression that the place had been around awhile. Beyond the bar were several occupied pool tables and more walls decorated with seafaring ornaments, neon beer signs, and football flags.

Jack, the pleasant, middle-aged, green-shirt-clad bartender, served me up a Heineken and told me he'd been working at Flanigan's for 20 years. "This used to be the only bar in downtown Boca," he bragged. "The building has been here since at least the 50s; Big Daddy took it over in the 60s."
"Who's this joker?" I pointed at the menu to the Flanigan's icon--a black and white, bearded, disembodied face.
"Why, that's Big Daddy," said Jack. "Or, Joe Flanigan. He started all these restaurants--all of which are called Flanigan's, but have their own nicknames."
"This one is known to the locals as Guppy's," he said. Then he shook hands with the slender, blue-eyed gentleman who had just taken a seat next to me.
"Are you a regular?" I asked the guy. He was diminutive, wore long shorts, and sported slight scruff on his chin.
"Not as much anymore," said Kevin. "I live 2 hours away now, but I still come back occasionally. I've been coming here for 11 years--since I turned 21."
"Jesus," I said. "This place is that good?"
"Sure," he said.
"And I always drink the same thing, too--Miller Lite."
"Maybe you just like routine," I pointed out. Miller Lite? C'mon.
"It's a wonder I still come to sports bars," he said, whipping out his phone and showing me a picture. "This is at my Dad's place." The photo was of a hi-tech home studio -- a football fan's heaven. There were three screens--all in the same wall. A giant projector screen eclipsed the two tinier TVs that had been embedded below it. "Plus, there's surround sound. Who needs sports bars when you can watch football there?"
"Clearly you do," I said. "You're here, after all."
"True," he said. "I always come back here."

-- Tara Nieuwesteeg

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