UPDATE: Calaveras Cantina in Boca Raton’s Mizner Park opened Monday, Aug. 2. As of now, the restaurant is only open for dinner service, which starts at 5 p.m. Lunch service could begin as soon as next week,
Originally the plans were for the eatery to debut in 2020, but COVID-19 put a pause on that.
“As you know, the pandemic made every timeline for everything shift,” says owner Curtis Peery. “We planned to open much earlier but with delays in materials, the changes to guidelines in the way crews work and so much more, we were delayed.”
Peery also says that after they are open a few months in Mizner Park, the menu will begin to reflect some specials and dishes “…unique to the Boca market.” Price points range from $4 to $38.
Calaveras Cantina is at 409 Plaza Real, Boca Raton. Starting Aug. 9, the hours will be 11:30 a.m.-midnight Mondays-Thursdays; 11:30 a.m.-1:30 a.m. Fridays; 11 a.m.-1:30 a.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays. For more information, call 561-576-2132 or go to Facebook.com/calaverascantina.
Those in Jupiter know of Calaveras Cantina’s modern Mexican fare and its Day of the Dead pastiche (calaveras is “skulls” in Spanish — get it?). Now Boca Raton will get a taste of the popular restaurant when Calaveras Cantina opens a second location in Mizner Park, taking over the space vacated by Junior’s Restaurant and Cheesecake.
“We had been looking in Boca for several years now,” says owner Curtis Peery. “We had a heck of a time finding real estate that we thought would work well for us. We like Boca. It’s not too far away and not too close. We’re a mom-and-pop organization, so we plan on being hands-on.”
The kitchen will be helmed by chef Angelo Arboleda, who says the Mizner Park location will have a larger kitchen, which may allow him to do different things than possible in the Jupiter location in Harbourside Place. The Harbourside retail and restaurant plaza is in the middle of a pitched battle between the developer and the city over fines that has led to a drop-off in business.
“There is going to be exposure to a lot of foot traffic as opposed to Harborside, where the shops aren’t doing as well,” Arboleda predicts. “I know that our atmosphere and cuisine and our beverage program is going to pull people in. People want to get away and they want something different.”
How did the name come about?
“It’s a funny story,” Peery says. “We had a heck of a time coming up with a name for a Mexican restaurant. So many names were taken. And so many sound like a grandma and grandpa restaurant. We wanted a name that was edgy and creative. We saw the skull in a lot of Mexican art and Day of the Dead. And we were seeing it a lot on the tequila [bottles]. We’re just a little more fun with it.”
Peery was born in Miami and raised in Palm Beach Gardens. He cut his teeth in the restaurant business working for an uncle who owns Anna Maria Oyster Bar in Bradenton. Peery went on to become the vice president of B.B. King’s Blues Clubs before opening Calaveras Cantina four years ago.
Will the menu change in the Boca restaurant?
“We may tweak our menu slightly,” Arboleda explains. “I will have some different kitchen equipment that will allow me to do different things. The bar will be bigger. I believe the dining room as well. We have 180 seats in Jupiter and maybe … 220 to 240 possibly in Mizner.”
Arboleda started his career as a line cook at what is now Cucina Palm Beach after graduating from Florida Culinary Institute in 2010. Since then he has worked at Cafe Boloud, Chez Jean-Pierre Bistro and Tiger Woods’ flagship restaurant the Woods. The 27-year-old joined Calaveras Cantina in January 2018. He says his love of cooking started as a child in Colombia.
The Eat Beat – Restaurants, Bars and Recipes Newsletter
Dining out, cooking in and all the South Florida restaurant news and information you need.
“We moved here to the United States when I was 7 or 8 years old,” he recalls. “I’ve always been in the kitchen with my mother. That was just my domain, my happy place.”
Fitting in the Mizner Park mix
Peery says that he thinks Calaveras Cantina will settle in nicely among the other eateries and stores in the shopping/dining enclave.
“We studied Mizner pretty heavily. The clientele and people in Mizner are pretty much the same as we see in Jupiter — some snow birds from the North, but also some locals. We’re a place that you can have families in for dinner and then at a certain time it turns into a bar party atmosphere.”
What makes Calaveras Cantina stand out?
“What makes us unique is our interior design,” says Peery. “It’s really unique. It has an almost homemade type of feel. We have a fantastic and fun atmosphere. I think the atmosphere really makes us unique. Our craft cocktails are second to none. We brought in Armando Conway to head that up, brought him in from Vegas. He’s brought a tremendous amount to the table. And we just take … very seriously the sourcing of the products, where they come from.”
Arboleda agrees and adds, “I don’t like to classify ourselves as authentic. That gets lost in translation. But everything we do is to the best of our ability. Our cobia fish tacos, for example, we use cobia because it’s sustainable year round, more so than salmon. We take sourcing from local farms very seriously. Every chance and opportunity I have to support a small farm, I take that opportunity because the product is going to be superior.”