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Is Boca-Fort Lauderdale a Culinary Wasteland?


VivreManger
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Tomorrow I am off to the Boca for a father-in-law birthday celebration, my culinary choices will be determined by multi-generational family preferences, I suspect a typical situation for Florida visits.

That said, I wonder if this particular social fact limits the general culinary experience in the area.

In surfing the web for restaurant ideas, I have been struck by the paucity of Florida hits and solid recommendations, a fact consistent with my own experience.

I would be delighted if someone can show me I am wrong.

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I had a wonderful dinner last year at Mark's on Las Olas in Ft. Lauderdale. I hope somebody responds to your post, though, because I'm heading to Boca in 3 weeks andI haven't been able to find much in the way of recommended eats either. Surely SOMEONE knows the score down there!!!!

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Robert Tolf of Florida Trend Magazine is probably the foremost recognized

critic of restaurants in the state of Florida. He has been writing about them for

36 years. His Golden Spoon awards are better and more accurate than Zagat.

To reach his lists, go here Florida Trend Golden Spoon Awards

and his guide to the entire state can be reached here Great Florida Restaurant Guide

What type of restaurant are you looking for specifically?

and Deerfield Beach is just next door.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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For starters, its the prime season for eating good Florida seafood, particularly STONE CRABS.

Riggin's Crabhouse in Lantana is one of my favorites, with all you can eat crabs. Its a divey place, where locals eat.

Rustic Inn Crab House in Fort Lauderdale is a MUST. Their specialty is Garlic Crabs, which are either blue crabs or deep sea golden crabs drenched in butter, herbs and garlic. They are unbeleivably messy to eat but are awesome.

If you are wiling to make your way down to the Hollywood area for dinner, Billy's Stone Crab is THE place to go to sample them. You're right at the height of the season now, so they should be really good.

See Rachel's post on our 2002 Florida trip for more info.

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=5993

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Oh well. The choices for eating were not mine and so I could not pursue the suggestions generously offered. Many thanks for them anyway, perhaps next time.

At least I can tell you what to avoid:

The deli in the Shopping Center at Lyons & Glades in Boca. The waiter had shtick and a well-rehearsed routine, but they don't know how to make a hot corned beef sandwich. I asked for a bit of fat to keep the machined sliced mound of meat from disintegrating into a handful of dust. I got a handful of dust. The corned beef briskets looked good in the counter display, but they don't know how to cut the mustard.

Casa D'Angelo, 1201 N. Federal Hwy.Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304-1456 954/564-1234

The first problem is their reservation system. Despite repeated calls to confirm the time, the reservation had gotten screwed up so there was a lot of hassle before we were seated.

Upscale pretentious Italian. Pseudo-Tuscan. For appetizer I ordered the baby eggplant stuffed with prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella. This was the biggest baby I have ever met. I spent the whole course looking for the prosciutto, a single thin piece buried deep in the belly of the big baby eggplant. I usually eat Buffalo mozzarella uncooked, so perhaps the heat changes the taste, but the cheese was not outstanding. As a special they were offering a zuppa de pesce with pasta. The fish was lobster tail, clams, shrimp and Chilean sea bass. As an ecological and gastronomic statement, I have been swearing off seabass, but zuppe de pesce is one of my all time favorites and I could not resist. I wish I had remained true to my principles.

The essence of any good zuppa de pesce I have ever had is the boulliabaise-like saffron stock, a rich combination of fish and fish bones long simmered to produce a strong and potent broth. No saffron in this dish. The fish never came together and sea bass does not work in a stew. I was sorely disappointed. The veal marsala was soft and sweet which is what my 85 year old father in law craved. So he was happy and it was his birthday.

The portions are Americano gargantuana. The quality is Americano mediocritano.

I wish I could have gone somewhere else.

Uncle KC's on Sample corner of Lyons in Coconut Creek serves its early bird special all evening long. The place was packed with snow birds, pickingover their mushu pancakes. Undistinguished but cheap Chinese food. It is reliable and their ppan-fried dumplings are surprisingly delicate.

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Rustic Inn Crab House in Fort Lauderdale is a MUST. Their specialty is Garlic Crabs, which are either blue crabs or deep sea golden crabs drenched in butter, herbs and garlic. They are unbeleivably messy to eat but are awesome.

I ate there when I was a kid some twenty year ago.

Garlic crabs, mallets, and newspaper covered tables. Very messy, very loud.

I loved that place or at least I did when I was 10.

:)

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We went to Rustic in last year and everyone was really disappointed. I don't eat fish or seafood so I couldn't tell you. I do get a kick out of the newspaper and hammers.

I live off Lyons so I know the places mentioned. Some places I like.

Chinese - Shen's Peking - Lyons and Glades (Probably the opposite corner of the deli you went into).

Thai - Try My Thai in Hollywood http://www.trymythai.com/

BBQ - Scrubys in Pembroke pines on University & Pines and also off Nob Hill and SR84.

Cuban - Little Havana - North Miami Beach on Biscayne Blvd and also in Deerfield Beach on Federal.

BBQ (Again) - Mississippi Sweets on 2399 North Federal Highway in Boca Raton

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We went to Rustic in last year and everyone was really disappointed.  I don't eat fish or seafood so I couldn't tell you.  I do get a kick out of the newspaper and hammers.

We did go to Rustic off season once and it wasn't as good as it was during prime seafood season, so it is possible to have a lousy meal there if its the wrong time of year. Riggins which is a similar but somewhat smaller kind of place (and also has the garlic crabs) we were quite pleased with, but its in Lantana so its a bit of a hike from Ft. Lauderdale.

For dessert/ice cream I cant stress how awesome Jaxsons in Dania is.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I had a wonderful dinner last year at Mark's on Las Olas in Ft. Lauderdale. I hope somebody responds to your post, though, because I'm heading to Boca in 3 weeks andI haven't been able to find much in the way of recommended eats either. Surely SOMEONE knows the score down there!!!!

The problem as stated is that if I tell you about a place you'd like - your parents/inlaws will not want to go there. And - if they do go - they will complain throughout the whole meal. My husband and I (late 50's) are from Miami (don't live there now). My parents (80+) live near Boca - and we go through this several times a year. We have developed a workable game plan.

We arrive at the Marriott at Boca Center Friday night. We go to Big City for a stiff drink. We eat at Uncle Thai's (which is adequate - particularly if - like us - you're from a place like Jacksonville with no edible Chinese food) because the only alternatives my parents will go to are smaller more local places with early bird specials that the restaurants bought at Costco. It is the only place where my mother will eat a dish that is overly salted and not die from congestive heart failure. My parents go home early. My husband and I have a couple more stiff drinks at Big City. My husband gets to see many surgically enhanced breasts. He is happy. I am drunk.

The next morning - my parents - starting at 9 am - will give me 10,000 reasons why they cannot possibly go out to lunch and/or get there by noon. Nevertheless - they will somehow manage to get ready and dressed by noon. We go to Legal Seafoods at the Boca mall (another adequate restaurant). We will discourage my mother - who doesn't eat real fish - from ordering the calimari because last time she sent it back because some of the pieces weren't totally round - they had legs. I do not drink before the evening - but sometimes I wish I did. The mall is great. I have fun spending money. My mother complains that everything costs too much.

Saturday evening my mother makes her special dinner. Reheated BBQ chicken. My father BBQs chicken - then freezes it - then they reheat it. If any of you have seen the movie "Mother" with Albert Brooks and Debbie Reynolds - you will appreciate the significance of the freezer in contemporary senior citizen life. I can manage to get down the dark meat. My husband needs massive quantities of liquid to get down the white meat.

We have a light lunch at my parents' house on Sunday - and then we are free to go to Miami - where we eat good food and have fun.

Sad thing is - there are actually some ok restaurants around this neck of the woods (although I do not recommend Mark's on the Park - Zemi's is better - but it's the kind of place where you wish you just had appetizers and dessert). Even an Indian restaurant near my parents' house was ok - except it was the first time my parents ever ate Indian food and they swore they never would again. So if you're making a dutiful child visit to parents - I feel your pain - and recommend the very large martinis at Big City.

In some ways - it is easier with my father-in-law - who lives in a nursing home near us. When we take him out for lunch or dinner - his standard line is - "don't you know any moderately priced places" (which applies to any restaurant where a lunch main course is more than $5 and a dinner main course is more than $10). I hear this again and again - even though dinner is always on us. Still - he doesn't get to pick the restaurants - so we have a fighting chance of getting a really good meal (only variable is the local restaurant scene). Anyway - I think we need a good shrink as much as a food critic in this thread. Robyn

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  • 2 weeks later...

If you are looking for a really good, really cheap lunch, go to LaSpada's Subs in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. Pick up some of the best subs you will ever eat and then walk over to the beach and enjoy.

For some good French food, try Sage Cafe in Ft. Lauderdale on Federal Hwy.

Edited by Scotty O (log)
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Its very reassuring to read your posts...at least I'm not alone in my despair. We have to go to Florida this weekend and would love an upscale recommendation for a restaurant in the Delray area. Table cloths, no early birds, some place we can order with confidence...not fear.

Many thanks!!

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He Who Only Eats was just down in Boca 2 weekends ago visiting his about-to-be-93-year-old mother. Just about the only place he can take her to is Nino's (in the Delmar Shopping Center, Palmetto and Powerline). It is mediocre at best, but he says the scungilli is not bad. And she likes the eggplant parmesan.

We used to go out more (by ourselves) when we were down visiting, but now that's not possible. In fact, Maxaluna was where I first met and fell in love with roasted garlic spread on bread.

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I can't argue with you. Renzo's right in BB is good. It's not out of this world, but it does the trick. Shootouts in BB is American fare and you could do worse.

Khaki's is I guess you would call it a fern bar in Boca that's pretty solid, but it is a culinary wasteland.

None of the above are sensation, but I'd go back to any of the three.

I guess of the three, Khaki's is the best.

Nobody eats at that restaurant anymore. It's always too crowded.

---Yogi Berra

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Jaxson's is great for ice cream; it's on US1 in Dania, right around the corner from jai-alai.

We had dinner tonight at Sage on US 1 in Ft Lauderdale (really Wilton Manors) and the French food there is dependably good. Turns out the place was packed tonight because (according to the table of elderly drunks next to us) they give out free wine from 5-7 pm on the first Tuesday of the month.

The Brasserie on Las Olas is also a dependable choice, and great in bad weather because they have an attached parking garage, and since it's mostly a business lunch place you can get in easily at dinner. Then you can walk the couple of blocks to the walkable part of Las Olas.

Mark's Las Olas, as I've said before, is fabulous, but pricey.

One of my favorite Boca places is called Brewzzi's, a brewpub with pretty decent food and a nice atmosphere.

Neil

Author of the Mahu series of mystery novels set in Hawaii.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well, I'll second Trattoria on Palmetto Park, usually pretty solid. Tried two new places, one brand new, one new to me, this past trip in Boca:

First, Just opened, BONG on Palmetto Park. Went twice, first time was very good. Sat inside, great old style waiter from New York, knew the menu and steered us quite well thru excellent appetizers (Calamari, Dumplings, Soy Spare Ribs, Tempura) and varying main dishes (great Whole Fish with Ginger, good duck, mediocre other fish in a pot, average lamb chops).

Second visit, sat outside, had a TERRIBLE chick waiter, dark hair, strange accent, and CLUELESS: didn't know the menu, recommended as not spicy a very spicy Thai soup, screwed up the Fish with Ginger, was ordered with sauce on side, since she said it had tomatoes in it, and fish came with sauce on it. She was gonna take it back, I asked again if it had tomatoes (Dad's allergic) and she said No, it didn't.

THEN, asked for wine list, got it, was ready, and she walked by FOUR times without looking over so I could flag her down, two of those times after I had pointed out the problem to the Manager!

Will not be back I'm afraid, her incompetence ruined the meal, which was not as good quality-wise as the first visit.

THEN, went to Zemi, where Maxaluna used to be. Very good, standout dish was Mushroom Pizza, believe it or not.

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  • 2 months later...

Before Grandma moved back to NY from FL in 1998 or so, I used to go to Hollywood/Fort Lauderdale pretty frequently. Rustic Inn was always on the list and while I can't say I've had the greatest seafood of my life there, it was fine each time. It's very much a "it is what it is" kinda place. Messy, newspaper, loud, wandering toddlers, cold pitchers of beer. I always liked it.

I think it must have been about 1997, maybe my last trip to Hollywood, the wife and I wandered in to Taverna Opa which had just had its grand opening only days beforehand on the intracoastal. In fact, I think it was right next door to Billys Stone Crab. Anyway, we were really impressed with the place. Greek food, which relies so heavily on fresh local seafood did really well for us in that location. They put together a quality menu. I particularly enjoyed the kind of "make at the table" hummus (or some such kind of bean dip) that's now become a regular kinda thing with the guacamole at the Rosa Mexicanos of the world.

Anyway, I saw the website for Opa and it seems they've opened up several locations. I've heard informally that it's turned into more of a party joint for the 20-ish "beautiful people" and isn't quite like I recall.

I'm going to be back down there for the first time since 97 in a couple of weeks. Rustic Inn is on my list, but was wondering whether Opa should be. Does anyone have an update?

Cheers!

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Very timely. I'm visiting the folks for a few days and they're giving us this Saturday "off" from visiting duties. Thankst gawd - I'm tired of Lester's! We'll be staying in a hotel in Pompano Beach on A1A near Atlantic. Is there anything not overly fancy nearby? Bear in mind I have no sense of direction and no desire to drive far with all those maniacs on the road. Mexican or fish sounds groovy.

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Very timely.  I'm visiting the folks for a few days and they're giving us this Saturday "off" from visiting duties.  Thankst gawd - I'm tired of Lester's!  We'll be staying in a hotel in Pompano Beach on A1A near Atlantic.  Is there anything not overly fancy nearby?  Bear in mind I have no sense of direction and no desire to drive far with all those maniacs on the road.  Mexican or fish sounds groovy.

There are some decent fancy restaurants in the area - Cafes Maxx and Arugala. Brooks - a little bit north - is decent too. But if you want someplace that's kind of fun - historical - a little quirky - and east of US1 - try Cap's. The food (seafood) isn't cheap - or exceptional - but it's one of the few historic landmark restaurants in Florida. Perhaps the best thing about the restaurant is you'll be amazed when you get there (by boat) that you're still in Pompano Beach! Robyn

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Robyn, thanks, we ended up at Cap's and it was exactly as described which was perfectly fine with us. That place is a trip and one of a kind, and I (not my wife!) especially enjoyed ogling the tatooed waitresses ;-)

We shared an appetizer of Oysters Napoleon which was a bit cheesy (fit right in). Then chowder and salad, which comes with the meal. The chowder left a lot to be desired but the salad (plain old house salad) was excellent. For an entree I had extraordinary crab cakes and my wife had nothing to write home about scallops. I doubt I'd go again (it was overpriced), but I'm glad we went.

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