Once billed as the possessor of more restaurants per capita
than any city in the nation, Fort Lauderdale loves?and virtually lives
Hardly a party goes by in the city that the discussion doesn't turn to
the latest great restaurant find, the favorite seafood haven, the best
spot for steak, a great waterside spot or a new romantic-dining discovery.
You will soon discover that folks here do business, entertain, meet, greet,
and, oh yes, eat, at dining spots chic or simple, tucked in from sea to
suburb, from urban core to the back of beyond, from shopping center to
Before the citys famed sunshine spreads its warmth over the sand, coffee
cups are being filled in popular breakfast spots populated by beach joggers.
That focus on food continues through brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner
and late-night ice cream runs.
On weekends, you will find a crowd waiting for a table at such casual,
easygoing seaside spots as The Deck, an outdoor cafe perched high over
the street with a view of swaying palms and waves lapping over the sands.
Platters of eggs Benedict garnished with orange slices, heaping fruit
platters and the scent of toast and bacon draw crowds that fill umbrella-topped
tables, and not even the occasional spattering of raindrops stops the
joggers and walkers, the cross-town crowd or the throngs of visitors from
pulling up a plastic chair and living the good life in the sunshine. While
the Deck is a favorite, it is just one of many seaside bistros out to
lure tan fans.
Not far away on chic Las Olas Boulevard, lines form on weekends at The
Floridian, where judges and lawyers, politicians and regular folks gather
to gossip as they down a creative collection of egg selections?one even
including a bottle of champagne?in the ultimate in casual surroundings,
inside and out. Boulevardiers who aren't at the Floridian can likely be
found at Vie
de France Cafe & Bakery just down the way, or up on Federal
Highway at Croissan'Time
Cafe, where French-speaking bakers ceate what the name suggests,
along with baguettes, epis and a host of downright irresistible pastries,
sandwiches and sweets.
For some its not long before lunch rolls around, and its time to find
someone of similar intent to stroll with to one of the dozens of seaside
cafes that stretch along the citys seven miles of open oceanfront, where
bikinis play and beach blanket bingo was once a major sport...and perhaps
still is for some.
Work does get done in Fort Lauderdale but much of it gets done over lunch
at such popular downtown spots as Mangos,
where streetside tables are packed by 11am. At Marks
Las Olas, where an award-winning chef and a sleekly sophisticated
atmosphere cater to the wants of the well-heeled, the tables are full
from midday to nearly midnight.
Those who want the sand almost between their toes as they dine head for
the north end of the beach where Aruba,
an on-the-beach?quite literally?casual dining spot offers views of swimmers
and suntan fans frolicking alongside a fishing pier, where determined
anglers dangle a hook in hopes of snagging supper.
As you while away a long, lazy day in a cafe, lo and behold, its time
for dinner and the choices become nearly as numerous as the stars overhead.
Those who delight in the combination of casual and gourmet may head for
By Word of Mouth, where the menu is as intriguing as the green-striped
exterior, or to Burt
& Jacks, where massive cruise ships set out to sea, sailing
by just a few feet away from this Mediterranean-style hideaway tucked
into a corner of bustling Port Everglades.
Folks here have strong opinions on many things, but no opinion is more
staunchly defended than a decision on whats the best restaurant for....fill
in the blank.
If the focus of discussion is seafood, you are likely to hear enraptured
tales of dinner at 15th
Street Fisheries, tucked away in a marina where impressive
yachts provide entertainment, or Old
Florida Seafood House, where much of the staff has been around
long enough to recognize regular customers.
If steak is spoken, the conversation turns to such renowned spots as Gibbys,
On the Beach, casual Chucks
Steak House or the woodsy Raindancer, the latter two as popular
for their brimming salad bars and French onion soup as for their beef
and seafood selections.
Trendy crowds head for the seaside H2O,
where an intriguing menu is abetted by an equally diverting seaside location,
where French touches are applied to contemporary cuisine, or to such dining-drinking
beach spots as Lulus Bait Shack, Howl at the Moon Saloon, or Quarterdeck,
where the food is simple, the people-watching complex.
When the flavors of France tempt, thundering herds head for Le
Cafe de Paris, La
Ferme or the Left
Bank, where chefs of considerable local renown have been presiding
over their respective, and respected, kitchens for decades.
If an evening that includes both fine food and enchanting entertainment
is in order, no Fort Lauderdale devotee would fail to name the Mai-Kai,
one of the citys oldest restaurants and perhaps its most revered. Here
since the city was a baby, this thatched-roof dining spot is a wonderland
of waterfalls and tropical greenery, massive paddle fans and Polynesian
artifacts. From its kitchens pour award-winning cuisine that ranges from
Chinese-oven grilled treats to tempting flavors of the islands. On stage,
lovely lasses and muscular drummers perform authentic dances choreographed
by the Tahitian owner of this entertaining spot that shows you why Bora-Bora
is never boring-boring.
It goes on like that from Southwestern fare at Canyon
to comfort foods at Irelands Ocean Inn, from elegant Oriental options
Palace to pizazz and pizza at Bistro
Mezzaluna, from cool-chic at Bimini
Boatyard to waterside chic at Casablanca,
from hammers and tongs for an attack on blue crabs at Rustic Inn to chopsticks
at Lotus, a tiny neighborhood Chinese-kitchen favorite, from lemon grass
at Sukho Thai to steak and kitsch in a den at The
Caves, from a yodel at Alpine
Village to picadillo and plantains at Las
Vegas, from bouillabaisse at the beach in Sea
Watch to fish and chips on the river at Shirttail
Charlies, from'the list goes on and on...and on.