Dining in Greater Fort Lauderdale dishes out the tastier side of the city. Eclectic, applauded and award-winning, some 4,000 restaurants, many with alfresco seating and waterfront views, to neighborhood nooks are certain to please any palate. Cuisines range from Americana to Asian, European to tastes of the Americas. "Fork Lauderdale" has been feted by Fodor's as offering "some of the finest, most varied dining of any U.S. city its size."
"Our restaurants serve their fare with the flair unique to Greater Fort Lauderdale," said Nicki E. Grossman, president of Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Discover gustatory gems that are certain to become delectable vacation highlights."
- Grampa's Bakery and Restaurant, Dania Beach. Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, since 1957 specialties have included pancakes, pastries, pasta and the heralded lamb shank (www.GrampasBakery.com; 954-923-2163).
- Not to steer diners from Grampa's custom bakery, but the venerable Jaxson's Ice Cream Parlour and Restaurant has been a few doors down since 1956 - and was featured on The Food Network's Top 5 "Cool Quenchers" and an episode of "Unwrapped." If your group has an appetite for dessert, don't forget the Kitchen Sink ice cream sundae (www.JaxsonsIceCream.com; 954-923-4445).
- Mai Kai Polynesian Dinner Show. The dinner show has been a vacationer's - and local's - stop since 1956. The menu includes Asian favorites, as well as steak, chicken and seafood. Walk through the tropical gardens, stay for the show at 8 p.m., and remember to take your rum barrel keepsake mugs (www.MaiKai.com; 954-563-3272).
HIGH-PROFILE AND HIGH-FLAVOR
- Casa D'Angelo. Fine Italian dishes and steaks with wines from around the world, including the chef's own vineyard in Italy. Chef/Owner Angelo Elia is a well-known and highly acclaimed culinary maestro serving traditional Italian dishes from generations of family recipes from truffles to gnocchi, and fabulous homemade desserts. (www.Casa-d-Angelo.com; 954-564-1234).
- Johnny V. A sleek, urban décor restaurant on Las Olas Boulevard, with an innovative menu that is as bold and robust as its acclaimed chef/owner, Johnny Vinczencz. A diehard cheese fan, Johnny V offers a cheese menu of global proportions with thirty-five cheeses, paired with Vinczencz-style "fixin's" like fig balsamic marinated grapes and spicy pecans. The smoked tomato soup and brie, goat cheese and parmesan crostinis are a must try. (www.johnnyvlasolas.com; 954-761-7920)
- Café Maxx. In Pompano Beach, a city by the sea that gets its name from the venerable fish that swims its waters, Chef Oliver Saucy's stylish yet unpretentious, restaurant with a cozy bar, has been a staple in the area for nearly three decades. (www.cafemaxx.com; 954-782-0606)
- 3030 Ocean at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. Chef Paula DaSilva is back at the helm at 3030 Ocean executing imaginative, farm-to-fork dishes that highlight the flavors and freshness of South Florida's local ingredients. The Brazil native has returned to where it all started, after taking the challenge of Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen, she's bringing her signature soulful cooking style to this acclaimed, not so typical hotel restaurant. For the seafood aficionado, the Sea Bar at 3030 features fresh lobster, clams, shrimp, oysters, stone crabs, and a seasonal array of other deep sea delicacies. (www.3030ocean.com; 954-765-3030)
- Eat The Tea, Victoria Park. Start - or end - the day with "feel good food" and edible teas, herbal elixirs and home-made and plant-based soups, salads, sandwiches and pastries - many of which have tea leaves and herbs in the blend (www.EatTheTea.com; 754-200-8355).
- The Riverside Market and Café, Fort Lauderdale. The menu featuring omelets, pizza, salads and sandwiches - and more than 100 brands of bottled beer - lures firemen, lawyers and flip-flop-wearing patrons alike (www.TheRiversideMarket.com; 954-358-8333)
- The Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park. Thirsty for a craft beer after a day of exploring Greater Fort Lauderdale? Meet the Buddha. They even pour their Floridian Heffe from a tailgate trailer at Miami Dolphins games (www.FunkyBuddhaBrewery.com; 954-440-0046).
- Swank Southern Kitchen, Davie. Another source of southern staples, patrons can order such specialties as fried green tomatoes, chicken and waffles or shrimp and grits. Straight from the smoker come ribs, pork and beer can chicken (www.SwankSouthern.com; 954-727-5497).
FRESH FROM THE SEA
- Blue Moon Fish Company. A chic waterfront restaurant located on the Intracoastal Waterway in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Blue Moon has been serving true Floridian flavors with Louisiana, Cajun infusion for more than 16 years. With a Deco-inspired exterior and contemporary American menu, Blue Moon is known as Greater Fort Lauderdale's "freshest seafood by the waterway," and has been named "Best Waterfront Dining in Fort Lauderdale" by Zagat and OpenTable. (www.bluemoonfishco.com; 954-267-9888)
- Coconuts Grill and GB Oyster Bar. The epitome of dock and dining in Greater Fort Lauderdale, this casual seafood spot, located directly on the Intracoastal Waterway, with docking space for boats, serves some of the freshest seafood in town. Perfect spot to enjoy a cocktail while watching the sunset over the "Venice of America" skyline. (www.coconutsbahamagrill.com; 954-525-2421)
- S3 or Sun Surf Sand. Gorgeous beachfront vistas serve as the backdrop for seafood, sushi and steaks in this casually sophisticated, restaurant at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. Like sister restaurant YOLO, it's perfect for dining or private events. (www.S3Restaurant.com; 954-523-7873).
- Lobster Bar Sea Grille. The newest concept of nationally acclaimed restaurateur Pano Karatassos, featuring seafood and lobster with a simple, yet elegant flair. Prime steaks, a raw bar, crudo section, and cocktail lounge complement the restaurant's contemporary vibe and nautical furnishings including three custom-made crystal-and-steel chandeliers reminiscent of lighthouse lanterns weighing more than 1,300 pounds each. (www.lobsterbarseagrille.com; 954-772-2675)
BURGERS , BBQ & JAW DROPPING SANDWICHES
- LaSpada's has been feeding South Florida since 1973, but the story really began in Chester, PA. where hoagies originated. Hero-worshipers will respect the intricate game of catch played by staff tossing meats and cheeses across an eight-foot counter. Entertaining and efficient, the long lines at this popular sub shop move quickly keeping people coming back in droves. Locations in Fort Lauderdale, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Davie and Coral Springs. (www.laspadashoagies.com; 954-776-7893)
- Charm City Burger Company, Deerfield Beach. A quintessential hole-in-the-wall burger joint, order up the award-winning The Big Sloppy - then layer on "Hook-Ups" like thick cut peppered bacon, a fried egg or seared foie gras (www.CharmCityBurgers.com; 954-531-0300)
- Can you pass the "Le Tub" test? Get both sides of the bun and the absurdly thick - and decidedly delicious - burger in your mouth in one bite, and you've passed with flying colors. This quirky burger spot located right on the Intracoastal Waterway that got its name from the funky décor, claw-foot bathtubs and hand-painted sinks scattered about. Locals favor this famous eatery and GQ magazine ranks it home to the best burger in the country. (www.theletub.com; 954-921-9425)
- Tom Jenkins Bar-B-Q, Fort Lauderdale. Some say South Florida isn't "southern." One bite of chopped beef or pork or the chicken and ribs coated in a savory tangy-sweet homemade sauce will win converts. Sides include cole slaw, mac n cheese, hush puppies, even collard greens and baked beans. Tom's doin' the South proud (www.TomJenkinsBBQ.net; 954-522-5046).
- Primanti Brothers. A Pittsburgh fav with three Greater Fort Lauderdale locations, the one near Fort Lauderdale beach is open 24 hours - and is rumored to be the busiest pizza joint in the U.S. per square foot. French fries are stacked high inside the sandwiches, which are the real star at this family-owned establishment. (www.PrimantiBros.com; 954-565-0605).