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Our server warned about the fattiness, or what serious carnivores call "generous marbling," of the Cowboy Steak ($26.95) when we requested it medium rare. The 16-ounce bone-in rib eye, offered on a sizzling platter, came well-seasoned, with the fat melted into an unctuous beef butter and a perfect char. It was also topped with a few strings of fried onions served among an order of hash browns, which can also be had à la carte for $2.95.
The restaurant sources Certified Angus Beef, corn-fed from the Midwest, from two or three suppliers. Greenlaw says that the family had used small meatpacking companies for years but that recently there's been consolidation in the industry.
Now "you can get the same exact product from multiple suppliers," he says. "Unfortunately, a lot of independent meatpacking companies" have been bought and merged.
2500 Griffin Road
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312
Region: Fort Lauderdale
Tropical Acres Steakhouse, 2500 Griffin Road, Fort Lauderdale; 954-989-2500; tropicalacres.com. Open Monday to Saturday 4:30 to 10 p.m. and Sunday 3 to 9 p.m.
French onion soup $5.95
Shrimp cocktail $7.50
Cowboy rib eye $26.95
Mahi-mahi fillet $19.95
Ten-ounce New York strip steak $24.90
Cherry cheesecake $5.95
The sizzling platters are a nice touch, but unfortunately, one of them overcooked another cut — the already thin ten-ounce strip steak ($24.90). Halfway through enjoying the once-medium-rare steak, we found that the hot plate had pushed it almost to the point of well done.
Ordering a meal at Tropical Acres takes one back to an earlier age, when steak-house menus weren't à la carte. Entrées come with a choice of a salad — either a standard house salad with cherry tomatoes and julienned carrots, or a caesar salad with out-of-the-bag croutons. The croutons in particular were a letdown given the impressive breadbasket — buttery dinner rolls, onion rolls, and warm flatbread topped with melted cheese — that starts each meal. There has to be some leftover each night, and what better way to shore up the bottom line than to make good use of bread destined for the trash. Greenlaw says all the sauces, soups, and dressings are made in-house. Croutons should be added to that list.
A mahi-mahi fillet ($19.95) was a tad dry, but a rich, lemony garlicky Française sauce with capers saved it. As did the creamed spinach, which was everything you'd hope it would be: made with enough salt, butter, and cream to hide the fact that a vegetable was ever in the pot.
Servers still roll out the dessert cart at the end of each meal and twice tried to tempt us with homemade Key lime pie, brownies, and tiramisu. We opted for the cheesecake ($5.95) to wrap one meal. It was airy rather than thick but still a satisfying end to a heavy meal.
This time machine of a restaurant has weathered the ages, thanks to a loyal customer base that seeks reasonable prices and quality service. Although there's still plenty of character in the front of the house, Tropical Acres could use a few tweaks in the back, like better ingredients, but it should never change its personality from the bygone era of manners and formality. Treat Tropical Acres the same way the Studiale family has: Bring the kids in when they're young, make it special, and keep them coming back for a lifetime.