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It's rare to come across a new restaurant that exudes Old Fort Lauderdale, but Tarpon Bend (200 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale, 954-523-3233) succeeds. The eatery, dedicated to deep-sea fishing and offering dishes like grouper fingers, crabcakes, and clam bakes, is owned by the Himmarshee Bar & Grille group. Despite its chic pedigree, Tarpon Bend is one of the only joints in the so-called "Historic District" that recalls when Fort Lauderdale was nothing more than a beach community, both pre-Strip and pre-BeachPlace. Downtown yuppies actually loosen their ties when they go there. I like sitting at the bar, open to the sidewalk, and chatting with barkeeps who are so friendly you know what their plans for New Year's Eve are. I also appreciate drinking concoctions with silly names like the "tag & release" -- which, incidentally, you can order as a bucket. But you should probably share it with some pals, or you'll be using that bucket for, well, other purposes.

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