Falafel, hummus, kibbe, feta, souvlaki... the bounty of Mediterranean- and Greek-inspired cuisine in South Florida is no joke. And while the spectacle of belly dancers and flaming cheese seems geared more for tourist cameras than culinary success, there are some seriously good eats that pay homage to that debt-strapped region of the world. Below are ten great Mediterranean and Greek restaurants in Broward and Palm Beach. As always, please let us know in the comments section if we missed a good one.
Greek Islands Taverna
Fort Lauderdale Beach isn't Corfu by any stretch of the imagination, but this beach-adjacent Greek restaurant does a decent job of fulfilling its role as a temporary bridge to all things Mediterranean. Brothers Sam and George Kantzavelos offer standards to tourists and locals alike, with classics like roast leg of lamb, octopus, flaming saganaki, chicken shish kebab, and chicken lemon soup. You can step things up a notch with veal or steak ($36 and $32, respectively), but most nonseafood main plates are less than $20.
Technically speaking, you could argue that Boca Skewers is not Mediterranean, given that it specializes in the food from landlocked Armenia. But the menu is a tried-and-true lineup of classic dishes nodding to that region: crunchy falafel balls, smoky eggplant stew, grilled lamb kebabs, and platters of creamy hummus. This tiny family-owned café is easy to miss (given its off-the-beaten-path locale just south of Mizner Park), but it enjoys a loyal clientele who benefit from the bargain-basement prices and above-average dishes.
A bright, fast-casual interpretation of Greek street fare, the specialty of the house -- as the name would suggest -- is the souvlaki, most typically made with marinated and grilled protein wrapped in a pita that's overflowing with lettuce, tomato, onion, and a soothing tzatziki sauce. All souvlaki are less than $10, and on Supergyro Tuesdays, you'll be able to snag a gyro or chicken gyro for $5. Takeout and delivery options are available.
Given its Las Olas digs, Trata is in a prime location to act as a tourist beacon. Despite this, the upscale restaurant has managed to sidestep many of the gimmicks that seem inherent in most Greek and Mediterranean eateries in South Florida. On a nice day, head to the outdoor patio for dishes like grilled baby squid, stifado (Greek beef stew with braised short ribs), or the lamb kebab with pieces of lamb tenderloin marinated and grilled and piled atop rice and veggies. A lunch menu available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily lists more than a dozen items for less than $14, with most less than $10.
A well-executed menu from a team that has a long track record of operating successful Greek restaurants in the region, Taverna Kyma focuses more on the food and atmosphere and less on the party/spectacle common among its sister establishments. Seafood is a dominating factor on the menu, with 15 main plates originating from the deep (and that's not even counting the seafood meze). Land-dwelling beasts abound as well: beef (keftedes, fillet tips), chicken (kebabs, lemon-roasted), and the always-classic lamb (ribs, roasted, etc.).
Plop down onto a Victorian-era-style couch and dig into a generous cold or hot appetizer platter piled with all manner of Mediterranean favorites like hummus, kibbe, falafel, stuffed grape leaves, and smoked eggplant salad: Don't worry -- there will be plenty to share as you watch the belly dancer swivel her hips around the pleasantly mixed-and-matched dining room. Owner/executive chef Numan Unsal has designed a menu of mostly familiar Turkish and Mediterranean dishes (baba gannouj, lentil kofte, gyro, moussaka) with a few items -- the Royal Dorado, for instance -- you won't find at every other Greek joint from here to Broward.
Chef-owner Savas Karagiaouris oversees a fairly lengthy menu that, as the name would suggest, deals extensively in small plates meant for sharing. There's oven-roasted eggplant or kalamata olives from the cold meze; cheese saganaki or spanakopita from the hot; and familiar favorites like grilled octopus or calamari from the sea. Greek platters, souvlaki, salads, and traditional desserts also make the cut. For something more substantial, seafood dishes, pasta, and grilled-meat plates round out the dinner menu.
Jimmy's specialty -- aside from the usual suspects like gyro, falafel, souvlaki, and so on -- is the value pricing in a town where the cost of a meal can quickly spiral out of control. The lunch menu has only one item priced above $10, and most everything on the dinner menu is less than $20. Dinner is a meat-lover's fix, with lamb, beef, and chicken dishes of every variety. Seafood also makes a showing with a stuffed tilapia crammed with spinach, feta, and herbs, or shrimps Mekrolemano with garlic, herbs, feta, and a tomato sauce.
Family-owned and nestled in the back of one of Boca's too-many-to-count strip malls, this out-of-the-way café serves familiar Mediterranean dishes like hummus, dolmas, tabbouleh, chicken shawarma, and gyro. You'll also find a smattering of plates from Eastern Europe, like a sautéed calf liver or chicken schnitzel. Sit on the outdoor patio -- it's covered and away from street traffic, so you won't be breathing in exhaust fumes the entire time. The owners are gregarious and attentive, so don't be surprised if someone sits down next to you to strike up a conversation.
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This is a popular place thanks in part to its lively atmosphere and location, so it's in your best interest to make a reservation, particularly if you've got more than a few people in your party. The dishes aren't exactly head and shoulders above other Mediterranean or Turkish joints in the area, but a large part of the draw for regulars is the excellent people-watching and cozy interior with a good view of the action in the kitchen.