Welcome to Hollywood.
Hollywood, Florida, that is.
Any South Florida native knows the East Coast version bears little resemblance to the West Coast enclave with the same name. Still, this Broward County beachside city has its charm and, in the past few years, a lot more to offer, culinarily speaking.
From the downtown Hollywood Boulevard restaurant row to the beachside Broadwalk, a number of new restaurants have made their home in Hollywood, including a raw vegan café, a few Peruvian concepts, and an awesome bistro where you can score a great bowl of ramen.
Here they are, the ten best restaurants in Hollywood, Florida.
10. Moonlite Diner
Nothing says classic American comfort food quite like an old-school-style diner. And the newish Moonlite Diner in Hollywood -- with other locations in Kendall and Fort Lauderdale -- is just the spot to quench those specific dining desires. The new location has just the right amount of nostalgic decor to take you back in time. If that doesn't do it, the food will, a menu rife with classic diner dishes like steak and eggs, pancakes, omelets, and sandwiches. Or order a complete three-course meal for $13.99, be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Wash it all down with a thick, handcrafted $2 Tuesday milkshake (on the same day, bring the kids for half-off and eat-free specials). Moonlite Diner is located at 3500 Oakwood Blvd., Hollywood. Call 954-924-2012, or visit moonlitediner.com.
9. LiveHara Café
At this new vegetarian and vegan café in downtown Hollywood, organic and healthy fare is the name of the game. LiveHara originated with the idea to make delicious food full of flavor -- without compromising health and well-being. "Hara" means "green" in Hindi, an extension of the idea that eating healthy in a fast-paced world is not only possible but also delicious. As a result, LiveHara Café is dedicated to making raw, vegan, and organic food without processed ingredients like gluten and artiﬁcial ﬂavors and colorings. Choose from signature dishes like polenta, raw tacos, a spring veggie burger, a portobello melt, salads, and fresh-pressed juices. LiveHara is located at 116 S. 20th Ave., Hollywood. Call 954-674-8708, or visit liveharacafe.com.
8. Face Restaurant and Bar
Face Restaurant operates out of prime real estate off Hollywood Boulevard, right smack in the center of the downtown restaurant row. There, owners Michel and Kimy Thomann offer an eclectic menu that fuses French and American fare. While Michel grew up in the northwest region of Alsace, France, his wife, Kimy, hails from the southeast province and the city of Avignon, famous for its cultural history. There, Kimy grew up in the industry, while Michel operated several restaurants and nightclubs during his career, including Le Memphis in Crans-Montana, Switzerland -- one of the most exclusive ski resorts in Europe. In love with the United States, the couple relocated to Hollywood to share their European experience with an international menu in a lounge-like setting. Find dishes from upmarket foie gras and blue crab strudel with mango chutney to a rich beef bourguignon and a delightful flatbread topped with brandy-marinated figs, rosemary chicken, and Gorgonzola cheese. Face Restaurant and Bar is located at 2022 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Call 754-263-2811, or visit facehollywoodfl.com.
7. The Taco Spot
The Hollywood Beach Broadwalk is many things. It's great for people-watching and rollerblading, for example. And -- of course -- our favorite: eating and drinking. The 2-year-old Taco Spot presents the perfect option for tourists and locals with its tiki-hut-style shack reminiscent of a remote island hideaway despite its prime real estate at the north end of the Broadwalk. A thatched straw roof provides shade for those dining on the open front deck and the streetside tables below. Inside, a light-blue subway-tile interior offers additional seating and an order counter for those who wish to grab and go. The beachside eatery is owned by chef Stuart Snowhite, a personal chef and former owner of the nearby Taco Beach Shack. The menu is tourist-friendly thanks to tropical drinks served out of coconuts and pineapples or white and red supersized sangrias. Tacos come alone or in pairs with a combo meal that includes rice, beans, and an ear of Mexican-style roasted corn. There's a choice of ground beef, grilled mahi, tempura shrimp, chicken, Baja-style fish, and the house specialty: Korean short ribs paired with house kimchi slaw and a creamy chipotle sauce. The Taco Spot is located at 1500 N. Broadwalk Blvd., Hollywood. Call 954-921-7711.
There's a new place to get a well-built sandwich in downtown Hollywood. J28, which opened several months ago, is taking the whole fast-casual model and giving it a Peruvian twist. Founded by brothers and Peru natives Marco and Javier Rondon, the sanguchería at the heart of Young Circle on the outskirts of the city's downtown restaurant row is an Americanized take on the country's sandwich shop. J28 delivers approachable, easy-to-order Peruvian-style street food made with high-quality ingredients and professional service. A fast-casual eatery at its core, the restaurant features a small lunch counter line where sandwiches are assembled to order. Everything, from the meats and cheeses to toppings and sauces, is prepared in-house daily. The bread is the best part, a light and airy Peruvian dough baked fresh several times a day. A simple alchemy of flour, yeast, and water, it's designed to have no taste, says Marco, to let the ingredients of each sandwich take center stage with your taste buds. The menu offers a number of hearty sandwiches stuffed with classic and contemporary Peruvian ingredients, the signature being the butifarra: sliced pork, lettuce, and pickled onion served with a side of boiled potato and roasted corn. The most popular one -- and certainly the most tasty -- is the chicharron, thick slabs of pork belly topped with pickled onions and boiled sweet potato. J28 is located at 1854 N. Young Circle, Hollywood. Call 754-208-2902, or visit j28sandwichbar.com.
5. A La Turca
With its roots in Ottoman culture, Turkish fare has developed into a unique fusion of Asian, Mediterranean, and Balkan flavors, with dishes varying from one region of the country to the next. At A La Turca, the food is emblematic of the country's southeast region -- cities like Urfa and Adana -- where the kebab reigns supreme. Meat, spices, and olive oil are often an integral part of each recipe, and Istanbul native Ugur Unal is steadfast in ensuring each is prepared to exacting standards. Although the restaurant originally opened in 2005, today it has relocated from its original location off Hollywood Boulevard's main drag to a new space nearly twice the size, allowing for seating of larger parties and plenty of new menu items. The upscale touch allows for alfresco dining, and whether inside or out, the white-tablecloth service is flawless. Unal travels his native Turkey extensively, sourcing ingredients and recipes to ensure the most authentic experience and freshest flavors. As a result, many things -- from the sweet Turkish olive oil to the spices, even some fish and meat -- are delivered directly from the homeland, while breads and desserts are made in-house from scratch. A La Turca is located at 1848 Harrison St., Hollywood. Call 954-925-5900, or visit myalaturca.com.
4. Sugar Reef Grill
Anybody who dropped in to Sugar Reef years ago could go back today and suffer no future shock: Nothing seems to change -- the open-air restaurant on the Hollywood Broadwalk still follows a rhythm as soothing and predictable as the sea its ocean-colored rooms open out on. Paper-covered tables offer jars of crayons for doodling, and a French-Caribbean menu features dishes beloved by the Reef's many return customers: Jamaican pork with authentic French-style gratinéed potatoes, a tropical fish stew redolent of coconut milk and green curry, and roasted duck topped with mango salsa. An eclectic wine list offers lots of vin by the half bottle. The staff patters in polyglot tongues -- Spanish, French, Russian -- and if you show up twice, you'll find yourself inducted into a coterie of beloved regulars. Sugar Reef Grill is located at 600 N. Surf Road, Hollywood. Call 954-922-1119, or visit sugarreefgrill.com.
3. The Tipsy Boar
Two doors down from the old Fulvio's 1900 -- and a few blocks away from Sardelli's Italian Steakhouse -- the Tipsy Boar Gastropub is where Fulvio Sardelli Jr. is serving the kind of food that a regular at the family's other two restaurants would be surprised to find. And he's teamed up with a chef who's ripe for a comeback. Going well beyond French fries and chicken wings, this laid-back downtown Hollywood gastropub serves comfort food with a twist. But the offerings might surprise customers who've come to know the Sardellis for their delicate, handmade pastas and carefully prepared beef, veal, and fish dishes. With items like the Reuben spring roll -- with juicy, salty corned beef; Swiss cheese; Thousand Island dressing; and sauerkraut inside a fried wrapper, dipped in the accompanying ramekin of vinegary brown mustard -- it's clear that Fulvio Jr. and Blum have more than just Italian cooking secrets in the pantry. The dishes may change frequently, but the beer list should stay steady with 40-odd choices. All in all, the not-too-hipster scene draws a diverse crowd. The Tipsy Boar is located at 1906 Harrison St., Hollywood. Call 954-920-2627, or visit thetipsyboar.com.
2. La Huaca
Unlike many casual South Florida Peruvian eateries, La Huaca doesn't fit into the typical format -- all those small, unassuming spots tucked into strip malls with order counters, plastic-covered menus, and fading photos of the Andean landscape. Instead, the newly renovated space has been transformed into an elegant affair. Two spacious dining areas -- one looking out onto South 20th Avenue with floor-to-ceiling windows and another, more-secluded private room -- can accommodate up to 180 people. Peruvian-born owner Ynes Sona has created a passion project with one purpose: to represent the gastronomy of her country in a contemporary light, with a modern take on Peru's coastal cuisine. Executive chef Daniel Huambachano, a Lima native who comes from Miami's Peruvian restaurant Francesco, has a number of specialties that fuse traditional Peruvian fare with a fresh approach. La Huaca is located at 2000 Harrison St., Hollywood. Call 954-239-8722, or visit lahuacaperuviancuisine.com.
We've all had ramen. For most Americans, it comes from styrofoam cups in flavors like "oriental" and "seafood." We eat it when we are short on time, hungover, broke, or living in a dorm. If Cup Noodles instant ramen is all you've ever known, it can be hard to get excited about a bowl of soup. But the ramen at GoBistro in Hollywood is different. Open for lunch and dinner, the eatery is a collaboration by partners Andrew Gong, Joao Da Silva, and Niti Masintapan. Together, they also operate two Amazing Asian Bistro locations in Plantation and Pembroke Pines. GoBistro is their latest concept, where each could unleash his creative side. The menu is based on their favorite dishes: a Thai, Chinese, and Brazilian take on Japanese cooking. Gong prepares the ramen, Da Silva the sushi, and Masintapan contributes specialty dishes, like his version of Korean-style chicken wings. Start with hot and cold appetizers, like DaSilva's stellar jalapeño himachi or tuna poke. Or try the avocado fries, a novelty dish that sells out daily: panko-encrusted slivers of avocado fried to a golden brown. Most people come for the ramen: The broth is made from scratch, a golden-opaque kotteri packed with emulsified goodness from long-boiled pork bones, the result of a two-day cooking process. Fat-laced and fragrant, the surface is like an oil slick that leaves a gelatinous sheen on your lips as you slurp away, revealing firm, crimped noodles and succulent slices of pork belly. GoBistro is located at 2035 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Call 754-263-2826, or visit eatgobistro.com.
Nicole Danna is a food blogger covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.