Best Of :: Readers' Choice
In Fort Lauderdale, bars come and go quicker than the tide rolls in, but every now and then, one opens and decades later new generations of locals are filling up the barstools, just like here at Cheers. From neon signs to pool tables and sports memorabilia, the drinking hole has all the quintessential trimmings, but it's the patrons who give it real character. On weekends, the stage is filled with an array of bands, but during the week, patrons can take their shot on the stage at open-mic night or karaoke.
Gourmet diners have long had Sublime as their go-to, a restaurant founded by animal-rights activist Nanci Alexander and serving an entirely vegan, and partly organic, menu. Sublime has always been beautiful, with its water wall and open brick oven and its inventive list of "healthy" cocktails and organic wines. The food lives up to the name, from a delicious tempura-battered cauliflower "frito misto" to a gorgeous sublime roll wrapped in grasshopper-greensoy paper. Classic Margherita pizza from the wood-burning oven could totally go crust-to-crust with the best brick-oven pizzas in South Florida. And a braised spinach, wood-fired artichoke, and roasted shallot "quiche" lacking either eggs or cream is a knockout. Presentation is exquisite.
This wood-oven pizzeria sits in a standalone building near Mizner Park punctuated by a large brick oven and a few rows of brightly colored industrial tables. The single-page menu features chicken wings, Italian salad, a handful of appetizers, and a few specialty pizzas (eggplant, broccoli rabe and sausage, Margherita). But the pizza is a treat. The crust crackles with a snappish crunch, and the sauce is garlicky and rich. Even better is the capricious nature of the cheese, which randomly finds its way into every other bite without ever getting rubbery.
The Salon Mantra's website spells out its mission: "To create a salon environment as unique to this planet as our clients are to us." It's clear Salon Mantra co-owner Sofia Navarro is helping meet that goal, considering she has won this poll two years in a row. The mission statement ends: "We will live this by keeping our Mantra one of trust, love, and beauty. After all... isn't that what it's about?" Yes, apparently it is.
Last year, Le Batard launched upward and onward from his days as Miami Herald columnist, local radio personality, and occasional guest host of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption. Now he's all marquee, with his name on his own show. Appropriately, he kept that personality that made him "the hatable Dan Le Batard" and called his show Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable. He's also highly unpredictable. Take the fact that he hosts his show with his father, Gonzalo. It's like nothing else you'll see on the ESPN networks, and that's exactly what makes it good.
Located where NE Fourth Avenue meets the train tracks, Laser Wolf fits in an unusual triangular space. The place vibrates with bright-red walls, a mural by pro skateboarder Kris Markovich, and the runaway trendiness of a crowd that gathers between its walls to drink sake and locally crafted microbrews. Ashtrays feature the Misfits' skull logo, and even the chairs made the trip from the moody-hip downtown hangout the Poorhouse. Dance parties instinctively emerge in front of the DJ's corner setup, while an adjacent, charming courtyard hosts bands for the rock-devoted.
Welcome to the "Fresh Zone," where the Cal-Mex fare lives up to the joint's name. Everything here is made daily on the premises, from lard-free beans to guacamole to cilantro-spiked rice. Baja-style Mexican food includes the best fish tacos and shrimp burritos in Fort Lauderdale. Portions are huge and prices ridiculously reasonable.
The best barbecue has always been the kind of spots you might see along county roads in the Deep South, just like Blue Willy's. This food truck sets up at various locations around Fort Lauderdale, including a regular stop at 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays at SE First Avenue and SE Sixth Street. Go for the brisket or St. Louis-style ribs, which will make you feel like you've pulled up to a pit master in rural Alabama, just like barbecue ought to be.
Relish, in the cozy and quaint Northwood Village, is the ultimate mix-and-match burger joint. Choose from 12 types of burgers: beef, all-white-meat turkey, tuna, mahi-mahi, crab, shrimp, black bean, mushroom, lamb, buffalo, veal, or lobster, all of which are freshly ground or made in-house each day. Next, add any number of Relish's 20-plus gourmet toppings. There are relatively normal offerings, like lettuce slaw and drunken onions cooked in lager. And then there's the wacky stuff you would never have thought to put on a burger in a million years, like oven-roasted beets with fresh herbs or shaved asparagus with white wine and tarragon. The freedom of choice is mirrored on down the menu, from fries and onion rings (top them with your choice of six gourmet salts) to milk shakes (there are more than a dozen flavors) to cookies (six varieties with six dipping sauces).
This Delray Beach gastropub is all about indulgence but, most pointedly, bacon. A glance down the menu reveals bacon in salad, bacon smothering macaroni and cheese, bacon on burgers, and bacon finishing off a tray of souped-up tater tots. If you count the various forms of pork and ham employed by the kitchen, then there are also Serrano-wrapped scallops, Spanish toast with tomatoes and ham, and a retooling of pork and beans where the pork is, in fact, pork belly (read: bacon). And lest you think the bacon bus stops there, for dessert, you can order perhaps the restaurant's greatest triumph: a maple-glazed doughnut topped with — what else? — bacon. It's all consumed in a rollicking 1950s atmosphere that's a cross between a Madison Avenue office building and a Dick Van Dyke-era home study. Cocktails are picture-perfect and delivered by a bow-tied staff, and craft beer flows liberally from the bar.
Named Best Of Live Band by in 2010, Community Property has gone undefeated in every South Florida battle of the band in which it's participated. Proud to be "Sunrise boys," Community Property has been rocking in Broward for six years now. The band's frontman, Lucien Sawyer, writes all the lyrics, and the band comes up with melodies. In addition to Jimi Hendrix comparisons, Community Property brings together a wealth of dirty blues and soul that will run you as ragged as any Black Keys guitar romp. Keep your ears peeled; the band will be dropping a self-titled album this summer.
From his Facebook fan page comes this bio: "Growing up in the Wax Trax era of Chicago music and moving to South Florida in my Teenage years gave me an eclectic taste. Always working in the background promoting and working with artists, I started DJ'ing on a dare and hit the ground running." He sure did, and you can find LinderSMASH at Fort Lauderdale's Green Room on Thursdays through Saturdays and on rotation at the Fetish Factory.