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Shula's on the Beach

As we were finishing up our entrees, the woman with the Karen Carpenter voice had an announcement to make. She paused before a rendition of "Son of a Sailor" to let the dozen or so tables in a cavernous, beachfront dining room know that a couple was celebrating a special night. "It's their 52nd wedding anniversary!" It came as no surprise, considering the average diner here could probably recall when Don Shula played football in Cleveland (that's 1951, by the way). At least they picked a decent place to celebrate, because even though you'll likely be the only Fort Lauderdale local in there, Shula's is as solid as it's ever been. Sure, the menu might be dated - the "signature" cowboy steak is on every menu now, and Burger King also brags about Black Angus - but it still has some highlights. The wedge salad is a fine rendition, with the appropriately crispy bacon, and the house-cured, bone-in pork chop, filled with gruyere cheese and apples, comes well flavored with tarragon and rosemary. Stay away from Shula's signature starter, because the barbecued shrimp comes wrapped in bacon that tastes like hot dogs and draped in what may have been heated-up cocktail sauce. Shula's is about the steaks, and the dish named after Don's wife Mary Anne won't disappoint, with a simple cognac sauce and a pair of five-ounce, finely charred filets. At the end of it all, a chocolate molten lava cake might not sound like any culinary risks have been taken, but after 52 years of marriage, you know a good chocolate cake when you see one.