At Tropic Cafe in the Broward County Courthouse, Lawyers Look Out of Place

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Hugh’s Tropic Cafe in the Broward County Courthouse tries to create something fun. If you ever received the Oriental Trading catalog in the mail, you will likely recognize the decor from their “luau party” collection: bamboo curtains, tropical bird figurines, a tiki bar. (Sadly, the tiki bar only serves mediocre coffee and reconstituted orange juice.) Potted palms, which upon close inspection turn out to be fake, dot the dining area. An entire wall is dedicated to a mural of a tiger prowling through the jungle as a profound-looking toucan surveys the landscape.

Pinstripe-suited attorneys look out of place here, even though they make up the majority of the clientele. So do the social worker types flipping through binders, the police officers clutching their radios, and the security guards with their clip-on badges. But the defendants who show up in T-shirts and slide-on sandals, much to their lawyers’ consternation, seem right at home. Some even nap at tables or watch movies on their iPhones while killing time between hearings. It’s a nice role reversal, given that the mazelike layout of the Broward County Courthouse provides the most literal possible demonstration of how difficult it is to navigate the criminal justice system.

But how’s the food? Well, as one attorney who asked to remain anonymous put it, “I wouldn’t take my family to the third floor of the Broward courthouse for dinner.” He gestured at a half-eaten plate of toast and scrambled eggs. “It’s just average. Mass-produced.”

Sadly, the menu does not match the tropical decor: There is not a single fried plantain to be found. Aside from a small case of empanadas and croquetas, the offerings are decidedly midwestern. On a recent Thursday, the lunch specials were beef lasagna and sliced turkey breast, and choices of sides were limited to white rice, green beans, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. Snack options include shrink-wrapped hardboiled eggs and Funyuns.

Look around the cafeteria, and you’ll notice that most people are eating out of Tupperware. Rocky Phan, a courthouse security guard, says he usually packs a lunch, unless it’s Friday. “Fridays, they have the tilapia, which I like a lot,” he explains.

Any recommendations for people with jury duty? “Get the tilapia.”

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