The Eight Must-Try Dishes for Crave GFL Restaurant Month

Photo courtesy of Olivia Restaurant
When it comes to dining out, Broward County has it all, from romantic waterfront restaurants and bottomless Sunday brunches, to trendy steakhouses and sports bars with a "dock and dine" theme. The only problem is finding the time — and money — to explore them all.

Luckily, South Floridians have a unique opportunity to do just that, thanks to the annual Crave GFL Restaurant Month, formerly known as Dine Out Lauderdale. The month-long event launches September 1 and runs through the 30th, offering area residents a chance to savor a sweet deal: prix-fixe specialty menus served up by dozens of the area's best restaurants and chefs.

"South Florida's culinary scene is known for its diverse cuisine," said Stacy Ritter, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Crave GFL gives food lovers the chance to taste innovative creations from world-renowned celebrity chefs at sought-after restaurants."

Throughout September, more than 30 of Broward County's best restaurants will be offering a seperate three-course tasting menu priced at $35 or $45 per person. The promotion is available in several cities across South Florida from Hollywood to Hallandale Beach, Lighthouse Point, Pompano Beach, Parkland, Sunrise, and Weston. This year, in addition to an expanded coverage area, dozens of new restaurants have signed on to participate in the 2018 Crave lineup. That includes many of our favorite new eateries from Brown Dog Eatery, Déjà Blue, El Vez, and Etaru Las Olas to Lona Cocina Tequileria, Matchbox Vintage Pizza Bistro, Olivia Restaurant & Bar, The Balcony, and Terra Mare.

Menu highlights offer something for every type of diner. Whether you're in the mood for seafood and steak, or vegan eats and handmade pasta, you'll find it on a Crave menu. Here is our list for the best dishes to sample from Broward's Crave lineup.
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Photo courtesy of Olivia Restaurant
1. Pappardelle at Olivia Restaurant. Located at the newly renovated Circ Hotel just steps from downtown Hollywood's Arts Park at Young Circle, Olivia Restaurant specializes in authentic Italian recipes, with each dish boasting generation-old recipes for true Italian taste with a modern American twist. During Crave, try dishes like the veal piccata, veal medallions sautéed in delicate white wine lemon butter caper sauce; cioppino, prepped with Hawaiian prawn, scallops, mussels, clams, and calamari in a delicate fish broth and topped with a touch of tomato; or their signature pappardelle with short rib ragu, house-made flat ribbon noodles smothered in a braised short rib tomato sauce. Then head to The Muse rooftop bar for a cocktail and panoramic views of the city. 780 Polk St., Hollywood; 954-500-1780;
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Photo courtesy of Point Royal
2. The Ugly Burger at Point Royal. This Geoffrey Zakarian restaurant launched in February 2016 on the ground floor of the newly-renovated Diplomat Beach Resort. The restaurant bills itself as coastal American; the type of place you can stop by for a burger and beer or for some oysters and a glass of wine. Once the site of the hotel's breakfast buffet room, today the spot evokes Old Florida-meets-Cuba, and specializes in some pretty crafty seafood dishes. Of all the menu specialties from this celebrity chef, the lobster roll is the item worthiest of a trip to the strip of A1A where Hollywood meets Hallandale Beach. In September, you can justify the trip for a Crave meal that includes ceviche, steamed Maine mussels, and local black grouper. We say skip the seafood and try the famed Ugly Burger instead: Zakarian's famous dry-aged double patty topped with bread and butter pickles, diced Romaine lettuce, aged American cheese, and a house-made Remoulade. 555 S. Ocean Drive, Hollywood; 954-602-8750;
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Photo courtesy of Coco Asian Bistro
3. Seared Scallops at Coco Asian Bistro. This long-standing sushi establishment is known for much more than its creative, gourmet take on sushi. These days, chef-owner Mike Ponluang also attracts diners for his expertly-crafted main plates and ever-rotating lineup of specialty dishes. During Crave, only Coco Asian Bistro in Fort Lauderdale is kicking off its three-course meal with pan-seared Rougie foie gras, here topped with caviar and served with a sriracha chili sauce and housemade saffron tapioca crackers. Another highlight: a second course option includes seared Diver scallop prepared with oyster mushroom, pepper, scallion, shallot, eggplant, basil, fried krachai, and a chili garlic sauce. 1841 Cordova Rd., Fort Lauderdale; 754-209-0400;
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Photo courtesy of Brown Dog Eatery
4. Roast Chicken from Brown Dog Eatery. This Fort Lauderdale restaurant is named for one of the owner’s chocolate labs, and it's one of the newest additions to the Be Nice family of restaurants that include Coconuts, Top Hat Deli, and Foxy Brown. This casual restaurant specializes in serving creative comfort food, evident in Crave dishes like the Hearts of Palm fries (tempura battered and served with sriracha aioli); Greens & Grains Bowl (a combination of farro, quinoa, brown rice, arugula, green apple, pickled fennel, and almonds in a lemon vinaigrette); and Chicken & Mushroom Crepes (oven-roasted chicken, cauliflower puree, and roasted oyster mushrooms in a rolled-up crepe topped with a soft-boiled egg). We say go for the roasted half-chicken served atop a kale Caesar salad. 2701 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-533-6077;
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Photo courtesy of Ocean Grill
5. Conch Fritters at Ocean Grill Restaurant. Located at the Beachcomber Resort & Villas in Pompano Beach, this tropical getaway boasts floor to ceiling windows, a tiki-style outdoor patio, and a view of the lushly landscaped main pool area and ocean in the background. During Crave, diners can have their own staycation-style meal with a menu that offers the restaurant's own smoked fish dip, grilled flatiron steak, and seared Scottish salmon (or Yellowfin tuna). Start with the conch fritters, here served with a house-made remoulade sauce. Then end it all with a slice of key lime pie. 1200 S. Ocean Blvd., Pompano Beach; 954-941-7833;
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Photo courtesy of The Cook & The Cork
6. Vegan Chic Pea Bolognese at The Cook & The Cork. This Coral Springs bistro from husband-and-wife team Keith Blauschild and Dena Lowell is best known for its eclectic, ever-changing menu. With the exception of their signature chicken and waffles — corn waffles given savory notes with scallion and cilantro, and soaked in a viscid andouille sausage gravy — you'll always find something new. Here, every dish — from pasta and bacon to gelato and sauces — is made from scratch. That includes this Crave featured dish, a vegan take on pasta bolognese with handmade penne pasta immersed in a rich, chickpea-based sauce. 9890 W Sample Rd, Coral Springs; 954-227-2665;
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Photo courtesy of Cafe Maxx
7. Banana-Lime Grilled Shrimp at Cafe Maxx. For over three decades, Darrel and Oliver's Cafe Maxx in Pompano Beach has been a go-to for Broward County foodies that appreciate the menu's longstanding dedication to sourcing locally and sustainably since way before it was fashionable. The menu has many classics — a mashup of global favorites and original creations — from the beloved Caesar salad to fruit-glazed duck breast and fancy onion-crusted snapper. A favorite appetizer with a tropical appeal has been on the menu for years: giant grilled shrimp flavored with a tangy citrus glaze and served atop sweet mashed potatoes with tendrils of crispy fried plantains, and a tropical fruit salsa. You'll want to save room for dessert, too. The in-house pastry chef turns out classics and new-age riffs, including their famous macadamia nut infused carrot cake, which is available as part of your Crave meal. 2601 E. Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach; 954-782-0606;
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Photo courtesy of The Balcony
8. Beignets at The Balcony. One of our favorite new restaurants to open this year, The Balcony is also a new addition to the Las Olas dining scene. The two-story eatery specializes in marrying the quintessential flavors of New Orleans, blending its French, Spanish, West African, German, Italian, Irish, and Vietnamese influences and ingredients. During Crave, enjoy authentic New Orleans-inspired cuisine with dishes like Shreveport smoked gumbo or lobster and crawfish etouffee. Last, end with a classic Southern-style treat, fried dough covered in powdered sugar known as beignets, served with spiced chocolate sauce, house-made seasonal berry jam, and a Valencia orange bourbon marmalade. 1309 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 754-200-6344;
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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna