Food & Wine showcased their 10 Best Restaurant Dishes under $12 in this issue, and -- wouldn't you know it -- none are from Florida. It's getting to be a pretty common occurrence when America's Dangling Unit gets left off any of these glossy mag "best" lists. But that doesn't mean we don't have dishes that can hang, too.
In fact, many of F&W's picks have strikingly similar South Florida equivalents. Maybe not identical doppelgangers, per se, but close enough -- and good enough -- to make a list of our own.So here they are, our SoFla version of Food & Wine's five best under $12.
F&W Pick: Lamb-meatball sliders @ Locanda Verde, New York, NY
Our Pick: Meatball sliders @ YOLO Restaurant & O Lounge, Fort Lauderdale
Verde's dish features lamb meatballs simmered in tomato sauce and plunked on Parmesan and onion buns with a slice of fresh pickle and a wad of what looks like ricotta cheese, a trio of which runs $12. Fort Lauderdale nightspot, YOLO Restaurant & O Lounge, make a similar version with beef and pork meatballs slathered in herbed ricotta and graced with peppery arugula. At $4 each, they command about the same price. The little sliders are also one of the best items YOLO's kitchen makes. They took second place in the local Moonlight, Meatballs, and Martinis competition in October, behind Noodles Panini.
F&W Pick: Fried calamari salad @ Annie's Cafe & Bar, Austin, TX
Our Pick: Spicy calamari salad @ Marumi Sushi, Sunrise
Chef Tony Amplo's salad with crisp, fried calamari and slivers of fried cherry peppers with sriracha dressing sounds sublime ($10). Still, I can't help but adore Marumi Sushi's version of the spicy shellfish salad. Local chefs Tetsu Hayakawa and Teruhiko Iwasaki place fresh-fried calamari above a bed of baby greens laced with an ultra-light garlic dressing and slivers of hot Serrano peppers. They finish the plate with slices of supple grape tomato and spears of cooling daikon radish. Spicy, savory, fresh -- this salad has it all, for under $10.
F&W Pick: Fried chicken and waffles @ Simpatica and Laurelhurst Market, Portland, OR
Our Pick: Fried chicken @ Fran's Chicken Haven, Boca Raton
You have to skip the waffles, unfortunately, but it's hard to imagine a better bird than the stuff served at Boca institution, Fran's Chicken Haven. The place has been frying chicken the old-fashioned way since LBJ was in office -- not a bad track record. $10 buys you a half chicken, slathered in the secret house flour blend and fried to-order -- you won't find chicken growing soggy and dry in warming trays at Fran's. The result is crisp-skinned perfection. If you pine for something sweet to go along with it, grab a sticky corn muffin from the counter and slather it in honey.
F&W Pick: Spicy seafood soup @ Heaven's Dog, San Francisco, CA
Our Pick: Seafood tojangguk @ Gabose, Lauderhill
F&W praises the searing heat of this San Fran joint's soup, but nothing will clear your head like a bowl of the hell-broth they make at Gabose in Lauderhill. Blue crab, mixed seafood with clams, mussels, and squid, fish, oysters, whatever... each comes boiling away in a heated stone pot that seems downright
angry, all red and flecked with throat-clinging shrapnel of chili
peppers and dime-sized slivers of a jalapeno. But once that
stuff hits your lips the anger
is transformed into something like a mellow embrace. Warming, delicious, awesome Korean soul food for about $12 a bowl.
F&W Pick: Black truffle gnocchi @ Perennial, Chicago
Our Pick: Ricotta and white truffle gnocchi @ Lola's on Harrison
Perennial's gnocchi, stocked with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and chopped truffles sounds fab at $12 a plate. Also of $12: the white truffle and ricotta gnocchi at Lola's on Harrison, a "perennial" Hollywood favorite. Chef Michael Wagner's bowl of comforting pasta is delicate and rich in just the right way, with a creamy sauce that slaps you over the head with a big wad of umami. It may not be as artfully presented, but the warming effect this bowl of love conveys is hard to beat.