South Florida Restaurants: Which Ones Offer Soulful Spaces?

I'm blogging from Charleston, South Carolina, this week during the Association of Food Journalists' conference. In addition to hearing talks from the likes of the Lee Brothers and Nathalie Dupree, I've been eating my face off and exploring spaces such as Two Boroughs Larder, a newish little restaurant housed in a barber shop and convenience store.  

The place serves soulful, Southern-inspired cooking with an occasional digression into new territories, such as a Sichuan oxtail number with fried rice, chilies, farm egg, scallions, and peanuts. 

What has seduced me at the restaurant as much as the food is the charm of the space, with its pocket doors, exposed brick, old lumber, and bones kept intact from its former life. This got me to 

thinking about a conversation I'd had with an employee at Riverside Market. I told him how much I enjoy the quirk of the space: the beer doors, the boat that hangs from the ceiling, the Adirondack chairs out front. His reply? "There aren't that many places here that aren't in a strip mall."

Interiors and architecture of a restaurant can shape an experience as much as service, food, and company. I can't help but wish that Laser Wolf were a restaurant, since it's housed in one of Lauderdale's most interesting buildings. The space is also a reason I fell in love with Sea, the subject of a review a few weeks ago. 

Is it true that destination-worthy dining in these parts resides in strip malls? Or is change afoot, as creative folks reclaim warehouse spaces, old houses, and tired sections of street scapes?

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Food Critic
Contact: Melissa McCart