Cities tend to get all the cred when it comes to dining.
It's usually the downtown areas and restaurant strips that host all the trendy bars and eateries -- hey, that's just the way it is. For the most part, if you're looking for chef-driven fare, emerging concepts, great cocktails, or craft beer, you have to drive (or walk) to where all the action is.
And in South Florida, those city-like locales are unsurprisingly located closer to the beach, usually east of I-95. As a result, those eastern eateries tend to get most of the media attention as well. We've decided to spread the love.
With 1.8 million residents in Broward County, only 170,000 or so of whom reside in Fort Lauderdale, plenty of great dining options are spread throughout the area.
Here are the ten best suburban restaurants, west of I-95, in Broward County.
Even among the big wigs out east, this place ranks high on the list. The Weston outpost of celebrity chef Angelo Elia's casual eatery, D'Angelo Pizza Tapas Wine Bar offers the same rustic Tuscan cuisine as its sister restaurant in Oakland Park. It's full of affordable tapas, ceviches, pizzas, salads, calzones, and other traditional Italian eats -- and all appear to be crafted with the same attention to detail that has helped Angelo's fine-dining restaurants in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton flourish.
South Florida does not have many brewpubs -- to the chagrin of beer snobs. But Coral Springs has one that makes up for the paucity. At this locally owned restaurant and brewpub, patrons can find seven house-brewed beers on draft, such as the Grizzly Red Ale and the Kodiac Belgian Dubbel. The place even took home awards from the U.S. Open Beer Championship. Even so, the brewmasters like to keep it fresh; the offered brews are on a constant rotation, keeping the microbatches fully flavored and intense. Although the brew is the main attraction, the food most certainly matches. The pub-style fare is comforting and delicious, and its beer muenster cheese soup is so good, it ranked number seven of our 100 Favorite Dishes just a couple of years back.
The new Broward spawn of the always-packed South Beach haunt, this place offers some of the best ground-meat patty sandwiches in the 305, 954, and 561 combined. You can't go wrong with anything on its creative menu (nonbeef options too). The place is so good, it won our pick for Best Burger in 2014. Try the Mustang Sally (eight-ounce Wagyu beef, red onion marmalade, Brie cheese, and sliced prosciutto cradled between a brioche bun) or the Hotel California (ten ounces of certified Angus prime, guacamole, grilled Vidalia onion, jalapeño relish, cilantro sour cream, sharp cheddar, and a sunny-side-up fried egg, stacked in the middle of a brioche bun). And no matter what you order, there's always a perfect beer to pair; the craft brew list rivals some of the best microbrew lists in the area. It might take you a while to leave after all the burgers and beer, but this place is definitely worth a trek.
It's no secret: Southern food is in -- and it has been for a while. But like much else in the food world, the trendy version took some time to make its way into Broward County. While we've had barbecue joints and down-home country cooking in Davie for decades, Swank is different. With a group of classically trained chefs from Miami behind the menu, here you'll find modern takes on traditional dishes from the South right smack dab in the middle of Davie. From chicken and waffles ($16) with homemade marshmallow sage sauce to 18-hour pulled-pork sliders ($10) to low-country shrimp and grits ($14), everything served is lowbrow but with a haute twist -- and that's just the way we like it.
6. Pho Hoa
Not long ago, few local individuals knew the wondrous flavors of pho. The traditional Vietnamese street food bursts with flavor from a slowly simmered stock chock-full of exotic spices, then finished with noodles, meat, chilies, and fresh herbs. It's so good, CNN Travel listed it as one of the 50 Best Foods in the World. That being said, finding a decent bowl is not easy within the confines of Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the crème de la crème -- did you know the French once occupied Vietnam? Get it? -- you need to head to the Asian strip of State Road 7. (Hint: Look for signs in languages you don't understand.) While options abound, Pho Hoa is the best. It's so good, in fact, we gave it "Best Pho in Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach in 2014."
Cooper City is known for many things, but dining is usually not one of them. However, since March 1993, regulars from all over Broward County have been happily trekking to the western 'burbs for a taste of chef/owner Aboud Kobaitri's French-by-way-of-the-Middle-East cuisine. The Lebanese chef started his culinary career in France before meeting his Floridian wife in Norway. Dishes like baked escargots ($10), filet mignon au poivre ($33), and pistachio- and black-pepper-crusted snapper fillet ($27) with Key lime beurre blanc exemplify his use of classic technique and jet-setting way of life.
Located alongside side I-595, this cottage-like structure is like stepping into a whole other world. With dark wooden accents and white-clothed tables, the interior is elegant and comforting at the same time. And the food is the same. Continental seasonal fare is the game here, with options ranging from hearty filLet of beef stroganoff ($20/$29) to light yellow fin tuna carpaccio ($17) to rich seared Hudson Valley foie gras ($17) to exotic esargots Bourguignon ($12). When it comes to wine, there's something for everyone and every dish. The list runs to gamut from nice but unexciting California Chardonnays to fine French Puligny Montrachet of the same grape.
3. Marumi Sushi
It's safe to say that most chefs know a thing or two about food. So the fact that Marumi is constantly packed with cooks who've just finished their nightly shifts at other Asian restaurants speaks volumes. Broward's late-night Japanese izakaya (a place for beer and small plates) is run by two veterans of South Florida's sushi scene, Teruhiko Iwasaki and Tetsu Hayakawa. The pair serve mind-boggling dishes, like braised beef tongue, fried glass minnows, and crispy squid salad, for serious culinary freaks. But the real draw is always the fresh catch. Marumi offers an unparalleled supply of locally and internationally sourced fish like yellow jack, skipjack, black grouper, and snapper rendered into sashimi or seared and sliced thick. For those who need to indulge in Americanized rolls, creative options exist (like the $6.50 tuna cilantro roll with tuna, cilantro, garlic, and spicy sesame oil), but we prefer to keep it simple at this place.
Set in a nondescript shopping center, right across from the Broward Mall, this mom-and-pop shop gets people traveling to its doors from all around. During lunch, it's one of the busiest spots that can be found: Office workers flock through its doors for a refreshing respite from the cubicle. It offers a wide selection of light salads, sandwiches, and upscale apps. For dinner, friendly yet unobtrusive waiters serve elegant continental cuisine such as bacon-wrapped dates; crispy duck with cherry gastrique and mashed potatoes; and rigatoni balsamic served under chicken, spinach, portobello mushrooms, goat cheese, and pine nuts. And it does all of the above in a comfortable, homey setting. One visit and you'll definitely be heading back for more.
It's not like we do it on purpose, but our picks for "Best Restaurant" usually tend to reside out east. But this place will have us driving west -- during rush hour, even, if the craving hits -- to get a taste of that fresh, charcoal-kissed meat. This year's pick for Best Restaurant in Broward County, Gabose serves the best Korean fare in all of South Florida. It's so good, in fact, that celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein frequently makes the trek from Miami -- that's dedication, fine friends. Selections range from prepared dishes like bibimbap (a mix of rice, veggies, and protein in a hot stone pot) to DIY barbecue, with options like galbi gui ($24.95), a dish of succulent marinated short rib, grilled by you over an open charcoal pit. No matter what you choose, this place is one of the best restaurants in all the land. Trust Bernstein's judgment.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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