South Florida is known for ample sunshine, beautiful people, heavy drinking, mile upon mile of beautiful beaches, and one of the most extensive systems of inland canals in the world.
There's a reason so many of our residents rarely wear clothes.
As much as most of us like to spend our free time drinking in the sun, we do like to step it up a notch for meals every so often.
Even so, we prefer to maintain a waterfront view.
Whether you're looking to take your boat out for a burger on the Intracoastal on your weekend-warrior booze cruise, watch the moon reflect on the water for a romantic dinner date, or listen to the waves crash on the beach while you sip cocktails, South Florida has the ideal restaurant overlooking one body of water or another for whatever your dining needs.
Here's our list of the ten best waterfront restaurants in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
10. Panama Hattie's
If Jimmy Buffett is your man, this is your place. With a tiki bar, a rum bar, sand floor, and dockside parking for boats up to 70 feet, this North Palm Beach island escape is the closest you'll get to a Caribbean getaway without stepping foot on a plane. In addition to a long list of libations — many of which are made from the favorite spirit of pirates — the menu here is filled with typical seafood and bar options like ceviche ($11.95), coconut shrimp ($11.95), and burgers ($9.95). It's the ideal waterfront party.
South Florida might be one of the more recently developed parts of the country, but that doesn't mean we don't have history. Bootlegging and gambling were once two primary facets of the local economy. Developed as a casino and rum-running speakeasy in the glory days of the 1920s, Cap's Place is the oldest restaurant in the entire state of Florida. Located on an island in the coastal marsh near Hillsboro Inlet, this place has seen not just the change in Prohibition law but important heads of state — Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt met here to discuss strategy during the war. These days, things are a bit less hush-hush, and there's a shuttle to get diners to and from the former hideout, but it's still just as alluring as it once was.
8. Deck 84
When most people think Florida waterfront, they tend to envision Key West. Sure, it's in the same state, but that little beach-bum town is unlike any other place — unless, of course, you come here. With dockside boat parking and a large outdoor patio, this Delray Beach spot is ideal for anyone looking to grab a cheeseburger in paradise — or a fish taco, for that matter. In addition to offering to cook fresh fish brought in from your own day's catch, the spot is now certified with a selection of certified "Fresh From Florida" menu options — we dare you to try to find anything more local than that.
7. Oceans 234
When it comes to South Florida waterfront restaurants, this place must be on the list. Not only does it have views of the water and the beach but its patio backs right up to the sand. Seriously. With a setting such as this, it should come as no surprise that the place gets packed. The setting inspires the menu with a wide selection of seafood options spanning from sushi to raw bar to pistachio crusted mahi-mahi and more. Between the food, the drinks, and the beachside locale, this place will have you feeling like you've been on holiday — even if it is just your lunch break.
One of the newer high-end spots to grace Fort Lauderdale Beach, this Pacific resort-inspired spot commands views of the ocean from nearly every seat in the house. Even with the attractive setting, the food is the main draw here. Executive chef Chris Miracolo serves flavorful and created global eclectic fare that can appeal to any palate. From sushi like the Thai tuna with avocado, coconut, macadamia, and jalapeño in soy paper to small plates such as smoked gouda mac & cheese with crispy prosciutto to entrées like the Heritage pork loin with sausage bread pudding, heirloom carrots, and pole beans, the menu takes you on a world tour. Just like any trip, you'll be sad when it's over.
5. Le Tub
Heralded by GQ as the best burger in America, this Old Florida dockside eatery has been serving locals burgers and bar food on Hollywood's Intracoastal since 1974. If the notorious burgers aren't enough to get you going — you must be vegetarian — the kitschy charm will, for sure. The barrage of flotsam and jetsam that greets you at the door, including a bathtub and toilet bowl planters, were picked up over a four-year period of combing the sand at nearby Hollywood Beach. While it's full of tourists pretty much year-round now, it's a relic of what South Florida once was: a great place to get drunk and hang out.
You know those days when you want to just jump in the boat and head out to dinner? No? Don't worry: We don't have boats either. But if we did, we would certainly drive them over here. This dockside spot serves a wide range of seafoodcentric dishes from across the world, such as New England style lobster rolls ($16), fish tacos ($14), peel-and-eat shrimp ($16), and conch fritters ($8). Fortunately, when it comes to atmosphere, it's strictly Florida, with Atlantic Ocean breezes flowing over from just a block away and a view of the yachts passing by on the Intracoastal. You'll just have to dream you own one.
With more than 17 years under its belt, this Intracoastal Waterway spot should be considered the granddaddy of the upscale waterfront seafood restaurant. Since its inception, the restaurant has brought home numerous New Times awards, including Best Outdoor Dining, Best Seafood Restaurant, and Best Waterfront Dining. That doesn't mean that's all it deserves. With a $48.95-per-person all-inclusive brunch, budget-friendly happy hour, frequent wine dinners, and occasional cooking courses, it's one of the best places to hang out near the water. Period.
With classic Italian and Mediterranean fare, attentive Italian-speaking staff, amorous music in the background, and intimate outdoor patio set right above the Middle River, this Victoria Park neighborhood restaurant is one of the most idyllic around — it's picked up two awards for Best Romantic Restaurant. That being said, it's not all about the setting here; the food is just as nice as the view. Dishes like Osso Buco D'angello ($30), slow braised lamb shank served in a demi-glace bola sauce over wild mushroom risotto; Tutto Mare ($28) of imported Vialone nano rice, slow-cooked in a light tomato white wine sauce, fresh clams, mussels, and shrimp; and more will have you feeling like you've landed on a fairy-tale vacation in the old country itself — and you most certainly won't be complaining.
1. Steak 954
Set in the base of the posh beachfront W Hotel, this modern steak house, which has made it to plenty of our "best of" lists for its brunch and famous cocktails, is known for much more than its carnivorous offerings. Executive chef Jason Smith caters to foodies of all persuasions with a wide selection of pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free options. Just because much of the menu is health-conscious doesn't mean it's not delicious. Dishes like organic Scottish salmon ($28) with tomato relish, shaved fennel, and soft herb salad; and the yellowfin tuna tartar ($16) with lemon aioli, radish sprouts, and cowboy potato chips; as well as healthier side dishes and vegetables like smoked cauliflower and kale ($9) are as flavorful as they are packed with nutrients. Oh, and did we mention the prime view of the Atlantic?
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.