Blue Willy’s Barbecue

Blue Willy’s Barbecue – 1386 S Federal Hwy, Pompano Beach, (954) 224-6120, http://on.fb.me/1dmTZ61

I’ve been waiting for something like this for a long time. A local Florida BBQ joint that just does it right…with folks who know what they’re doing and enjoy it! The owner, Will Banks, not only tends to the smoker and meat prep, but also works the line while schmoozing with the customers. Originally from Tennessee, this guy is no stranger to BBQ biz and in years past could be seen flogging Que from his food truck parked near the Courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale. In July he opened his first brick & mortar store off Federal Hwy in Pompano Beach. Using social media and word of mouth they came…the foodies, former food truck customers, BBQ aficionados & the curious…all to sample some of the wonderful meats he prepares. Now this is not a fancy sit-down restaurant with table service. Some days there’s a line just to get in. But once you do you’ll be in BBQ heaven. The experience is reminiscent of Lockhart, Texas, where they’re famous for serving up your meat order on trays lined with butcher paper with some bread and plastic utensils. The focus here is on the food.

The place has got a kind of strange electricity about it. Grown men seated around communal wood tables eating their treasured trays of Que and discussing with others, in most cases perfect strangers, the great favors and techniques that must have been employed to achieve it! One gentleman quickly sat down near us with his Pastrami sandwich and immediately called his friend, “get down here now” he implored, “they’ve got it and its going fast!”  My group left that day…belly’s full, appetites sated and new friendships made.

So what should you have at Blue Willy’s?  Well first of all bring some friends so you can taste everything. I’d start off with a pound of Brisket…so juicy it will make your mouth water and your momma cry. Nice bark and smoke ring…this is the real deal, Texas style. Next have rack of St. Louis style spare ribs with that nice dark bark and wonderful smoky porky taste you want. Got room? The Carolina chopped pork is moist…good on a sandwich, but I order, by the pound and eat it with a squirt of sauce.  You must try the house made sausage. This is just great stuff. Half an order is good if you’re sampling. Thursday is Pastrami day and this you must try! This stuff is so popular that devoted fans, me included, wait on-line to get a couple of sandwiches and it’s all gone by 1 or 2pm. All hand cut and house made, Blue Willy’s is one of a handful of places in Florida that can produce a product like this and do it well.  The sides we tasted were good…we had the Mac n’ Cheese, Cornbread, & Baked Beans. There are several sauces on the tables that represent some of the regional favorites. If your like me you’ll taste a little of each.  Check out all my Blue Willy’s pix at http://on.fb.me/1j2sbFg

For me this trip was the best of all things…eating some of the best local BBQ, meeting an owner/operator who has built his business by working hard and a staff that shares the owner’s excitement about what they do.  Also… it didn’t bother me at all that I finally ate somewhere, really good, before Guy Fieri, Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain.  Just say’n!

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© 2013 alanEATS

Finster Murphy’s

Finster Murphy’s- 1497 SE 17th St, Fort Lauderdale, (954) 765-3461 – http://www.finstermurphys.com

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This is not your typical fishmonger . You will find the expected large seafood assortment including, extra large Shrimp, Diver Scallops, Stone Crab (seasonal), and as well as a fresh assortment of fish fillets, seafood salad, conch salad, fresh Salmon salad, Crab cakes, Tuna Burgers, Salmon Burgers and freshly picked Lobster meat. The unexpected is that in addition to purchasing these fresh gems for your kitchen, you can also have your purchase grilled, sautéed, blackened or fried while you wait. Try their awesome daily soup-of-the -day, and Fish & Chips made with Cod too. Seriously, the only way to get fresher than this is to stowaway on a fishing boat.

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© 2013 alanEATS | A Food Blog

Sweeter Days Bake Shop

Sweeter Days Bake Shop1497 North Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, 954-396-3979, http://www.sweeterdaysbakeshop.com

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Small specialty bakeshops like this started turning up around New York’s Greenwich Village around 15 years ago. Many would set up in old brownstone storefronts where I remember frequently having to wait on-line in the summer sun to get one of the baked treats inside. I think that was fun! The owners of Sweeter Days have created an oasis of confections in a small shopping center away from the downtown area, where they produce a stunning array of cupcakes. They also make cookies and brownies. But it was a cupcake I was in for recently and so my buddy Matt, a cupcake aficionado, selected for me… a Salted Caramel with White Cake. Macadamia Nut & Almond Buttercream. Wow! What did that taste like? Don’t ask…run down now and get your own!

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© 2013 alanEATS | A Food Blog

 

Valentino Cucina Italiana

Valentino Cucina Italiana620 S Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, (954) 523-5767, http://www.valentinocucinaitaliana.com

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It’s all about fine Italian dining. This is one of those places you hear about when folks gather to speak of great meals they’ve had. Chef Giovanni Rocchio has created a beautiful setting to enjoy his menu, to which he adds daily specials. A unique feature of the restaurant is limited seating at the kitchen bar, where you can view all of the action in the open kitchen. And then there’s Chef Enzo DiPasquale, from Milan, who cooks a special menu of unique small bites, which look as interesting as they taste. Try the Calamari Artichoke Tart appetizer, the Black Bass and the Short Rib entrees. There are truly no bad dishes. Service and decor are in keeping with a restaurant of this caliber and is never fussy or pretentious. Reservations are a must.

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Rock n Roll Ribs

Rock n Roll Ribs – 4651 State Rd 7, Coral Springs, Coral Creek Plaza, 954-345-7429, http://www.rocknrollribs.org

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Tucked into a shopping center in Coral Springs is a Rock n Roll themed BBQ restaurant that the locals flock to when they want to get their “Heavy Metal” Q on. My twelve-year-old nephew is a regular and made me promise to try the Baby Back Ribs. Turns out this kid can eat a full rack on his own. What you get is St. Louie style ribs that are first smoked then liberally brushed with sauce and finished off on the grill. The meat falls off the bone and the sauce has that nice tang that you’ll happily lick off your fingers.  We also liked the X-large Stack of Onion Rings with spicy Grammy Sauce for dipping. The well-rounded menu has many options for non-Q folks like hotdogs, burgers, chicken and fish. Causal, friendly and a no brainer especially if you live in the area.

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© 2013 alanEATS | A Food Blog

Rosie’s Bar & Grill

Rosie’s Bar & Grill- 2449 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors, (954) 563-0123 – http://www.rosiesbarandgrill.com

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From the way it looks now, its hard to believe that Rosie’s occupies a building that was once a Burger King, however many folks also remember that site as Hamburger Mary’s. Today, everyone in Wilton Manors is well aware that Rosie’s Bar & Grill is the place to go for Burgers, sandwiches, salads and unique dishes that keeps both locals and visitors coming back for more. Try the Burger Nirvana, Rosie’s top prize winning entry in the 2013 Riverwalk Burger Battle IV, and you can try 24 additional specialty burgers on the menu. Some other standout items for me were a grilled chicken sandwich called Young Ranch Hand a Grilled Shrimp, bacon, cheese thing called the Key West Club and a spicy chicken tender wrap with the name The Gypsy Rosie Lee Wrap. The menu is large so take your time. Also check out their Sunday brunch menu. Try any of their Belgian waffles with fresh fruit toppings!!! Wow. Sunday brunch is extremely popular so go early or be prepared to wait. Not too bad if you’re enjoying one of their wonderful Mojitos.

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© 2013 alanEATS | A Food Blog

Capital Grille

Capital Grille- 2430 E Sunrise Blvd, at Galleria Mall, Fort Lauderdale, 954-446-2000 – http://bit.ly/10XIqJD

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This fine dining place is known for their Steaks, Seafood and sides. Some steaks served here are Dry-Aged for extra flavor and can be charred or done “Pittsburg” on request. I liked the Roasted Wild Mushrooms to accompany the steak and a must try is the Lobster Mac ‘N’ Cheese. One of my favorites for lunch is the Cobb Salad…even better when ordered a Strip Steak is substituted (extra charge) for the Tenderloin that’s normally served with it. Also amazing here is the Double Cut Lamb Rib Chops.

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© 2013 alanEATS | A Food Blog

S3 – Sun | Surf | Sand

S3 – Sun | Surf | Sand- 505 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd, Fort Lauderdale              (954) 523-7873 – http://www.s3restaurant.com

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It’s understandable why some say S3 is “YOLO on the beach.” Same ownership, similar design cues, attentive service and smart-looking crowd. But the added dimension of beach dining is alluring and very different from their Las Olas restaurant. The food is a mix of new American and Asian with many small plate options as well as some larger entrée items. We ordered several small plates… Tuna Tataki , so tender it melts in your mouth, Kamikaze Roll with nice hotness, tasty Vietnamese Chicken Wings and the “not what you were expecting” Shrimp Toast-Ciabatta. So many more items I’d like to try, but will have to wait for the next visit.

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© 2013 alanEATS | A Food Blog

Diner By-The-Sea

Diner By-The-Sea- 215 Commercial Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, (954) 491-0642 http://on.fb.me/ZipKni

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Well… it is close to the sea, about 2 blocks, but it’s the old-time diner experience and honest food you’ll remember. A smallish storefront restaurant that really is like a diner once you walk through the door. The menu has the usual list of items for breakfast and lunch, but it’s the prices that make you think you’ve gone back in time. The portions of food are generous and the staff is homey and friendly enough to prod you along with your order if you can’t decide. Expect it to be busy on the weekends and many evenings.

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© 2013 alanEATS | A Food Blog

Red Cow

Red Cow – 1025 N Federal Hwy, Fort Lauderdale,(954) 652-1524, http://redcowftl.com

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There’s a new Q in town where you’ll find all the expected BBQ meats and some new twists. I enjoyed the dry rubbed slow smoked Spare Ribs, which had a nice bark and tender meat. Unexpected was the Pan-seared Scallops with Pork Belly served over grits. Don’t forget the sides, like the fried Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower Puree and Slaw. I’m slowly going through all twelve of them. For my next visit I’ve got my eye on the Shepherd’s Pie with Burnt Ends. Truth be told, it would be nice to go in just for their starters with names like, Chile Dusted Port Rinds, Fried Quail & Waffle and “Jerk Cuterie” Plate. Even with a full stomach, I was almost tempted to order the Chocolate Pecan Pie for dessert…maybe next time. Nice place, attentive service, casual and easy to like.

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© 2013 alanEATS | A Food Blog