Sonny’s Famous Steak Hogies

Sonny’s Famous Steak Hogies- 1857 N. 66th Avenue, Hollywood

John Nigro started Sonny’s over 50 years ago. I just caught up with history! I confess up front…I did not find this place. I heard about it while discussing, the best Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich on the planet, with a few of my foodie friends. I lamented that we can’t get that in Florida and one guy quickly responded, “I know where you can get the best Steak Hogies.” So, when someone gives me a name I Google it and find out what the buzz is.  That brought me to a video clip from Guy Fieri’s food show, Diners, Dive-ins & Dives ( If you’ve not seen this Food Channel show, it’s a hoot.  Guy visits small food establishments around the country and chats with the owner/chef as they prepare their signature dishes for the time-lapse camera.  Seeing that video was all it took for me to call some of my pals and head down to Hollywood to see for ourselves. When you go…and you will…you just have to start with the Sonny’s Famous Steak Hogie. It’s a sliced Boneless Rib-Eye, cooked on a flat top, with or without onions and served with or without homemade sauce on a hogie roll baked fresh on premises every day. All four variations are numbered, but to understand the system will drive you crazy even after they explain why there’s a #50, 90, 95 & a 9. OK, I ordered a #90 – Steak Hogie, Plain with Fried Onions. The roll is slightly crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and holds up well to the meat and onions. Also a winner was the homemade meatball hogie, not numbered and the pizza, which is thicker than most I’m used to, but not deep, dish. This crispy pizza was loaded with cheese and sauce and we added some more of the meatballs. Believe me when I say that nothing was left! I’ve since been back for a second visit and was rewarded with another fine meal. John’s son and daughter now run the place and from what people lucky enough to live nearby say… it’s still the best. And I agree!

© 2011 alanEATS

Kelly’s Landing

Kelly’s Landing- 1305 SE 17th Street, 
Fort Lauderdale

You may have driven past this place on Cordova Road every day and figured it’s a regular eatery. But for those who walk through the wooden pub-like door, it’s a little bit of New England dropped down in Fort Lauderdale. So when a friend who originally hails from Boston recommended that I try it, I enlisted the help of the only alanEATS staff member from New England…my brother! His seafood eating knowledge was acquired during his 40 years in Massachusetts and I figured, who better to advise me and help pay the check. We started off our lunch with the signature New England Clam Chowder, which was rich, not too thick, loaded with clams and diced potatoes. They often offer other special soups that change daily, so do ask. Being a former New Yorker, I stuck with the familiar clam strips while my brother ordered the famous Lobster Roll.  While I thoroughly enjoyed my clams our server, with a slight Boston accent, recommended I order the whole Ipswich Clams on the next visit. Having now tried both, I will tell you that both of these are wonderfully prepared and nowhere near the HoJo variety you may have experienced as a kid.  The breading is light, not greasy and the clams are not over cooked.  My brothers lobster roll was lightly seasoned and the lobster pieces were piled high into the hot dog roll. We returned for dinner a few days later to have 2 of the whole steamed 2 ¼ lb. lobsters. And they do it New England style…just a Bug (slang for lobster) on a plate with some melted butter and you must wear your bib. If you’re the type that enjoys hunting through the little beastie for all the hidden meat you won’t be disappointed. The thing about Kelly’s is there is so much to try on the menu I know I’ll be back soon. Did I mention they have Scrod? If I’ve tempted you to try Kelly’s don’t forget to practice some of the slang you’ll find on the menu like; Chowdah, Lobstah , Gahden Burgah… it’s Bastonian you know!

© 2011 alanEATS

Bozo’s Sub and Sandwich Shop (Friday Specials)

Bozo’s Sub & Sandwich Shop (Friday Specials)- 601 SW 12th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale

Her name is Rosa Bozeman and she is the owner and head chef of a smallish and Spartan Sub & Sandwich shop in Fort Lauderdale called Bozo’s. If someone doesn’t take you there, you’d probably never bump into it.  Even so, Miss Bozeman does a fine job turning out breakfasts and lunches for the locals who gladly wait on-line for her food. But on Friday’s it a whole different menu. And that menu is on a handwritten sign on the counter, because the items will change from week to week…just cause they do! And what you’ll get, and be more that happy to wait for, is some homemade southern comfort food that’s guaranteed to fill your belly and put a smile on your face.  On the day I arrived, the menu was Meatloaf and Gravy, Smothered Pork Chops, Oxtails and Fried Chicken. With sides of Okra & Tomato, Collard Greens, Mac N Cheese and Pigeon Peas & Rice.  If you think she’d have no time to whip up desserts, you’d be very wrong.  I sampled the Banana Pudding and the famous Peach Cobbler. You definitely need to wash all that down with the homemade lemonade. This is not fancy schmancy dining. You order/pay at the counter and move out-of-the-way.  Al fresco dining is available outside on three tables. I’m told Miss Bozeman begins her cooking chores early in the morning and continues to dish out the food until the last customer is served. So about the name for the place…well, yes it is part of her name.  But it’s her motto on the menu that says it all…”When It Comes To Food We Don’t Clown Around.”

Update: Sadly, Rosa Bozeman has decided to close her shop after serving the community for over 34 years. Read more here.

Update: Bozo’s has re-opened.

Pete’s Café Bella Sera

Pete’s Café Bella Sera- 7351 N State Rd 7,  Parkland

For the last five years my brother has been telling me about many fabulous restaurants that he wants to take me to, but he just never seems to able to make it happen.  Recently he made up for one food promise on the occasion of my Great Nephew’s 11th birthday, who I publicly thank here for selecting Café Bella Sera. And what a restaurant he selected!  The Owner/Chef, Pete, I was told, was formally the Chef at one of Fort Lauderdale’s iconic Italian restaurants, so I had high expectations.  Our party of seven adults and three children was quickly seated in the dining room, which has a view of the large open kitchen. Waiters seemed to appear, busy getting drinks orders and serving warm crusty Italian bread followed by dishes of olive oil with sliced fresh garlic. And then the family ordering began. We’ll have a dish of this and we must have that and add-on one of those and the kids love the other thing.  It was totally out of my hands, strange for me, but I sensed this was to be a memorable, if not immense, meal.  So now finally…here’s what I ate, sampled and otherwise enjoyed.  The appetizers started with Fried Calamari Bella Sera Style served with long green hot peppers in a Fra Diavlo Sauce. The dish is delicate, not over done or overly hot and the calamari is cut wide. The flavors in that dish are amazing so I had several helpings of that. Arriving next were Fresh Roasted Red Peppers served with Dry Sopressatta & Reggiano Cheese and Fresh Sautéed Baby Artichokes topped with Toasted Italian Bread Crumbs. Then the Jumbo Stuffed Shrimp was served. They looked like small lobster tails.  By this time I’m filling up fast and dinner is on its way out.  It was recommended that I order the Bone-In Veal Chop Parmigiana. It’s a 16 oz. Veal Chop pounded out, covered with their fresh sauce and cheese and served almost falling off the plate.  The veal is tender, the sauce tastes of fresh tomatoes and the generous amount of Mozzarella Cheese is stunning. If you’re hungry and haven’t eaten in a while, this dish is still a challenge to finish. My savvy brother had a Center Cut Filet served with Tuscan Potato Chips.  Must say the filet had good flavor and was served at the proper temperature. The birthday boy had Chicken Milanese served plain, which I thought would be dry, but turned out to be moist and tasty. All three kids ate off that portion with some to take home.  Other dishes of note were Chicken Francaise, Homemade Lobster Raviolis, and Pete’s Famous Meatballs with Spaghetti. Side orders of Sautéed Spinach and Asparagus completed the meal. After the table was cleared, dessert was ordered and served, but I was almost comatose by then and managed to have small tastes of several things with coffee.  The birthday boy had a gigantic piece of Chocolate Cake that he couldn’t make a dent in, while the other two kids fell asleep. Wonderful evening. Good food. Must return here soon!!!  Check out the menu and specials before you go.

© 2011 alanEATS

Blue Moon Fish Company- Sunday Brunch Buffet

Blue Moon Fish Company- Sunday Brunch Buffet, 4405 West Tradewinds Avenue, Lauderdale by the Sea

I must admit I was amazed when I first heard that this upscale fish joint on the intercostal was doing a buffet brunch.  At around $35, it’s not the most expensive in Fort Lauderdale, so I couldn’t imagine how they were going to pull it off.  If you’ve never been to The Blue Moon Sunday Buffet, your waiter will give you and your guests a tour that includes the four buffet food areas and two display areas for entrées and desserts. After the tour you are urged to go forth and eat…a lot! You’ll find a variety of salads and garlic steamed muscles setup on the restaurants main bar.  Nearby is the bread & waffle station. It’s no surprise that Blue Moon has a wonderful fresh raw bar stocked with oysters, clams, peel-and-eat shrimp and sauce options. Adjacent to the raw bar is the custom omelet station. When you’ve consumed your fill of the buffet your waiter will be pleased to bring you an unlimited number of specially prepared small plate entrées. Subject to change, these may include; Salmon Strudel, Crab Cakes, Louisiana Seafood Gumbo, Blackened Mahi Mahi with Vanilla Rum Butter; and Applewood Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Breast of Chicken. One Bloody Mary, Mimosa or Champagne is also included in the deal.  Did I mention dessert! If you’re able, your waiter will bring you one of several on display. Reservations a must!

So what do I recommend here? After ordering my Bloody Mary, I go directly for the Steamed Muscles, some of the Salads and some bread. Trip 2, has me at the raw bar for a plate of those wonderful oysters, clams and shrimp. Believe it or not I pass on the omelet station, which is top rate, only because I have my sights on the wonderful entrée items. Try the Salmon, the Chicken and the Crab Cake. As for dessert, I usually ask my server to bring me anything Chocolate…and I’ve never been disappointed!  Go! …have fun! …and yes, the view is nice too.

Tropics Restaurant and Piano Bar- Sunday Brunch Buffet

Tropics Restaurant & Piano Bar- Sunday Brunch Buffet, 2000 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors

Tropics restaurant is synonymous with Wilton Manors and “the drive.” Sunday Brunch started out here many years ago as a once a month thing and became more frequent as time went on. Now every Sunday the restaurant transforms into one of the most extensive Breakfast Buffets around. Everybody goes there including “alanEATS.”  After years of Sunday brunching at Tropics, I have a plan of attack for this monster feast.  First, as with all buffets…get there early to avoid the crowds of the uninitiated buffet eaters…those are the ones that scurry around piling on the food. I prefer to gently graze and enjoy the experience. So here’s what I recommend. You’ll want to grab your breakfast stuff first. Choices range from Eggs Benedict to an assortment of Quiche.  The usual scrambled and fried eggs are there too, accompanied by Bacon, Sausage, Corned Beef hash and Potatoes O’Brian.  There’s even some tame Sushi Rolls with all the extras. You’ll also notice a tray marked French Toast.  It actually tastes more like Bread Pudding, so I usually pick some up later to enjoy with a cup of coffee. Now on to the main dining room buffet for Salads, Shrimp, Nova Lox and a Carving Station, which can include; Roast Beef, Ham, Pork and Turkey. In addition, Chef Nate and his staff prepare three main dishes that change weekly. Some favorites you may find are Lasagna, Kielbasa and Sauerkraut, Chicken Purses, Fish & Chips, Beef Pot Pie, Stuff Shells and Jambalaya. Let’s not forget about dessert.  These are plated and are lined around the main bar. Here you’ll find an assortment of cakes, pies and cookies. Some are done in-house so please ask your waiter to point them out. All of the above with two beverages will run you under $20. Amazing! Reservations are a must. In season you may have reserve several days in advance.

Update-December 2011- The Tropics Omelet Station is back! Returning this year is omelet Chef extraordinaire Danny, equipped with double burners and an assortment of omelet fillings to make your perfect meal. Just this alone is worth the price of admission. I order one with spinach, bacon and cheese…yum. The omelet station is only here during the winter season so catch it before Chef Danny packs up his pans and heads north.

Click the link to see more pictures from Tropics with comments.

© 2011 alanEATS

Aruba Beach Café- Sunday Brunch Buffet

Aruba Beach Café- Sunday Brunch Buffet,1 Commercial Blvd., Lauderdale-by-the-Sea

On the beach, off A1A and Commercial Blvd., is a fun place to have Sunday Brunch near the beach.  It’s not expensive and the food is good, so get ready to be there at 11am when they open or be prepared to wait.  Everything here is on one line, so take what you crave most on the first pass or you may have to wait on line again. Which is, I’ll happily admit, what I did! While there are fewer dishes here than at some of the other places I’ve been to, what’s offered is plentiful and satisfying.  Get your plate and load up on the breads and spreads. As you turn the bend you have Scrambled Eggs, Eggs Benedict, Breakfast Meats, Corn Beef Hash, Grits, Sliced Roast Beef, Cheese Blintzes, Fresh Fruit, French Toast, Waffles, and real Maple Syrup if you like. You know, I’m not one to pile on the food and then slather on the diet Aunt Jemima at the end because I feel guilty. NOT ME I!! Normally I’m just too busy enjoying my food to notice much, but I must admit, having breakfast on the beach in front of a large picture window with a view of the sea, the beach and the people is like one of those “wish you were here” cards you’d send your friends back north. It’s priceless. Coffee and drinks are extra, but there are usually some desserts as part of the deal.

J Mark’s Restaurant

J Marks- 1245 North Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale

To begin with let me just say up front that I genuinely like this place and the folks who run it.   I’m going to tell you about some of the dishes I enjoy, but first a short background. I discovered J Mark’s a couple of years ago, way before I began alanEATS. My foodie friends suggested a new place that had been getting good reviews, so we drove to Pompano for dinner.  At the time, J Mark’s had only the one location.  We were seated at a table in the bar area and I could see the place had a nice friendly buzz to it.  But what instantly endeared me to this new restaurant was the involvement of the two owners who could be seen checking in frequently on the kitchen and randomly stopping by tables to introduce themselves and inquire about the food and service. One of them stopped by our table and after a short chat we were treated to tastes of some new items they were trying out. You may have experienced something like this at a restaurant before, but my sense was that this was different.  These guys really mean to please and want feedback as to how they’re doing and correct things that aren’t working. Which brings me to the one year old, J Mark’s in Fort Lauderdale.  This additional location has not dampened these guys desire to produce good food at reasonable prices. Even off-season there can be a wait at peak times.

So lets begin with appetizers you shouldn’t miss.  I really like the Jamaican Grilled Wings. They are grilled, not breaded and have a slight sweet/sour kick from the tamarind. They’re served with a tasty dipping sauce. Also not to miss is the Ahi Tuna Appetizer with Wasabi Pesto (careful…has peanuts) and the wonderful Cajun Crusted Ahi Tuna Sliders served on mini-buns. For the meat eaters, try the Prime Rib Sliders with horseradish and basil pesto. I could make a dinner of appetizers.  Actually I have!

Do you like fish? Well, surprise…I’m not a huge fish fan, but I’m warming up to it because the fish dishes here are fabulous. Every day there are at least two fresh catch specials in addition to their regular menu offerings.  When available, try the Chilean Sea Bass with Miso Glaze. It’s like seafood candy. This moderately oily fish goes well with the miso glaze. Other fish you may find on special are the Red Snapper and the Swordfish, each with special preparations of the day. You really can’t go wrong. Now for the meat! Here’s what I’ve tasted and enjoyed. Top on my list is the Hawaiian Rib Eye.  I know you’ve seen a marinated rib eye at other places, however this one is consistently tasty, less fatty and served to your doneness.  Remember, if you’re still ordering meat medium well or well done you’re missing out on some important flavor. The 12 oz slow roasted Prime Rib is also really good here. Its served with all the trimmings, but I always ask for some teriyaki sauce on the side. Yum! They make a set amount, so when they’re out…they’re out! There are two other special cuts of beef, the 20 oz. Rib Eye and the New York Strip. Unless you’re really hungry, you’re taken some home.

Finally, Sunday brunch.  J Marks does an off-the–menu brunch with no less than seven Benedict egg dishes from the Classic to one with Angus Beef tips. I haven’t tried them all, although I’m working on it, but I’ll tell you the poached eggs are done perfectly and the Hollandaise sauce is rich. If you’re several people and hungry, start out with the Smoked Fish Dip off the regular menu.

© 2011 alanEATS

Cafe Italia

Café Italia- 3471 N Federal Hwy., 
Oakland Park                      

Recently some friends of mine introduced me to an Italian restaurant that I’ve wanted to try, but was never motivated enough to visit.  After all, to say we have a lot of Italian restaurants in the Lauderdale area is a gross understatement.  So with the further inducement of…”we’re buying”…I relented.  When I walked into the place and met owner, chef, food impresario, and wise philosopher Francesco, I was instantly hooked.  It was like when Golda Meir shook hands with Anwar Sadat for the first time and said, “ What took you so long?” Francesco is very proud to tell you that he’s from the Abruzzo region of Italy and will point to a map in the dining room to show you exactly where. He is also very proud of his food and eagerly explains about its freshness and authenticity. When the food arrives you know everything he said was true. It turns out Francesco can sometimes be the greeter, take an order and prepare the meal although on most nights his wife does the honors in the kitchen. All entrées are served with a house salad and fabulous Italian bread from Grand Forno Bakery. Try the Lamb Meatball Ragu with spaghetti, the Eggplant Parmigiana with a side of spaghetti, the Lasagne alla Bolognese and the Spaghetti Vongole.  All very reasonably priced. I’m sure I’ll have more suggestions for you after my next several visits. Until then, follow the link to a Sun Sentinel review on this restaurant that some say, is the best-kept secret in Fort Lauderdale.,0,7418101.story

Christina Wan’s

Christina Wan’s – 664 North Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale,

I eat at Christina’s frequently, as those of you who follow my travels on Twitter and Facebook can attest to. However, I have made my way through many of the local Chinese restaurants from the older style Cantonese ones to the newer corporate incarnations.  Fort Lauderdale it seems, has them all. I experienced Christina’s soon after moving here seven years ago.  There is a Christina Wan and she and her family have been in the restaurant business since 1966 beginning with a restaurant in Miami. On the face of it, Christina’s appears to be just nice neighborhood restaurant…and it is if you order your standard fare of: wonton soup, egg rolls, egg foo young and etc.  But it’s when you depart from the expected and try some of Christina’s, and now my, favorites and you’ll see why folks from Miami and Hollywood take the drive to eat here. Try the Colossal Ginger Shrimp served with bok choy or the Sizzling House Wor Ba (I know you’ve had this before, but its wonderful here.) If Christina has live Lobster on hand ask her to prepare Ginger Lobster…whole Lobster in the shell chopped and cooked with Ginger and vegetables. A treat you won’t forget. The Szechwan Chicken, Singapore Rice Noodle with Curry and the Pepper Scallops with its dark peppery sauce should also not be missed. A large part of the energy of this place is Christina and her family. All can be seen greeting customers, taking orders and making frequent runs to the kitchen. Christina is always on hand to guide you through the menu options especially if you’re in an adventurous eating mood.

And finally, I’d like to tell you about the famous Christina Wan almond cookie. Those who know about this thin, delicate cookie with a sliver of almond on the top, seek it out on each visit. The recipe is a closely guarded secret known only to Christina and sources say she bakes them herself. Should you find yourself at Christina Wan’s, mention that you read this in alanEATS and one or two of these tasty treats may find their way to your table.

© 2011 alanEATS