Burger Battle IV

Burger Battle IV– Friday, May 31st, 2013, Huizenga Plaza, 32 East Las Olas Blvd. – http://www.goriverwalk.com/3134/burger-battle-iv

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The burgers are back! …and they gathered on Huizenga Plaza to do battle once again. For the most part the weather cooperated with an occasional drizzle here and there. Look for an album of all the food pix on my Facebook Page. Under these competitive conditions, it’s tough to make a perfect burger, however this year I really liked Charm City Burger, ROC:BGR and Big Bear Brewing Company. Timpano also had a flavorful steakhouse burger that stood out for me. In all I tasted about 12 of the 19 burgers. The Burger Battle is a major undertaking for the Restaurants who cooked & served the food, the Judges who had to taste each entry and the organizers and their volunteers from the Riverwalk Trust who made this event a SELLOUT success.

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Update: One Restaurant Took Home Both Awards:

Congratulations to Rosie’s Bar and Grill – Burger Nirvana

  • Best Overall Burger
  • Fan Favorite Burger

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© 2013 alanEATS | A Food Blog

Green Bar & Kitchen

Green Bar & Kitchen- 1075 SE 17th St, Fort Lauderdale, (954) 533-7507 – http://greenbarkitchen.com/menu/

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I have to say this first…I’m not a vegan and don’t think I will be one, however, the Green Bar is a non-threatening vegan eatery with enough interesting, healthy and flavorful dishes to satisfy most people. Having looked at the menu before arriving, I was ready to have the Firecracker Kale, recommended by a fellow food hound, but was sidelined by one of the day’s specials…the ”Chickun” Salad Sandwich. Amazingly my brain recognized it immediately as chicken salad. The sandwich was served on grain bread and I opted for a cup of their soup of the day…Sweet Potato & Garlic Soup with its creamy pungent goodness. I washed the sandwich down with my first taste of Kombucha– this mildly fermented green tea is said to promote good stomach and liver health. Along with daily specials you can find Craft Beers, Wines, Juices, Smoothies and a Bakery. I’m told they do a Sunday Brunch with eggs that are not eggs and bacon that is not bacon. The people here are friendly and the place is cheerful and clean. While I wasn’t converted, I must say that I will be back to taste more. Like my mother’s chicken soup, it couldn’t hurt!

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© 2013 alanEATS | A Food Blog

Taps & Tapas at The Manor

Taps & Tapas at the Manor- 2345 Wilton Drive,
Wilton Manors http://www.themanorcomplex.com/html/dine.php

Have you ever had writers block?  You know what I mean…you sit in front of a blank piece of paper or computer screen for days and pour out dribble, which as it turns out, makes no sense.  So it was with me after I accepted an offer to write about a place that sits on a site with an old history and a new one in the making. Ok, let’s go back in time a bit. Before the Manor was the Entertainment Complex it is today, it was the site of a wonderful small neighborhood restaurant/bar named Costello’s. The food was good American/Continental fare with reasonably priced food and a terrific bar menu that became half price during happy hour. In time the restaurant was sold and the new owners tried to upscale the place. They changed the name to “Food Amongst The Flowers”, renovated the interiors, added to the menu, increased the prices and provided the only “fine dining” experience on the drive. That lasted a relatively short time closing in 2009. The Manor Complex is on the same site, but housed in a greatly expanded building comprising a two-story dance club, several bars, with places to sit and observe & be seen and a restaurant. The original Manor Restaurant opened with much anticipation and an elegant and ambitious menu. Perhaps too ambitious. As time pasted they must have realized that a change was needed. Today the Manor restaurant has evolved into a more informal venue, Taps & Tapas. The trend toward Gastropub style food fits this location better than past efforts. It’s the right fit for before, during or after a fun evening. In addition to the regular full bar They built a separate bar where you can order 24 tap beers with an additional 100 available in bottles.

So what did I try and enjoy, you might ask. I joined a few friends for a visit recently and was immediately impressed with the smaller more focused menu.  We started with several “Small Plate” dishes. The standout was the Grilled Manor Wings 3-Ways. I have no idea why many places deep-fry the life out of these poor things and then smother them in a sauce. We ordered ours nude with all of the sauces on the side. Grilling the wings gave us the flavor without the extra grease. Flatbreads are perfect pub food. We tried the JD BBQ Chicken version with Red Onions, Tomato and Monterey Jack cheese. On another visit I had the Cajun Sausage; Mozzarella, Red Pepper & Onion with Chipotle Mayo Drizzle. There two meatless flatbreads that I must try on another visit. The Shrimp Orzo is sautéed shrimp and orzo in a Parmesan and Jack Cheese Cream Sauce topped with Marinara. While rich and decadent the marinara sauce levels it out.

Although the menu lists several Salads, Sandwiches and Burgers we chose from the “House Plates” offerings.  Dishes I tasted and enjoyed and would order again include; Grilled Skirt Steak, Grilled Argentinian Steak and the Bronze Roasted Salmon. The steaks like all the grilled items here are done to the temperature ordered. Be advised that they have a really good grill man here. The salmon was good, simply done and reasonably priced. I couldn’t help thinking, however, how that salmon would be, brushed with a little Teriyaki or Tamari Sauce and lightly grilled. Just think’n.

Clear your mind of the past. In the restaurant business its who are you now that counts? The folks at the Manor have done their soul-searching and are their way to make new history in this location. If you find yourself on the “Drive” or enjoying one of the Manors other venues, a visit here is definitely worth it.

See more photos with descriptions on my Facebook site. http://on.fb.me/LFTAlV

© 2012 alanEATS

the Foxy Brown

the Foxy Brown– 723 E Broward Blvd, Fort Lauderdale      http://www.thefoxybrown.com/

It’s the kind of place with foods you liked from your childhood, but with subtle twists here and there.  Foods you looked forward to when the grownups took you out to eat like Mac & Cheese, Milkshake or Hotdog.  You remember the polite dining instructions too—sit up straight, eat your food, no going under the table and being given the ‘look’ while hearing, ”be nice.”  Your youthful memories have just been merged with what you crave today and it’s all tucked into a new intimate eatery on E Broward Blvd.  The setting is comfortable and so is the food.  It’s the kind of place where you plan your next meal while you’re enjoying your current one! I’ve been here many times alone and with friends and I still do that. The owners here have a healthy respect for the food they serve and know how to please their customers. And this has filtered down to the staff as well. The main menu is served throughout the day except for Sunday when a brunch menu is available from opening till late afternoon. Wine and beer is available along with a really good Draft Root Beer.

Let’s begin at the beginning…here are some of my favorite starters: Roasted Artichokes with garlic butter, served with a dipping sauce; the French Onion Soup has that nicely melted cheese with crispy edges sealing in the hot fragrant soup; Clams, Brats and Beer served in a bowl with wedges of toasted bread so you can soak up the wonderful broth its cooked in; and the Little Shorties, which are lollipop chicken wings with red bean and ginger and a garlic dipping sauce…really tasty.  Several different salads are offered and although I have not sampled them yet, the portions look ample and seem to be popular.  Sandwiches I liked included: the Cocka-Doodle-Do, (which the wait staff can say without snickering)- a crispy and juicy chicken filet served with herb slaw; the Nemo a fish sandwich that’s not only tasty, but healthy; and my favorite, the Bratburger, which contains bratwurst meat formed into a paddy and grilled with house made sauerkraut and shallot jam. Mere hot dogs never tasted like this.  Must have some Sides with the above and the standouts for me are the Mac & Cheese, Heirloom Tomatoes and the tasty Slaw. And for those who didn’t like their Spinach as a child, the adult sauté version will finally change your mind.  Under the heading Standards is a collection of larger plates. The stand out, Mabel’s Chicken, is moist roasted thigh meat nestled atop pan gravy with house made spaetzle. If you desire healthy, try the fresh fish En Papillote (in parchment), a cooking technique that steams the fish in its own juices combined with other ingredients. The Three Lil’ Cochons are medallions of breaded pork loin filled with shrimp stuffing and finished with a rich Tasso cream sauce. The sliced Iron Cast Hanger Steak will fulfill your desire for meat. It’s soft with good flavor from the dry rub. The steak is plated with Maître d’Hôtel Butter between the slices for added flavor, but it won’t harm the dish should you decide to leave it off. Finally, try the dessert of the day. They are decadent and delicious and need your attention.  Did I mention they make milkshakes too?

Sunday is a Brunch day tradition in this town and the Foxy Brown recently began serving their version. So you should expect things like Donut Holes served with cereal milk, a S’more Waffle and White Chocolate Chip French Toast.  Then there’s the pancake, four different Eggs Benedict and the Kipper too! My table opted for some egg dishes. I totally enjoyed the Bangers and Eggs. The Bangers, I’m told, are sourced from a purveyor in Miami and they were packed with flavor. I also sampled the Hanger Steak Hash with two eggs topped with chimichurri hollandaise. And had a taste of the Barn Yard Frittata, which was filled with Nueske Bacon, sausage, Canadian bacon and cheddar cheese. There are so many intriguing options on this menu you’ll need to make repeat visits.

The Foxy Brown is a wonderful place to connect with new & old versions of foods you loved and experience new ones. So go as a tribute to your younger days, and while you’re at it, why not take along the grownups? Let them have a good time. And remember, “be nice.”

Follow the link to see all the pictures from the Foxy Brown.  https://www.facebook.com/alanEATS/photos

© 2012 alanEATS

Tap 42

Tap 42- 1411 S Andrews Ave, Fort Lauderdale                                      http://www.tap42.com/

Burgers, Fish, Salads, Bar Snacks and more…wash down with 42 Tap Beers, 103 Bottle beers and 50 Bourbons.”

I wasn’t due to write this story until I had been back a few more times, however, I felt compelled to give you my impressions of Tap 42 after reading an unfavorable review that appeared in a periodical which I highly regard for their food reviews.  It’s so very easy to be negative about a place, which is why I don’t do that in this Blog.  You’ll find out about a bad meal from people you know faster than reading a review. I don’t know the Tap 42 owners, but their advertised concept is to operate a Gastropub that serves a wide selection of craft beers to accompany a limited menu of “natural, organic, sustainable and locally sourced” dishes. On the several occasions I’ve been there, I must tell you that they have succeeded. In the evenings the place is over-run with people who are happy to sit anywhere for an opportunity to chow down some pub grub and socialize with friends. Not every restaurant has to be fine dining, but you do expect that what’s served will be appealing and consistent.  I’d say they hit the mark here. So my advice is gather up some of your friends and park yourself at one of the indoor or patio tables.  You’ll want to begin by taking advantage of the impressive list of Tap & bottled Craft Beers. Not being a beer maven myself, I usually tell my server the beers I like and let them choose one for me. If beer is not your thing they also have a collection of 50 different Bourbons and other booze.  Now for some food.  In my group we pass around everything…even the soup. The not-to-be-missed, Cognac French Onion soup has the expected cheese, onion and sourdough crouton, but finishes with a surprising sweetness from Cognac and Vidalia Onions. Also good was the hearty Beef Barley soup. The Chicken Wings are a hit with four different sauces…I had the HOT sauce.  Next time in I need to try the Sopressata Breadsticks made with crème cheese, spinach, arugula, pretzel breadstick and cherry mustard. This just sounds so wrong, but I’m drawn to it like a moth to a flame. For lunch you’ll find salads, sandwiches a burger and a few hotdog creations. Nothing is plain and all are unique. I recently had the Chicago Dogg (sic), a Kobe Hot Dog with house made slaw, red and yellow peppers and a Hot Pepper. Went down great with my Golden Monkey Beer. By the way, the burgers here juicy and the combinations are sinister…like the Three little Piggy…that’s made with a patty blend of pork & beef topped with slices of roasted pork, ham, pickled jalapeno, and provolone served on a brioche bun. Fish people can enjoy farm raised Arctic Char, which is flaky, light and can be ordered as a platter or sandwich.  And yes dearheart, there is MahiMahi on the menu.

I’m prone to like new restaurants that have taken the time to figure out who they want to be and carve out their niche. I’m pleased to report that the Miami Herald recently gave the Tap 42 a rating of three stars, Very Good. Any new place is bound to have some bumps and falls along the way, but at the end of the day it’s the customer who will decide not reviewers. I for one will be back to try some of the interesting food combos with a glass of  Sierra Nevada Pale Ale…if I can find a seat!

See more pix from Tap 42 at:  http://on.fb.me/wf3twM

© 2012 alanEATS

Timpano Italian Chop House

Timpano Italian Chop House- 450 E Las Olas Blvd, Fort Lauderdale  http://www.timpanochophouse.net/

Where do you go for a good steak in Fort Lauderdale? That has got to be the most frequent question I’m asked and it’s a tough one to answer, as this area has no shortage of fine restaurants producing good steaks. So for me it’s a personal choice based on my tastes.  What I look for is a place that has dry-aged beef and the know-how to grill it. Timpano is one of those places. Although they bill themselves as an “Italian Chop House,” I’ve never had their Italian food. I come here for the steaks! I learned about Timpano a few years ago from a friend who was a Restaurateur, Club Owner/ Bon vivant man about town in New York, Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale. One evening we were discussing local restaurants and he asked if I’d ever been to Timpano. Apparently he and his brother were regulars. When I said no, he grinned and his eyes widened as he began a thorough description of the place and precisely what to order. “You take my advice and you’re going to have an enjoyable meal”, he said.  And with slight variation, I’ve been ordering this meal happily for several years.

For starters try the signature Black Skillet-Roasted Mussels
 tossed with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Kosher Salt and spritzed with a shot of fresh lemon before serving.  The mussels are brought to the table on the skillet they were cooked on, steaming & sizzling…a nice show. This dish is so simple and yet so tasty, that I always dip a piece of bread into the pan after. The entrée is always steak and the two cuts I enjoy are the 20 Oz. Bone-In Rib Eye and the 14 Oz. Aged Bone-In Filet.  If you don’t like navigating the bone there is also a 12 Oz. Aged Hand Cut Filet, which is more than enough food for most. The meat is dry aged, which increases tenderness and flavor unique to that process. I order my steaks “Pittsburgh-style” — charred on the outside, medium-rare on the inside. If you’re still ordering steaks well done we need to talk!  The Grill people here know their stuff and consistently produce meat cooked to proper doneness. Side dishes are a must and my favorites are the Sautéed Spinach With Garlic And Chili Flakes (the spice is not over powering) and Baby Portobello Mushrooms With Fresh Herbs.

Sadly my friend Bob, who put me on to Timpano, is no longer with us. I remember his legendary enjoyment of life and his eagerness to share his dining adventures with others as I do now. So, as he wished, when family and friends join me over dinner, I raise my glass and remember…this one’s for you Bob!

© 2011 alanEATS

Betty’s Soul Food Restaurant

Betty’s Soul Food Restaurant- ‪‪601 NW 22nd Rd, Fort Lauderdale

Betty’s is to Fort Lauderdale what Sylvia’s is to Harlem. And like that great New York soul food restaurant, people who know good Southern cooking in Fort Lauderdale must inevitably show up at Betty’s. I’ve heard about this place forever so after further recommendations from Clean Plate Charlie and an article from Jamie Long, both from New Times, I ventured out to try Betty’s with a foodie friend who knows Southern cooking. The place has thirteen tables and seven counter stools, all full when we arrived for lunch. I’m told Betty plays to a full house every day and for many good reasons. One would be for the Fried Chicken and that’s what I came for this day. “Hello there, I hear the chicken is good here” I said to the server. “Best you’ll ever have,” she answered confidently! With our orders placed, I continued to lust over the menu. It was difficult to pass up some of my other Southern favorites like Oxtail, Beef Ribs, Smothered Pork Chops, Chicken Livers and Fried Mullet. And then there was the stuff I always wanted to try like Pigs Tails, Ham Hocks, Neck Bones and Chitterlings. Oh my! …you must never leave me alone in this place or I’ll order it all!  Regaining my composure I stuck to the plan, crispy Fried Chicken, with Candied Yams and Black-eyed Peas. The Chicken here is nothing short of amazing.  Each order is prepared using Betty’s secret wet batter and fried up as needed, served hot and cooked perfectly. After a short while I had done such a good job of striping every morsel of meat off the bones they could have reassembled it as a science project. The sides of Yams and Peas were perfect for me, but next time I need to try the Mac N Cheese, Collards, Pigeon Peas & Rice, and Cabbage.  Sadly I did not get to meet Betty on this trip, but I did chat with our server on the way out to tell her how much we enjoyed lunch, to which she replied with a big smile and a wink, “I told you it was the best you’d ever tasted!”  I’ll be back soon Betty!

Update- March 26, 2012 – And back I did go recently for another helping of that really good Fried Chicken with Collards and Mac & Cheese this time. My dining companion had the same with the Fried Okra. Everyone in the place is genuine and happy to see you, even when we walked in after the normal lunch service. Regards to Connie, our server on this visit, a person who it seemed could be in many places at the same time. And finally, I did get to meet Betty. I thought she might scold me for not coming back sooner, as I had promised. Not so, but I’ll try not to let that happen again, I’ve got far too much to try!

© 2011 alanEATS

Peter Pan Diner

Peter Pan Diner- 1216 E Oakland Park Blvd, Oakland Park  http://www.mypeterpandiner.com/

The American Diner is much maligned for it’s greasy image, which many don’t deserve. They are today still loved and enjoyed by many for their cavernous menus, large portions, late hours and very reasonable prices. If you follow me on Twitter/Facebook you know I frequent many of these places.  I was reminded of this today when my foursquare check-in app awarded me the “Greasy Spoon Badge”, for my check-in at the Peter Pan Diner. This also reminded me that I haven’t paid any attention to Diners on this Blog, despite my numerous visits to them.  An oversight I intend to correct now. The Peter Pan Diner has been around for over 38 years. My memories of the place go back a mere 20+ years. After a night of partying with friends, the 24/7 Pan was always there for a good breakfast. Today it remains virtually unchanged from those days. It’s still 24/7 and able to serve up all the dishes from their huge menu almost any time you wish. Breakfasts are exceptional on the limited early bird menu and very reasonable thereafter on the regular menu, with all manner of omelets, sandwiches and sides. My favorite special is the #4…eggs, tasty link sausages and two fluffy pancakes. The dinners here are very good as well. Try the Rumanian Skirt Steak and the half Chicken. The seafood is excellent for the price with many broiled selections. I tend to order the locally sourced stuff when available like Snapper, Mahi, Sea Bass, etc. The early dining specials include salad, entrées of some of their most popular dishes and dessert. Diners like the Peter Pan are friendly places that serve up honest good food. No greasy spoon!

Click the link for more pix http://on.fb.me/vAuj9Z

© 2011 alanEATS

Coconuts

Coconuts- 429 Seabreeze Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale    http://www.coconutsfortlauderdale.com/

I admire and appreciate this place for its unpretentious style and good food. Originally recommended by a friend whose food choices are way different from mine…it took me a while to pay them a visit. At first glance you might mistake it for one the places that specializes in quick meals near the beach. Big mistake! Locals and savvy travelers know and love it here and get nervous with just the thought of sharing this gem with vacationers. The food is New American and has several seafood and, to my delight, pork selections. Hints of the Bayou, Caribbean and Southern California can be found all over the menu. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve decided in advance to have a particular dish only to find that the Special is more intriguing. I rarely talk about staff or ambiance, but I’ll make an exception now.  I found the youngish staff to be competent and knowledgeable about the food.  All servers I’ve come in contact with have told me they’ve tasted most if not all the dishes and can explain how they’re prepared.  And let’s face it…what could be better than dining Al Fresco beside the calm waters of the bay side of Fort Lauderdale Beach? Simply put, the food here is consistent, the portions ample and the specials are always tempting.

So what do I eat here?  Haven’t tried it all yet, but here’s a short summary so far. The Coconut Shrimp can be had as an appetizer or entrée and is prepared with panko then lightly deep-fried with a dipping sauce.  When offered, try the Sliced Heirloom Tomatoes with Blue Cheese. For lunch I’ve had the Mahi sandwich and the fish taco, both good. For something a little different, try the Comfort Bowl and the Jambalaya. There are always one or two fish selections available broiled or blackened. I prefer the blackened. All I can say about the side items is…YES, please. Now, I almost never do desserts, but for lunch the other day they came up with this banana, caramel, granola and rum infused thingy, that was wonderful. On Sundays, Coconuts offers an off-the-menu Brunch that starts at 10am. If you get there early you may be rewarded with Beignets to enjoy while you peruse the menu. As usual I had pre-selected one of the three Egg Benedicts. However, the Special was the Cuban Confit Sandwich.  An open-faced assembly of Pork Loin slices, Swiss cheese, Onions, Mojo sauce topped with a Fried Egg. Somehow this chef knows the inner me!!!  Not to be missed is the French Toast Special, which was decadently delicious. The dictionary defines decadent as unrestrained gratification…yup, I agree!

© 2011 alanEATS

Sonny’s Famous Steak Hogies

Sonny’s Famous Steak Hogies- 1857 N. 66th Avenue, Hollywood  http://www.sonnysfamoussteakhogies.com/index.html

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 (http://youtu.be/DLMP-eSEV8Y). 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