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

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JoJo’s Tacos – Restaurant/Café

JoJo’s Tacos-Restaurant/Café- 216 E Commercial Blvd, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea  http://www.jojostacos.com/

I’m really not sure how I heard about this place, but I heard enough good buzz to check out their website. One glance at the on-line menu got my mojo going! This is a Taco Restaurant, but if you ask Chef Joseph Parson’s, he might tell you that his place is just a “Taco stand.” I get it, but believe me…this place is more. To me, JoJo’s has an East Village, New York vibe to it…very casual and unpretentious with a nice mix of people. The space has some tables, but the best seats in the house have got to be along the long counter facing the open kitchen. From here you can see your food being freshly prepared as you watch the finely choreographed movements of the kitchen staff as they do multiple things simultaneously. One person puts something in a skillet another steps in and adds some ingredients a third retrieves some tacos shells toasting on the flat top. These folks are real serious about their food. In one respect it is like a taco stand, in that you order at the front counter. If you need plates, napkins or silverware you get up off your keister and pick up what you need from the sideboard in the center of the restaurant. After that it’s just good eating.  For starters I order “the Guac” served with House-made Chips. I could eat this chunky style guacamole all by myself, but my dining guests insisted I share and I figured had to save room for what was coming next anyway. My favorite Taco is the Peachy Pollo; Peach Smoked Chicken with Blistered Corn, Habanero Peach Aioli, Romaine and
 Queso Blanco. It has good flavor and just enough heat to make you smile without looking for a beverage. I also enjoyed the Shrooms & Asp (Asparagus), Cathy’s Catch and Sarge’s Piglet. Try one of the Quesos. These are skillet dishes served with House made chips, perfect for sharing if you’re not dining with me! The Chicken Queso is wonderful and the Chorizo version has more of the spicy kick I look for. There are daily specials and you’ll find them posted up front. On one visit I could not resist the Short Ribs Special. This is tender, fall off the bone and served up JoJo’s style. There are so many things I want to try, but if I don’t improve my sharing skills no one will go with me!

Click the link to see more pictures from JoJo’s with descriptions.  http://on.fb.me/uIGBeh

© 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

Hong Kong City BBQ

Hong Kong City BBQ- 5301 N State Road 7, Tamarac               http://www.hkcitybbq.com/

My First Visit- Dim Sum Lunch

I felt like I was the last person on the planet to know about this place and, thanks to my foodie friend Maiko who made the suggestion, I can now inform the last few souls who’ve not been lucky enough to make it here. If you enjoy Chinese food and are ready to experience some new tastes and flavors you must try Hong Kong City BBQ.  You’ll find this ordinary looking restaurant in a small shopping center in Tamarac, but there’s nothing ordinary about the food. The owners say they make genuine NY Chinatown, Hong Kong style cuisine and the place does have that look and feel, from the hanging duck & ribs in the front to the extensive menus. With this being my first trip, I came for one thing…Dim Sum lunch.  Not many restaurants in the area do as many Dim Sum dishes (I counted over 40) as you’ll find here. First timers like myself are handed a card with color pictures of all the selections. Dim Sum is an individual portion of bite size savouries, which can consist of all types and parts of meat, fish and poultry. It’s like “Chinese Tapas.” The prices are very reasonable and you can expect to order 6-8 dishes for lunch.  Yes…I shared…Really!!! Here are a few suggestions from my first adventure. The Crispy Shrimp balls…they were so good we ordered a second portion. They come three to a serving and were crispy as the named implies, with a soft center of minced shrimp, which is wrapped in a thin wonton skin, and then perfectly fried in vegetable oil. Some other dishes we liked were the Pork Siu Mai, the Steamed Shrimp Dumpling, and the Shanghai Dumpling. New for me was the Steamed Pork Ribs with Black Bean Sauce and the Beef Tripe with Ginger and Scallions. I won’t get any awards from Andrew Zimmern for that last dish, but it’s one I’ve always wanted to try. Next time Chicken Feet with Special Sauce!!! Additional pictures of this meal can be found at http://on.fb.me/tM8vB0.

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

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.