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’s1497 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

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

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

Texas Hold’em BBQ

Texas Hold ’em BBQ, 2528 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, (954) 527-4115 – http://www.texasholdembbq.com

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This place recently moved to a new water view location on Federal Hwy. They say “third times the charm”, so if true, owner Jay Armstead is well on his way. This is Texas style BBQ…smoked with dry rub and a tangy vinegar based sauce offered on the side. BBQ favorites include Pork Ribs (Spare Rib & Baby Back), Pulled Pork, Brisket, BBQ Chicken and more. I usually order the 6-bone Spare Rib dinner with collards and slaw. Liked their Mac ’n Cheese too. Click here for more info.

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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

Pomperdale’s NY Style Deli

Pomperdale’s NY Style Deli- 3055 E Commercial Blvd., Fort Lauderdale

I’m originally from New York, where “deli” is a way of life.  Most folks who have lived in the City remember the Carnegie, the Stage, Sarge’s, the Second Avenue Deli and Katz’s to name a few of the oldest and best known. Those NY deli sandwiches are things of beauty…overstuffed wonderful layers of deli meats on fresh seeded rye bread with a schemer of spicy brown deli mustard and so huge you can barely bite into it. Each restaurant usually prepares its’ meats in their own special way. I can’t tell you why, but Florida deli’s have a difficult time duplicating this. Some say…lack of NY water! Each year there seems to be fewer places offering anything close.

It’s understandable, then, why lots of displaced New Yorkers appear driven to find good Corned Beef or Pastrami sandwiches.  I don’t know if it’s just nostalgia or a physical need to absorb the fatty steamed meats of another time and place, but many eventually find their way to Pumperdale’s on Commercial Blvd. It’s a surprisingly friendly place with lots of customers who jam in for one of closest NY Deli experiences you’re going to find in the area. Now don’t get me wrong…it’s not NY, but for a deli-starving expat from the Big Apple, this is just fine.  It should be noted there are a few rules . Step into the restaurant and you’re on a fast-moving line, so slackers beware… know what you want a.s.a.p. cause there are other hungry people behind you. Need a beverage???…Go to the beverage cooler in the back to select one of the Dr. Brown’s flavors (they have other stuff, but does it really matter?) and find a seat.  The small tables are close together so make friends and listen for your order…then pick it up and enjoy. The folks here are friendly and if you should want to show your appreciation, put a little money in the tip-jar and the sandwich mavens behind the counter will thank you and shout-out “SUBWAY.” It’s a throwback to the old days when the tip money was used to ride home on the NY subway. After eating & schmoozing, step up to the cashier and recite what you ate as it’s rung in to the register, then pay and you’re done. On one trip I was behind a lady who couldn’t recall what she had just eaten. “Well,” she said with a quizzical look, “I’m not quite sure, but it was very good!”  And for South Florida, Pomperdale’s really is.

Update March 13, 2013 –Since writing the original story in 2011 I’ve been back to Pomperdale’s many times. During one of those visits I learned that the owner had passed away. With each subsequent trip I began to notice changes in the food that never seemed to measure up to the experience I had first described. After a while I stopped going altogether and had almost forgotten about the place until a fellow deli hound mentioned that he had been there and had a really good sandwich. Really? So, off I went to Pomperdale’s to see for myself. While there are some physical changes the place still had that deli look, but a little more polished. There is a change in the rules…food orders are now taken and paid for at the front counter, before you eat. I wasted no time and quickly ordered my favorite deli…Pastrami on Rye. This time around the sandwich was so much better. The right amount of fat and lean and briny flavor I look for. Whole slices and no pile of crumbs, an honest sandwich and a fitting tribute to the original Pomperdale owner and to the new owners, who have succeeded in restoring the quality and flavor of the original. I be back.

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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