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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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

J Mark’s Restaurant

J Marks- 1245 North Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale  http://www.jmarksrestaurant.com/

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