Fort Lauderdale’s 10 best bars & restaurants only locals know – Part 2
Due to such an overwhelming public response to our Fort Lauderdale’s 10 Best Bars And Restaurants Only Locals Know About article I have decided to write a follow up article to include some establishments that didn’t make the cut on the first go around. We also wanted to address the concerns of some of the readers who made some wonderful suggestions of places that they felt should have made the list but didn’t fit our criteria for “places only locals know about” e.g. Bahia Cabana (ask me in the comments or email me if you want to know why).
The fact is, there are too many great bars and restaurants in Fort Lauderdale to simply narrow it down to ten or twenty places and still make everyone happy. My solution is to follow a few simple rules for what makes a great spot for locals and also ones that I personally like, visit often, or recommend to others.
1. Riverside Market
Since I couldn’t have said it any better myself this is directly from the website. “The Riverside Market is a family owned and operated restaurant tucked away in the confines of Fort Lauderdale, FL. and nestled between the Sailboat Bend and Riverside Park neighborhoods. Serving over 550 craft beers, Riverside Market has earned the title of “Fort Lauderdale’s Official Craft Beer Hangout.” The cozy environment and self serve coolers make it the ultimate location to kick back and pop open a cold brew while enjoying some of the many deliciosities on the menu.” My favorite menu item is the BBQ chicken pizza, it’s one of the best around.
Riverside Market is the embodiment of a locals place. It’s not on the beach, it’s not on Las Olas Blvd., they don’t have valet parking and it’s even in a neighborhood that is so well hidden many locals don’t know it exists.
We are looking forward to the opening of their second location, Riverside Market South, which is even further off the beaten path.
2. The Mason Jar Café
The Mason Jar Cafe is a one of our favorite local eateries. If you’ve never been and you live in Fort Lauderdale you’ve probably driven by it a hundred times without noticing it. If that’s the case, you’re missing out big time. The cuisine is American comfort food done exceptionally well. The service has always been excellent and the prices are very fair. I have had every item on the menu and would order every item again without hesitation.
My personal favorites are the grilled cheese sandwich with a cup of tomato bisque topped with blue cheese and bacon crumbles for lunch. Or for dinner, the chicken pot pie is ridiculous, best I’ve ever had.
3. Kelly’s Landing
Kelly’s Landing was a Boston staple for many years before they moved to Fort Lauderdale. Due to it’s heritage in the northeast, Kelly’s Landing does New England style seafood particularly well and at excellent prices.
One of the great things about living in south Florida is the abundance of local seafood which is usually prepared in a latin or caribbean style. Occasionally though, it is nice to get a break from the typical south Florida seafood and indulge in Maine lobster with drawn butter or basically any ocean dwelling crustacean that can be battered and deep fried. So when your cholesterol is getting too low and you’re feeling the urge to indulge, Kelly’s landing should definitely be on your list.
4. Tropical Café
Tropical Café is located in the Sears shopping center and is one of our favorite places to stop for lunch or breakfast. The food is very good and the prices are phenomenal. If you like Cuban sandwiches this is the place to go.
I am a Cuban sandwich enthusiast and after years of searching I finally found the real deal Cuban sandwich at Tropical Café. This is by far the best Cubano I have had outside of Ybor City or Key West and honestly those weren’t even that much better. I make it a point to stop in at least once a month to get my fix. Try it with the homemade hot sauce and thank me later.
5. LaSpada’s Original Hoagies
This one speaks for itself. LaSpada’s is the hoagie king of Fort Lauderdale and the surrounding areas. Ask any local who they think makes the best submarine style sandwich and 9 out of 10 times the answer will be LaSpada’s. This is the only sub shop I know of that people will drive miles out of their way for.
There are no wild or fantastical ingredients or over the top concoctions, just good quality cold cuts, on fresh bread, with fresh toppings and made with a lot of TLC. LaSpada’s original location was in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, just north of Fort Lauderdale beach but they have in recent years opened other locations throughout the county so hopefully no one in Broward is more than a few miles from a location.
6. Treasure Trove
Treasure Trove on Fort Lauderdale beach is a low key, open air beach bar reminiscent of the establishments that popularized Fort Lauderdale beach in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and is one of the last of a dying breed. Boasting live music most nights, stiff drinks served with a smile and its’ locally famous Taco Tuesdays this place is truly a locals safe haven.
A haven from what, you ask? From the onslaught of South Beach style bars and restaurants which are plaguing Fort lauderdale beach, attracting tourists like moths to a flame, a flame of neon lights, oversized and overpriced tropical cocktails and half naked hostess’s luring unsuspecting passers by into their all frills, no substance establishments.
If it weren’t for the Trove and a small number of other like minded establishments trying to keep alive what we locals love so much about Fort lauderdale beach, I fear that the beach would become completely unappealing to anyone other than tourists.
7. Tarpon Bend Food & Tackle
Tarpon Bend is the cornerstone of Himmarshee Village or SW 2nd St. in downtown Fort Lauderdale and for good reason. The food is great, the prices are fair and they almost always have some sort of special going on. Although other restaurants seem to come and go with the changing of the seasons in Himmarshee Village, Tarpon Bend has been in business for many years and hopefully will stay around for many more.
The atmosphere is very open, bright, casual and no one will look at you funny for wearing a tank top, board shorts, and flip flops. If you can’t decide whether you are in the mood for fresh fish or a cheeseburger, Tarpon bend has it all. My personal favorite is the Captiva chicken sandwich.
8. Red Cow
This is not your typical BBQ joint. From jalapeño infused skillet corn bread to BBQ Wagyu beef ribs and homemade smoked fish dip there is nothing ordinary about this BBQ. You can find almost all of the traditional BBQ dishes here, Red Cow just takes it to the next level, and this BBQ lover couldn’t be more pleased. Aside from the traditional items like ribs and pulled pork they have a great selection of less traditional fare like the Wagyu beef ribs, burnt ends shepherd’s pie, and sweet potato grits ( all are as delicious as they sound). They also have a nice selection of craft beers and the brunch is pretty great too.
9. El Tamarindo
El Tamarindo is one of our favorite Latin restaurants in south Florida. Located on SR-84 right across the street from Lester’s Dinner, this unassuming little restaurant is putting out some truly exceptional dishes. Of course they have the items you would expect to find on any Latin restaurant menu like fajitas, tacos, but they also have some dishes you might not expect.
One of my favorite dishes is their chicken or fish francese. It is just as good or better than you will find in any of the area’s finer Italian restaurants and at about half the price, you can’t go wrong. But, if you like churrasco steak, El Tamarindo’s is absolutely one of the best I have ever had. It is also enough to feed two people and for $19.99 you can’t beat it.
10. Old Heidelberg
Traditional German food is an absolute favorite of mine and Old Heidelberg has been serving it to Fort Lauderdale locals for decades. The atmosphere and decor are perfect, the beer is cold and comes in three sizes…large, larger, or the ridiculously large Das Boot (which has got to be 60oz’s or more) and the food is excellent.
The building is traditional German Tudor style and is covered in various German national and German beer flags. Every time I see it I get the same feeling a child must feel when they pull up to the gates of Disney World for the first time. The interior is exactly what you would hope to find in a traditional German restaurant with dark wood, dim lighting, and on many nights, live music. They have a great selection of German beer to help you wash down all the delicious sausages, schnitzels or whatever your favorite dish might be and to top it off, the prices are great.
So that’s it. Start yelling at me now about who else I forgot this time.
And here’s the Top 10 Part 1