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Mike Wolfberg's Guide to Florida Restaurants

I visit Florida often enough to get to know some of the restaurants, especially in Southern Florida - Miami and Ft. Lauderdale area. I am not an expert on the whole metropolitan area, but I can at least describe what I know. Also included in this list are a couple of other restaurants in the state.

Armadillo Cafe
4630 S.W. 64th Ave., Davie, FL, 954-291-4866
W-9, F-25, D-17, S-22
  This is in a small shopping center on the Southeast corner of the intersection of Griffin Rd. and Davie Rd. This seemed like a great find until I discovered Eduardo de San Angel in Ft. Lauderdale. Now I cannot come to this restaurant when Eduardo is so much better, and it is not so far away. One item which may bring me back here is the ostrich meat they have often have available. I have yet to try this dish. Marino's Outlook Farm in Wellesley, MA sometimes sells this meat, but the last time I was there, they did not have any.
Hollywood, FL
  This is on Route A1A on the inland waterway, just South of Hollywood Boulevard. There is parking in a lot across the street. This is an attempt to offer a menu similar to Joe's Stone Crab in Miami Beach, but with much less hassle to get in. Unfortunately, the quality is OK, but quite up to what Joe's has. If you simply don't want to spend the time and money at Joe's, come here for a similar meal. The view, overlooking the inland waterway, is a plus. They feature an all-you-can-eat dinner for a significant extra charge; I have found this to be fairly priced and not necessarily a must-do. This wine list is small but adequate. My general reaction to this place is "why did I come here, when Joe's is so much better", but then I recall I did not have to wait a very long time to be seated, and the food was pretty good after all.
Casa Juancho
2436 S.W. Eighth St., Miami, FL, 305-642-2452
W-7, F-19, D-20, S-17
  This is a Miami landmark, popular restaurant which is basically Spanish. As usual, I agree with the Zagat ratings. This has been an enjoyable place to spend an evening, especially when our friend Robert (who speaks Spanish) has been our guide. There is a live music group roaming the restaurant, with instruments and singing. This is more than just a restaurant experience, but a kind of showplace. The food is adequate and somewhat interesting, but not so great to impress me. I was disappointed in the garlic soup, a Spanish staple. All in all I think a visit here is worth it, but not just for the culinary experience. I have felt transported to a different world - perhaps in Spain, where I have never been.
Don Shula's Steakhouse
7601 N.W. 154th St., Miami Lakes, FL, 305-820-8102
W-8, F-23, D-20, S-20
  To get here, take the Palmetto Expy. (Route 826 West) to NW 154th St., "Miami Lakes Drive"; go right at the ramp's end, and then the entrance is soon on the left. This is worthy of attending for the complete experience. If you are in the mood for a steak, this place will satisfy. It is somewhat interesting to see pictures of and read about the namesake of the restaurant, who has been a long-time successful coach of the Miami Dolphins football team. They have a system whereby you can get your name put up on the wall on a plaque if you order a 48-ounce steak. This is not an item ordered on a regular basis. The quality of the meat here is in line with up-scale steak houses, but nothing more. I prefer the meat at Boston's (or Providence's) Capital Grille; Miami has one also now, but I have not been there. This place is about as good as what can be found at Ruth's Chris. Ruth's Chris has a touch more class.
Eduardo de San Angel
2822 E. Commercial Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 954-772-4731
W-10, F-27, D-22, S-25
  To get here, take I-95 to Commercial Blvd., and go East. It is about 2-3 blocks past Route 1 on the right; you go past it to get into parking area. Turn right at Bayview, opposite the bank tower. Be sure to feed the 24-hour parking meter. It is easy to exceed the 2 hour limit; feed it when you receive the main course. They are closed Sundays and also for the month of June. This is one of my favorite restaurants of all time. When I visit Southern Florida for 2 weeks, I must get to this place at least 3 times. This is the ultimate in Mexican cooking, not at all reminiscent of typical Mexican restaurants. Tortillas can be found here, but they are not prevalent - they are likely to be found as crispy treats floating in a soup. The chef here really knows how to cook with Mexican ingredients. The soups have been fabulous. Everything I have had here has been so well cooked, that I would have been impressed enough to return, based on that dish alone. The only other restaurant which has so impressed me is Olives in Boston. Look at that high Zagat's food rating; that number is well deserved. The main dish of rack of lamb with chipotle and tomatillo/coriander sauces was absolutely wonderful. I have enjoyed the guanavana sorbet; guanavana, also known as soursop, is a tropical fruit which I think tastes like a cross between pear and mango. I have enjoyed the service of Raphael, who is a brother of the chef. Here is quote from the menu when I made my second visit here: "Sopa de Tortilla Azteca- pasilla chile flavored chicken broth, seasoned with epazote-fried corn tortilla, sliced avocado, homemade fresh cheese, & sour cream". That night I also had the duck (with pipian and mole sauces): "slow roasted partially deboned domestic duck, roasted pumpkin seeds & green chile sauce" [this description was less than the dish turned out to be]. The Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Errazuriz from Chile was excellent. This is available by the glass and by the bottle. The October, 1996 issue of Gourmet magazine includes this restaurant as one of the top 400 restaurants in the U.S.; this is no surprise to me.
Fifteenth Street Fisheries
1900 S.E. 15th St., Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 954-763-2777
W-7, F-19, D-19, S-18
  I have had acceptable meals here, and due to the view, being right on the water, it becomes worthy of the visit. They feature seafood.
Joe's Stone Crab
277 Biiscayne St., Miami Beach, FL, 305-673-0365
W-10, F-26, D-18, S-21
  Although this is one of my favorite places for food anywhere, it can be a frustrating place to come due to the large crowds. They do not take reservations, but there is some scheme to be seated faster by promising the host a large tip. I don't know the going rate, but when you sign up, say "2 for 20" and this means you have 2 people in your party plus you will leave the host $20 on your way out the door. You can also just find a seat, perhaps outdoors, and watch people for 1-2 hours. If you get there around 5 p.m. you can beat the rush. The specialty, from mid-October to mid-May is stone crabs, served cold with a mustard sauce. I really like the cottage fries, which are crispy and somewhat like potato chips. I like the creamed garlic spinach. Veggies are ordered a la carte. The key lime pie is a must-get staple here. It is best to order this early to let it get to room temperature, since it is normally served too cold. If you do this, have the addition of the whipped cream delayed until you are ready to eat the pie. The wine list is very small, and barely good enough. Other places around Miami serve stone crabs, but I favor getting them from this place which made them famous. I tend to get the medium or large stone crabs. Portions are pretty generous, but if you didn't get quite enough, you can get another 1/2 or whole order between two people. In November, 1997, they were basically charging $6 per large crab claw: a full order was 5 claws and a half order was 3 claws. During the summer, they feature Alaskan king crabs legs, which I recommend, albeit for $30 in May, 1997. I heard they may no longer stay open during the summer of 1998.
Mai Kai
3599 N. Federal Hwy. (Route 1), Ft.Lauderdale, FL, 305-563-3272
W-9, F-16, D-24, S-19
  I can recommend this as a place to stop in for strong rum drinks. A second drink is free early in the evening, even on a Saturday. They also have excellent appetizers in the lounge. My rating is based merely on drinks and appetizers. Zagat's food rating is somewhat low. Roam around this place and see the overdone Polynesian decor. There is a big show put on here in the main dining room at least daily. On weekends, you must also have dinner to see the show. There have been half-price show discount tickets at Parrot Jungle.
Mark's Place
San Souci Shops, 2286 N.E. 123rd St., N. Miami, FL, 305-893-6888
W-10, F-29, D-25, S-26
  Notice the very high Zagat food rating. This is indeed a very good restaurant. I would go here more often if there were not an Olives back in Boston. The food here is chef-invented dishes of Florida, the Caribbean, and the Southwest.
Monty's Stone Crab
Coconut Grove (305-858-1431) and Miami Beach (305-673-3444), FL
W-7, F-17, D-17, S-17
  My Zagats lists only their place in Coconut Grove, but there is now also one in Southern Miami Beach along the inland waterway. This newer place is more attractive and seemed to have less waiting. The Zagat rating may not apply to the Miami Beach place. The stone crabs are not quite as good as at Joe's, but they do take reservations and you are not likely to have to wait, as you will at Joe's. They also have an extensive salad bar.
8381 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines, FL, 954-432-2888
W-9, F-23, D-17, S-19
  This is an above-average sushi place, with plenty of other Japanese dishes too. This is well worth going to, especially when it is close-by, as it is for me when I stay in Southern Florida. They are open late: until 11:00 on Sunday through Thursday, and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. I once tried Su Shin in Ft. Lauderdale, which was both pricier and not as good.
Ragtime Tavern
207 Atlantic Blvd., Atlantic Beach, FL, 904-241-7877
  This place is on the North side of the Jacksonville metropolitan area, along the beach. This was a good spot to visit for a late meal. I had a very good fish main dish (cobia).
Rustic Inn
4331 Anglers (a.k.a Ravenswood) Rd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 954-584-1637
W-8, F-19, D-14, S-17
  This is one the few times I do not agree with the Zagat food rating. I am taken with this place for the garlic crabs, especially the regular Maryland crabs. The golden crabs are larger and easier to eat, but they are not as tasty. I also think the restaurant uses less garlic with these. There are plenty of other things on the menu. This place is fun in that the table cloths are newspapers and most folks are using wooden hammers to crack the crabs. Every once in a while the whole place bangs their hammers to celebrate someone's birthday, as it is announced on the speakers. This is generally a pretty loud place, especially if you sit on the terrace, which is where I usually choose to sit. There is also seating outside on the dock. The wine list is very tiny, and there is usually about one wine worthy of ordering. There can be a waiting line here, but waits are not usually terrible. I recall they do not take reservations. When you are leaving, be sure to look for a variety of animals who hang around the garbage bins.
Ruth's Chris Steak House
2525 N. Federal Hwy. (Route 1), Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 954-565-2338
W-8, F-23, D-20, S-22
  This high-class chain of steak restaurants features very good meat. I have been to this particular place only 2 or 3 times, and the quality has been consistently good. Boston's (or Providence's) Capital Grille is a tad better; Miami has one also now, but I have not been there. This place can be a pricy place for what you get. Everything is a la carte. Beware they feature serving the steaks on a sizzling hot platter with melted butter.

back to the top of this page This page, maintained by Mike Wolfberg, was last updated on November 06, 2007.