Let’s face it, there’s no shortage of diners in South Florida. Diners fit in with the laid-back South Floridian lifestyle. When you wear long pants only two or three days a year, how fancy do you want to get? Even those of you who need to dress up for work are often looking for a quick and inexpensive meal after a rough day at the office. Many seniors don’t see the point of cooking for just one or two folks and lots of young people don’t have the time. These factors and the bad economy (unless you’re in the 1 percent), have all made it the perfect time for diners to thrive.
Now you can add two more to the mix, one a long-time favorite in a new location and the other, a newcomer on the scene. Both spots up the ante on décor and service challenging expectations of what a diner can be.
Country Ham & Eggs
2671 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
After being a long-time (nearly 50 years!) local favorite in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Robert and Ginger Minlionica have opened an upscale version of their diner in Fort Lauderdale, just east of the Coral Ridge Mall. The reason for their move was simple economics, "It's triple the size for half the rent. Our locals are ecstatic because it's easier to get here, and there’s plenty of parking."
The name and friendly, efficient service are holdovers from the quaint old spot, while the décor is sleek and modern. The menu, while a bit expanded from the original, still offers up classic diner fare. Breakfast options include; challah or croissant French toast, waffles, eggs, pancakes and omelets with all the expected sides. There are more varieties of eggs Benedict than you knew existed, featuring the traditional as well as versions swapping out the Canadian bacon with; spinach, sautéed veggies, turkey breast, pork roll, Italian sausage lox, steak, or fried shrimp. If you want to be totally decadent (as I chose to be on New Year’s Day) sub sausage gravy for the hollandaise! The kitchen staff is flexible when it comes to substitutions and alterations.
For those looking for something besides breakfast fare, there are the traditional diner favorites; burgers (traditional, salmon, turkey and veggie) and melts, as well as more unexpected options such as a quesadilla. There is also a large array of salad and fish options, plus a full bar. I don’t know why they have a full bar. Currently open only until 3 p.m.
3020 N. Federal, Fort Lauderdale
I hope Toast makes it. It has a lot going for it; a varied menu offering a nice mix of classic diner fare as well as “fancier” dishes, comfy décor, attentive and friendly service and reasonable prices. What it doesn’t have going for it is much in the way of foot traffic or visibility. Perched on the corner of a strip mall that looks suspiciously like an old motel, with signage that can barely be seen, Toast isn’t easy to find. But, once you do, you’ll return.
Breakfast fare includes the usual variations on eggs and breakfast meats, pancakes, waffles etc. There are four versions of eggs Benedict. In addition to the classic, there are also three named for exotic locales; Florentine (spinach), Californian (turkey and avocado) and Norwegian (Nova lox). Breakfast sandwich choices are varied and include the trendy avocado toast topped with spring mix and an optional fried egg, the “A BELT” (avocado, bacon, egg, lettuce, and tomato) and the traditional French favorite, croque madame, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with a fried egg.
Lunch options, most priced less than ten bucks; include burgers, club sandwiches, melts, wraps and deli plates as well as the classic “half sandwich with a cup of soup”. Entrée salads are quite reasonably priced and include a Cobb, Chef, Caesar and Greek (both the traditional and “Village” style, a lettuce-less combination of tomato, cucumber, onion, Kalamata olives and feta). The house salad combines baby field greens, avocado, bleu cheese, grapes, apple, walnuts, celery and raspberry vinaigrette. Grilled chicken breast, shrimp or salmon can be added to any salad and the tab will still be less than $15
For an appetizer, try the “Greek charcuterie”; hummus, tzatziki, feta, Kalamata olives, pepperoncini, gyro meat served with toasted pita. There’s enough for the entire table or as a light meal for $12.95. Greek entrée specialties include; lamb or chicken gyros, spinach pie, kabobs, lamb shank or chops, moussaka, pastitsio, and shrimp or chicken Ladoregano (cooked with lemon, olive oil, garlic, and herbs). Dinners also include classic American diner favorites such as pork chops, fried shrimp, meatloaf, and roast turkey, as well as more upscale offerings as steak, grilled salmon and pasta dishes, all in the $15-$20 range, $2-$3 more for soup or salad.
Next time you’re in a diner dash check out one of these newbies or go with one of the traditional favorites listed below.
2980 N. Andrews, Wilton Manors
2211 N. Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors
1410 E. Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale
1940 NE 45th St., Fort Lauderdale
1216 E. Oakland Park Blvd. Oakland Park