Is it just me or does it seem as if there are massive apartment complexes popping up all over town? Although the Manor at Flagler Village, on Federal between 5th and 6th Avenues, has been around for a couple of years, I never thought to check out the restaurants there. They just seemed so…hetero. While visiting friends in Delray Beach, we dined at a Mellow Mushroom restaurant, that made me think of the one on Federal, which led to checking out the others in that mall. Although each is part of a chain (or mini-chain), all three offer design-your-own- dish options.
25 S.E. 6th Ave., Delray Beach
525 N. Federal Highway #500, Fort Lauderdale
Imagine a bunch of mellowed-out hippies in the 1970 creating a restaurant. Now, update that restaurant for modern tastes. That’s exactly what you’ll find at Mellow Mushroom. The original MM was started by started by some hippies in Georgia in 1974. It didn’t take long for them to become capitalists, and by 1984 the restaurant opened a number of other locations and franchised. The Fort Lauderdale location is one of the newer outposts of this chain. MM may be franchised, but there’s still a kernel of the “do your own thing” aspect of hippie-dom as each location offers special dishes developed for its neighborhood.
As you might expect from a former hippie joint, there are always plenty of options for vegetarians including the veggie patty (made from quinoa, kale, brown rice and roasted mushrooms) and hoagies offer the option of tofu or tempeh instead of meat. Of course, pizzas figure prominently and many feature quaint, hippie names, such as; Kosmic Karma; with a red sauce base topped with feta and mozzarella cheese, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and Roma tomatoes with a pesto swirl, or the Magical Mystery Tour; with a pesto base with button and Portobello mushrooms, feta and mozzarella cheeses, spinach and jalapeños on a pesto basted crust.
Since it’s all about individuality, in addition to pre-determined combinations there are build-your own versions of pizzas. The diner’s choice option also includes calzones or a reasonably priced “build your own” salad. Start with a base of greens for a couple of bucks and then add on the toppings, each reasonably priced. I opted for baby greens with feta, artichokes hearts and kalamata olives and the huge salad ended up costing less than $10. Combine that with a side, such as a bowl of soup, bruschetta or the yummy meatballs and you have a filling meal, featuring top of the line, wonderfully flavorful ingredients, for less than $20.
For those who are old enough and can still remember dining at hippie places in the ‘70s, they’ll recall that service could be a little, well, let’s be kind and use the word “spacey.” At MM our server was attentive, professional and friendly and managed to negotiate three couples, each wanting separate checks and making special requests, without any mix-ups.
525 N. Federal Highway #400, Fort Lauderdale
Colada, the second location of the popular Hollywood Cuban Coffeehouse, offers up familiar takes on exotic dishes and exotic takes on familiar dishes. The brunch options include; biscuits and gravy (the twist is the gravy is made with chorizo), Cuban eggs Benedict (featuring roast pork and black bean hollandaise), tres leche waffles or French toast and a torta Espana. The build-your-own concept at Colada begins at breakfast and includes a build-your-own breakfast sandwich brunch bowl and continues through lunch and dinner with fritas and meals in a bowl which start with a choice of protein, a base (rice, lettuce or spinach), toppings (beans, veggies, cheese, etc.) and a sauce. Don’t even get me started on the variety of empanadas, whether sweet or savory. Although they may not always be dished up with stellar presentation, they’re just like Abuelita used to make.
551 N. Federal Highway #600, Fort Lauderdale
Continuing with the theme of doing your own thing, the Brass Tap franchise at this location is the only one, out of the 35 restaurants in the coast-to-coast chain, to have both an in-house brewing facility and full-service kitchen with a dedicated executive chef. Beers are brewed on site in the upper level of the bar, and if you find you can’t live without one of the 80 brews on tap, you can have it bottled to go. The menu is equally vast featuring inventive burgers, wings, salads and flatbreads. The dedication to the food aspect is so intense that the owner of this franchise installed a full-service convection oven to bake breads onsite.
Among some of the more notable dishes are; spicy tuna lettuce wraps, Florida sweet corn fritters and a Korean barbecue pork sandwich, served with slivers of homemade pickles on a toasted, buttered baked on premises, brioche bun. Pepper Jack Mac-N-Cheese offers a rich cheesy sauce spiced up with a hint of pickled jalapeños, onion, garlic, tossed over spiral noodles, then topped with tempura crumbs and baked in individual cast-iron pans. The dish is so popular that it is also the base for a brunch dish; Hangover Mac-n-Cheese, which adds beer to the cheese sauce as well as generous dashes of bacon and caramelized onions. It’s then topped with fried hash browns and a runny egg. Hungover or not, it’s delish. Also, don’t pass up Sunday’s special cinnamon rolls, which take three days to prepare and are worth every minute of it.