As SFGN celebrates another anniversary, it reminds me that the newspaper business is probably only slightly less volatile than the restaurant business. Both have numerous factors working against them, but those outstanding businesses not only manage to survive they thrive. In preparing for our anniversary issue, I looked through my files and thought that those places offering exemplary dining experiences deserved an award. Here they are folks, my “Golden Spoon” Awards for 2017.
A bit of explanation, these awards honor only those places I happened to write about in the past year. So, for example; l believe that Hot & Soul is the best fusion restaurant in South Florida, but it’s not included because I didn’t write about it 2017. Before anyone screams, “Unfair!”, I’d like to point out that these criteria for judging allow other contenders to get the respect they deserve. Think of it as the Oscars for South Florida restaurants; honoring wonderful dining experiences of the past year! Rather than tout any candidate as “Best” I prefer to use the term “Outstanding” as each of these dining experiences were memorable in its own way. After each award, I quote a sentence or two from my original review.
2018 Golden Spoon Awards
Outstanding New Spot (Wilton Manors)
2150 Wilton Dr.
Menu highlight: “The “shrimp boat” appetizer; nine large shrimp, sautéed in garlic butter, resting on a bed of crispy fried eggplant… Eat’s secret weapon though, is the delightful server Jamie. This woman knows how to take care of her boys.”
Outstanding New Spot (Fort Lauderdale)
1140 Seabreeze Blvd, (in B Ocean Hotel)
“As tempting as everything else is on the menu, you MUST try the tuna nachos! This dish is one of the best things I have eaten; anywhere, anytime!... The Geisha Martini, is quite refreshing and goes down dangerously easily.
Outstanding New Spot (Oakland Park)
Tatts and Tacos
3200 NE 12th Ave., Oakland Park
“The fare is a blend of Mexican-American fare and traditional Mexican street food, such as elotes; corn grilled on the cob, slathered with aioli and sprinkled with cotija cheese and a bit of cayenne.” “The patio has the look of a typical trailer park yard (complete with a trailer!), a loungey area, thumping music from a DJ (at least on weekends) and a menu of micro-brewery beers and craft cocktails add to the appeal.”
Outstanding Burger Joint
B Square Burgers + Booze
1021 E Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
“Burgers feature hormone and antibiotic-free beef, unless of course, it’s made with tuna, duck, turkey or the veggie version, which combines black beans and brown rice. In addition to the standard burger combinations, check out some of the restaurant’s special concoctions. The “Big Daddy,” is topped with pastrami and melted matured cheddar, while the “Dad Bod,” features melted Maytag bleu, truffled mushrooms, caramelized onions and a sunny-side-up egg.”
Outstanding Fusion Cuisine
Viva Tokyo Mexican and Japanese
1538 E Commercial Blvd., Oakland Park
“Pleasant surprises that await you inside, from the cheery décor and service to the fabulous fare that is as attractive as it is delicious.” “The spicy tuna burrito features sushi-grade tuna, field greens, cilantro, cucumber, carrots avocado and spicy mayo rolled in a 10" flour tortilla. They even toss in a little Korean kim chee to amplify the spice and fusion levels.”
Outstanding Comfort Fare
New York Grilled Cheese
2207 Wilton Dr.
Although they’ve gussied up the grilled cheese, the tomato soup is just like Mom used to make, with the spice-level quotient notched up about 40 percent.
Outstanding Fast Casual
6312 N. Andrews, Fort Lauderdale
“This fast-casual restaurant brings the customized assembly-line process to delicious, yet healthy food. Beehive Kitchen offers customizable bowls, with creatively combined flavorful ingredients, in a bright laboratory-like setting…”
2468 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors
New owners, Glen and Mark have breathed new life into this Wilton Manors landmark. Upgrades in the menu and better service, to say nothing of the freshened-up décor, have made this a popular dining destination.
Then there are those places, that you never knew existed until they are suddenly revealed to you. They may be tucked away in unusual locations, as two of these spots are, or they may be someplace you pass every day without a hint as to the wonders inside. Discovering and sharing these hidden gems are the real joy of doing this job.
Outstanding Hidden Gem (Wilton Manors)
Voo La Voo
2430 NE 13th Ave
Hidden inside Eucalyptus Gardens (which many long-term Wilton Manors residents don’t even know exists), this place is a garden of earthly delights. “Everything that’s wonderful about French food; the attention to detail, the wonderful sauces, the flair in presentation is all there. What’s missing is any air of pretention or inflated prices.”
Outstanding Hidden Gem (Oakland Park)
Cucina Caruso Italian Market
4165 N Dixie Hwy., Oakland Park
“… the real reason folks come here is for the little café set up on one side of the store. Pulling into the non-descript strip-mall you’d have no inkling as to the culinary treasures to be found inside, and those treasures are only matched by the charming staff, who all exhibit a joy and pride that is infectious.”
Outstanding Hidden Gem (Fort Lauderdale)
Jet Runway Café
5540 NW 21st Terr., Fort Lauderdale
“While the view is breathtaking, it’s the food that keeps folks coming back. It’s nothing fancy or inventive, but it is all well-prepared and artfully presented.”
Finally, how can I give out a Golden Spoon Award without acknowledging Angelo Elia? He runs nearly a dozen restaurants and each one is delightful, from the upscale Casa D’Angelo, to the casual Angelo Elia Pizza and Tapas to Angelo Elia Bakery Bar.
The Midas Touch Outstanding Achievement Award
4215 N. Federal, Ft. Lauderdale (additional locations in Doral, Coral Springs & Weston)
Casa D'Angelo Ristorante
1201 N. Federal, Fort Lauderdale
Angelo Elia Bakery Bar
2104 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
“Angelo Elia’s culinary acumen and inviting attitude has earned him tremendous praise and recognition from local and national media and has garnered him numerous awards.”