Sometimes dining out becomes a case of “same old, same old.” For foodies the cuisine usually tops atmosphere or service, but once in a while it’s fun to shake things up and go someplace where the food is of secondary importance, where the feast for the eyes is as important as the palate. When that’s the case, check out some of these unusual dining experiences.
Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor
128 S. Federal Highway, Dania Beach
We’ve all seen those corporate places where they throw recreations of old stuff on the wall to create atmosphere (I’m talking to you Joe’s Crab Shack and Moonlight Diner). This place is the real deal. The 50 plus year-old ice cream parlor is home to one of the nation’s largest collections of American memorabilia, including a vast license plate collection. It also has a “general store” at the front selling candy that you haven’t seen since you were a kid (whether you’re 20 or 60). However, the real reason to go to Jaxson’s is for the ice cream. The old-fashioned ice cream parlor creates sundaes utilizing dozens of flavors, all made especially for Jaxson’s. If you’re not in the mood for ice cream, there’s also a menu of diner classics, with a jumbo hot dog that will make any size queen happy.
The Wreck Bar
1140 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
This historic bar has survived many different hotel owners. Designed to look like a sunken ship, the bar has been featured in many movies, including “Analyze This” and “Where the Boys Are.” The main attraction is porthole windows that offer views into the B Ocean Resort’s pool, with mermaid shows drawing crowds every weekend. While the emphasis is on drinks, the food is surprisingly good. Check out the jerk seafood medley, yummy burger or wild mushroom ravioli, while you gawk like a tourist.
The Bubble Room
15001 Captiva Dr., Captiva
Dining for those with a limited attention… “Ooooh look a train!” … span, the Bubble Room has evolved over the past 40 years into a number of themed dining rooms. Vintage toys battle with old movie stills, Christmas décor, elves and golden oldies for your attention. The food is almost beside the point and the menu items are listed with the bad puns that happen when straight people try to be campy; Marilyn Mignon, Duck Ellington and Pastablanca. It’s not worth a trip to the Gulf Coast, but if you happen to be in the area, it’s worth a visit.
134 N. Federal, Hallandale
Imagine if Pat Morita’s character from “Happy Days” converted his diner into a sushi restaurant and you get an idea of what Eddie Hill’s is like. Where else can you get pad thai, sushi, tempura and a BLT? Although it has been embellished with Asian influenced décor, the dining room still retains the classic diner feel. The 140-plus items on the 13-page menu, mostly lean toward the Asian flavors, but ask for the breakfast menu and you’ll find classic diner fare. Open from noon until late night, the Hallandale spot offers something for everyone. Service is attentive and the “Create Your Own Combo” is a great deal; soup or salad, two appetizers and an entrée for $20.
4331 Anglers Ave., Fort Lauderdale
For those who like donning a plastic bib and getting messy with seafood, this is your place. Sit along the water and drop your shells onto the newspaper-covered tables. The old roadhouse saloon is famous for its garlic crab, a messy but tasty feast. It also features a variety of other seafood treats including; raw or steamed oysters and clams, fried frog legs, alligator, lobster, shrimp and fish. For landlubbers, steaks, chops and ribs are also available, as are a number of pasta entrees.
1850 SE 17th St., Ft. Lauderdale
The previous locales are all a feast for the eyes, but at Market 17’s “Dining in the Dark” meal you’ll need all your other senses; because you dine in complete darkness while a (literally) blind tasting menu is served. When diners arrive at the restaurant, the server discusses any food allergies, dietary restrictions or extreme dislikes. The menu is then created on the spot. The goal of the blind tasting experience is to heighten the other senses. After diners are led into the dining room, the server helps them locate their place settings. From that moment on everyone gropes in the darkness as they taste, smell and even feel their food. The multi-course meals start at $75 per person with optional wine pairings starting at $25. The experience is usually best enjoyed while in a group of four or more. A suggestion; don’t wear white.