One of the things I love most about living in South Florida is that, even though I’ve lived here for almost a decade, I can still find surprises around every corner.
And the aptly-named Paradise Tiki Bar & Grille is the kind of place that you could live in the area for decades and not know about; it is truly an undiscovered gem. I almost hate to tell my readers about Paradise, because I want to keep it all to myself.
To get there you have to take an almost secret route. You know that street on Federal south of the airport with the Tropical Acres sign? Well, you turn right there, head down the twisty-turny street, make a left on unassuming Bryan Road and then, about a block later, you turn into the lot for a boat storage facility. Drive around to the back of the warehouse, cross a gravel driveway and walk until you come upon an intra-coastal. As you turn the corner, there it is in all its tiki-tacky splendor. I swear, I half expected a group of Munchkins to come out singing!
What you will find is everything from crackers to hipsters knocking back some serious cocktails and chowing down on some reasonably priced, good food. And yes, to quote Jimmy Buffet, “Heaven on Earth with an onion slice. Not too particular, not too precise. I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise.” You can get a cheeseburger for sure, but there are also fresh grouper sandwiches, and other, even more, inventive fare. One thing to state upfront, don’t trust the menus you see online, all of them are outdated. One of the items I was looking forward to sampling were the lobster roll sliders. They are no longer on the menu. Egg salad sliders are, and while delicious, it just wasn’t the same. My hubby loved his gazpacho, I was less impressed.
Drink specials abound, our server suggested the spicy Bloody Mary, which I opted for. She asked if I wanted Tito’s Vodka. My feeling is that you really can’t taste the vodka in a Bloody Mary, so why waste the money. I told her to go with the house brand. What she failed to mention is that Tito Vodka drinks were on special for $2 less than the bar brand. Other weekend specials (Saturday and Sunday, noon-2 p.m.) are Capt. Morgan, Jack D., and Cuervo Gold, all for only $5 each. Other weekly specials are also insanely priced; mojitos for $5 on Mondays, $5 margaritas and $4 tacos on Tuesday, and fishbowl cocktails for $10 on Fridays. And that doesn’t even take into account the regular happy hour drinks and food specials!
Back to our lunch. My husband loved his blackened mahi on a challah bun with an order of fries. Since he had surf, I went for turf, and while the various burgers looked tempting, especially the Samoa burger, I instead went for the Tiki Dog; a porn star-worthy sausage, topped with sauteed peppers and onions and grilled pineapple salsa. It was served on a jumbo hoagie roll that almost held up to all the toppings. It was sloppy eating, but so good. If you’re seeking something more substantial than a sandwich, check out the variety of satays (steak, fresh fish, chicken, and combos of the two), served with coconut rice and grilled veggies.
We decided for a penny in for a pound (or more likely, five) and split the Key Lime pudding and berries. It was delish, the tart berries played nicely against the rich sweetness of the pudding, Graham cracker crumble and toasted coconut provided a nice counterpoint.
This is not a place where you expect service with finesse, still, our server was not particularly helpful (or attentive) — we asked for water three times, and finally had to flag down a food runner to get some. However, other servers were eager to please and help out.
After a leisurely afternoon watching boaters (you can dock your boat alongside the dining area) and kayakers on the intracoastal, we waddled back to the car, just as the band was gearing up to play, a Jimmy Buffet tune, no doubt. It would have been perfect, either that or a chorus of Munchkins waving good-bye as we departed.
Paradise Tiki Bar & Grille
90 N. Bryan Rd., Dania Beach
Getting Freaky at the Tiki
With Mai Kai still shuttered, here are some other spots you can go to get your Tiki fix.
Bamboo Beach Tiki Bar
4040 Galt Ocean Dr., Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale Tiki Boat
Caribbean Resort Tiki Bar
313 Hayes St., Hollywood