Rick's Reviews: Comings and Goings

Flan at CAO Bakery & Cafe. Photo via Facebook.

To paraphrase the words of Dorothy Gale, “Restaurants come and go so quickly here.”

Naked Grape closed with a sign announcing remodeling and then a week later a “For Rent” sign went up in the window. 

Mind Your Manors was closed on Pride Day and has been shuttered since with a sign indicating repairs were being done — you can draw your own conclusions. 

The Grille on the Drive has been sold and the new owners (the same folks who bought Scandals) wasted no time adding their touch, knocking down the wall between the cabaret room and main bar and dining room. They’ve changed a few other things; eliminating lunch service and converting the Garden Room back into a bar, but thankfully, kept many of the much-loved staff (so far, at least). 

Adding some much-needed diversity to the dining options in Wilton Manors is Almacen de Empanadas, which as you may have guessed, specializes in empanadas. In fact Almacen means warehouse in Spanish. It’s located in the space formerly occupied by the short-lived Art Café, 2041 Wilton Dr.I can’t report on the quality of the empanadas because when I stopped by, they had run out of product. I’ll do a full-fledged review after they’ve been open a while.

You’d think off-season would be a slow time for new restaurant openings, but not so. Several new places have opened their doors (or will soon) during the height of summer. Rather than slave in the kitchen or sweat over a grill, you might want to check out some of these new dining options.

Bangkok Bistro, 1527 N. Federal, specializes in Thai and Asian street food. In an unusual turn for an Asian restaurant, Bangkok Bistro serves breakfast (until 3 p.m. daily). Some of the dishes are Asian twists on classic breakfast fare (fried eggs with toast, eggs with bacon and Thai sausage and an omelet), while other dishes are more typical of what folks in Asia eat to start the day. There’s a Thai rice dish known as jook — a bowl of rice topped with an egg, and dim sum dishes such as; pork or beef gyoza, shrimp shu-mai, crispy chive cake and steamed buns with meat or seafood filling.

Lunches run about $10-$15 and include classic, stir-fry, curry and noodle dishes as well as poke bowls and dim sum platters. Lunch specials also include a free cup of miso soup or a salad, and for an extra buck, they     ’ll throw in a spring roll. The expanded dinner menu entrees range from $16-$20 and include ramen, duck and seafood dishes, hot pots and a wider range of appetizers.             

CAO, 1535 N. Federal, next door to Bangkok Bistro, is not only a clever three-letter acronym (Cuban-American original), it is also the last name of the Cao family (the founders of legendary Vicky Bakery), who owns and operates this local mini-chain of Cuban bakeries (eight locations in South Florida). The menu features classics, such as; croquettas, empanadas, traditional Cuban sandwiches, and pastelitos (pastries). It has taken over the space formerly occupied by Rubio’s. Tony Cao, whose grandparents, Antonio and Gelasia Cao, opened the first Vicky Bakery in 1972 has, with his familiy’s blessing converted all the Vickey Bakeries to CAO and he says, “We want to be the Dunkin’ Donuts of Cuban pastries.”      

Playa Bowls,1615 N. Federal, has taken over the space formerly occupied by Starbucks, which moved to a bigger location up the street. The 65-store national chain manages to make a go of it serving up what are basically breakfast bowls. The chain was founded by a couple of surfers and still maintains that mentality. The bowls are a combination of a base, such as chia pudding, blended fruits or vegetables and toppings such as granola, peanut butter, berries, nuts and trendy “super foods” such as bee pollen, spirulina and wheat grass. Bowls range in price from $8-$12, smoothies are a few bucks less.            

It takes nerve to open a barbecue spot where another one bit the dust just months before. But that hasn’t stopped the folks at Fat Boyzfrom doing so in the space formerly occupied by Red Cow, 1025 N. Federal. Maybe the fact that they boast “Kids Eat Free” (with the purchase of an adult entrée) will draw some. It would do just the opposite for many.        

There are some other openings planned for the near future, if they haven’t already done so by the time you read this. TooJay’s, which opened its location on Federal after much anticipation, and has been doing great business, is also opening another location at the new Dania Pointe Mall, just off I-95 in Hollywood. 

Mia Cake Houseand Moishe’s Montreal Deli are opening at The Shoppes at Deerfield on Powerline and Hillsboro in Deerfield Beach. Lisabet Summa, one of the only women in the country to co-own a major restaurant group, Big Time Restaurant Group(Louis Bossi, City Oyster, Rocco’s Tacos) is opening a new restaurant, named for her, on Atlantic Ave. in Delray Beach. The menu was inspired by her travels in Italy. 

Bokamper’s Sports Bar & Grill has a new menu, offering items including the vegan Beyond Burger, mac and cheese balls, southwest chicken eggrolls, petite angus sirloin and churrasco steaks, turkey club sandwiches, crispy fish tacos, turkey burgers, homestyle meatloaf, and warm chocolate chip brownie sundaes. 

However, not all is good news. Spatch Peri PeriChickenhas gone feet up at its location at 3848 N. Federal after a run that lasted a little more than two years. The location at 468 N. Federal Highway is still doing strong business after opening a year ago. Midici Pizzaformerly at 510 N Federal, and its neighbor, Mellow Mushroomat 525 N Federal have also both closed after a short run, although other locations are still operating. We’re hoping The Whole Enchiladacan hold on to its little bit of ground. The rest of the block it’s on has been sold to build an IPIC (pronounced eye-pic) movie theater. The Fort Lauderdale IPIC location will be just about midway between the existing North Miami and Boca Raton locations. The new development could be a boom for the little Mexican joint.


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