The Alchemist, named Wilton Manors’ “Best Kept Secret” in our recent “Best of” issue, is certainly that. It can be found in Eucalyptus Gardens, a garden of earthly delights tucked along a side street in Wilton Manors. The Alchemist may be the city’s best kept secret, but its neighboring restaurants, Voo La Voo Café and La Frutera Garden Bar, are equally rare gems waiting to be discovered.
Named for the tall Rainbow Eucalyptus trees that line its path, Eucalyptus Gardens is equal parts hippie and hipster. In addition to the three restaurants, you can also find a clothing boutique housed in an Airsteam Trailer, a vintage and reclaimed furniture warehouse and an urban garden. That is if you can find the place. Turn off 26th Street and head south on 13th Ave. (right behind the shuttered Old Florida Seafood House). When the street ends you’ll find the entrance to Eucalyptus Gardens. There’s a small parking lot to the east and, on busy weekends, folks will direct you to alternate parking locations. Once inside, stroll the gravel path and explore some of the shops before deciding on your dining destination from three quirky, reasonably priced options.
The best know is The Alchemist (954-673-4614, TheAlchemist.cafe), where the main focus is the coffee – and they are serious about the brew, using a proprietary process and the purest water they can get. The menu focuses on delicious open-faced sandwiches the restaurant dubs as "slicers," topped with everything from avocado to zatar (a sesame-thyme blend). There is also a wide variety of gluten-free desserts available. Most everything is priced less than $10.
La Frutera Garden Bar (754-701-5977) dishes up a delicious brunch on Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., featuring classics such as huevos rancheros, arepas and chilaquiles. Weekdays and evenings enjoy tostadas, salads, quinoa stuffed burritos, tamales (try the shrimp stuffed version), nachos and street corn while sipping some house-made sangria. In addition to the classic white or red versions, try one featuring acai, passion fruit, dragon fruit, lychee, hibiscus or chicha morada. The same exotic fruits can also be ordered in margaritas or mojitos (regular or virgin versions).
Chef Sylvie Le Nouail is the quintessential French cook, running Voo La Voo (754-200-5285, VooLaVooCafe.com) from behind the counter with a smile for everyone. 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. Enjoy a slightly chewy buckwheat crepe filled with chicken and béchamel (like the best pot-pie filling ever!), seafood with gruyere, or smoked salmon and crème fraiche. Or opt for a sweet filling such as fruit and pastry cream or Nutella and whipped cream. If you prefer, there are quiches served in their own baking dishes, salads, omelets and sandwiches. Vegan and vegetarian options are also readily available. A variety of imported and domestic beers, a few classic French cocktails and wines add to the enjoyment.
All three places feature laid back service; after you order and pay at the counter, you’re given a number and your meal is delivered to your table (mostly outside, although all three places have a few inside tables). At any of the places you can enjoy a wonderful meal for less than $20 a person, a few bucks more if you order a drink.
2430 NE 13th Ave., Wilton Manors