We made it through another year! This was the year we got back to normal, more or less.

Even though COVID and the pandemic have shaken our economy, folks are cautiously returning to going out in full force without looking as if they’re about to rob a bank. Many restaurants closed during the pandemic, but we’ve recently seen an uptick in the number of new places making their debuts. Though the economy is supposed to be tight, people are dining out more than ever. One thing you might notice is that more restaurants are going the fast-casual route. In fact, for the first time since I began awarding the Golden Spoon Awards (30+ years), there is not one high-end white linen tablecloth placed on the list and almost all are affordably priced.

Golden Spoon for Outstanding Deli 

Mitch’s Downtown 

540 N Andrews Ave., Ft. Lauderdale 

754-779-7599 

mitchsdowntown.com

Although the décor and atmosphere could be a bit cozier, the food is always top-notch, and the service is friendly and helpful. 

What I said then: “One of the ways that this deli signals a new generation is that it does not accept cash, only credit, debit, and online apps such as Apple and Google Pay. 

That and the multi-colored hair of the diverse staff are the only hints that this isn’t your grandmother’s deli; everything else feels old school. There are racks of bagels and a deli case filled with knishes, lox, spreads, and salads. It’s all food that tastes just like Bubbie used to make, only now she’d order it on an app on the way home from her Pilates class.” 

Golden Spoon for Outstanding Seafood Restaurant 

Mystic Lobster Roll 

753 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale 

(954) 999-5605 

mysticlobsterollsftlorder.com

Those who like lobster know that it doesn’t need a lot of frills. Mystic Lobster Roll is nothing fancy, simply a storefront with a few tables and a brisk take-out business, but the options are numerous, and the staff is eager to please. They simply place the lobster in a bun with a few accompaniments to augment the fresh seafood. 

What I said then: “In addition to the classic cold New England lobster roll and the warm Connecticut version, there are eight other versions. Try the LBI (with avocado and grape tomatoes, but oddly, no bacon, so I don’t know what the B stands for) or the Deep South version (with chipotle mayo and candied jalapenos.) The shrimp and corn chowder are great!” 

Golden Spoon for Outstanding Vegetarian Fare 

Planta 

1201 E Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale 

754-732-1952 

plantarestaurants.com

Being married to a 40+ year vegetarian, I’ve become more aware of how little is available on most menus. So, when a vegetarian-focused restaurant appears on the scene, we check it out quickly. On our visit, just a week after Planta opened, the place was running as smoothly as if it had been around for years. The food was delicious, and the service was knowledgeable and friendly. 

What I said then: “Dining at Planta … is a pricey option. It seems counter-intuitive that a meat-free menu would be pricier, but high-quality vegetarian ingredients can be just as costly as animal protein … Our trio each enjoyed a mocktail and an entrée at brunch and the bill was $150.” 

Golden Spoon for Outstanding Mediterranean Restaurant 

Ya Mas! 

1103 East Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale 

954-306-8388 

yamastaverna.com

A neighbor to Planta and similar in price point, Ya Mas is not only a dining option but also a cultural experience. The food, atmosphere, décor, and service will immediately transport you to the feeling of being at a sidewalk cafe on one of the Greek Isles. From the large communal table running down the center of the colorful dining room to the sidewalk café, this place feels like a movie set, and I mean that as a compliment.  The décor is beautiful, but the staff is even better looking; they all look like they just stepped out of central casting. The best part is not only are they all gorgeous, but they are also, friendly, efficient, knowledgeable, and hospitable. I felt as if I were a guest at a party. 

What I said then: “The minute you walk you feel as if you are in the middle of a party scene from “Mama Mia.” I half expected a helicopter to land on Las Olas and drop off Cher”. 

These are your appetizers for this week. Next week I’ll complete the list of my Golden Spoon recipients. Until then, Bon appetite!

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Rick Karlin is SFGN's food editor. Visit SFGN.com/Food to read his previous reviews. Have a culinary tip to share? Email Rick at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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