Is there any place more quintessentially old Wilton Manors than Eucalyptus Gardens? Let them renovate “Wilton Drive,” build new developments or have the umpteenth new business go into a space; the old hippie vibe of Eucalyptus Gardens keeps chugging along. For those who haven’t been there, this plot of land east of the train tracks and tucked behind the massive shopping center across from Wilton Station, plays host to a variety of shops and restaurants, each with its own distinctive personality.
I’ve written about these places once before, but with a change in management at the Latin restaurant it seemed like a good time to take another look and to introduce some new readers to this secret garden.
The best known of the three restaurants to occupy the space is The Alchemist (954-673-4614, thealchemist.cafe). The open-air café is best known for its delicious open-faced sandwiches dubbed as "slicers;" topped with everything from avocado to zatar (a sesame-thyme blend). However, don’t overlook the Chef Breakfast, consisting of hash browns cooked in a waffle iron and topped with anything from a fried egg and avocado to melted brie and Nutella. There are also English muffin sandwiches, eggs Florentine, and pizzettas. In addition, there is the Alchemist’s specially brewed coffee, hot or iced (with coffee ice cubes) and a wide variety of gluten-free desserts.
At night the menu focuses on salads (avocado halves served on mixed greens, filled up with your choice of shrimp salad or burrata), Caprese, bruschetta salad served with cherry tomatoes and kalamata olives, or the house salad with cherry tomatoes, red onions, avocado and feta cheese. All are $9.95, and a scoop of salmon, tuna, or shrimp salad or diced avocado is an additional $3. Italian favorites such as gnocchi, lasagna and eggplant parmesan as well as focaccia sandwiches round out the menu. House wines are $6 a glass, $19 a bottle.
Unlike The Alchemist, Voo La Voo(754-200-5285, voolavoocafe.com) is only open for breakfast and lunch. As I’ve stated in a previous review, it’s “Everything that’s wonderful about French food; the attention to detail, the wonderful sauces, the flair in presentation… (without) any air of pretentiousness or inflated prices.” Vegan and vegetarian options are available. A variety of imported and domestic beers and a few classic French cocktails and wines add to the enjoyment.
The new kid on the block isLa Mexicana Tapas & Taqueria(754-701-5977, lamexicana.online). I think the tagline on the restaurant’s website says it best, “La Mexicana prides itself on providing quality Mexican fare in a beautiful bohemian environment leaving you wanting to come back for more every time!” Well, the quality Mexican fare andthe muy guapo male servers! The two men working on the morning of my visit made more than a few hearts flutter – and they encourage you to go bottomless (mimosas that is, $12 with the purchase of an entrée). Try the shrimp and grits with cherry tomatoes and sautéed spinach, or the chilaquiles verdes topped with your choice of protein. The burrito will satisfy the size queen in the group (just one?) and comes stuffed with your choice or chicken, brisket, carnitas, chorizo, ‘shrooms, shrimp or octopus. Be certain to try the calentado (Mexican fried rice), enchiladas and tacos.
La Mexicana is open until 8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Fridays and until 11 p.m. on Taco Tuesdays (when all tacos, margaritas and sangria are just $2 each). Other specials include Loco Mondays ($1 margaritas and half off apps), Wine Wednesdays (half off bottles of wine and tapas) and Fajita Fridays (half off all fajitas and two for one cocktails). Oddly enough they close at 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, guess those hot waiters have something else to do weekend nights!