I don’t know what it is, but lately I’ve had a lot of lunch dates and on two of those we opted to check out some recently opened spots. The third place we visited has been open for about a year, but it took me a while to get there. It turned out to be my favorite of the three, so let’s start with that one.
4520 North Federal, Fort Lauderdale
Lunchroom is the latest (for now) offering from the be nice restaurant group (Top Hat, Coconuts, G&B Oyster Bar, Foxy Brown, Red Cow) and ranks as its top spot in my book. It’s only open from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and it serves up unique breakfast and lunch fare in a fast/casual setting. How unique you ask? How about a ramen stuffed burrito or a tuna poke hoagie?
Breakfast offerings include oatmeal and chia, as well as sandwiches and burritos (which is where you’ll find the ramen offering; paired with scrambled eggs and maple sausage). There’s also a crispy cinnamon roll topped with cream cheese frosting that could serve as half of Princess Leia’s hairdo.
Lunch options include sandwiches and a couple of salads as well as daily specials. All sandwich fillings can also be served atop a bed of mixed greens for the same price, add a scoop of farro for a buck more. The options range from decadent (the porchetta showcases herb-roasted pork, braised kale and sautéed onion all topped with provolone, pecorino, Romano and Parmesan on toasted ciabatta) to health-conscious (a toasted hoagie roll plays host to a generous helping of sushi-grade ahi tuna poke, mango, avocado, cucumber, cashews and scallions bathed in a soy-ginger-lime vinaigrette) to exotic (tempura battered cauliflower tossed in spicy buffalo-blue cheese sauce atop banana pepper slaw on a toasted bun).
Sides include homemade chips and garlic Parmesan fries as well as mac and cheese, and garbanzo bean, cucumber or quinoa salads. If you prefer to sip your lunch, there is an array of smoothies from which to choose. Craft beers and exotic sodas (praline cream soda, fresh ginger and Shinola cola from Detroit). And, don’t even get me started on the decadent cookies. Breakfasts and sandwiches range in price from $7 to $14, oatmeal and smoothies from $6 to $9.
Milk Money Bar & Kitchen
815 NE 13th St, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304
Milk Money has taken over some of the space formerly occupied by Warsaw Coffee and expanded through much of the rest of the building. Service is hipster-haphazard, but most of the servers are so pretty you’ll excuse them, at least at first. The menu is strange to say the least. While Milk Money is open for dinner, the dinner offerings are severely limited. The only entrée options are a salad, and a choice of vegetarian or beef burger. There are a number of small plate options, all of which are also available on the more extensive (and interesting) lunch menu. The dinner menu also offers tacos so small they could serve as passed appetizers, priced at $4 each, or a pair of steamed buns with traditional bahn mi filling.
I guess Buffalo cauliflower wings are a thing now because Milk Money also offers a version of the dish (which along siracha-glazed Brussels sprouts, chicken tenders and crispy chicken egg rolls are offered at a slightly discounted price during “Social Hour”, from 4-7 p.m.
On a visit for dinner, I ordered the farmhouse burger, fairly-priced at $14.24 (with fries). The burger comes topped with thick cut bacon, cheddar cheese and a fried egg. I ordered mine medium and it came out bloody. The chef came out to apologize and cooked up a fresh one in minutes, perfectly done. On that dinner visit the fried fare had an unusual taste, as if the oil had turned rancid.
Our lunch visit proved more successful; a light and fluffy slice of quiche was not only perfectly prepared, but the generous portion and a tossed salad only ran $8.50. The Poke Bowl while priced a bit higher, $14, delivered a healthy portion of sushi grade tuna.
There are only two desserts listed and they’re both winners. The brownie sundae delivers gooey-chocolatey goodness topped with creamy ice cream, while the aptly named Crack Pie is as addictive as you might expect (it’s what my auntie used to call shoo-fly pie).
2043 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors
Wolsen Caffe, in the space formerly home to NovelTea is a branch of the famed Miami hot spot. They’re going to have to up their game if they expect to survive on the Drive. On the afternoon of our visit, our server displayed a distinct lack of interest in taking care of our table. After taking our order he picked up his phone and busied himself (I hope he was on Grindr, at least), then he went out in front and offered passers-by free iced tea (while we sat with empty glasses). It took a good 30 minutes to get our meal (and we were the only diners in the restaurant).
I ordered the lox platter. Now maybe I’m expecting too much, but when paying $16 I feel the platter should include more than one slice of bread. I would have asked our server, but he was back to swiping left and right on his phone. My husband ordered the “Fusion” bruschetta (one of six different versions available). The four tiny slices of toasted baguette arrived topped with chopped olives and walnuts and flecks of gorgonzola. It would have worked better if the bread was spread with the cheese so that the toppings remained in place when lifted. As it was, most of the olive and walnuts ended up on the plate and table. Our less than satisfactory lunch cost about $30 (that’s without drinks), which doesn’t make me want to go back.