Carol and Nancy, owners of the chic gastro pub Apt. 9F explain how they chose that name for their business.

“It is easily the most asked question. We spent a short stint living in Washington Heights in Manhattan. As far as luck goes, we had an unusually great apartment – one with a doorman (trust us, that is a luxury in NYC) and a balcony (unheard of for what we paid) that overlooked the Hudson River at the George Washington Bridge. We spent a magical three years there before moving back to South Florida. The apartment number was, you guessed it, 9F. When we decided to open Apt. 9F, we wanted to create a cozy place with personal touches where everyone feels welcome. The art on the walls is ours – collected throughout the years (and due to lack of room at our condo, a necessity to be able to display and enjoy it), the kitchen is open – because let’s face it, when we go to friends for cocktails and dinner, we all end up in the kitchen. It really is like an apartment, albeit one with a really large bar.”

To say they’ve accomplished their goal is an understatement. It is just small enough to feel as if you are visiting friends, but large enough so that you don’t feel crowded. Nancy takes care of prepping the food, while Carol acts as the perfect hostess. At dinner, the menu focuses on apps, flatbreads, bruschetta, tostadas, tacos, meatballs, and charcuterie boards. At brunch there are meals, but they are on the smaller side. You won’t leave hungry, but you won’t waddle out either. On our brunch visit, I thoroughly enjoyed the beef wellington and eggs. Three slightly larger than bite-sized versions of the classic dish served with two perfectly cooked eggs in tiny frying pans. My hubby couldn’t finish the pecan, walnut and oat-studded pancakes topped with sliced bananas. Our friends Loren and Roz raved about their quiche Lorraine and chicken quesadilla. An apricot-cranberry scone was the best scone I’ve ever had.

There is a full-page wine list and an equally large selection of craft beers and cocktails. If you arrive close to opening for brunch, it can be a bit harried, just as if you arrived a bit early for a friend’s party. Even when fully packed you are never made to feel as if you must hurry along to clear a table. Apt. 9F is the perfect place when you want to sit back with a friend and catch up over a glass of wine and some nibbles. 

Apt. 9F

2163 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors

954-880-1191

apt9f.com

Decidedly upscale, but without being stuffy, Aida, a long-time favorite in Coconut Grove, recently opened a second location near the MASS/West Flagler Village district in Fort Lauderdale. The menu features seafood and although mostly Mexican, it is filtered through an international lens, mostly Asian. 

“Our restaurant pays homage to Mexican and international cuisine through a combination of dishes and styles,” said owner Eduardo Gavilan.

Take the appetizer portion of the menu, for example. The guacamole is simply avocado, cilantro, and lime, but it is delicious. The portion is easily enough for 2-4 to share and fairly priced at $15, but why serve it with just two tostadas (delicious as they were)? We did have a small plate of chips at the table so that helped.  Most menu options are Mexican seafood focused; oysters on the half shell, ceviches, and a tamale as well as a couple of Asian-inspired dishes such as tuna “sashimi”.

There are about 1½ dozen taco options, priced from $15 (for three different vegetarian options) to $28 (for lobster), served as a pair. The taco de chicharron de camarones featured flour-coated shrimp topped with chipotle mayo and cilantro and reminded me of the Bang Bang shrimp I’ve had at many Asian spots. My only complaint would have been for a double tortilla. The skimpy, but delicious disc underneath just couldn’t support the generous filling. If you’re going the low-carb route, they’ve even got taco “shells” made from grated cheese.

There are about a half-dozen entrée portions, including a small serving of lasagna Azteca. This is the dish that will bring me back time and gain. Pink shrimp in a poblano sauce and grated gouda cheese layered between corn tortillas subbing for lasagna noodles. The dish is a delight, although $28 for an Easy-Bake Oven-sized portion is a bit of a hefty price tag.

Perhaps the smallish portion is a reminder to save room for dessert. The Mexican salted caramel chocolate cookie (more of a brownie, really), topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce is as decadent as you might guess and might be my new favorite dessert. Service is friendly and the timing of the dishes from the kitchen was sheer perfection. There’s a serviceable wine list and full bar service. On the night we dined, a few days after Christmas, we were one of two tables in the dining room. I hope this place catches on because I want to go there often.

Aida

911 NE 4th Ave., Fort Lauderdale

954-533-0998

aidarestaurant.com


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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