My editor Jason Parsley asked me to write a lead-in for the food/dining section of our “Best Of” issue. Luckily, he asked me to write commentary for all the nominees in a category, because picking my favorite Wilton Manors dining establishment would be like Sophie’s Choice.
Granted the consequences aren’t so dire; no one’s going to die but picking a favorite from this group would be impossible.
First, they are so disparate, not only in cuisine, but in the atmosphere, price point and levels of service, that it’s impossible to compare them on a level playing field. About the only thing they have in common is being welcoming, safe spaces for our community. I can, instead, tell you what I love about each of them.
Bona Italian Restaurant
Owner Glen Weinzimer continues to exhibit that sense of community that has been a hallmark of Bona’s since he took over a few years ago. He still donates a portion of the profits from his Monday night business to local charities, many of which have also been impacted by the pandemic.
His charitable endeavors aside, Bona’s is under consideration for Best Restaurant for one main reason; the food is damn good. My favorite dishes? Palm chicken: boneless chicken sautéed in with mushrooms and hearts of palm in cream wine sauce, or the shrimp and scallop scampi. I can’t comment on the desserts because I’ve never made it to that course, the main dishes are too filing.
Ethos Greek Bistro
What is the attraction of this charming dining spot smack in the center of town? Could it be the perfectly prepared Mediterranean fare? Certainly, but it could also be the beautiful atmosphere (even the indoor dining spaces feel as if they are outside) or the attractive and attentive waitstaff.
The menu is mostly based on food from the island of Crete: light, mainly vegetarian and seafood-based. Given that, it’s ironic the most popular dishes are the meat platters, which can include chicken, kefte, gyro and lamb chops. The platters are served with a variety of dips, pita wedges, a salad, spinach rice and rosemary red potatoes. Each of the specialties I’ve sampled has always been perfectly prepared and attractively presented.
Tee Jay Sushi
As with most sushi restaurants in South Florida, there is also a strong Thai influence on the menu. The main atmosphere is one of celebration. It’s almost impossible to go to Tee Jay’s in Wilton Manors (there’s also one on North Federal in Fort Lauderdale) and not have a good time. The servers are always friendly and flirty and the food, whether Thai or sushi, is well prepared.
Traditional and special sushi creations share the menu with classic Thai food. Among the more unusual dishes worth trying are the crispy, duck topped with a pineapple, cashew nuts and sweet bell peppers or the pad Thai lobster, which upgrades the classic Thai pasta dish with two sauteed lobster tails.
Known more as a hang out space for more mature gentlemen, Tropics has revamped its menu and now offers first-class dining. The menu, as you might guess from its clientele, skews more toward the classic meat and potatoes fare; steaks chops, chicken and a hella good meatloaf. The brunch menu offers everything from biscuits and gravy to a lobster roll.
And, of course, they have the sweetest server in Wilton Manors named Jamie! Entertainment is presented most nights and, even in this pandemic, during prime time, it can be difficult to get a table.
Rosie's Bar & Grill
The patio tables provide the quintessential South Florida dining experience, among lush vegetation. Efficient and friendly servers dish up food with a bit of friendly ‘tude (read the backs of their shirts).
Burgers are the main attraction. My favorite is the Bacon Bitty Bang Bang, piled high with house-made bourbon-bacon jam, chipotle Bang Bang Sauce, a roasted plum tomato, and creamy Brie. It’s served topped with crispy kettle chips for a nice crunch. Vegetarians will be happy to know that any burger patty can be subbed for a veggie burger. There’s plenty of other fares, as well. One of my favorites is Pisa Envy (layers of shrimp, black bean and corn salsa, and fresh avocado). Drink specials abound, adding to the party atmosphere.