First of all, you should know I personally hate ‘Best Of’ issues. Everyone has their own tastes and preferences, whether it comes to boyfriends, bookstores, or bars. Besides, we have all heard what everyone says about ‘opinions.’
So let me say this. We are fortunate to live in a great environment, enriched by entrepreneurial LGBT businessmen and women, aspiring to excellence. We are lucky not to have one gay bar, but a monopoly board’s worth. Come to Wilton Manors, and yes, the Village Pub is new and inviting, but the Alibi and Sidelines are world-renowned and have been here for years.
So who is the best? Who cares? If you go out, sometimes you like pizza and sometimes pizazz; one night a sports bar, another evening a dance club. Most of all, you want to experience a touch of class or sometimes, let’s face it, a piece of ass. But the bottom line is boys and girls just want to have fun. For me, my specialty is finding places to eat.
After 35 years in Fort Lauderdale, I know if you want lasagna to die for, you find Café Vico on Federal Highway. But for a large steady helping of chicken parmigiana with some really dynamite garlic rolls to carbohydrate your meal with, its gotta be Il Mulinos on East Sunrise.
Now if you want to eat a burger, jumping and juicy, you find the award winning Champ Burger at the Alibi, or the Hickory Burger at J Mark’s. They are simply the best in town, and both are must eats. Sure, if you are on the move, Jack’s on North Federal has been around for three decades, so you know you are guaranteed history and a good milk shake. But they are drawing competition with Five Guys, and those potato skin spattered French fries.
Hungry for breakfast? The Peter Pan Diner may have gotten the most votes in this go around, and they do make a mean lox and eggs platter. Still, if you are looking for marvelously bountiful and plentiful omelets, you have to try out the Floridian Restaurant on East Las Olas. Not only have they been a pleasantly metrosexual hangout for decades, they have a freshly grilled Salmon Teriyaki with steamed broccoli that can rival any restaurant in town. But hell, if it is 2 in the morning on a Saturday, and you are still on the prowl, chances are you can find a man dining large at the Courtyard Café, which also proudly serves a menu with low-calorie, heart healthy options.
Another favorite for me is The OB House on Himmarshee Street in downtown Lauderdale. It can’t be matched for original, homespun quality cooking. Managed by a corn-fed gay man from Arkansas, Rodney, it is the best place in the whole United States to try a pancake or their biscuits, sausage and gravy, not to mention an array of incredible evening fare, very reasonably priced. On Sundays, you sit outside and catch the Sun Trust Jazz Brunch. In fact, dining outside is always nice, which is what makes the patios at the Alibi and Rosie’s so appealing. How can you go wrong? There are boys, booze, and buxom burgers.
My major for years has been eating out, but I can still find enjoyment with the Chicago style hot dogs in a tiny place bursting with flavor, like Hot Dog Heaven. But if you are trying to impress, how can you beat Trulucks on a Monday night with its unending portion of stone crabs? But if you like garlic clams steamed in butter, kick back in sandals and find yourself a Quarterdeck Restaurant, like the one on A1A and East Las Olas.
If you are looking for a Chinese takeout, you can’t go wrong with Chopstix, but there are wonderfully and moderately priced family size portions that will be delivered to your door by the good proprietors of Chen’s Garden, adjacent to Johnny’s Bar. Sure, PF Chang’s is a touristy paradise at Galleria, but the Mongolian Beef offered by Christina Wan’s is second to none, in a popular and comfortable LGBT friendly Victoria Park setting. SFGN just had our holiday party there, and I brought home an extra portion of the Szechuan chicken.
If you are a sushi freak, as I have become that little Geisha House on Wilton Drive is as good as it gets. But it is a small place, and if you pull together a large group, you can’t go wrong with Sushi Rock and its original stylings. For Thai food, there are the diverse and tastefully appointed selections of Suko Thai, TJ Thai’s or Siam Cuisine on the Drive.
J Alexander’s is popular for their Rotisserie Chickens and pasta soups, but their au jus roast beef is the freshest cut in town. It’s in a battle of the ‘bests’ with the same sandwich at Yolo on Las Olas, prepared with caramelized onions. J Alexander’s cooks right in front of you on a stove fueled by Hickory Wood. The place smells great as you walk in, but I would not miss out on the Hawaiian Steaks offered by J Mark’s or Houston’s, either. Try them both and compare. Send me your notes.
I haven’t left greater Fort Lauderdale, and I am not close to finished. The baked clams oregano served at the Tuscan Grill makes you feel like you are walking barefoot in Venice. The steaks at the Capitol Grille are succulent and swelling. The Veal Chop at De Angelos’ is the talk of the town. But for more informal gatherings with groups of friends, generous portions, and freshly heated breads, there is a Carabba’s in town calling your name.
There are too many top pizza places to mention. Humpy’s offers you creativity, convenience and consistency, but Pizza Rustica on East Oakland offers unique specialty slices, a tasting paradise. Don’t underestimate how good a pizza can also be at a restaurant like Il Mulino’s, or Franco and Vinny’s down the block on East Sunrise. And our friends around the block at Bona Pizza make one 'bellisimo' pie!
We all have our own bests and favorites, whether it is the buttered popcorn at the Gateway Theater or the Dilly Bar at Dairy Queen. So if you think the best shrimp scampi can only be found at Michelle’s Restaurant, let us know. I am ready to taste test anywhere and everywhere. It is my sacrifice for you, so we can write about it in our ‘Out Eats’ section.
Meanwhile, don’t miss out on the six-inch ham and cheese hoagie at Publix. It might be the best deal in town, coming as it does with a soda and a bag of chips for less than 10 bucks. Well, maybe it isn’t as good as the one at Smitty’s Butcher Shoppe on Prospect. That is where I am headed now. Look, class is not me!