When we moved to South Florida from Los Angeles, my family and I experienced a heavy-duty dose of culture shock. I had never lived on the East Coast, and life and people here are different than the cool, casual personalities that I had gotten used to on the West Cost.
We missed our usual stomping grounds and food haunts. What were we going to do about restaurants? I couldn’t cook at home every single night. Alright, I could, but I didn’t want to. Would we be able to find restaurants down here that we could love?
After more than five years of living down here, the husband and I have, surprisingly, found some pretty good restaurants. Here are my favorites:
Primanti’s– 901 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL, #954.565.0605 and 516 East Lakeland Park Blvd., Oakland Park, FL, #954.565.7100.$
An already popular establishment in Pittsburgh, two locations in South Florida have been satisfying locals for years. If you’re looking to eat light and just want a bowl of soup, settle on a different restaurant – Primanti’s does everything big.
Their pizzas are incredible – thin crust and made-to-order. You can order by the slice or order a whole pie. What keeps us coming back, however, are the signature sandwiches, including the popular Pitts-Burger.
The sandwich is monstrous – two thick pieces of bread, cole slaw (I usually dislike cole slaw, but Primanti’s special sweet and tart slaw in this sandwich is an appetizing combination), beef and french fries.
That’s right – french fries. It’s a hearty challenge, but someone’s got to do it. The menu also boasts Italian dishes like oven-baked lasagna and pan-fried raviolis.
Big Pink Restaurant– 157 Collins Avenue at 2nd Street, Miami Beach, FL, #305.532.4700.$-$$
Down by South Beach, there’s a venue that churns out classic comfort food with a distinct twist and large servings. I love the Big Pink French Toast. The brioche is cut thick and cooked just right, and is perfect with globs of butter and syrup.
The Reuben is also delicious with corned beef on rye. You can’t go to Big Pink’s without getting a bucket of homemade fries, chips and dips, sweet potato fries, buffalo chicken wings and tenders, buffalo shrimp, onion rings, fried calamari and corn dogs.
There is something to satisfy even the pickiest eater. Bring the kids, leave the belt at home.
Royal India – 3801 Griffin Rd., Fort Lauderdale, FL, #954.964.0071.$-$$
I was introduced to Indian food in college, and if it weren’t for my sensitive stomach, I’d eat it three times a week. If you haven’t had Indian food before, Royal India is a good introductory restaurant. Get here early on Fridays and the weekends because there’s quite a wait.
Start with Garlic Nan – it’s outrageously good. We order several because no one wants to share, and it goes well with anything on the menu. Also order the Mango Lassi, a smooth and refreshing mango and yogurt drink.
If you like cheese and peas or cheese and spinach, order the Matar Paneer or the Sag Paneer – you can’t imagine a better combination of spices. You can smell these dishes coming even before it gets to your table. The Chicken Tikka Masala is sublime, to say the least; the chicken is tender and the tomatoes and bell peppers are not overpowering.
J. Alexander’s– several locations in 13 states.$-$$
When you go to J. Alexander’s, make sure to ask for a basket of croissants. These are complimentary, but are not served automatically to tables without a request. They are made in-house and are to die for. The croissants are light and delicate, just the way they should be. What puts these croissants over the top is the honey butter which infuses an unexpected sweetness.
If you like sandwiches, order the French Dip. It’s piled high with slices of prime rib and served with au jus that is never salty. Horseradish is served on the side; it’s not overpowering and is the perfect accompaniment.
For dinner, I crave the Slow Roasted Prime Rib, 12 oz. If you’re feeling particularly famished, order the 16 oz., or you can ask for larger sizes, if you dare. Served with au jus and side of your choice – veggies, mac & cheese (outstanding and surprising), fries, baked potato, smashed potatoes, beans, cole slaw, and orzo and wild rice. The Prime Rib will not disappoint and you’ll immediately start your love affair for this restaurant.
South Florida has an eclectic mix of foods from around the world. The best restaurants aren’t always listed in city guides or Zagat’s.
$- $10 or less (per person)
Pic of the Day: My dog escaped the yard today and my neighbor sent me this picture