Monday, December 5, 2016

Kapama Karula

- South African Safari

Apologies for the lack of posts of late as I got married and then went off to Africa afterwards. When we decided to do South Africa for our Honeymoon the only question about doing a safari was where we would do one. After a ton of research we ended up settling on a spot that was somewhat new having been built in the last few years. Aside from the positive reviews Kapama Karula would have we liked the fact that this resort was just coming of age. The fact it was still new made for a bargain in the pricing compared to some of the other spots. We also loved the fact that Kapama was a small spot with just twelve suites on the premises. All of this paired with the pictures we were seeing on social media made it our choice for our South African safari. It would be the best choice we made.

Crossing 'Safari' off the Bucket List

After flying into Johannesburg we waited around in their airport for about an hour before we would board another flight that took us to Hoedspruit airport which is the gateway to Kruger. Kapama Karula would be waiting for us upon our arrival and welcomed us with waters and a quick 20 minute trip back to the private reserve. Because this was our Honeymoon we wanted to make it a luxurious time inside the Bush so we were cool with the fact this was our choice even though there's ways to make it much cheaper including renting your own car and driving around Kruger. Having done my research I learned that when doing it that way (Renting a car etc) you're confined to the roads in the parks and thus you need to rely on wildlife to be crossing it. Kapama might've been gated but with 32,000 acres it was a ginormous space that takes it's rangers years to master.

Scene from Inside the Resort

Aside from a five star resort this is also known as a Big 5 Resort. Big Five meaning you're chances of seeing the Big Five (African Lion, Cape buffalo, African Leopard, Rhinoceros) are good as all of them roam the property living their life day by day. We wound up seeing four of the five as the leopards evaded us which they do often. Seeing as how they're solo hunters and dont travel in packs these are by far the most elusive of the five. We did see an African Wild Cat which is said to be even more elusive than the leopards. In the end we got to see all sorts of wildlife and each and every time we took a drive it was filled with something interesting. It was the trip of a lifetime. Obviously I didn't get great snaps of everything but we pretty much saw everything there was to see.

 The Circle of Life

Kapama had a few prides of Lions and we pretty much saw them from the get go. Not every hour so to say but we saw plenty of action including a confrontation between two males and a pride of lions with a few cubs by their side. That was at night. During the day they just lounged around.

Lots of Lions

The males stalked the group and we watched as the pride gathered the troops and moved away from where they could be found. It ended with the great grandpa of one of the prides roaring in search of the others while he just non nonchalantly walked right past our safari cart and was within four or five feet of me in doing so. We took two rides a day and never had a dull trip. While me missed the leopards we saw pretty much everything else from hyenas to African Wildcat which is said to be even more elusive than the leopards. We really lucked out in the fact that we ended up with what I truly believe was the best Ranger / Tracker team on-site. Our Ranger Dohan and his tracker Edwin (TB) were not only amazing at their jobs but also genuinely nice people who loved what they do.

video
Close Encounters of the Lion Kind

The resort itself is situated along the Klaserie River and as mentioned there's a total of 12 suites available for rental. Each one has it's own deck and a personal swimming pool on that deck. Though at times you may have to share it with the local monkeys that like to hop around from roof to tree and maybe pay a visit to the deck in search of something to eat. Don't feed them. The suites were spacious with all sorts of modern day amenities at your disposal. Pretty much as nice as it gets.

Our Deck with Personal Pool

View from the our Deck

They made sure every last detail was covered down to the mini bar. Seeing as how this was an all inclusive per person / per night package they made sure you had access to liquor when you needed it. Not just the hard stuff but juices, beer, wine, soda, and mixers like ginger beer and tonic. Everything you needed and refilled twice a day by the maids who come in and clean the place each time you go on your daily ride. The service was pretty much what you expect from a five star resort.


Lounge / Lobby 
Outdoor Seating on the Deck

The rest of the resorts facilities we're on par with the suites. Everything was wonderful. I didn't make it to the spa but she was there everyday and enjoyed every last second of it. There was a main area overlooking the river with a beautiful bar on one side and huge fire place on the other. Outside off of that was a larger pool available for all renters to use. The dining area was off to the left in it's own building which was also overlooking the river. Not sure they could've done a better job with the designing and stocking of this place. It honestly felt like a bargain despite the fact this was by far the most we've ever spent on a hotel / resort. All that said we thought it was worth every penny. 

View of the Bar
Dining Area Inside

What we didn't expect was for the food to be as good as it was. I'd read that it was wonderful but figured that it was probably good for an all inclusive type spot but not necessarily as a dining destination. It ended up being way better than it needs to be and much better than I thought it would be. I was actually looking forward to each meal.

Karula Benedict (Smoked Salmon)

Breakfast was daily around 9a-11a. We'd pretty much be finishing off our morning game drive around 9a each day so we'd just head over to breakfast after that. Also a surprise was the fact that breakfast was as delicious as it was. I ate a Smoked Salmon Benedict every day but one. On the day I passed on the salmon I went with the Rangers breakfast plate which was full of fuel which the Rangers need to do their job. I never went hungry while at the resort. There was food every four hours or so.

Rangers Breakfast - Fried Hen Eggs with Mushroom and Beans Ragout, Buffalo Sausage, Venison Steak with Sauce Bearnaise, and Crispy Strips of Bacon

Lunch was daily around 1p-3p I believe but I dont remember the exact details of everything. While some items stayed on the menu the entire time there were a few news ones each day. But they pretty much always had a meat option, a fish option, something vegetarian and so on. Appetizers, Salad, Entrees, etc. I enjoyed everything I ate. The head chef did some training in London and he runs a smooth sailing ship at the resort. Let me reiterate how strong the staff is here. World Class. 

Butternut and Thyme Ravioli with Charred Asparagus and Pine Nuts and Butternut and Hibiscus Puree 
Chicken and Prawn Wontons with Wasabi Nuts, Plums, Kimchee Salad, Honey and Soy Sauce

Lobster Club Sandwich

Yellowtail Filet with Potato Sweetcorn Hash, Green Beans, Confit Tomatoes, Broccolli, Buerre Blanc, Basil Pesto

The nighttime game drives were always fun as you leave when the sun is still up and then return after the sun goes down. Many of these animals are much more active in the night so you're more likely to see something exciting at that time. Also great about the night drive was the fact that the group would stop for cocktails and snacks around sundown. Enjoying a gin and tonic with some real deal Biltong (South African Beef Jerky) at sunset in the middle of the SA terrain is a great way to the end the day.

Night Time Game Drive

Dinner on each day was around the time we would return from our nighttime game drive. I think this was usually around 8p. I also remember hearing that the resort holds a braai either three times a week or every three days. Since most people spend three days on a safari this makes sure you'll get to experience a traditional South African Barbecue on your stay.

Seated at the Braai

The Braai station sits outdoors on another part of the property separate from the regular dining room. They had tables lined up around a large fire and a station up front where you could fill up a plate with traditional South African Braii sides as well as the wood grilled meats of your choice. Your waiter is the same person your entire stay and he/she is always there when needed. On this night he was only needed for drinks as the setup was like that of a buffet as far as the sides go. I dont remember everything we ate but the sides we're all an eye opener. There was a campfire bean type dish that was as well spiced as any barbecue side I've ever tried and the crocodile crudo was strangely delicious.  As far as the meats go the antelope was the real eye opener. I thought it was the best piece of meat I tried. On top of that they had beef, lamb, venison, and more. My favorite meal of the stay.

Plate of South African Braai

Another meal each guest gets to experience (as long as they stay three days) is the gourmet dinner. This is a feast where, like all the other meals, you can choose what you want to eat off of the nights menu. I should point out that because this was all inclusive there was no limit on what you could order. The gourmet dinner was a pleasant surprise with some pretty plates of food.

Tart Appetizer

Veggie Ratatouille

Line Fish of the Day

Lamb (Pie and Chop)

Strawberry / Pear Dessert

When our three day stay was nearing an end we had no interest in leaving. Though because we were headed to Cape Town we never really got a chance to recollect on the safari until now. Writing this reminded me just how much fun we had much of which I didn't even get to since I just wanted to give a bit of a roundup on what a safari might be like should you choose to look into one. The fact that it provided both action and relaxation, was in our minds, the prefect way to spend this special time together. We wouldn't switch anything about the start of an amazing Honeymoon. More to come.

Message from the Kapama Karula Team

See ya next time...
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Kapama Karula
Kapama Private Game Reserve
R40, Hoedspruit, 1380, South Africa
Website

Monday, November 28, 2016

Eating BIG South Florida Pt. 3

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Exploring More of the Melting Pot that is SouthFla

I got to spend what was almost a month down in Florida this past May. It was a pretty relaxing time except for when I was going crazy over what to do when I got bored. I can only swim in the water for so long before I get restless. So I spent a good amount of time checking out local spots mainly the ones situated in strip malls as that's pretty much all they got down there as far as businesses. There's a town or two with a boardwalk and restaurants scattered about down the street but most businesses sit in strip malls. If you're willing to explore them you can come across some fantastic food you wont find everywhere. With a heavy presence of South American and Latin American Countries as well as representation from the Caribbean - South Florida is one of the most diverse places to eat in America. Join me on this tour as I show off some of the spots.

Greetings from South Florida
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Captain Charlie's Reef Grill

Juno Beach, FL

I've posted about the Reef Grill in a previous SouthFla post and will continue to do so with every South Florida post from here on in. That's because it's one of the best restaurants in these parts. It's no frills and that's just fine for all of it's fans as the seafood is always fresh and the price is always right.

Coconut Crusted Mahi Mahi Taco

We went a few times on this trip though mostly for lunch. That's always served at the bar area where most people wait at during the dinner hours. The menu is relatively the same though not as loaded with options though the fresh catch menu is available and the fish is a few bucks cheaper.

Fresh Caught Cobia

This is the type of place that I could eat at every day and be just fine. There's a variety of fresh fish thats always changing and they can prepare it in a variety of ways. Basically most everything on their menu has been good to date. Even the tacos which come with more fish than most any others I've ever ate. Though the best way to go will always be the fresh catch menu and whatever sounds good.

Red Snapper
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Leftovers Cafe

Jupiter, FL

Speaking of great seafood restaurants hidden in strip malls this place is another gem. Also called Little Moir's the owner of this spot once worked for the people at Captain Charlie's. Thus there's some similarities when it comes to the menu but the atmosphere is different over here. Seems like they do some live music shows in the evening though on my visit it was lunchtime. One of the signature items is the sweet potato crusted fish. Your call on which of the day's fresh fish you want it made with. I got tilefish and this might've been the best piece of fish that I ate this trip. Served over a bed of ginger greens it was just fantastic. One of the best thing's I ate while down here on this trip.

Sweet Potato Crusted Tilefish
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La Perrada Del Gordo

West Palm Beach, FL

This place kept popping up when I looked up burgers and then one day I just so happened to be exploring the strip mall it sits in and decided to try it out. The Colombian style burgers are massive and come with a ton of toppings on them. I'm on record as not liking too much stuff on my burger and aside from bacon I dont want any other type of meat on it. So instead I opted for an order of Salchipappas which are popular all over South America. Fries mixed with little potatoes, chopped hot dogs, and quail eggs. I have no idea how this dish came about but it works, and works well.

Salchipappas
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Taqueria El Sinaloence

West Palm Beach, FL

When riding up and down Military Trail you will come across alot of taco trucks. Or in this case a taco bus. Grandpa and grand kids were at the helm and carne adovada is what they advertised as their specialty. I tried a taco and got another as it was fantastic. Really tender pork. I dont know anywhere in Chicago where you can get pork meat marinated this way. They also sell it by the pound.

Taco Adovada
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Dona Arepa

Greenacres, FL

I originally walked in here to try an arepa but the temptation of cheese sticks was too much to pass up. Called Tequenos in Venezuela they're a popular snack for kids and adults alike. Salty queso blanco is wrapped in a pastry crust and fried. Not pictured are some addictive dipping sauces.

Venezuelan Tequenos
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Island Getaway 

Greenacres, FL

Talk about living up to your name. Upon entering I was greeted by a group of men sitting at the bar drinking beers and talking. Then there was another group of men one room over playing pool. I felt like I was immediately transported to the islands upon walking in. In this case that island would be Trinidad. One of the specials that day was a curry goat double. I've enjoyed plenty of doubles in my travels but usually they're made with just chickpeas and no meat. So this was indeed a pleasant surprise and something I would happily return for again. Loved the curried mango slices they used as a topping. Really good home cooked food and extra friendly people. A getaway indeed. 

Trinidadian Double (Curried Goat)
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Iberia Grill

Greenacres, FL

When one thinks of Portuguese restaurants towns in New Jersey and Massachusetts pop into mind. Usually not Florida but when you consider all the east coasters that come down here in the winter it's a little less surprising to find a real deal Portuguese joint mixed in with all the Latin American and Caribbean spots. These guys imported a charcoal grill from their homeland and they cook all sorts of stuff on it. One of the best lunch specials anywhere has to be their peri peri chicken. You get a 1/4 charcoal grilled chicken with rice, beans, and french cut fries all for $4.95. This was some of the better grilled chicken I've ever come across. I plan on returning here with each trip back to explore.

Portuguese style Peri Peri Chicken
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La Bendicion

Lake Worth, FL

The town of Lake Worth has a ton of different Spanish speaking people from different nationalities that are represented in different restaurants around town. My favorite was this Guatemalan cafe that opens at the crack of dawn and serves food through dinner. Baleadas are a popular form of breakfast in Guatemala. These are basically breakfast burritos and at Bendicion they make them to order down to the thick flour tortilla that gets well blistered when being made. The bacon, egg, and cheese, with beans was my go-to jam as it was quick and cheap. Next time in I plan on further exploring the menu.

Baleada
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El Rey Del Taco

Lake Worth, FL

Also abundant in Lake Worth are taco trucks. Drive around town at night and you're sure to pass a few. Most of them are on Military Trail Road but my favorite of them all was hidden just off of it. You'll see both the lights and the people from the main road so it's not hard find. Another school bus converted into a taco truck these guys had a nice menu with interesting not seen everyday selections. Stuff like plates of alambres and quesadillas made with Queso Oaxaca and housmeade cream. Also nice was their taco selection which featured a couple handfuls of options as far as meats.

Tacos de Suadero

I found the Suadero tacos to be best. These are made with a piece of the cow right near the brisket, but even better were the quesadillas. They really know how make the perfectly decadent snack that somehow got bastardized badly by the American public. The chorizo option was the way to go as the greasy pork meat molds wonderfully with the extremely melted cheese. These certainly aren't healthy but damn they are delicious. They were made even more so by the potent grilled onions and jalapenos served on the side as well as a really nice salsa bar. Maybe the best 'dilla I ever had

Chorizo Quesadilla
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La Placita

Lake Worth, FL

This place is in a permanent location but they're just a walk up spot with nowhere to dine inside. It too was better than I thought most any Mexican restaurant in SouthFLA would be. The Mexican food scene up and down Military Trail was the biggest culinary surprise of the trip. La Placita made particularly good seafood tacos. Both the fish and shrimp were well fried and the toppings and tortillas were well prepared making them some delicious tacos.

Fish and Shrimp Tacos
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Taqueria Guerrero

Lake Worth, FL

This trailer represented the restaurant who's parking lot it was parked in. It caught my eye due to a spinning trompo with pork meat layered up and down it. Advertised as 'Tacos de Trompo' these ended up being very tasty. Tacos de Trompo are different than al pastor in that the meat is usually marinated in nothing more than smoked paprika. It's a specialty of Monterrey. Never seen them in Chicago.

Taco De Trompo
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Taqueria Guadalajara

Lake Worth, FL

Nothing too exciting that came from this truck but I wanted to try as many as I could. It really was a great surprise to find this wonderful taco trail as I wasn't expecting much Mexican this trip.

Carnitas Taco
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The Taco Lady

Lake Worth, FL

The Taco Lady was getting lots of online love for her unique shells. Seeing as I'm always down to try a unique take on a taco I had to check her out. The shells were definitely different. Either seasoned with something sugary or made with some sort of carnival like batter. They were interesting for sure.

Hard Shell Taco
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Tacos Al Carbon

Lake Worth, FL

Here we have the local Heavyweight. Tacos al Carbon has multiple locations in the area and is most always open. This location has a sitdown dining area, a pick-up window, and also an outdoor tent setup where they cook tacos until 5am daily. It's a popular stop at all hours but honestly it wasn't my favorite. Their tacos de fajita (steak) come topped with a really interesting cheese that I'm not sure was 100% real. It still made for a unique taco and maybe had I grown up on them in the area I'd have cravings for them but I was just a tourist and found these to be just ok. Maybe I'll try them again.

Steak Taco
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Don Jose La Casa Del Sandwich

Lake Worth, FL

Cool looking spot and since I was hungry I decided to try it without any type of research. The menu said their steak sandwich was the most popular item so I got one. I'm not sure if I was given the shaft for not being a regular or if this place is just naturally stingy but my sandwich had maybe four small slices of steak and lots of toppings. Only thing good about it was the bread. Oh well. In hindsight the fact that this was the only complete dud while down there is actually pretty great.

Steak Sandwich
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Victoria's Peruvian Cuisine 

Lantana, FL

I need a completely separate trip that's totally dedicated to the Peruvian food of South Florida if I want to crack any type of dent in the community. So I was told this spot in a nondescript strip mall was a place many chefs at the higher end Peruvian spots hung out at on their downtime. Dark space with a small bar area and lots of small tables for couples. I have a hard time resisting chifa de chaufa aka Peruvian Fried Rice. Since I was taking an order to go I just decided to go with that as it would travel well. Excellent rendition of this Peruvian-Chinese classic.

Chifa de Chaufa
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Tasty Chicks / Fish Bakery

Boynton Beach, FL

Tucked away in a strip mall was this busy Haitian bakery. Palm Beach County's largest immigrant population is Haitians so you'll find plenty of it's food on offer around town. This spot was busy with locals coming in and out so I stepped in and ordered a few things to go. One that caught my eye as the Haitian patty. Being a big fan of Jamaican patties I wanted to see how these compared. The difference is in the crust as these were very flaky and layered atop some minced beef. It seemed like the pastry part of the treat was supposed to be the focal point as there wasn't a ton of minced meat.

Haitian Style Patty and a Piece of Pie
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Pa'm Pi Bon

Boynton Beach, FL

While driving down the street I noticed a colorful takeout window where people were ordering food. I had thought it might be some sort of ice cream shop but when I turned in to check it out it ended up being a Haitian Takeout spot. There was little online about this place but the fact there were nothing but Haitians waiting for food was a good enough sign for me to come back and check it out. I ended up with the classic order of fritay in pork form. They were out of goat. Fritay just means fried and because they dont cook the food until you order it here, expect a wait, it was the best fritay I ever ate. Most other times it was sitting under a heatlamp waiting to be sold. This stuff was juicy, full of flavor with much of the meat coming with bone to gnaw around. Rice was plentiful and full of flavor from the pork drippings while the traditional Pikliz condiment that Haitian food comes served with was epic in in it's own right. Pickled cabbage with spices and citrus etc it's one of my favorite condiments

Pork Fritay with Brown Rice and Pikliz
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Tsunami Subs

Boynton Beach, FL

Aside from Haitian this town seems to have some pretty good sub sandwich options. This can probably be attributed to the fact many East Coasters find themselves moving down here and opening up restaurants serving the food they loved back home. This place is owned by some folks from Massachusetts and they make a hell of a hoagie. To me it's all in the oil when it comes to an excellent East Coast style sub. So no surprise to find a potent oil on these. The meats were sliced to order and the bread was the only thing that could've been a bit better as I thought it to be too soft.

Italian Sandwich
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Primo Hoagies

Boynton Beach, FL

Another East Coast style Sub shop here, this one via Pennsylvania near the Philly area. It's a chain so I wouldn't go out of my way to eat here but it's certainly better than your local Subway, jimmy John's etc. The bread was the star of this one but that dominant smell of oil was lacking so I slightly preferred the first stop in head to head Italian Sub comparisons.

Italian Sub
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Nemo's Fish & Chicken

Delray Beach, FL

There's two spots (on same street) in Delray Beach where people swear by the conch being prepared. Unfortunately one of the two was closed for the entire time we were in town so I only got to try stuff from this locally loved fish and chicken shack. Each Fritter had nice chunks of diced conch and lots of green onion flavor. Very addictive and something I will for sure return for. Another item I will have to try is their cracked conch dinner. These guys use an exclusive supplier from Miami and the meat is always delivered fresh. Put them on my list of spots I'd happily return to my next trip in. 

Conch Fritters
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Brule Bistro

Delray Beach, FL

We tried a variety of slightly more upscale spots than your average strip mall joint but none wowed. South Florida's fine dining scene is still in need of some tweaking in my mind. This goes for the food and the cocktails, even in Miami. But the plus of these places is the outdoor seating they usually provide and when it's happy hour you can experiment with the drinks and food and see if anything is worth coming back for. Usually that wasn't the case but this spot actually had some pretty good snacks including these chorizo tostadas. 

Happy Hour Apps
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The Whales Rib

Deerfield Beach, FL

The Whales Rib is a spot we went to back in 2012. We've been returning ever since and we always return for the exact same things. Lobster Bisque, Rock Shrimp (when in-season), Blackened Grouper Sandwich. So despite there being plenty of other options at this Florida style seafood shack those are what we will always stick with. Each of them is worth returning for time and time again.

Rock Shrimp

The rock shrimp are something you wont find everywhere while the sandwich is one of the best fish sandwiches I know of. The fact they dont try to do anything to creative is what makes it so good. Just a well blackened grouper filet topped with shredded lettuce, tomato and slivers of red onion an a soft but stable wheat bun. Squeeze a little lemon onto the fish and you're good to go.

Blackened Fish Sandwich
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Flavors Caribbean Restaurant

Deerfield Beach, FL

Lots of love out there for this strip mall Jamaican spot and so I needed to see for myself. Run by some really friendly Jamaican ladies I had a tough time deciding what to order. In the end it was the curried goat that had the most mentions though I will say the oxtail and also the jerked chicken topped with gravy looked great. Seems like everything here is good. Because this was some of the best curried goat I've ever come across. The patty was on point. These ladies know how to cook.

Curried Goat Dinner Plate with a Patty
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Direct from Philly

Deerfield Beach, FL

Hidden in a gas station in Deerfield Beach is the old flavor of Philly. This place has all the classics you'll find on a cheesesteak place back in Philadelphia incl. the Amoroso's bread. Regular cheese steak with onions and American for me. Not bad but the meat was the frozen kind so I can't call it the best. Still I'm sure this place helps cure the crave of a cheesesteak sandwich for lots of Pennsylvania transplants now living in South Florida.

Philly Cheesestak
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Papa's Raw Bar

Lighthouse Point, FL

Here's another one of the areas popular fish shacks. We were looking to grab a drink and decided to do so at a music venue bar that's located in the same strip. Same owners so lots of fish on the menu here which we were told was different from the charter restaurant / market.

Hog Fish Taco

The music bar was also a raw bar but we decided to get a few tacos and sandwiches. Both were hogfish as that's one of my all time favorites in the seafood department. These weren't anything special but the fact there was hogfish in them made these better than most other examples of them.

Hogfish Sliders
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Calypso Restaurant

Pompano Beach, FL

Someone rec'd us this Floribbean fish shack and I'm sure glad they did. Calypso Restaurant is the type of spot that gets so much business they can afford to take the weekends off. So keep that in mind if thinking about dining here. Other thing to keep in mind is that's it's popular and pretty regular sized as far as space so there is most always a wait during the busy season. We squeezed some seats at the bar and sat next to a couple who goes there a couple times a month. They had plenty of recs.

Pepper Pot Soup

One of those recs was the Caribbean style pepper pot soup. This was a delicious bowl of one of my favorite sippers of which I rarely get to enjoy. No denying the strong selection down here when it comes to Caribbean style food. Unfortunately the calamari was too salty for me. Too bad because we requested all tentacles and they were happy to oblige. Service at the bar was stellar.

Fried Calamari

In the end the calamari being too salty wasn't the worst thing as we also ordered our entree fried. At the rec of the bartender we got the whole fried snapper with mango-sesame dressing and it was without a doubt one of the best things I ate this trip. The bartender wasn't just pushing the special as this is on the specials board pretty much any day fresh snapper is around. Served with a side of rice and black beans this was one of the best whole fried fish dishes I can remember. We loved it.

Regularly  Available Special of Fried Snapper with Ginger Garlic Dressing and Mango Salsa
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Shalama's Halal Roti

Margate, FL

The city of Margate is an ethnic enclave of food. From stripmall to stripmall there's something at every lot turn into. This place was on my radar last trip but they closed for the week for vacation. So I went back this time and got to try both a roti (goat) and a double (vegetarian). Both were terrific. Lots of Trinidadian families and city employees etc coming in for lunch. I'll be back next trip in.

Double
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Lucky City 

Margate, FL

Another spot that was on my radar but never had the chance to try until now. This place is a Chinese restaurant with Caribbean recipes added in. Thus some of the menu items are of Caribbean-Chinese descent. Chicken in De Ruff is the traditional Guyanese take on fried chicken. It's a dish commonly found on Chinese menus in Guyana and also South Florida. Lucky City felt exactly like a Chinese restaurant on the inside with it's outdated furniture and such but everyone in there had a thick Caribbean accent. The chicken was fried perfectly to the point where it slipped right off of the bone and was accompanied by a nice batch of fried rice. Chinese Fusion remains a favorite of mine.

Chicken in De Ruff
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Jersey Dawg

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Food Cart's are found here and there but you'd think there would be more in the area. One place I had my eye on was a spot that was named best burger at a big NYC burger event and also happened to server rippers. The latter of which are fried hot dogs which along with sliders are popular in Jersey. At the time this mobile cart was stationed at a gas station but I think they might've since moved. Both the burger and the hot dog were delicious. With the amount of Jersey people living down here it was no surprise to find out this was a popular lunch stop.

Ripper with Relish (L) Slider (R)
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Mai Kai Restaurant 

 Ft. Lauderdale, FL

We had to go back to the Mai Kai if for anything the food. Even with it being similar to the drinks we still enjoy popping in here for Happy Hour. When I say similar I mean that they might not be the best tiki drinks but the the strong ones pack a punch and the Cantonese fried shrimp is perfection in the guilty pleasure way. It too is half off during happy hour as are all other food choices from the appetizers. It really is like going back into time when stepping inside. So that's cool too.

 Cantonese Fried Shrimp
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Captain Jerk Lounge

Hollywood, FL

I wanted some jerk on the way into Miami one day and ended up choosing this place. Nice call. It was lunchtime so they had a nice special but I had wanted to try both the jerk chicken and also the pork so I got a combo plate that made my day. It was a great sign smelling smoke when I pulled up and that led to me being served a plate of freshly cooked product with the perfect amount of both char and spice. This was probably the best jerked meal I've ever had in the States. I still think about it.

Jerk Chicken / Ribs Combo
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Wapo Taco

Hallandale Beach, FL

While searching around for tacos I read about a place with al pastor in motion. Further investigation led me to read that this particular taqueria got it's start in Mexico City. I was intrigued and tried it when heading home from Miami one day. An order of al pastor was cut off the trompo to order but I thought it needed a bit more char. Other than that these were better than 90% of al pastor tacos out there due to the simple fact they make them the right way. I'd be back here if I was living down there.

Tacos al Pastor
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Bonafide Bakery

North Miami, FL

I had no intention of stopping into this Uruguayan-Argentinian Bakery but when I learned about it I had to roll over. There's both a high number of people from Argentina who live in Uruguay and also vice versa. The Rioplatense community has a big presence in Miami and there's lots of little bakeries such as this place. They sell everything one could want to get a taste of the Old Country.

a peek inside 

Aside from a variety of baked goods including some tasty empanadas I tried they also made these wonderful little sandwiches that were perfect for tea time. Called sandwiches de miga the crust is removed and they're filled with a variety of filings such as cheese, meats, walnuts etc. I cant remember exactly which one I tried but I wished I had ordered a few more. These were a great snack. I need to go back and try some of their home cooked food such as the Steak Milanese.

Sandwiches de miga and an Empanada
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Luis Galindo's Latin American Restaurant

Miami, FL

This place was on my list last trip in but the timing never worked out. This time it did and I'm happy to say I now know of a great Cuban Sandwich in Miami. There's lots of options but none of them that I've tried have ever been this good. This is a real locals type spot and there seemed to be a ton of older Cuban people both eating food and drinking shots of espresso. I knew this place was going to be good by the sight of hams hanging in plain sight from the counter. When the ham is shaved from the bone such as this it's so much better than some cheap deli meat that was sliced with a machine.

a peek inside

Every other component lived up to the standards of a great Cuban sandwich. The bread itself was the best Miami style Cuban bread that I've come across. Having gone to school in Tampa for a years it's there where I fell in love with the Cuban. Despite lots of stops I had never had one in Miami that I thought was as good as some of the good ones in Tampa until I tried this guy. Worth the ride. Please note that there's different Luis Galindo's and this one is called Latin American Cafe 2

Cuban Sandwich
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La Camaronera

Miami, FL

I finally got a chance to try one of the most popular lunch stops in Little Havana. About time as this place has been visited by pretty much everyone including that Guy from Food Network. The family that owns this place has a history in fishing go back to Cuba in the '50's. They escaped political turmoil in the '60s and headed to South Florida where they continued to fish. Eventually they saved enough money to start their own business and in the mid 70's added a lunch counter to their retail seafood market. Today it's a popular lunch stop for their fried seafood and such.

Fried Shrimps

The two items people talk about the most are both the fried shrimp and also the Original Pan Con Minuta (Snapper Sandwich). So naturally I had to try them both. The shrimps were meaty and pretty well fried but the taste of the oil overpowered the taste of the shrimp. The piece of fried snapper didn't have the oily taste of the shrimp so that was what I preferred of the two. It was a nice sized piece of fish in a fresh Cuban bun topped with raw onion and ketchup. An interesting choice for toppings but for whatever reason it worked.

The Original Pan Con Minuta
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Sabores Chilenos

Miami, FL

This place gives new meaning to "hidden in a strip mall" as I almost gave up on finding it. Even with Google Maps. It sits in a corner of a corner of an extremely large strip mall. It's the type of place you basically have to know about otherwise you wont ever happen to come across it. I knew about it because I was doing a bit of research of Chilean cuisine in South Florida and surprisingly this was one of a just a few spots. I was trying to find a place that might specialize in the country's signature sandwiches. Turns out this spot not only has a sandwich section to their menu but also many Chilean classics you just wont find anywhere else. I had a hard time communicating as many of these spots speak the language native to the cuisine that they serve, eventually I was able to place my order.

Lomito Sandwich

Seeing as how she prefers the pork I decided to get the first sandwich listed which was the lomito. Pork Loin Slices get layered with tomato, mashed avocado and mayonnaise in between a house baked bun. Actually everything in the sandwich (sans tomato) was homemade including the smashed avocado and also the mayo which was much richer than most others I've tried. This may seem like a pretty standard sandwich but the sum of it all made for something I'll seek out again next time I'm in town. The bread was perfect in every which way as far as a sandwich can go. They know how to bake. Next time I'll have to stop next door at their bakery / grocery and try some empanadas as well.

The Insides
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Rio Cristal

Miami, FL

Having had some recent success with a Cubano in Miami I decided to try out another spot. This too was one constantly mentioned when the best Cuban Sandwich in Miami was discussed. Rio Cristal is a full fledged Cuban restaurant that's more commonly known for their enormous steak dinner that comes topped with a heaping mound of shoestring fries. Tempting but I had a taste for a Cubano. At Rio Cristal they press the sandwich like no place else I've ever been. The end result is a well toasted sub that's warm through and through while dripping with melted cheese. This is one you're going to want to eat right away. I think I made the right call on this one as this was possiblly the best Cubano I've ever had, Miami or Tampa. Sandwiches comes with the signature fries which were also delicious.

Cubano with Shoestring Fries
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Taquiza

South Beach

I'm always on the prowl for tacos wherever it is I may be, including South Beach. I spied this place on Eaters list of the hottest restaurants in town. It caught my eye due to their real deal made in-house blue corn tortillas. House-nixtamalized corn is ground fresh daily. Aside from that the ingredients seemed to be a step above your average taco shack and that's never a bad thing. It's just a walk up window with some spaces to sit found here and there. Tacos are sold individually and they offered a selection of about ten tacos. I ended up ordering two. One Shrimp. One Huitlacoche aka Corn Smut. 

Camaron - Shrimp, Red Mole, Slaw

The shrimp were nicely sized and I liked the sauce they were slathered in. Better than the shrimp was the corn smut. It was mixed with actual corn which was pretty cool and certainly more visual appealing on the eyes which is how it is with pretty much everything in these parts. The tortillas were indeed the star of the show. I cant stand hipster taco spots that dont take the time to make their tortillas in house so I'm happy to show a little love to these guys for taking the time to grind. 

Huitlacoche - corn "truffle", corn, scallion
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Pubbelly

South Beach

Pubbelly is constantly mentioned as one of South Beach's best dining destinations. Chef Jose Mendin is well respected around the country and his food has been recognized internationally. The menu is Asian Fusion with gastopub like plates of food. We dined here with a couple that were also in town so we got to try out a handful of things. First up an order of the uber popular Avec Dates.

Avec Dates

These are the same recipe as the ones found in Chicago at Avec. Hence the name. I just love the pool of red sauce that they swim in. Onto the next starter which was a special of Brussel sprouts with a heavy glazed sauce coating them. I didn't much care for these but still found them to be worth a nibble while waiting on the next round of food.

Brussels Sprouts

Best dish of the evening was a kimchi fried rice with a perfectly poached egg that when broken leaked out lots of yolks to cover the crispy rice with bits of kimchi mixed in. This was one of the best things I ate this trip and I know that because I've craved for more since we first tried it.

Kimchee Fried Rice - pork belly, charred pineapple, green peas, egg

An order of Duck Confit ravioli was for our friends kid but she didn't want any of it so we went ahead and had that too. It came with a sweet sauce and while I didn't love this dish due to the sweetness it was s till really interesting as far as texture and the other flavors including the duck.

Duck Confit Ravioli - pumpkin foam, almonds, soy brown butter

For my main dish I went with a plate that helped make this place is what it is. The Pork Belly Confit was some of the better cooked belly that I can remember. I dont have specifics on this dish that i can recount but I do recall enjoying every last bite. The piece that shared was enjoyed by my dining companions and we all agreed it was a good rec by our waiter who suggested I try it.

Pork Belly Confit - kabocha squash, butterscotch miso, corn powder
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Pubbelly Sushi 

South Beach

While waiting for our seating at Pubbelly we saw quite a few plates from Pubbelly Sushi being delivered to the tables outside where we were sitting. We couldn't resist returning the next day and trying some of it for ourselves. While everything was good I wouldn't call it the best sushi you'll ever have but it is creative and everything we ordered was ate as it was all enjoyed. See ya next time.

Snow Crab Roll - goma soy paper, warm snowcrab, ponzu, clarified butter

Hamachi Jalapeno - kyushu, japan. lemon soy, cilantro, roasted poblanos

Salmon Tartare Tacos - salmon tartare, crisp fried shell

Rock Shrimp Tempura - avocado mango, tuna tartare, tobanjan aioli
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Note: Please use Google (search restaurant name and town) to view all addresses. Check out Part One of this series as well as Part Two.

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