Monday, February 11, 2013

Eating BIG in South Florida

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
-Cruising South in the Sunshine State for Local Eats

I was down in Florida for 12 days in December and got around while there. After some Cuban sandwiches and drinking in Tampa (report coming) we headed south. The rents have a place in Boynton Beach that my grandpa stayed at back in the day. So we were there a couple nights but you can only take so much country club living when you're not even 40 years old yet and have no interest in golf. We spent a few nights in Miami and then headed to Key West to live young. Here are some spots in South Florida I hit up.

Sheila's Famous BBQ & Conch

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West Palm Beach

First off let me say we went to WPB one night for eat and drinks and the central square place or whatever it is was a freaking madhouse. It took almost an hour to get a spot in the garage and all the Lambo's and Bentley's are double parked by valet so you gotta squeeze thru them too. Away from the glitz and glamor is this great little place. Sheila is from the Bahamas and cooks like her mom used to. I didn't try the BBQ but her fried cracked conch is outstanding.

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Specialty of the House: Cracked Conch
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La Granja

Our first night in we needed to get over to Wal-Mart for a few things and I passed by this hopping Peruvian spot in the same shopping center. It was packed with people of all races and class and the drive thru was buzzing so I said why not. I almost walked out when I saw the horrible "professional" photos of each dish but I'm glad I didn't. The spit roasted chicken was juicy and full of flavor and the seafood fried rice was fantastic. It turns out this is a local chain in South Florida and for a little while they had an outlet in Palatine of all places. Get the garlic potatoes as your side.

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Popular Peruvian Eats in Boynton Beach
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Big Al's Steaks

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Del Ray Beach

First off, wow! Del Ray Beach is a whole lot different then when I was hanging there as a kid. Atlantic Avenue is a pretty hopping spot these days huh? We enjoyed fresh oysters from City Oyster and drinks at a place whose names escapes me. Anyone who's been at a bar in a country club in Florida on NFL Sunday's knows theres tons of east coast transplants in South FLA. So theres a few cheese steak places and Big Al's was pretty good. Fresh thick sliced ribeye with good bread did the trick in the wee hours, it's open until 4a Thurs-Sat. Better than Checkers and Miami Subs. Oh and the public beach here is still one of the best in state.

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Popular After Drinks Eats in Del Ray Beach
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LaSpada's Hoagies

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Chester PA Style: Fresh Sliced Meats Piled High on East Coast Bread drowning in Oil

Speaking of subs or hoagies as they're called in PA here's another Pennsylvania transplant. By way of Chester this place is a popular sandwich shop with spots throughout South Florida. I stopped into one in Boca Raton and appreciated the fact the sandwich meat was sliced to order and as is key in the Sandwich state the seasoning and oils on this baby made for a required shower after eating. The large sandwich ($10) can feed four, I couldn't finish but half of mine. Some great east coast style hot cherry peppers too and I liked how they wrapped the meats, cheese and toppings with more meat. It all held together good.

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East Coast Style Subs in Boca Raton
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The Whales Rib

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Deerfield Beach

The big LOL of the food world came this past year came with NYT Pete Wells' review of Guy Fieri's monstrosity in Times Square. I dont doubt its bad but there's plenty of other celeb food folk who have done alot less for small mom and pop shops than Fieri he could of bashed. I dont watch DDD but I do find he's been to and brought attention to some great places I've been thru. Another example here. We came twice in four nights including our final meal the night before heading home.

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I'm a BIG, BIG fan of steamed rock shrimp and these were perfect

Deerfield Beach is another fun little town with some stuff going down when the sun does. The crowd here seemed to be a little more down to earth than WPM and Del Ray with alot of surfers and younger newly transplanted couples. Whales Rib is a popular place to eat and drink for folks from all walks. They have lots of fresh seafood on special including those beautiful rock shrimp up above. We got those both times and also their famous blackened dolphin (mahi mahi) sandwich. It comes on an amazingly soft bun and is as good of a fish sandwich I've ate.

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Famous Dolphin Fish (Mahi Mahi) Sandwich
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Kelly's Landing

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New England Style Seafood in Fort Lauderdale

We rode up from South Beach to meet a friend of mine from college. He's from Boston and thus a big Patriots fan so we met up with him at his local watering hole on gameday that Sunday night. Kelly's is located in a strip mall but dont let that deter you. Alot of places down here are. It's got the vibe of what you'd picture a popular place to eat and drink in New England has. Hell even the waitress was from NE and had the thick accent to prove it. The place was hopping with older folks from the area that transplant down there for winter.

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Connecticut Style Lobster Roll (served hot)

She went with the roll and I went with a favorite of mine you dont find everywhere, the fried clams. I got a bite of the roll which was good. The bun just ok but they didn't skimp on the meat and it was sweet. It had been forever since I had fried clams again after the first time I tried them at Woodman's in Essex, MA back in college. But with the opening of New England Seafood Company in Chicago I've been eating them alot more of late. These from Kelly's were comparable to theirs and cost a little less since they're just down the coast.

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Ipswich Fried Clam Dinner
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Southport Raw Bar

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Fort Lauderdale

Located in the strip mall next to the strip mall where Kelly's is at is Southport Raw Bar. We stopped into here afterwards on my friends rec of it being the cheapest raw bar in the city and thus one of the freshest since they have constant traffic. The oysters and steamed little necks were a nice dessert cap after dinner.

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Oysters on the Half Shell and Steamed Clams
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Jamaica Kitchen

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Miami

Another spot which that Guy from Food Network has been too. I saw this episode randomly and wanted to check it out. This is a Jamaican Chinese restaurant. ICYDK Jamaica has a decent Chinese population and the owners of this places parents went to Jamaica from China. So the owners are Chinese but born and raised in the Jamrock. They speak in a patois slang and it's just kind of funny at first, especially if not expecting it. Like the Southern slang used by the people with Chinese ancestors in the Mississippi Delta. I tried the extra spicy beef patty and the heat was real. Also one of their signature Jamaican/Chinese eats the pork belly and ham choy. Excellent.

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Pork and Ham Choy with Red Beans & Rice and a "Red Dot Hot" Beef Patty
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Chef Creole Seafood Takeout

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Little Haiti (Miami)

Another place I've seen on TV (No Reservations) and was told by a friend to go to. This is Haitian Cuisine. There are several Chef Creole locations in Miami as the owner has built a name brand for himself but the original seafood takeout in the Little Haiti neighborhood is best. It feels like a seafood shack in the Caribbean. While it is takeout they do have a shaded outdoor area with tables and chairs to sit down and eat at. We went with the whole fried fresh snapper and their famous seasoned shrimp.

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Whole Fried Snapper

This picture was taken before I dumped my cup of sauce and fresh sliced onions and pikliz, a hot Haitian relish, on it. So it may look plain from here but with all that added on it was pretty heavenly and "hella" fresh man. Their shrimp and its seasoned batter was even better. I think I paid a little over $20 for all that and the people working the place were great. The man himself, Chef Creole was there making sure we were happy. I'll be back when I return.

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Famous Creole Seasoned Shrimp
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Fritay

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Little Haiti (Miami)

Not far from Chef Creole is Fritay. I said "what the hey" and decided to try this place too. It's indoors but they one table. From behind the glass they have a steam table of whats on their small menu. Fritay means fried and their fried chicken was named best in Miami by the Miami New Times. I guess that was before Yardbird, it was ok. The fried pork was ok too but the fried acre and sides with them were great. the acre tasted like potato pancakes to me. This place too was super cheap and they sold their pikliz by the bottle so I got a few of those to go home with.

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Fried Pork with Acre and Beans and Rice
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El Mago de las Fritas

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Little Havana (Miami)

Long on my radar I've actually never had a frita cubana in Florida. I've made them but now can come to understand that just like a good Cuban sandwich, you need a certain type of bread for these. This place is a popular pick for many including the President. Mago himself was there and he made my frita which is a Cuban take on the hamburger. It comes with a seasoned beef/pork blended patty with shoestring potatoes and onions added on in between some really good bread. I loved it.

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Frita Cubana with Cheese
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The Yardbird

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South Beach

Well after three days (with a GF) in South Beach, I was about ready to leave. It's like Vegas in that it's fun for a a little bit but that's all you need. There's all sorts of people trying to get you to come in to their happy hour deals which they say is 2 for 1 but that's by the round. So you end up paying $32 for four super sweet drinks. The crafted cocktail scene hasn't really hit South Beach but Yardbird is the exception. Its not up to the levels of Violet Hour, Barrelhouse etc... but they mix some good drinks and at $11 you're paying that everywhere around here. Might as well be good.

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One of the only spots to get a decent cocktail South Beach

Anything with peach and bourbon is good by me so I was sipping down on a concoction with those on both visits. I had camera problems as mine jammed while down here and I didn't get it fixed until the last night when I played rough with it. But we ordered the chicken biscuits drizzled in honey twice because they were as good as hyped. The fried chicken here is also really good and that talk has got them a location coming in NYC. What about Chicago?!?!?!

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Chicken Biscuits as good as those in Nashville
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To explore some eats even further south in Homestead and down into the Keys CLICK HERE.

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Better go walk some of this off...See y'all next time.

Sheila's Famous BBQ, Conch, & More
406 Southern Blvd
West Palm Beach, FL 33405
(561) 951-2723

La Granja Restaurants
Locations throughout Florida

Big Al's Steaks
450 East Atlantic Avenue
Delray Beach, FL 33483
(561) 819-1888

LaSpada's Original Hoagies
Locations throughout South Florida

The Whales Rib Raw Bar
2031 Northeast 2nd Street
Deerfield Beach, FL 33441
(954) 421-8880

Kelly's Landing
1305 Southeast 17th Street
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
(954) 760-7009

Southport Raw Bar
1536 Cordova Road
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
(954) 525-2526

Jamaica Kitchen
8736 Southwest 72nd Street
Miami, FL 33173
(305) 596-2585

Chef Creole Seafood Takeout
200 Northwest 54th Street
Miami, FL 33127
(305) 754-2223

Fritay Restaurant
12143 Northwest 7th Avenue
North Miami, FL 33168
(786) 866-9674

El Mago de las Fritas
5828 Southwest 8th Street
Miami, FL 33144
(305) 266-8486

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
1600 Lenox Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139
(305) 538-5220

4 comments:

El Mago de las Fritas said...

El Mago and Family thank you so much for your kind words. We are so lucky to be able to do what we enjoy everyday. You are the perfect example of what makes our lives so amazing. Please come back and visit soon and join us on Facebook and twitter! Much Frita Love to you and yours, El Mago Family

Anonymous said...

We were in South Florida just last week and used your story as our lead. The Whales Rib was my favorite while my husband who grew up in Philly loved Big Al's and LaSpada's. Yardbird's fried chicken was outstanding. Thanks so much. We'll get to the places we didnt get to next time!

Amy J.

Danny said...

Oh god, now I’m craving for some Philly steak sandwich by Big Al’s. Really must try this when you’re in Palm Beach Gardens. Pair it up with a cold beer, and it’s goodnight, Florida. :)

Danny Riddell

Restaurants in Deerfield Beach FL said...

Florida is place with great sunshine,beaches and beauty of nature!!!to have fun to visit seafood restaurant in Florida with variety seafood is always great experience

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