By Mallory Evans | October 14, 2016 | Food & Drink
When it comes to food, the options in Miami are endless—but what about the areas surrounding the Magic City? Luckily, we found seven eateries taking Fort Lauderdale's culinary scene by storm that will expand your horizons.
The Scene: Garnering its namesake from the burlock sack that notorious sea captain and rum smuggler Bill McCoy used to send his spirits overseas during the Prohibition, this classy watering hole, eatery, and marketplace is nestled inside The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale. Facing a sweeping ocean view, the resto's dining room hearkens back to a bygone era thanks to the antique-inspired tiles and exquisite hanging lanterns.
The Dish: Chef Gavin Pera and beverage director James Camp combined forces to create local, seasonally driven menu items that pair with specialty rums. The black grouper entrée, for instance, features accompaniments that change daily—on a recent evening, chef Pera employed chorizo, kale, and a lobster emulsion—that accentuate the hearty fish. When enjoyed with the Rum Runner’s Remorse, a specialty cocktail that features pineapple-infused Fwaygo rum, the dish is dynamite. 1 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-302-6460
The Scene: When you walk into Nisi, you'll likely breathe an audible sign of relief. That’s because this upmarket Mediterranean eatery—the brainchild of Hell's Kitchen contestant chef Joshua Wahler and hospitality veteran Andy Tsavos—exudes a vibe that you don’t often experience in Fort Lauderdale. The interior is bright and airy, and outfitted with modern, organic furnishings that you’ll want to source for your own home.
The Dish: While the menu emphasizes daily fish specialties and traditional Greek plates like moussaka, the star of the show is actually an appetizer: The grilled octopus—sliced thin and served atop a Gigante bean purée—is incredibly delicious and the perfect start to your meal. 3330 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-200-6006
The Scene: Now that the weather has dipped a few degrees lower, Wild Sea Oyster Bar & Grille's outdoor area at the iconic Riverside Hotel is the ideal perch for people watching on Las Olas Boulevard. If you rather not peep at passerby, take a seat in the indoor dining room, an elegant alternative.
The Dish: James Beard-recognized chef Toby Joseph’s philosophy is simple: incorporate fresh ingredients and balance the flavors. Basically, less is more. Of course, you'll have to start with some oysters, which are sourced from both the east and west coasts. As for main dishes, we suggest the West Florida grouper, a refreshing dish that's accented by heirloom tomatoes, mangoes, and blackberry drizzle. 620 E. Las Olas Blvd. Fort Lauderdale, 954-467-2555
The Scene: Shooters Waterfront is a South Florida institution: Anchored on the Intracoastal Waterway, it has functioned as a haven for locals and visitors alike for over 30 years. With such prime digs, it's the ideal spot for happy hour, family celebrations, and romantic dinners. If you haven’t been at this point, Shooters should be at the top of your Fort Lauderdale culinary list.
The Dish: Shooters’ coastal-inspired menu features locally caught seafood dishes that are just as beautiful as the water views. Start with the ahi tuna tartar (pictured), which puts a spin on the classic appetizer with the addition of mangoes, heirloom tomatoes, and toasted sesame dressing. 3033 NE 32nd Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 954-566-2855
The Scene: The craze for poke—marinated sushi-grade tuna topped with a variety of veggies, dressings, and herbs—has all but saturated Miami. Now, Fort Lauderdale residents can indulge, too. The Hawaiian-themed elements—peek the surfboards, AstroTurf, and an iridescent sign that declares, "You had me at aloha"—will make you feel like you've hit the Big Island. Thankfully, The Poke House is only about four miles from the beach, so catching some waves isn’t totally out of the question.
The Dish: While all of the artfully assembled bowls are indeed Instagram-worthy, the Cocoa Beach Florida poke bowl is a standout pick. The inventive concoction features spicy passion fruit salsa fresca, crushed plantain chips, pineapple, chili pepper, and quinoa for a vibrant meal. 666 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale, 754-200-4555
The Scene: Twinkling lights and retro signage imbue the playful, vibrant spirit of Mexico at the Fort Lauderdale location of Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar. Locals flock to happy hour at the bar, which serves up over 400 varieties of tequila, as well as craft cocktails like the Chile Mango, a mezcal-based libation featured this month.
The Dish: When you stop by, order the guacamole prepared tableside. Though you’ll be tempted to fill up on this completely addicting hors d’oeuvre, don’t. Next up are the Molcajetes Carne, Rocco's Taco's take on fajitas. Served in a lava rock bowl, this mouthwatering mix of chicken, steak, chorizo, chile, and tequila (yes, more tequila) will soon become a favorite dish. 1313 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-524-9550
The Scene: Billed as a luxury boutique steakhouse, Steak 954 is nestled within the chic W Fort Lauderdale on the beach. While the restaurant's interior matches the mod feel for which the W Hotel brand is known for, your best bet is to dine al fresco. The staff will orchestrate a romantic candlelit setup guaranteed to please; the cool ocean breeze is complimentary.
The Dish: Although the menu is centered on steak, the seafood options at this Stephen Starr restaurant are also top-notch. We recommend the pan-roasted branzino, a light yet substantial fish accented with capers, olives, and Marcona almonds. If you’re feeling wild, order the truffle mac & cheese, a sinfully delicious side dish that will complete the meal. 401 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-414-8333
photography by south moon photography (wild sea oyster bar & grille); facebook.com/thepokehouse; Alissa Dragun (dish at the poke house)