travel · USA

How I Ate My Way Through Fort Lauderdale

 

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Sometimes the universe just lets the stars line up. Mike had a conference in Fort Lauderdale with a car and a (teensy bit sketchy) AirBnb lined up, we had a five year anniversary to celebrate, and my job offers me a boatload of vacation. Naturally, I flew down for a week and while he was businessing away, I ate my way across town.

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We were starving when we got it, so we stopped at Old Fort Lauderdale Breakfast House, which is apparently the place to be on a Sunday. I picked up a Red Passion Lemonade (though they do in-house juice to order…regrets) and we sat down to Corn Chowder and beautiful loaves of house-made bread, dripping with butter. We scored free cookies on our way out (!) and hit the beach for some much needed sun.

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A funny thing must happen down south- everybody seems to work from 11am to 4pm which meant 1) no breakfasts and 2) longer lunches and 3) day-drinking half drunk from starvation. Not that I’m complaining.

For my first day all by myself (while Mr. Man was talking shop), I headed to the marinas alongside Fort Lauderdale’s main beach drag. Having spent most of my childhood summers on Delaware’s beaches, the southern sector has a definitively different vibe- a little more showy, deeply tanner, and just well…loud. Being dock-side was a good way to ease into the more flamboyant Lauderdalian way of life. Note on clothes: hike those skirts up…my sensible midwest handful-of-inches-above-the-knee seemed downright uptight here.

After duking it out with the ever-present parking meters (sheesh!), I gave up and had the car parked. For a weekday, it was $5 if I left the parking lot or $1.50/hour if I could get the meters to cooperate. Not a bad deal. I knew I had hours to kill before picking up The Dude, so this was an easy decision. Coconuts [Be Nice!] sits next door to the International Swimming Hall of Fame so if you’re into that sort of thing, you can just jog on over. I was more into drinks so I sidled up next to a Moscow Mule. A crab cake BLT with spicy mayo joined along and brought some deviled eggs as guests. And because I just didn’t feel like I’d had enough, I ordered a big ol’ slab of Key Lime pie with Chantilly cream to round it out.

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The best part about Coconuts is the view- and that’s not strictly boat+water related. The people are seriously entertaining. I sat by myself, gloriously uninterrupted, watching all manner of people pass me by. Lunching ladies side-eyed me as I ate my pie. A drunk lady ordered everyone to inspect photos of her husband with another woman as he sat by, sheepishly laughing. “Look at it! It’s him and anotha’ lady! Look!” she shouted. And everyone looked. And everyone was wonderfully awkward. And before I forget: the food is actually good. The crab cake was lumpy, meaty, and sans filler. Moscow Mule packed a serious kick. And that pie was the best I had all week- it was how Key Lime Pie is supposed to be.
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My next solo lunch date took me to Temple Street Eatery after I spent a surprising amount of dough at The Thousand Pound Egg and Acacia. TPE specializes in new and old cookbooks, local and specially curated culinary goods, vintage and stone based jewelry, and seriously gorgeous textiles. The owner is a real sweetheart and pretty much went Sephora-style throughout the store- anything I tasted, I bought. Acacia, through an alley and around the bend, is jam packed with a little of everything. Tempted as I was by 14 carat gold earrings, I settled on a one of a kind ErinsWindow vase, a sea turtle ornament for one of my oldest friends, and a Michael Michaud sea urchin salt dish.

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But Temple Street…Temple Street is one of those places that you find yourself going back to because it’s so stupid simple and good. It’s a quick order counter but half the time, I felt like I was getting regular restaurant service anyhow. I ordered pork dumplings with house Buddha sauce, braised pork arepas, and a matcha tea cake. T.S.E. is a fusion of Asian and South American influences and it works. Within minutes I had tiny pillows of pork in a briny, vinegary sauce with crispy onions and cilantro (do.not.skip.) on top. And then the arepas…crispy rafts with mounds of saucy pork sprinkled with cotija and spicy cream. I was having a moment. Or at least I thought I was until dessert showed up- a matcha tea cake with guava fluff (looks like ice cream, seems like whipped panna cotta), lemongrass cream, a crispy waffle cone, mint, raspberries, lychees, and a blueberry swirl. This is what dreams are made of.

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IMG_20160112_151600.jpgFor our next adventure we hit up TacoCraft and its sister establishment, PizzaCraft. Please, oh please, do yourself a favor and visit both. TacoCraft serves excellent margaritas- some traditional, some not. I chose the Rosalita which, you guessed it, features a rose infusion. It benefitted greatly from a heavy squeeze of lime which paired really, really well with my spicy, crunchy pork and shrimp tacos. We settled into PizzaCraft days later for their Spicy Soppressata which is like a grown up pepperoni. Super spicy peppers, soppressata strewn about, fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, fresh grated parmesan, and a spicy honey drizzle that just catapulted it out of the average zone and into the playoffs. I want to sneak honey into all our local pizzerias now.
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For the big anniversary, we headed south to Hallandale for Juniper on the Water which is another dockside restaurant featuring seafood and damn good Palomas. Mike chose calamari and Mahi Mahi and I tucked into wine and garlic steamed mussles with truffle frites. Some four year olds graced us with their dance routine, we watched the moon peek through heavy clouds, and clinked to 5 years.

On our last day in Fort Lauderdale, we headed to Bonnet House for the gardens. It’s well over an hour on a mandatory guided tour if you pay up for the house ($20/person!) but only $10 if you just walk the grounds, so we meandered through the 1920’s estate before a last jaunt at the beach and a flight home.
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Up next: Rainy Key West and Polydactyl Cats!

 

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