spoon

BurgerFi Cheeseburger Review

2

Category : American, Hamburgers

 

BurgerFi from the lot

BurgerFi from the lot

Luckily for residents of South Florida, BurgerFi is expanding and has several locations in the area.  The restaurant reviewed is on Sunrise Blvd located directly across from the Galleria Mall.  This location in convenient for beach goers or even workers in downtown Fort Lauderdale

BurgerFi has a straightforward menu focused on burgers, hotdogs, onion rings & fries, frozen custard, sodas and a good variety of beer and wine.  You will be full when you eat here.

Seating is excellent with a large outdoor section to use on those perfect florida days.

Todd Reviews the BurgerFi Cheeseburger

The BurgerFi cheeseburgerIt is a good great time to be a fan of a good great burger.

Over the past few years we’ve seen the rise of what I call the “craft burger”, just like we’ve all witnessed the rise of craft beers.  The days of choosing a burger from one of ‘original’ fast food chains (in my opinion) are gone.  Fast food is the dying breed, the ‘newspaper’ of yesteryear.  This should be by choice, as there are such great selections for great burgers.

Enter BurgerFi, a relatively new establishment in this area, located on Sunrise Blvd across from the Galleria Mall.

BurgerFi
Website: Yes
Phone: (954) 835.5514
City: Fort Lauderdale
Location (map): Sunrise Blvd
Delivery: No
Outdoor seating: Yes
Lunch $: $10-$14 approx.
Dinner $: same

I’m not going to beat around the bush here… BurgerFi is excellent.  You can focus on many things to love when you eat here.  The ambience is unique and trendy; they have a great beer selection including an artisan’s selection of craft beers, they have a staff that knows their product and that are happy to serve you; and most importantly, they have an ace up their sleeve with their delicious burgers.

Their menu is just right.  It’s not as basic as something like 5 Guys, but it also doesn’t require a Masters degree to sift through the options.  They have your standard burger/cheeseburger and 3 varieties of specialty burgers (Veggie, Breakfast burger with egg, and an intriguing Prime Brisket burger).  To keep my reviews fair, I ordered a classic “BurgerFi Cheeseburger” which is exactly what you would expect.  It’s a double patty burger, with American cheese, a perfectly moist potato roll for a bun and the fresh toppings that make a burger great.  I have lettuce, raw onion, mayo, mustard and ketchup.  This is exactly how I order my cheeseburgers at other establishments.  To compliment the meal, a tray of onion rings and French fries were served with a delicious Victory Golden Monkey (craft beer) at my side.

As we ate the burger, my partner Brandon and I started discussing the specifics that make an excellent burger.

  • Proportions of ingredients are essential.
  • The right kind of cheese that doesn’t over power is a must.
  • The bun is the silent warhorse of a good burger. It needs to carry it’s precious cargo while being sized right, moist and tasty all at the same time.
  • Fresh/crisp/cool toppings like lettuce and onion are a must.
  • Tasty beef that is never frozen (and in this case it’s also grass-fed/no additives).
  • The best condiments and Heinz brand ketchup.
  • Made on the spot, fully custom and served with love.

BurgerFi hits a homerun in all of these areas.  I ate my meal trying to analyze ways to make improvements and I come up empty.  The burger satisfies on all levels and it could possibly be the best burger out there.   The craft beer and the fries are all top notch too.

With all this praise, what could possibly be wrong?  The only citable weakness you can present is that a perfect meal has an entry fee.  On average, the BurgerFi burgers are going to run you about a buck fifty more that some of the other leaders in craft burger market.  It’s not a backbreaker by any means, but something to note.

To conclude, I’d like to point out our reviews focus on the food itself, and the BurgerFi Cheeseburger is an absolute ace.  I have to reiterate that the bonuses are great as well; it’s a nice location with outdoor seating, nice ambience, nice beer selection, and a friendly staff.  You honestly can’t go wrong.

Todd’s score:  97/100

Pros: Best Cheeseburger (edging 5guys barely), nice ambience, great portions, great sides, awesome beer selection, variety of options for burgers and fries, easy to access, outdoor seating, not overly crowded, knowledgeable staff.
Cons: Price is among the highest for a ‘craft burger’ establishment.

The BurgerFi cheeseburger

The BurgerFi cheeseburger

The BurgerFi meal for review

The BurgerFi meal for review

The BurgerFi meal for review

The BurgerFi meal for review

 

Waiting for burgers at BurgerFi

Waiting for burgers at BurgerFi

Condiment Bar

Condiment Bar

Dining Area at BurgerFi

Dining Area at BurgerFi

BurgerFi Seating Area

BurgerFi Seating Area

burgerfi10

Craft Beer Selection

Craft Beer Selection

The BurgerFi Menu

The BurgerFi Menu

BurgerFi from the lot

BurgerFi from the lot

The BurgerFi meal for review

The BurgerFi logo greets us

The BurgerFi logo greets us

 

 

Shake Shack Restaurant Review

Category : American, Hamburgers

Shake Shack neon signOnce in awhile the Taste Critics crew will get a new blip on the radar that takes them out of the Fort Lauderdale area.  This is one of those reviews.  While doing a random Google search for “Best burger in south Florida” I came across a blog that showcased a few top notch burger places (Five Guys, In-n-Out burger) and this place called the Shake Shack in Miami.  I was reluctant to say the least because I had never heard the Shake Shack and it seemed like a subliminal advertising article.  No need to twist my arm though, I’d gladly travel a few extra miles to try and find the best burger.  So off to Miami we go on a Saturday evening…

After doing some research I learned that Shake Shack is based out of New York and they have a handful of locations in the north east United States.  Their entry to Florida is in a sole location (as of June 2011) in Miami’s luxurious shopping district in South Beach on Lincoln Road.  Getting here was a little work with challenging parking,  but once you find a spot, the rest of your time can be relaxing and enjoyed.

Shake Shack Restaurant
Website: Yes
Phone: (305)434.7787
City: Miami
Location (map): South Beach
Delivery: No
Outdoor seating: Yes
Lunch $: $12+
Dinner $: same

The Shake Shack has a good sized restaurant that has a large open-air feel to it.  The style is very unique and trendy.  The spacious indoor area is complimented with about 8 tables outside if you want to dine out and enjoy the view (people watching is quite enjoyable here).  Outdoor tables are over sized and are under shade.

There was a fair amount of people coming to eat when we got there (around 7:30 pm), but they were quick to process orders and get the food out.  One last note is the menu had a diverse offering of beer and wine for those looking for a little something extra to go with their meals.

Todd Reviews the Double ShackBurger and fries

Shake Shack double with cheeseI am expecting high things from this burger.  Going in with high expectations usually means disappointment, but here we go…

Browsing the menu, the choice seemed to be clear which one to try.  The Double ShackBurger (with ShackSauce no less!).  I got my usual condiments… onions and lettuce.  Ketchup is added later from a condiment bar, where I didn’t see mustard. Hmm.

Waiting a few minutes for my beeper to go off you look around and notice everyone seems to be having a great time with an upbeat atmosphere.  Alas, the beeper beeps…

The ShakeBurger is an impressive size.  It’s a tad larger than the Five Guys double with most of the extra size in the beef patties which makes for a very filling meal.  Other than that it’s pretty much on par with a Five Guys burger (in regards to size).

I take my first big bite and wait for the taste explosion… it’s definitely good.  The patties are cooked medium well with a hint of pink, which is perfect for me, and to be honest I am surprised to see a ‘fast food’ place offer anything other than well done.  All in all it’s a very solid entry.

Comparing it to the best burgers I know which are currently offered by J Marks and Five Guys… it doesn’t quite stack up to that level of perfection.  It is very good mind you, but the most minor flaws prevent it from being a “Best Burger in South Florida”.  The patty size; being larger doesn’t always mean better.  The large patties make for a disproportionate amount of meat, taking away (slightly) from the overall experience.  This is a minor nitpick.  Another flaw is the ShackSauce.  When isolated and tasted on its own, it is actually sort of dull and lackluster.  It seems to be missing a little something.  It’s got no zing, it’s not salty and just seems ‘okay’.  The bun on the burger is well enough and makes for a good burger, but I am forever spoiled by J Marks and the extra effort they put in their buns (grilled with a dab of butter like a grilled cheese).

The Double ShackBurger is a winner, but if I have to nitpick a few things to give you the real deal, then I think I did a fair job describing them to you.  I would definitely go back and get another one, especially if I was in the South Beach area again, but I would probably skip the ShackSauce and perhaps try the single patty version to keep the ratio of condiments in good order.  The fries were average and nothing to write home about, so I won’t waste much time talking about them.

Todd’s score: 88/100
Pros:
A very-good burger that beats just about all but the best
Cons: ShackSauce was nothing special, double patties made for excessive meat, bun was good but not perfect.

Shake Shack menuInside the Shake Shack

Brandon eating his double ShackBurgerShake Shack Burgers Fries and drinksShake Shack BeeperShake Shack Burgers

J. Mark’s Restaurant Review

1

Category : American, Hamburgers

J. Marks RestaurantJ. Marks Restaurant isn’t exactly new to the strip on Federal Highway.  In fact I’ve driven past it dozens of times without really putting much thought to trying it.  I guess my reluctance was because of the fact that the name doesn’t really tell you much about what you’ll find inside.

Had it not been for a referral, countless months would have gone by without me having tried the dish I am about to review for you.

I am fairly sure I have seen other locations of J. Mark’s Restaurant in the area (Google Search…) yes, there are a couple in Boca Raton and others in Broward County.  The one Brandon and I reviewed is one located on North Federal Highway just a little north of Sunrise Blvd.

J Mark’s Restaurant
Website: Yes
Phone: (954) 390.0770
City: Fort Lauderdale
Location (map): S. Federal Hwy
Delivery: No
Outdoor seating: Yes
Lunch $: $9-$14+ approx.
Dinner $: couple dollars more than lunch

Pricing is higher than a lot of the little shops we often frequent, however we didn’t see anything that would break the bank (so to speak).  There were plenty of options from the $10-14 range.  They have a varied American menu with chicken, seafood, pasta and other varieties. Parking is easy and free.

Todd’s review of the Blue Peppercorn Burger

J. Marks Restaurant Blue Cheese Burger with friesThe search for the “best burger the world has to offer” is a never ending quest.  In fact we tread in dark waters when we bring the subject up to the zealous fans of places like In-and-Out, 5 Guys (which we love) and other famous places.

A recent tip off from a friend that J. Mark’s Restaurant had something special was enough of an excuse for us to visit and see for ourselves.

We arrive right around noon and are happily greeted by several hosts and seated promptly.  Our waiter explained several specials while we browsed the menu, even though we already knew what we were going to try.  Deciding which burger (of their handful of varieties) was the only notable decision we had to make.

Reading the description of the Blue Peppercorn Burger sold me instantly.  I asked the waiter how medium and medium well look.  His description was detailed and I chose to get my burger cooked medium well which had a thin section of pink within the burger.  It only took about 10 minutes and the food was ready and delivered to our table.

Now for the good part: So my burger is sitting in front of me, but I must wait to try it as I whip out my iPhone and snap a couple pictures.  Mouth salivating, I dab a little ketchup on the burger and then take a hearty bite.  There are so many flavors and textures to analyze at once that my brain can’t quite make up its mind.  It’s literally 10 seconds later I start nodding my head saying “yeah, I think this one’s a winner.”  Indeed it was!

The chuck that is used to make the burger contains minced onion and bacon.  I am not a bacon fanatic by any means, but the subtle addition makes for one of the best hamburger patty’s I’ve ever tried… really!  In addition to some fabulous flavors a side result is that the burger is extra tender, somehow like getting the prime part of a steak.  Just as the waiter said, the burger was cooked to perfection with a thin ribbon of pink within making for a perfectly cooked meal.  Topped with blue cheese, red onion and fresh cracked pepper I’d have to say that this burger pretty much destroys all other ‘gourmet’ style burgers I have tried (including the famous Rosebud Restaurant burger from Chicago I had).

Last and certainly not least is the bun.  I often refer to the bun as the most underrated part of a burger.  This one was toasted slightly and I assume dabbed in butter to give it a perfect crispness while still plenty moist on the inside.  The texture complimented the fine flavors perfectly.

Alas a new discovery that finds a top spot in our review section!  The fries were hot and fresh, but certainly not the best fries I’ve ever had.  The burger…. yeah, it’s all about the burger in reality anyway.

The service was actually near 5 star.  I don’t know if the waiter (Jeff) was tipped off that a review crew was coming or not, but he provided us with superb service which helped compliment a perfect burger.  Walking to the car after lunch I was happy and content and yet puzzled that this new discovery existed for so long with me knowing.  So bottom line time… best burger in south Florida? It’s such an important question, but as of right now, I would have to answer with a “yes!” Honestly, I don’t know what they could do to make it better.  If I figure it out, I’ll post my finding here of course!

Todd’s score: 96/100
Pros:
A perfect burger…yeah, I scored it higher than 5 guys!  Perfect service.
Cons: Fries were ‘standard’, prices are slightly higher than typical lunches ($10).

Brandon’s review of the Cheese Burger

J. Marks Restaurant Cheese Burger with Sweet Potato friesIt’s going to be tough to match Todd’s review on this one. I really wish I hadn’t read it before I had to write my review but here goes anyway.  Just to let you know, I love Five Guys burgers and fries.  In fact, before eating at J. Marks, I would say that Five Guys burger was probably my favorite that I could name off the top of my head.  I’ve had so called “gourmet burgers” all over the country including in New York, Las Vegas and San Francisco. I loved In n Out burgers (only available on the west coast) and thought they were pretty darn good until Five Guys opened near us down in Fort Lauderdale – and in my humble opinion, Five Guys smokes In n Out.  I’d rather have Five Guys than pretty much any other burger I’ve ever tried – that is until a few days ago when Todd and I stumbled upon J. Marks.

We were actually on our way to Jets Pizza (killer pizza btw) but on the way there saw J. Marks on the road which Todd mentioned had been recommended by a friend as her favorite burger of all time. Given that we are expert food critics, we were skeptical of the so-called “gourmet burger” but decided to give it a try.  That decision may have changed my life forever.

We arrived just before noon and J. Marks wasn’t very busy yet so we were seated promptly. Our waiter (Jeff?) was very efficient and friendly and provided us with menus and took our drink orders. Of course we both already knew that we would be ordering burgers, but we didn’t realize that there were actually a few distinct options. Todd went with the blue cheese burger which I was sooooooo tempted to order because I do love blue cheese, especially on steak, but something about the “classic cheeseburger” called out to me. Jeff informed us that the burgers at J. Marks were made with beef that was pre-mixed with bacon and onion which further intrigued me. I do like bacon, but not a lot of it at once.. It can be overpowering – so I was a little worried when he mentioned this fact, but still went ahead with the order.  I also decided on the sweet potato fries which are a nice change-up from the potato fries that accompany most burgers.

After a short wait, our meals arrived and the burgers certainly looked good enough, but it wasn’t until about 15 seconds after the first bite that I realized we had a true winner on our hands. It really did take a few seconds for my brain and taste-buds to realize what was happening in my mouth and when that realization occurred, I was in heaven. The burger was delicious. A delicacy. I really couldn’t believe what I was tasting.. and even now while writing this I worry that the experience was a fluke and will never be repeated. The meat was perfectly cooked (I ordered it medium). The cheddar cheese was perfectly melted. The red onions on top were crisp. The bun was perfectly fresh, chewy and buttery all at the same time. The combination of it all was uniquely perfect.  The burger was quite large actually and while I was very hungry, I was still barely able to finish it despite how delicious it was – yet I did finish it all including the sweet potato fries which were also quite good (though not as good as the burger itself).

It is a rare event when I am so unexpectedly and pleasantly surprised by food nowadays. I honestly walked into J. Marks thinking it was just going to be another fancy gourmet burger with the usual “good but not great” outcome. This, my friends is great. No – great does not do this burger justice. If you like burgers you MUST go here and try it. I hope it wasn’t a fluke or one time event and that next time I go it will be disappointing. If so, I’ll remember this as the best burger I ever ate, even if it was a one-time experience. Yes, food fans (and burger fans especially), you owe it to yourself to give J. Marks a try. Hopefully you will not be disappointed – I pray that I won’t be next time I go!

Brandon’s score: 98/100
Pros: Best burger I’ve ever eaten and that’s saying a lot. Perfect size, perfect proportion of ingredients, excellent service, great sweet potato fries.
Cons: Bun gets a little soggy if you don’t eat fast enough. This wasn’t a problem for me because I ate like a maniac – only the last few bites had any sense of imperfection.

Argentelle Cafe Review

2

Category : American, French, Sandwiches

Argentelle Cafe in Riverfront on Las OlasThe Argentelle Cafe may very well be the reason for a renaissance at Riverfront on Las Olas Blvd.  This former downtown Fort Lauderdale hot spot is going through a transition.  Out are the old familiars (Dan Marino’s, Hooters and Ugly Tuna Saloona) and slowly but surely new blood is opening its doors.

Argentelle Cafe
Website: Yes
Phone: (954) 522.4002
City: Fort Lauderdale
Location (map): Riverfront
Delivery: No (they do cater)
Outdoor seating: Yes
Lunch $: $7-8 approx.
Dinner $: NA

The Argetelle Cafe is run by Chef Remy, who’s mild French accent welcomes patrons each day.  Remy is a culinary chef with roots in New York and France.

Workers in the downtown Fort Lauderdale area now have access to semi-gourmet cuisine focusing on French/American dining.  The Argentelle Cafe also provides catering services to local businesses.

Todd’s Review of the Chicken Marsala:

Argentelle Cafe - Chicken Breast Saute with Sauce & Mushroom & Mashed PotatosEach day the Argentelle Cafe offers a unique daily special.  I am privy to what the specials are each day because I am on their e-mail distribution list (bottom right of page).  Today’s special was Poitrine de Poulet Saute Marsala, a.k.a. Chicken Breast Saute with Sauce & Mushroom & Mashed Potato.  I recommend you call your order in prior to arriving to save yourself 15 minutes.

I will give credit where it is due.  As far as taste is concerned, Remy knows what he is doing.  His Marsala sauce is excellent and it actually had me licking the container after my meal was done so I could enjoy every last drop.  The chicken was delicate and tender and his mashed potatoes are well seasoned.  Of the various specials that come and go, this has to be one of my favorites.

The daily specials usually come to $7 even (after tax), which makes this a killer deal for the lunch crowd.  So Remy scores high in value and flavor.

The portions could be just a little larger in my opinion though.  While the quality of the food is exceptional, the portions are ‘just enough’.  So, the good news is you won’t get fat while enjoying Remy’s entrees.

Todd’s Score: 86/100
Pros: Botton line – the food tastes great and is well seasoned, semi gourmet lunch fare, nice side options ((very good)french fries, salad w/ balsamic dressing, veggie).
Cons: Portions are average in size. Little bit of a wait if you come during peak lunch hour.  Not all daily specials are as exciting.

Todd’s review of the Roasted Pork:

Argentelle Cafe - Roasted Pork with Mashed PotatoOn this 55 degree day in Fort Lauderdale, a warm special from Chef Remy sounded good.  Today’s email blast announced the special was Roasted Pork with mashed potato.  From prior experience I knew that this would probably be a winner.

The portions were slightly larger than the last special I got, which is a good thing.  This meal satisfies on its own and you’ll walk away feeling like you just had a Sunday dinner from mom.  Everything was great and as always, the meat and potatos were seasoned perfectly making for a hearty, and of course…. ‘tasty’ lunch.  At $7, you can’t go wrong.

Todd’s Score: 86/100
Pros: Portions and gravy were heftier in size for this special which was great.  Well seasoned and delicious!
Cons: None

Todd’s review of the Meatloaf:

Argentelle Cafe - Meatloaf and mashed potatoes specialNot all meals I review put a grin on my face by simply looking at it.  The meatloaf and mashed potatoes have an indulgent grace that lets you know it will be a treat, without even tasting it.

The portions are very good and the food is exactly how I like it… lots of gravy and with superb taste!  No salt or pepper needed, this meal is perfect right out of the box!  The first question I asked myself when taking my first bite was “I wonder if this is some pre-made gravy”.  After downing a large helping of potatoes and gravy,  you instantly appreciate the harmony that this meal offers.  The sauce is rich and perfectly complimenting to the meat and potatoes.  The meatloaf was hearty and makes for a satisfying meal.

Chef Remy says it’s a new special and I am happy to welcome it!  Very satisfying for a hungry downtowner!

Todd’s Score: 88/100
Pros: Great meatloaf that leaves you satisfied.  Generous portions.  Great option compared to typical downtown food. Good value for a $7 special.
Cons: None

Todd’s review of the Chicken Cordon Bleu:

Argentelle Cafe - Chicken Cordon BleuSomething new to try!  I was excited when I saw the daily special email arrive in my inbox.

This dish in French is called “Poitrine de Poulet Cordon Bleu” which is stuffed chicken breast with ham and swiss cheese.  Things sound so much more gourmet when in French. :)  The Cordon Bleu is sliced into medallions and laid over brown rice and then drizzled over by a rich sauce to tie it all together.

When I got back to the office the first thing I noticed when I opened the container was the delightful aroma that came with the meal.  It was certainly inviting and left a good impression that had me positive to consume this meal.  Appearance was also nice and I was happy to see the chicken breast had been cut already.

The first bites are wonderful.  The brown rice, sauce and chicken all tie together very well.  The taste is distinct and different, especially when compared to typical lunch fare in the downtown area.  There were some flaws however…

After a dozen or so bites, the sauce seemed to take on a ‘little too salty’ characteristic and began to feel as if it was actually to rich.  Perhaps akin to a nice bowl of Alfredo sauce, where the first bites are divine, but after a whole bowl it makes for a meal that is too rich.  What’s funny is I really enjoyed the first half of the meal, but it did get too rich toward the end.  The sauce needs a little toning down to make for a complete meal.

I’d be willing to try it again, but I would want to see the sauce smooth out and be a little more subtle.  With that change in place this would be a go-to winner, and I would likely score it in the high 80’s, but for now…

Todd’s Score: 70/100
Pros: Nice break from the usual, the brown rice is a nice touch, presentation is great, good proportions, good deal for $7
Cons: Sauce overpowered the meal half way through eating it (too salty/too rich) 

Todd’s review of the Stir Fried Chicken:

Argentelle Cafe - Stir Fried ChickenLately Chef Remy seems to be experimenting by releasing new specials.  Today he sent out an email blast advertising a new one called “Stir Fried Chicken” with chicken – zucchini – carrots and rice for $7.

What I pictured in my head for the meal was a little different than what I got when I got back to the office.  The portions are decent and the sauce has a nice consistency and color.

The first few bites were good and I was getting excited that there wasthing a bit different to try, and fro the look of things it seemed to be relativly healthy.  The chicken is white meat and looks to have been marinated.  The veggies were a little scarce as they were more small strips of carrots than large pieces.  The zucchini was present in the form of a few larger strips.  The rice seems to be a whole grain variety adding a bit of extra flavor as well.

The problem with the dish is that it got salty about half way through.  It was a bit over seasoned and slowly grows as you consume the dish.  While there was quite a bit of chicken in the dish, I would have liked to have seen a  little more of the veggies that were advertised.  There was also a little oil left in the bottom of the3 container when I finished my lunch, making me wonder how healthy it actually was.

This dish has some promise, but it needs a little adjusting for a better score.

Todd’s score:  75/100
Pros: lots of chicken in dish, whole grain rice
Cons:too salty, sort of gets a little blah after awhile

Argentelle Cafe - Chef Remy Argentelle Cafe - inside the restaurant Argentelle Cafe - Todd with the carry out Argentelle Cafe - Chicken Breast Saute with Sauce & Mushroom

Downtowner Saloon Restaurant Review

Category : American

Downtowner Saloon in Fort Lauderdale - view from outside The Downtowner Saloon is one of those places that is practically historic for the downtown crowd.

It is literally a few minutes walk for people located in the downtown area of Fort Lauderdale, with a brief walk over the bridge (assuming it’s not up of course).

The Downtowner has a killer view of the area and offers indoor and outdoor seating, many of which have a nice casual view of the waterway allowing you to enjoy the view of million dollar yachts troll by.  The mood is certainly casual and is a great place to go to enjoy the downtown area and eat with a view.  This is one of those places that is great to wind down for lunch or after a long work day.

Downtowner Saloon
Website: Yes
Phone: (954) 463.9800
City: Fort Lauderdale
Location (map): Along New River
Delivery: No
Outdoor seating: Yes
Lunch $: $9-$20 approx.
Dinner $: same

Multiple bars and plenty of tabled seating can be found on the inside. They even do catering for large parties in a separate section of the restaurant.

Lunch prices are varied with many entries around $8.99  – $10.99 with a  few specialty items going for more.  Dinner is the same as lunch, sharing the same menu.  They have a website you can browse as well if you want to browse all the menu offerings.

Todd reviews the Fish Tacos:

Downtowner Saloon in Fort Lauderdale - Fish TacosI’ve eaten a little too well recently, so while out I am keeping an eye peeled for potential dishes that can taste great and be on the healthier side too.

I asked the waiter what dishes he recommends and a few came to mind including the French Dip sandwich, the Fish Tacos and the Mahi Islamorada.  I ordered the Fish Tacos ($8.99 plus tax) with the ‘dirty’ rice that came with it, though they allow you to switch sides to fries, slaw or potato salad.

The Fish Tacos are described in the menu as flour tortillas with red slaw and lightly blackened fish.  When they arrived at the table I started with the rice first.  Full of flavor without the need of any fattening sauces or anything, this was a nice side that complimented the meal well.  The Fish tacos were a nice surprise too!  After I put a little fresh lemon juice on my tacos I dug right in.  They were light yet had a distinct seasoned taste that just sort of worked very well.  The blackened fish had a hint of spicy but certainly was not hot.  The slaw gave it the extra zing to make for a unique and delicious meal.  Heck, I even ate the tomatoes which I usually avoid!

What I liked best about this meal is that is was something different.  It’s so easy to fall into the ‘sandwich zone’ when grabbing lunches and this was a meal that tasted great, was fairly healthy and still affordable.

Todd’s score: 88/100
Pros: Good portions, tasty and unique flavors, good value, nice view
Cons: Located on ‘the other’ side of the river requires a walk over the bridge for most.

Brandon’s review of the Mahi Islamodara:

Downtowner Saloon in Fort Lauderdale - Mahi IslamoradaLike Todd, I’ve been pigging out a lot lately and so when our waiter mentioned that the house specialties included fish tacos and a Mahi sandwich, I thought it sounded like a perfect fit for my lunchtime craving (and waistline) on this day.  I’ve eaten many mahi sandwiches over the years and most of the time they are somewhat bland, lacking flavor and overall an average meal. The Downtowner’s rendition of the Mahi sandwich was quite the opposite of what I’ve experienced in the past and therefore was a delight to my eyes and taste buds.

The sandwich arrived open faced and covered with sauteed onions and swiss cheese (I asked that they hold the mushrooms), with raw onions, lettuce and tomato on the side along with the top of the bun, tartar sauce, a lemon and a plentiful offering of fresh, crispy french fries.  The mahi itself was blackened with various spices and the overall sandwich when put together looked quite appetizing. I wasn’t disappointed in the least after taking my first few bites. The sandwich is quite delicious and surely the best mahi fish sandwich I’ve ever had.  As I mentioned previously, most mahi sandwiches I’ve had prior to this experience lack depth of flavor, however this dish is certainly the exception. I quickly ate the entire sandwich and french fries which were cooked perfectly and also delicious.  Although the meal is a tad expensive for an everyday lunch at $11.95, I won’t hesitate to order it again in the future given how tasty and different it was.  For a healthier overall experience I could have gone with potato salad or rice but I am a sucker for good french fries. All in all a great meal in a great location. Highly recommended!

Brandon’s score: 87/100
Pros: Best mahi sandwich I’ve ever had; French fries are crispy and delicious; great atmosphere and view
Cons: Price a little high for an everyday lunch; walking over the bridge from downtown will be hot in the summer

Downtowner Saloon in Fort Lauderdale - view from the inside Downtowner Saloon in Fort Lauderdale - indoor seating part 2 Downtowner Saloon in Fort Lauderdale - sits on the waterway for a nice view Downtowner Saloon in Fort Lauderdale - outdoor seating

YOLO Restaurant Review

Category : American, Salads, Sandwiches

Yolo - view from outsideIf downtown Fort Lauderdale had a flag signaling the center and heart of the city, a restaurant named YOLO would have that flag on its property.  Perhaps the best view around, YOLO is nestled in between the largest high rises and office buildings around in what makes up a small promenade for Fort Lauderdale, right on Las Olas Boulevard.

You only live once, right?  Well that’s what YOLO stands for, and they certainly deliver the experience in what is one of downtown’s most exclusive hot-spot hangouts.  Whether you are here for lunch, dinner or a fun evening with friends, this is the place to be.

TasteCritics Todd and Brandon venture to the local eatery for lunch and enjoy a beautiful view of downtown on a hot Florida day.  Passing Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s in the parking lot we wait for a table as Wayne Huizenga gets seated right before we do.  The clientèle is certainly the executives of the city as its business suits, shirts and ties everywhere you look.

Pricing for lunch is quite good considering the excellent ambiance, views of the city and fancy menu selections.  Getting seated at noon is no problem at all, but if you come 20 minutes after noon practically every table was taken.

Todd’s review of the Prime Rib Sandwich:

Yolo - Prime Rib SandwichWhile a little pricey ($16.50), the Prime Rib sandwich sort of jumped off the menu as something tasty.  The waitress gave it accolades as well, so I figured what the heck.

The menu says that the Prime Rib is served on a Garlic Toasted Ciabatta, with melted swiss and caramelized onions, served with thin cut fries.   When it arrived, it was served with a side of au jus sauce.

The Prime Rib is sliced and extremely tender and juicy, cooked perfectly.  The sandwich was abundant with caramelized onions which added a unique sweetness.  A nice amount of warm melted swiss cheese fused the sandwich together to make for a spectacular meal.  The Ciabatta bread made for the perfect compliment accessory since it was soft and thin.  All in all, the sandwich shined as a winner.

The fries were thin shoestring style which is not my favorite presentation for french fries.  It feels like you have to work to hard to get a good amount in your hands.  Also, the au jus sauce was a little on the weak side.  Had it been more robust and seasoned, it would have made for an all-star combination.  While excellent, there is one other Prime Rib Sandwich that scored a higher score, and that’s one from The Cove Restaurant in Deerfield Beach.

This meal is a dinner in a lunches clothing.  You could easily feed two people with the generous portions this meal provides.  Top it off with quality and a killer downtown view, and you’ve got a wonderful lunch that will satisfy all.  I can see why the executives flock to YOLO… to guarantee an experience, not just a lunch.

Todd’s score: 90/100
Pros: Excellent sandwich that is tender and juicy, large portions, killer downtown views, great ambiance
Cons: A little pricey ($16.50), but not bad considering the pros.

Yolo - Outdoor Fire-pit and cocktail lounge Yolo - indoor dining is elegant and classy Yolo - intimate outdoor seating with day-night tiki torches Yolo - even the bathroom kicks butt!

Big City Tavern Review

Category : American, Pizza, Salads, Sandwiches

Big City Tavern - view from Las Olas BlvdBig City Tavern is one of dozens of restaurants lining the street of Las Olas Boulevard, just east of downtown Fort Lauderdale.  If you are visiting Fort Lauderdale and looking for a hotspot, this stretch of Las Olas Blvd would be one of the places you’d want to visit.  Exquisite shops and restaurants to match, Big City Tavern seems to fit right in.

For this review we stop by at lunch time during a perfect Florida day.  Looking for a seat with a view and great food is the mission.  Walking up to the restaurant you can see about a dozen tables that are technically outside, but under a canopy.  There door walls are open allowing the indoor tables to get a feel of the outside.  This reminds me of Little Italy in New York. :)

Pricing is a notch higher than typical restaurant in the area, but it fits right in for the restaurants in this particular stretch of Las Olas Blvd.  Most dishes start around $10 and go up.  Aesthetically, the restaurant is very pleasing with rich detail and warm colors.

Todd’s review of the Sirloin Gorgonzola Burger with Ceasar Salad

Big City Tavern - Gorgonzola burger and ceasar saladBrowsing the menu I was delighted to see a nice mix of entrees with several unique sounding items to try.  There was a bunch of pizza, salad and other specialty dishes, but me being me… I was in the mood for a mans lunch, so I chose the Sirloin Gorgonzola Burger.  It comes with a Caesar salad and burger condiments for $12.

When it arrived at the table it did look unique.  It is served open faced and the burger looks quite large.  It was literally the size of a tube of socks rolled up.  I wondered why it was this shape; but after cutting into it it was obvious.  The burger was rolled into this shape with the Gorgonzola cheese trapped on the inside prior to cooking.  It’s like a beef twinky, with Gorgonzola cheese instead of frosting.

It really is quite delicious.  The warm Gorgonzola cheese was smooth and rich and complimented the burger very well.  Though it came with onion, tomato and lettuce, this ‘burger’ didn’t need anything other than a knife and fork (and a little ketchup).  The Caesar salad however was a little lacking.  It seemed as if little effort went into this.  The salad was very light on dressing and therefor lacked flavor.  Perhaps 4 or 5 croutons were in included, otherwise it would almost literally be a handful of lettuce .  Perhaps ask for dressing on the side so you can add more to kick up the taste.

While the food scored some points, the service was lacking.  Our waiter forgot to give us silverware (when the food arrived we had to lean over to another table and get it ourselves), forgot that Brandon ordered a coke (never brough it) and had to be visually queued to refill our drinks.  I saw the owner/manager making his rounds to various tables to see how things were going, but ironically, he skipped “the reviewers” table twice, even after I made direct eye contact with him, inviting him to ask.  I find this amusing because here I am reviewing the restaurant and he just walks on by.  It was a nice touch though for the majority of patrons he did stop to greet.

The Big City Tavern has a executive/snooty feel to it with most of the people dining in being men in shirts and ties.  The view of Las Olas was excellent and the restaurant as a whole has a upper class feel and high end decorated look.  With several dished coming in between $10 and $15 I can recommend this place for a treat.

Todd’s score: 86/100
Pros:
Burger itself was delicious, very unique and of good size.  Ambiance was great. Nice outdoor seating options.
Cons: Ceasar salad was ho hum and the service was severely lacking. Some items on menu are expensive.

Brandon’s review of the Grilled Chicken Baguette with Mozzarella, Romesco Sauce and Fries

Big City Tavern - chicken sandwichI’ve eaten at Big City Tavern many times in the past but usually I order the special (generally a salmon dish) which is always very good. This time I decided to try something and went with the grilled chicken baguette with mozzarella and romesco sauce. I think it was the romesco sauce that piqued my curiosity – I wasn’t sure exactly what it was, but that was quickly rectified by a quick search on Wikipedia via my iPhone. For those of you also unfamiliar with Romesco sauce, here is the description straight from Wikipedia:  “Romesco is a sauce originating in Tarragona, Catalonia, that is typically made from almonds, pine nuts, and/or hazelnuts, roasted garlic, olive oil and nyores – a smaller, sweet, dried variety of red bell pepper. Other common ingredients include roasted tomatoes, red wine vinegar and onion.”

When delivered, the sandwich looked quite appetizing and by the time it arrived I was quite hungry.  In general I am burnt out on sandwiches since that seems to be a frequently purchased item by myself and Todd given all the sandwich places in the Fort Lauderdale area. However I must say that this sandwich was quite delicious. It was a bit different given the Romesco and large, thick slices of mozzarella cheese. The chicken was grilled to perfection and it was all tied together nicely on a flavorful baguette. It took me a few bites to realize how much I was actually enjoying the sandwich and it wasn’t long before I had polished off the entire thing.

The accompanying french fries were also quite good (though not as good as those at Argentelle Cafe).  All in all it was a delicious lunch and I can’t really think of anything negative other than the subpar service as Todd described earlier.  Regardless, I will be here again and I will definitely be ordering up this sandwich!

Brandon’s score: 89/100
Pros:
Different but delicious chicken sandwich; Overall meal was very satisfying and atmosphere was quite pleasant.
Cons: Price is a bit high (compared to what we are used to) and service could have been better.

Big City Tavern - menu and a nice shadow of my iphone Big City Tavern - indoor seating with an outdoor view Big City Tavern - indoor dining area

The Cove Restaurant Review

1

Category : American

The Cove - View of Restaurant EntranceThe Cove is a restaurant/bar located on the beautiful intracoastal in Deerfield Beach.  If you are coming from Fort Lauderdale, it’s about a 25 minute drive up 95 North and a couple miles east on Hillsboro Blvd.

On the south side of the restaurant is a Marina that provides a tropical view of boats and yachts.   The eastern edge of the restaurant sits on the intracoastal waterway and provides killer views of the water.

Have a lunch, dinner or cocktail at the Cove and you’ll say to yourself “That’s why I live in Florida!”  The views and the ambiance all lend themselves to a peaceful and pleasant reminder why we all live in south Florida.

The Cove Restaurant
Website: Yes
Phone: (954) 421.9272
City: Deerfield Beach
Location (map): Intracoastal
Delivery: No
Outdoor seating: Yes
Lunch $: $15-$17 approx.
Dinner $: $20-$30 approx.

The restaurant itself is quite large and has an open feeling with its high ceilings.  While hundreds can easily sit inside, when the weather is nice, you’ll find everyone outside under the canopy or in the sun at little tables on the patio.  No matter where you are, you’ll be enjoying the tranquility of the boats slowly cruising through the water.

I don’t usually include ‘service’ as measurable item in my reviews, but I will add that our waitress “CC” and the owner “Sue” were both extremely pleasant and even added to an already excellent experience.  I felt like I was on vacation even though I was just grabbing lunch.  The Cove has a great combination of service, wonderful views and great food.

Todd’s Review of the Blackened Prime Rib Sandwich

The Cove - Blackened Prime Rib SandwichThe Cove has separate lunch and dinner menus.  The lunch menu has some dishes that just look like they hopped over from the dinner menu.  The Blackened Prime Rib Sandwich is one of those.

While not exactly a sandwich, it is described in the menu as “open faced” and served with mushrooms, peppers, onions and provolone cheese and topped with bordelaise (rich red wine/beef sauce).

What they don’t say is that this is a meal fit for a king!  It’s very large portions are actually trumped by its exquisite taste.  The open faced roll is toasted and actually taste similar to garlic bread loaded with flavor.  The Prime Rib is tender, huge and bursting with flavor… and if that wasn’t enough, all those sautéed veggies and bordelaise really put it over the top.  The fries are simply a bonus.

I really think I’ve found a new favorite dish.  It’s unique and full of excellent taste, which is the primary attribute I base my scoring system on.  I literally cannot think of a negative thing about this experience other than its not ‘cheap’.  For $14.99, you are getting a fantastic dish with a killer view.  This is what being in Florida is all about.

The Blackened Prime Rib is one of those meals you gotta try at least once!

Todd’s score: 96/100
Pros: Superb taste, large portions, killer water views
Cons: a little pricey (but not bad considering atmosphere), parking requires valet even at lunch time ( unless you don’t mind a couple minute walk)

The Cove - View from outdoor patio area The Cove - Nice view of the intracoastal waterway The Cove - dine under the sun

Offerdahl’s Cafe Grill Review

Category : American, Salads, Sandwiches

Offerdahls Cafe Grill - view from outsideOfferdahl’s Cafe Grill is located on the first floor plaza of a large office building on 5th avenue in the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale.  There are 7 Offerdahl’s locations within 15 miles of  the downtown area.  For workers downtown however, it doesn’t get much easier than this to visit.

Offerdahl’s Cafe Grill has a unique menu of relatively healthy offerings including bagels (for breakfast) and lunch/dinner offerings including salads, sandwiches, soups and their signature entrees consisting of ‘chop bowls’ which are basically a chicken/salmon/beef diced on top of chopped veggies/rice/slaw.

The only parking available are a handful of metered spots along 5th avenue and some parking garages that are nearby.  Lunch pricing is a little higher than some of the local eateries, but their unique offerings help compensate for that.

Todd’s Review of the Ginger Thai Bowl with Grilled Salmon

Offerdahls Cafe Grill - Ginger Thai with SalmonIt seems as if there are a million sandwich shops in the area, so when I come to Offerdahl’s I get what makes them unique.  Their chop bowls entrees offer unique flavors and relatively guilt free eating because of all the fresh ingredients.

The Ginger Thai bowl comes with rice, diced cucumber, ginger slaw (which is great), scallions and peanuts.  It is then topped with just off the grill diced chicken.  You can however (at no extra charge) swap out the chicken for either beef or salmon.  They include a side container of Thai peanut dressing and a bread stick.

The photo above is of the ‘regular’ sized bowl which comes in at $8.99.  You can get a large bowl for only a dollar more, but in all honesty, the regular is plenty large for a single eater.  Paying the extra dollar will likely mean you have leftovers for tomorrow.

The meal itself is very good.  It is sort of difficult to find meals downtown that you could consider healthy, but this is one that falls in that category.  The Thai dressing ties together all the ingredients perfectly.  Normally I am not a big fan of coleslaw, but their ‘ginger slaw’ is one of the best parts of the meal.  It’s an American dish with a strong Thai influence.

You may want to ask for an extra container of sauce though.  The one they give you is just enough, and a little extra means you have something to dip that breadstick into.

Todd’s Score: 84/100
Pros:
Nice Healthy Option, Good taste, portions are about perfect for the regular size
Cons:$9.53 (after tax) is a little pricey for a lunch, orders are not always delivered quickly

Todd’s Review of the Spicy Shrimp Bowl:

Offerdahl’s Cafe Grill - Spicy Shrimp BowlOverpriced Garbage!

I’ve wondered when I would write a review when I found a meal I actually did NOT like, well that review is this review.

When I walked into Offerdahl’s today they had a big sign advertising this bowl.  The photo I took looks quite wonderful, as wonderful as the photo they took.   However, when it came time to eating it, things went downhill rapidly.

The sauce that came with it was more like a mild mustard than anything.  It was not spicy and it was just okay enough to make about 30% of the meal edible.  Once poured on top of the bowl I began to eat.  The bowl actually has a good mix of veggies including broccoli, cucumbers, carrots, rice and of course the shrimp.  The sauce did very little to add flavor to the meal though, and I found myself eating large mouthfuls of flavorless mass.  It reminded me of cows when they chew on hay bails. chew chew chew… but nothing of any importance.

The Ginger Thai bowl I review above is quite tasty, however this meal is a $9.53 mistake. Avoid it at all costs.  To add insult to injury, I had to ask for the bread stick.  For some reason, the free bread stick you are entitled to must be ASKED FOR in order to receive.  Kind of dumb.

Todd’s score: 42/100
Pros: The grilled shrimp was actually good
Cons: The sauce is horrible and the entire meal is flavorless.  My as well eat straw.  $9 for nothing.

Offerdahls Cafe Grill - dining area Offerdahls Cafe Grill - placing an order Offerdahls Cafe Grill - Menu Board

Cafe Verdi Xpress Review

2

Category : American

Cafe Verdi Express - view from outsideCafe Verdi Xpress is literally a spin off of the main restaurant “Cafe Verdi”.  This is for the business person on the go who typical wants a fast lunch, yet they do have indoor seating.

Located in the small strip on 1st Avenue downtown, there is no free parking except for some meters and a large parking garage nearby.  Most of the visitors here is for the many office buildings nearby, so that’s not an issue.

Cafe Verdi Xpress offers about 4 or 5 different specials every day, so its very easy to visit often and have a different option to choose from.  Usually the options include a fish, chicken, beef and a pasta special, and from my experience, all are decent.  Prices range from around $5 to $7 depending one what primary dish you get.  all meals come with your choice of 2 sides, of which they offer a good variety.  Ordering is often very fast and convenient.  Recently they started offering a lunch card for a little extra incentive to visit often.

Todd’s Review of the Chicken Marsala with Fried Rice and Veggies

Cafe Verdi Express - chicken marsalla with fried rice and veggiesToday’s special included a few options, but the chicken marsala jumped to me as one of the days best.  You get 3 somewhat large strips of chicken breast, lightly breaded and coated in the marsala sauce.  There are always decent sides to choose from, and unlike most downtown hotspots, there are actually healthy choices, like steamed veggies, black beans and rice and others.  The fried rice looked to good to pass up however.

While I enjoyed the chicken marsalla, I think I like Chef Remy’s version a little more.  The Cafe Verdi version has good flavor, but it’s a tad drier than I prefer.  I suppose you could ask them to add a little extra sauce when you order.  The sides are awesome though and I really like having the option to choose what I want.  The fried rice was very good and abundant and the steamed veggies really made the meal shine.  It’s more than you can eat to be honest and the quality of all the items are very good.

Cafe Verdi has many specials and I would recommend you give them a try.  This is one of the places to go if you are extra hungry, need to get food quickly or simply want to try something different.

Todd’s score: 84/100
Pros: huge portions, good taste and a great variety of sides, good value
Cons: While good, not the best marsala review I’ve made.

Cafe Verdi Express - daily specials menu Cafe Verdi Express - view of the dining area Cafe Verdi Express - view of the buffet options Cafe Verdi Express - Brandon with his order Cafe Verdi Express - chicken marsalla with black beans and rice Cafe Verdi Express - chicken marsalla with fried rice and veggies