South Florida has no shortage of great restaurants. I've been eating across the region for more than a dozen years. Here are some of my favorite spots to take out-of-towners.
When in Florida, do as the natives do and eat fresh fish.
Joe's Stone Crab (11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 305-673-0365, JoesStoneCrab.com) celebrates its 100th birthday in 2013. South Florida doesn't even have museums that old. Go early or go late, or plan to wait hours for a table. Order the signature stone crabs with mustard sauce. But don't forget the fried chicken.
Rustic Inn Crabhouse (4331 Anglers Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 954- 584-1637, RusticInn.com) reveals its saloon origins with its choice of table linen — newspaper. Folks come for the world-famous garlic crabs. Just be sure to put on a bib and do as the rest of the room does and crack them open them with the wooden mallet.
Truluck's Seafood, Steak, Crabhouse (Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Boca Raton, Trulucks.com) is an 11-unit chain with restaurants in Florida, Texas and California that still maintains its one-off feel with uniformed staff and a menu featuring seafood from its own fisheries and stone-crab boats.
Steak 954 (W Fort Lauderdale, 401 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-414-8333, Steak954.com) is Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr's answer to an American steakhouse. The glamorous, oceanfront-dining-room setting features a glowing, 15-foot jellyfish aquarium. On the menu are dry-aged prime and Kobe beef. The most-famous menu item may be the $65 Kobe cheese steak.
Meat Market (915 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, 305-532-0088, MeatMarketMiami.com) stands out among the tourist traps on Lincoln Road for its chef-driven, high-priced cuts of beef. Among the distinct side dishes are lobster risotto, Gouda tater tots and Yukon Gold white-truffle mash.
Gotham Steak (Fontainebleau Miami Beach, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 877-326-7412, Fontainebleau.com/GothamSteak). Chef Alfred Portale's first foray outside of his Gotham Bar and Grill in New York's Greenwich Village is exquisite, from prime beef to mini-masterpiece sides such as creamed corn with manchego cheese and jalapeno.
FAMILIAR AND FAST
Sometimes, you just want to eat. Here are three spots rooted in South Florida.
Salsa Fiesta (Miami, Pembroke Pines, Aventura, SalsaFiestaGrill.com) is a fast-casual eatery that serves some of the best tacos, burritos and other fresh Mexican fare you'll find in South Florida. Great prices and friendly customer service set Salsa Fiesta apart from the competition.
BurgerFi (Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Aventura, Delray Beach, Coral Springs, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Weston, BurgerFi.com) serves burgers made from grass-fed Angus beef, along with craft beer and old-fashioned frozen custard. Environmentally friendly interiors feature chairs made from recycled Coke bottles and tables made from recycled wood.
Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza (multiple locations, AnthonysCoalFiredPizza.com) is founder Anthony Bruno's answer to the pizzerias of his Brooklyn childhood. Along with the crispy-almost-burnt-crusted pies, Anthony's serves coal-oven-roasted chicken wings and eggplant Marino, named after Dolphins' great Dan Marino.