Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, 505 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-523-7873, S3Restaurant.com
The ambience feels reminiscent of a Polynesian vacation, but you don't have to fly to Hawaii to enjoy it.
From the owners of YOLO comes the expansive S3 — short for sun, surf and sand — pushing east from their other downtown spots of Vibe Las Olas, Tarpon Bend Food & Tackle and the former Himmarshee Bar & Grille and The River House.
This time the tourist factor is more entwined with a bold view of the ocean from the open-air dining room, patios, two lounges — one with fire pits — and three bars, including one for sushi. Natural stone and warm tropical woods juxtapose hip lighting, an abstract sea mural, and orange tones symbolizing the sunrise.
"Our goal was to bring locals back to the beach, and you can't do that with big pricing," says co-owner Tim Petrillo, who points to the $5 valet as an example. "We wanted to be approachable."
Executive chef Chris Miracolo, hailing from Max's Harvest in Delray Beach after helming Himmarshee, and sushi chef Daniel Binghak, from the famed Morimoto in Philadelphia and New York City's Masa, pitch in abundant know-how for daily lunch and dinner, as well as weekend brunch.
The eclectic seasonal cuisine is mostly shareable plates with a few entrees, such as chai tea-brined duck breast ($24). Standouts are wok-charred sesame edamame ($5), ricotta truffle gnudi ($13) and spicy tuna crispy rice cakes ($10).
Kick back with specialty cocktails ($12), such as vodka blackberry lychee, while listening to a DJ on Fridays and Saturdays and live music during Sunday brunch.
2850 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, 954-567-3333, Kitchenetta.com
This colorful and lively 9-year-old Italian trattoria has added a handful of specialties for the summer. Though the design is contemporary, the cuisine is classic using local and organic ingredients when available.
"In Italy, it is traditional to shy away from tomato-based sauces to lighter sauces" during the summer, says owner Vincent Foti, whose family is from Sicily.
The roster: insalata micro verde with reduced balsamic ($18), tubetoni checca di Capri pasta with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella ($24), cavatelli ortolana pasta with vegetables and chicken broth ($22), spaghetti frutti di mare bianchi with four kinds of seafood ($29) and three-cheese white pizza paglia e fieno topped with spinach ($19).
Paglia e fieno is usually a pasta dish, but Foti was inspired in Emilia-Romagna, Italy, where he got the same pizza. "I asked the waitress how they derived the name, and she pointed to a meadow across the road of what looked liked sun-bleached golden straw and several piles of freshly cut green piles of hay. It looked just like my pizza," he says.
133 SE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton, 561-300-5280, TheMexicanBocaRaton.com
The intense mural and VW bus is still in this 5-month-old Day of the Dead-tinged cocina and tequila bar in Royal Palm Place, but nearly everything else is different.
Oh, and let's not forget the indoor/outdoor bar and patio, the vortex in reshaping the image since The Max Group management departed.
The menu has been mainstreamed to under $20 with mostly finger foods conducive for gabbing at the bar with new cocktails such as strawberry flaca margarita ($11) and Pin Me Up martini with cranberry juice, rum and house made pineapple-infused vodka ($10). Drink prices are cheaper too with sangria pitchers cut in half to $19.95.