Restaurants + Bars

Dining scene: From pork buns to cheese steaks

The Porch

85 SE Sixth Ave., Delray Beach, 561-303-3647,

The husband-and-wife owners of Café Via Flora on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach have unveiled this Italian seafood retreat in a 1907 historic house, home to the former Café Loredana.

"We believe the Delray Beach dining scene is the best up and coming in South Florida, so we are excited to be part of it," Pamela Lomba says. "We fell in love with the Blank House, and we just wanted to enhance the characteristics that made us fall in love with it. With the new large outdoor wooden deck surrounded with lush greenery and the red of the bougainvillea flowers, we wanted our guests to feel a casual atmosphere while they enjoy our cuisine."

Signatures are Il Trio with escargot, scallop and shrimp in a lemon-butter white-wine and garlic sauce ($14.95), barbeque roasted short ribs with dried cranberry port sauce ($25.95) and horseradish-crusted salmon on a cedar plank with grained mustard butter ($27.95). The menu rounds out with pizzas ($12.95-$20.95) and pastas, such as butternut squash ravioli with brown butter sage sauce and candied walnuts ($18.95).

"Indoors, we wanted to preserve the uniqueness of the house, so we decorated in a charming, eclectic way — dark-wood floors, white linen tables and antique fireplace. The dark wooden chairs with the yellow tones of the fabric and the walls gives you a feeling of light and airiness, but romantic with the candles," Lomba says.

Dinner is served nightly.

Earls Kitchen + Bar

Dadeland Mall, 7535 N. Kendall Drive, Miami, 305-667-1786,

This Canadian-based chain has debuted its first East Coast location, part of Simon Property Group's push to upgrade the restaurants at Dadeland, the oldest mall in South Florida. Longtime South Floridians remember driving from Broward County to shop here.

The seasonal global cuisine, which can accommodate gluten-free and vegetarian diets, focuses on local ingredients. Highlights are cobia ceviche with avocado, radish, oven-dried tomatoes, cucumber and pine nuts in citrus broth ($13), sticky BBQ pork buns with a hoisin hot sauce ($12), smoked salmon pressed sushi ($13), the Bronx Burger loaded with beer-battered onion rings ($16) and Cajun blackened steak ($26-$34). End with warm chocolate sticky toffee pudding ($8).

Libations include local draft beers and cocktails, such as the Mad Hatter with vodka, pear brandy, black tea, kaffir lime and coconut water in a teakettle for up to four people ($26).

A 60-foot tall marble-wrapped entrance leads to a vibrant, refined ambiance with an open kitchen. White textured marble continues throughout with custom lighting, leather banquettes, communal tables and booths. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors lead to a wraparound lush terrace.

Lunch and dinner are served daily with weekend brunch to come.

Blue Martini

Various locations,

This national chain, founded in West Palm Beach in 2000, has revamped its menu of 42 cocktails to include handcrafted ones for the first time, along with new martinis and bites.

"We are known for martinis, and we wanted to keep up with the growing demand for alternative cocktails," says Christine Opre, corporate marketing director. "What really makes them handcrafted is how unique they are. You won't find them in our usual martini glass, and the ingredients were picked by members of our nationwide bar staff through a competition."

The eight new handcrafted drinks ($14.50) include vodka Cucumber Lemonade; Red Sangria; the tequila Double Dose with fruit purees and Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach; The Morning After with Ciroc Peach and St. Germain liqueur; and the Wise Guy with whiskey, muddled orange and bitters.

New martinis include the vodka Chyna Doll with pear puree and lime juice ($14.50) and the vodka Summer Fling with muddled watermelon, mint and lime ($12.50). Drink prices vary at the Brickell location.

Blue crab cakes ($16) and Thai chicken tenders ($12) have debuted, and lollipop lamb chops ($18), Maine lobster salad ($16) and shrimp and crab dip ($12) have returned by demand.

Dixie Tracks Café

4820 N. Dixie Highway, Oakland Park, 754-223-2456

Chefs Kareem Lakchira and Ned Jaouhar, who worked at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, are spicing things up at their new "little joint," as Lakchira calls it.

"The emphasis is on using fresh herbs and making old American simple dishes taste even better," he says, such as fries with nine herbs and spices and spicy ketchup with seven herbs. "We try to make everybody learn how to fall in love with food again and again, not by just eating it, but also by watching it being made."

The chefs grant requests not on the menu, but all-day breakfast includes the skewered Pigs & Waffle Jinga with Canadian bacon, ham, spicy Italian sausage, bacon, cheddar, Swiss and béchamel country sausage gravy ($10) and the Naughty Waffle with caramelized banana, Nutella, caramel, fruit and fired marshmallow ($8).

For lunch, cheese steaks can be rolled into tortilla wraps or flash-fried chimichanga-style, such as the Philly Mac with cremini and portobello mushrooms, cream of mushroom and provolone sauce, topped with truffle mac n' cheese ($10). Salads offer healthy options, such as the Moroccan ($7), a nod to Lakchira's heritage.

"Forget the tablecloths, forget the twenty-thousands forks, knives and bow tie," Lakchira says. "We wanted to have a place like America is — a melting pot of food."

Delivery is available. Breakfast and lunch are served daily, except Sundays, and speakeasy-style five-course wine-pairing dinners for $65 to $85 are held twice a month.

"Come as you are, be who you are and eat whatever you feel like," Lakchira says.

Email news to or send to John Tanasychuk, Sun Sentinel, 500 E. Broward Blvd., Suite 900, 9th floor, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33394.

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