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Dining scene: From crab cake bites to chilled calamari

Taps Restaurant Bar & Lounge

330 Himmarshee Place, Fort Lauderdale, 954-459-7770, TapsWineAndBeer.com

This Tampa-based mini chain has opened its fourth outpost — its first on the east coast — in the downtown Himmarshee district.

"We're looking for locations on this side of Florida now and to grow," says founder James DeVito. "I started Taps to fill a void. It's a hybrid between a restaurant and a bar. We're an upscale boutique version of Friday's."

Signatures are nine riffs on bruschetta, such as gorgonzola, caramelized onion, prosciutto and aged balsamic ($10), Hawaiian shrimp taco trio ($13), roast beef sliders au jus ($10), lemon roasted salmon salad ($14) chipotle apricot BBQ chicken sandwich ($11) and Belgian waffle vanilla ice-cream sandwiches with Nutella ($12).

The approach is Mediterranean style without frying and minimal butter. "Everything is made from scratch. I call it smart cooking," DeVito says.

The numbers speak for the libations: 32 wines by the glass, including 20 in kegs on tap; 300 beers, including 30 on tap.

Lunch and dinner are served daily amid gray walls, a black tile floor, multiple TVs, high tops and black banquettes accented by orbital chandeliers and eclectic paintings. The front patio offers alfresco dining.

Live music, such as acoustic guitar, is in the works for Thursdays.

Himmarshee Public House

201 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale, 954-616-5275, PublicHouseFtl.com

On the corner next to the railroad tracks, this upscale tavern that glows from interior bare-bulb signs has launched Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. six months after opening, along with its first foray into live music.

The menu is "centered around global comfort food, which has always been our focus at Public House, while offering items that you don't see anywhere else," says co-owner Marc Falsetto.

Giant biscuit sandwiches glistening with honey butter, the size of a small plate, are filled with four choices, such as pork belly with fried egg and rosemary aioli ($13). Other highlights are Farm House Croquette stuffed with bacon, sausage and cheddar ($10) and fried chicken basket with giant biscuit ($16). Besides coconut-crusted banana bread French toast with bananas and bourbon-maple syrup ($14), other sweet temptations are Nutella banana empanadas ($9) and bourbon sticky buns overloaded with pecans as rich as pie ($8).

While the Adam David Band plays eclectic rock, more theater accompanies the Smoking Sangria concocted tableside with liquid nitrogen ($10), and Lime In D Coconut comes with a straw to imbibe Malibu rum and lime sour from a coconut shell ($14). DIY Bloody Mary kits supply a bottle of Absolut Vodka and 12 garnishes, such as bacon and shrimp ($99 per table).

"We wanted to make Second Street a Sunday Funday destination where people can spend the entire day," Falsetto says. "Sundays were desolate before."

Max's Harvest

169 NE Second Ave., Delray Beach, 561-381-9970, MaxsHarvest.com

This 3-year-old farm-to-fork restaurant in Pineapple Grove has introduced its spring dishes on its season-centric menu.

You'll find a fried egg oozing over grilled ciabatta on a bed of roasted asparagus ($12) and striped bass with Florida clams, artichokes, corn and ginger-beer braise ($36). Pistachios lend a crunch to grilled and chilled calamari with farro and black-eyed peas ($17), and the slow-poached shrimp in paella with calamari and chorizo is received within 24 hours of harvest from Fort Myers ($19/$36). Last bites are Key lime creme brulee ($12) and ladyfinger banana toffee bread pudding ($13).

Maple-bouron glazed pork belly with mustard greens and peaches ($15) and ricotta gnocchi with oyster mushrooms, fava beans and Truffle Tremor cheese ($16) have been brought back by demand.

"We had our busiest season to date," says Executive Chef Eric Baker, who has been getting to know his customers' tastes since arriving on the cusp of high season from Lobster Bar Sea Grille in Fort Lauderdale. "I have been able to implement a few ideas here and there, mainly through specials. But more importantly, I feel like Max's Harvest has influenced me and is expanding my style and repertoire."

BLT Prime

Trump National Doral Miami, 4400 NW 87th Ave., 305-591-6066, BLTPrimeMiami.com

This resort has debuted a modern American steakhouse in the space of the former Mesazul Steakhouse in the clubhouse lobby with views of the iconic Blue Monster golf course — its new signature restaurant serving daily breakfast, lunch and dinner.

"We were looking for a partner with proven success that would elevate our dining offerings, and given BLT's immense popularity and culinary excellence, it is the perfect choice for the resort's premier restaurant," says David Feder, vice president and managing director.

Prime certified Angus beef, including the dry-aged New York strip ($48) and Kansas City bone-in strip ($57), is the backbone of the dinner menu. Other choices are tuna tartare ($18), lobster Cobb salad with crispy pancetta ($23) and Dover sole with soy caper brown butter ($48). End with peanut-butter chocolate mousse ($10).

The design incorporates a dramatic circular bar, Corinthian columns and rich finishes of walnut, leather and suede that blend with Trump elements such as intricate millwork, scrolled ceilings and natural stone. Floor-to-ceiling windows overlook seating on the spacious veranda.

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

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