At the end of what I call the Pita Promenade, a.k.a. Stirling Road west of I-95 in Hollywood, lies a new kosher restaurant that stands out from the many ugly kosher spots that litter Broward County.
Eighteen Sauces is an impressive-looking restaurant that replaces a hot dog stand on the southeast corner of US 441 and Stirling, across from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, an area badly in need of some polished dining options. Married owners Orlee and Mike Arfi arrived from New York five years ago, and opened the restaurant in May.
People who frequent kosher restaurants know they too often resemble creepy government-office cafeterias with off-putting fluorescent lighting, 1980s-esque furniture and bare walls. Eighteen Sauces bucks that trend and brings life to the 441 corridor. On the exterior, you'll find a beautiful, backlit metal-letter sign, ornate metal lamps, a pair of speakers playing house and trance music, and a modern gray, lime-green and gunmetal palette. The trendy look continues inside the 55-seat restaurant, with an open kitchen, lime-green booths and textured, black and dark-gray tables.
The beauty of Eighteen Sauces also lies in its accessibility to the nonkosher crowd. While a quick glimpse at the menu will reveal the restaurant's nature, non-Jews will feel at ease here with a menu that focuses on burgers and sandwiches. The only giveaways are the small ORB (Orthodox Rabbinical Board) kosher labels, a few patrons sporting kippahs and some menu items such as the schnitzel, Middle Eastern burger and spicy schug sauce. The restaurant also deviates from the traditional kosher model in its focus on sandwiches, burgers and salads. It purposely omits staples such as pickled vegetables and matzo ball soup.
Aside from its twist on kosher dining, Eighteen Sauces' draw is, well, the 18 sauces: garlic mayo (our favorite, goes with everything), aioli herb mayo, garlic-dill mayo, spicy mayo, aioli chili, sweet chili, aioli-lemon basil, Asian fusion (a spicy-sweet delight), green tahini, pesto, salsa, teriyaki, barbecue, schug (Middle Eastern hot sauce), chimichurri, Thousand Island dressing, honey mustard and citrus vinaigrette. We begged, and got a tray of different sauces placed in order as they appear on the menu. We had a ball trading rapid-fire advice on what to blot on the fried mushrooms, the merits of various mayo-based combinations and hollering when we found a particularly tasty one.
For sandwiches, you'll want to first try the rib-eye ($12.95), one of the pricier items on the menu but well worth it for some tender strips of beef with a slight char and a perfect interior. With all the sandwiches, skip the typical burger bun and go for the delicious ciabatta, baked daily. Toppings aside from lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions (sauteed or raw) cost $2 each, with a choice of a large portabello mushroom, a fried egg, guacamole, turkey bacon and kosher soy cheese that actually isn't bad.
If you aren't used to burgers as served in kosher and Israeli restaurants, you may need to brace yourself, as the meat is drier and more heavily laced with spices. The holy burger ($10.95) is decent though somewhat dry, made all the better with a fried egg perched on top. A better option is the lamb burger ($9.95), which is more tender and rich with spices. Even better was the chickpea burger ($6.95), basically a wad of falafel inside a bun. While the falafel isn't salty, the sauces are, especially the garlic mayo and the green tahini.
The chicken-schnitzel sandwich ($9.95) was on point with perfect, golden-fried slices of chicken that were accentuated by the airy ciabatta. Salad, served roughly Israeli style, is also a treat, thanks to a mountain of uber-thin, crispy sweet potato strips. You'll probably want the citrus vinaigrette or Thousand Island with it, but hey, here's your big moment to dream up some bizarre salad-dressing concoction to tell your friends about.
For sides, make sure to try Eighteen Sauces' tantalizing breaded and fried portabello mushrooms ($4.50), a tray of juicy tidbits you'll want to sample in nearly every sauce. Battered cauliflower ($4.50) is also a good get, this one done in a beer-battered style. French fries ($3.50), onion rings ($3.50) and sweet-potato fries ($4.50) are par for what you'd find at a run-of-the-mill bar.
While the kosher crowd likely will make up Eighteen Sauces' core business, neighborhood Gentiles will want to take a chance on this modern sandwich spot.
4251 State Road 7, Hollywood
Cuisine: Kosher, sandwiches
Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to two hours before Shabbat Friday; one hour after Shabbat until 4 a.m. Saturday
Sound level: Loud to moderate
Outside smoking: No
For kids: Highchairs, kids' menu
Wheelchair accessible: Yes