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The Eat Beat Dining around South Florida
with Mike Mayo
Eating The Eat Beat

A food critic gives thanks for another bountiful year

Welcome to a special holiday edition of the Eat Beat Newsletter. The turkey is brining, the pies are baking and the wine is chilling. It is time for my annual list of things for which I give thanks ...

('Tis the season to be grateful.)

I am thankful we live in a region where food is bountiful, diverse and as cheap or expensive as a diner would like it to be.

I am thankful I get paid to eat ... and write about it.

I am thankful for my health and the pills that control my acid reflux, a new occupational hazard.

I am thankful for the restaurants that will be open Thanksgiving and I am grateful for the servers, cooks, bartenders, bussers, dishwashers and managers who work long hours on holidays and every day.

I am thankful for chefs who rallied to help the hungry and others in need in the Keys, Puerto Rico and our own back yard during a stormy year.

(Lifting spirits and palates in Puerto Rico and beyond.)

I am thankful for Jose Andres, a celebrity chef with a big heart who is using his power and talent to make the world a better place.

I am thankful for Bazaar Mar by Jose Andres in Miami, where his amazing team does wondrous things with seafood and one of only two South Florida restaurants that I awarded four stars this year.

I am thankful for 32 East in Delray Beach, the other four-star recipient, but wistful that the restaurant will be shuttering after nearly 22 years in 2018.

I am thankful for bad restaurants because, let's face it, the pans usually make for deliciously fun reading.

I am thankful for hard-trying independent restaurateurs with loyal followings who don't let a bad day or tepid review get them down.

(Here's to Louie Bossi and the battlers open about addiction.)

I am thankful that Louie Bossi, Daniel Serfer and others in the restaurant industry have the courage to share their stories of addiction and recovery and that their activism sheds light on a scourge too easily kept in the dark.

I am thankful that women in the culinary world are standing up for their dignity and rights and fighting what Anthony Bourdain calls the "meathead bro culture" of sexism and harassment, no matter which big names get chewed up in the process.

I am thankful for restaurants that don't gouge for wine and encourage the sale of good libations to go with good food.

I am thankful I made review visits to South Florida institutions Tropical Acres in Dania Beach, V&S Italian Deli in Boca Raton, Sonny's Famous Steak Hogies in Hollywood and King Palace in North Miami Beach. All are family-run places where the hands-on owners have a strong work ethic, showing up day after day for decades.

I am thankful for the modest mindset shown by restaurateurs such as John Nigro, the second-generation owner of Sonny's, who is content with one store and loath to raise prices, saying, "My accountant keeps telling me to add a quarter here and there, but I don’t want to hurt my customers."

(Newcomer Etaru has me hungering for more.)

I am thankful for tasty and stylish newcomers Etaru in Hallandale Beach (with its fine sashimi) and Monkitail in Hollywood (with its exquisite edamame dumplings).

I am thankful to see seasoned pros Jack Jackson and chef Johnny Vinczencz back in the restaurant game at Jackson's Prime in Fort Lauderdale, and I eagerly await the December rebirth of Prezzo in Boca Raton from Burt Rapoport, Dennis Max and chef Mark Militello.

I am thankful for all the items and restaurants I listed here last year, save the ones that didn't survive the brutal economic grind of the restaurant world (RIP Ends Meat).

I am thankful for readers and their tips, opinions and insights.

I am thankful for a daughter with a better palate than mine and an ex-wife who remains an eating partner and still invites me to her amazing holiday feasts.

Lastly, I am thankful to spend this Thanksgiving with parents who are finally South Floridians after 85 years in New York. My dad fought like hell to get here, surviving four hospitalizations and three blood infections this year. The apple pie will taste extra sweet. Happy holiday to all.

Got a restaurant tip or dining beef?  Reach me at mmayo@southflorida.com or 954-356-4508. Don’t troll me, but feel free to roast or flambeé me on Twitter: @heymikemayo, and follow my food adventures on Instagram: @mikemayoeats.

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Stay hungry my friends.

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