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Ft. Lauderdale - looking for cool old Florida spots

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We'll be in Ft. Lauderdale in a couple of weeks - never been - and am looking for some reccs ... we're in our 30s and live in Manhattan, so we're not looking for anything "trendy" or upscale since there's plenty of that here.

We like to sit/eat at the bar, drink and people watch. Looking for great seafood places, local hangouts, ribs, on-the-water or beach type places. Nothing too expensive, just tasty, authentic food. I know nothing about the local area ... we're staying at the Atlantic so if we want something upscale one night we'd probably just eat at Trina. What is good that is in walking distance? We're willing to travel to other areas as well.

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    1. re: 2top

      Sorry 2top but Tropical Acres is gross, overcooked veggie, old people food. Do NOT go! Jaxson's is fun ice cream that's been around forever.

    2. Nothing much in walking distance from your hotel....Casablanca (which is north) has water view but good for drinks...food nothing to write home about. A real local (longtime) bar food and fun outdoors hangout is the Bahia Cabana -- guess you could walk it..a long walk south down A1A. You'd probably have to drive north up the beach to Lauderdale By The Sea -- Aruba's has water view and good bar scene with some appealing appetizers and seafood. Mulligan's is local in LBTS and has seafood -- definitely not upscale -- and is another outside bar type place. Again a drive and a bit more upscale is but with a waterview and great seafood is Blue Moon Fish (that's on Commercial Bvd = 50th St) by the intracoastal. And while you're driivng, don't miss strolling Las Olas Bvd -- lots to choose from on this street from sandwiches to expensive steaks ...and seafood too.

      3 Replies
      1. re: JulieF

        Hi everyone, thanks for all this - great ideas! We will want to do some exploring, do you reccommend us renting a car for the day or just cabbing it? What is the water taxi? Is it a fair assesment to say that there is not really much in the immediate area of the hotel?

        1. re: bbc37

          Not much in walking distance but you are a short cab ride to Las Olas which has a bunch of restaurants, bars and shops. I already mentioned Noodles and Panini for lunch. I's also recommend Johnny V's for lunch. Great for dinner too but I know you are looking for casual places. Trina is good, so you are covered. I'd also recommend Himmarshee for dinner one night. http://www.himmarshee.com/ There are some other bars/restaurants in the Himmarshee area. (5 minutes from hotel)
          Ribs, Tom Jenkins http://www.tomjenkinsbbq.com/

          There are some very causal bars near your hotel. These are bar recs and not chow.
          You can probably walk to Elbo Room
          http://elboroom.com/
          There is a Quarterdecks behind it.
          http://www.quarterdeckrestaurant.com/ (chain/bar that has a raw bar. Not my favorite but close to you and you may need some food after a couple of beers at the elbo room. It is what it is..
          )Parrot Lounge is also close for a drink
          http://www.parrotlounge.com/parrot_lo...
          Shooters is on the water and close to the hotel. Good spot for lunch and happy hour drink.
          http://www.shooterscafe.com/
          These are in addition to my initial post below.

          1. re: bbc37

            There's a good number of things -- a handful of finer dining options and a quite a few beachy/touristy places -- within walking distance of where you'll be staying. You said "old Florida", though, and there's not much of that left along the beach.

            The Water Taxi will take you to other beach neighborhoods, to downtown and the riverfront (some good restaurants in the evening; a bunch of meat-market bars by night,; and a dying "entertainment complex" adjoining), to the Las Olas strip (a lovely stroll of nice restaurants and upscale tchotchkes), etc. It goes to most places weekend vacationers would likely want to go. Locals go to these places, too. Between the beach areas and maybe a jaunt or two to Las Olas and/or the downtown riverfront area, there are more than enough relaxing, enjoyable things to do without thought of a car.

            I can't in good conscience tell you to rent a car. I'd hate to think your weekend would be remembered for the Jersey-with-palm-trees experience of navigating around South Florida sprawl. If you were down for a longer period of time, you'd probably want one. It's a car-oriented area with lots to discover and explore.. by car. On the other hand, if you're big retro- and roadside-ephemera enthusiasts and finding quirky bars, taking pictures of old motels, etc. is what you're after, I'd make my next trip down to Hollywood, and if it's for more than 3 nights, rent a car.

        2. Southport Raw Bar is a 5 minute drive from your hotel
          http://www.southportrawbar.com/

          Next door is a place called Kelley's Landing. Actually a New England style seafood place but they have great clams, fish sandwiches, burgers, lobster rolls. Tons of Red Sox memorabilia all over the place though. Not good if you are a Yankee fan like me...

          You can also hit Tark's in Dania but that is about a 15 minute ride from your hotel (super casual
          )http://tarks.com/index.html
          http://members.aol.com/__121b_HTjl9XX...

          You can take another 15 minute ride to Le Tub over on Hollywood Beach. Shack on the water with great burgers, fries, dogs etc. You should Do LeTub one day for dinner or lunch for sure.

          Noodles and Panini on Las Olas is a couple of minutes from your hotel. They have outside seating on Las Olas. Good lunch spot with great meatballs.

          Not old Florida but a casual fun greek place near the hotel in Ft Lauderdale is Opa. Also one in Hollywood Beach.
          http://www.tavernaoparestaurant.com/h...
          15th St Fisheries is also close to you.
          http://www.15streetfisheries.com/

          Rustic Inn works too (crab house
          )I'm sure I'm forgetting some so I will post back later

          1 Reply
          1. re: Sobe

            I second the Le Tub reco. It rocks. Excellent burger, great old Florida waterfront kitsch!

          2. You'll be in walking distance of a good number of places to sit with a beer while you shake sand out of your flip-flops. None that I can think of are particularly Old-Florida anymore. If Old Florida was what you were looking for, Hollywood might be more your speed. That said, sometimes it's a good idea to just stay put and enjoy where you are, order a couple of drinks and stare out into the ocean instead of spending a weekend being ferried to and from the mainland in cabs, so if relaxation is the #1 goal you might want to ignore all of the following.

            The Bahia Cabana isn't quite on the water and it's more '70s, but it's fun and they put out pretty good bar food. There are a couple of laid-back places popular with bikers by Sunrise and A1A. Lauderdale-by-the-Sea a couple of miles up the coast has the old vibe and the low-rise architecture, but I don't think the bars or restaurants, relaxing and in some cases good as they are, are "Old Florida" for the most part. You might like it there, though.

            The Rustic Inn, Tark's and Jaxson's, all in Dania and none near the beach, are all old-Florida and all still good for the things they were built for: eastern crabs, fried and boiled seafood and ice cream respectively. Tropical Acres is another time capsule, with its 1950s exterior and a pristine circa-1978 interior. Unfortunately the food's not very good. Same goes, IMO, for Southport Raw Bar, which at least has a canal-front deck and cheap beer going for it.

            Another 50-year-old time capsule in Ft. Lauderdale is not cheap and not beachy: the Mai-Kai, regarded by many as the biggest and best-preserved of the midcentury tiki bars and "Polynesian" restaurants remaining in the country. It's owned and run by members of the original family. Some employees are third-generation. The decor is eye-popping, the fruity rum drinks are made from the original recipes and the dinner show is polished and still choreographed and costumed by the widow of one of the founders, a former dancer herself. A visit to the bar and a wander through the garden in back is must if you're into this sort of thing. If you like what you see and want dinner and the show, know that the food's not generally very good even by old-school Chinese-American standards: I'd steer clear of stir-fries and noodles in particular. A good strategy is to share a steak, a salad and maybe a side of spinach. Just know it's not about the chow.

            And much as I hate to keep putting you in cabs away from the perfectly enjoyable beach you're staying at, you did say old-Florida so it's my duty to mention the Hollywood Broadwalk area and on the Intracoastal side of the street, Le Tub. Also, you mentioned ribs, so know that you can get great barbecue (spare ribs, chicken and chopped pork are best) a shortish ride from the beach at Tom Jenkins, though the place is only about 10 years old. About twice as far away, another 4-5 miles due west, you can get a just plain extraordinary chopped pork sandwich and a very good thick version of Brunswick stew at the 50-odd year old Georgia Pig. Both are closed Sunday, the former also Monday.

            1 Reply
            1. re: hatless

              Bahia Cabana is actually "on the water". It's on the Intracoastal, which is not the ocean, but still the water, nonetheless. It's got a kickin outdoor tiki bar. Completely gross hotel, though. Agree with the other FL recs as described by hatless. So sad that they are mostly NOT on the beach, but that's this area.

              Recently there was a thread by another Manhattanite who was saying she didn't want the "food she could get better in NY." Not in any way disputing that the food's better in NY or saying that you're saying that, but she re-posted and was pleasantly surprised when she went to some of those places. With that said, one of her favorite places was Anthony's Coal-fired pizza. Amazing super-thin pizza and wings cooked in a coal-fired oven (beautiful carmelized onions). Cab distance from the beach on Federal Hwy S of 17th St.

            2. Old florida restaurant and bar is Downtowner on the riverwalk, you can get the water taxi there and its good if you have younger people because you can sit outside and eat. Old Florida Seafood house is a dying breed, but always good. Don't miss Arubas on Commercial.

              2 Replies
              1. re: JOJOGIRL

                If youre talkin rustic inn you might as well travel a couple blocks up to Flossi's. Nothin but locals,stiff drinks and a great burger!

                1. re: mountdorahound

                  Breakfast at the Floridian is a must.