When you're looking for ambience as much as food, satisfying restaurants can be hard to come by. After all, you want the whole package, not just a suitable meal. Fortunately, Fort Lauderdale delivers in spades. The city promises a superb selection of restaurants to satisfy your desire for Waterfront Dining. These places take care of the details, making you feel welcomed, plying you with wonderful dishes, and sending you on your way with an experience you won't soon forget. For a hint of the quality, consider Serafina , which, along with La Tub and the rest, epitomizes great waterfront dining in Fort Lauderdale. Known locally and nationally for its incredible dockside views and great menu, Bahia Cabana is just the place to arrive by boat, car or taxi. For that certain touch of class it's got to be 3030 Ocean, Shula's On The Beach, Blue Moon Fish Company or the memorable Grille 66 & Café. Of course, don't miss a chance to join in on all the fun at Rustic Inn Crabhouse. Here diners garbed in fashionable bibs and grubby attire crack crabs with wooden mallets at picnic tables. Take in as many of these great restaurants as possible while visiting Fort Lauderdale. You'll be back!
10 La Tub
This is probably one of the most unusual hamburger joints around. Known for its famous hamburgers, having been voted the best hamburger in GQ Magazine and also known for being a favorite of Oprah's friend Gail. Set along the Intracoastal Waterway in a former garage guests sit among a number of old bathroom fixtures that are scattered around and surrounded by flowers and plants. The service may be slow but just be patient and take in the beautiful views of the river and the parade of boats that go by and know that when the food arrives it will be memorable. If it's not hamburgers you want decide from the menu of chicken, salads, great sides, desserts and a list of great beers and cocktails. ((954) 921-9425)
Sarafina is one of those Italian eateries that draws you in just by the name and the homey feel of its signage and the sheer anticipation of what is inside. While you may miss it by driving by, look carefully and stop in. Great things come in small packages. With its warm and welcoming Tuscan style dining room, decorated with photos of Italy, features a patio overlooking Middle River. Delicately prepared dishes such as braised short ribs, roasted lamb and rigatoni Bolognese attract discriminating diners, and a selection of pizzas is also available. Service is attentive, and the wine list offers popular affordable options. (954-463-2566)
8 Aruba Beach Cafe
Proclaiming itself as One Happy Restaurant, Aruba Beach Cafe at One East Commercial Boulevard in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea has a great reputation not only as a restaurant, but a great place to enjoy awesome jazz music every Sunday. Picture it: Enjoying seafood, large fresh salads, pastas and burgers in the company of friends and family, feeling the balmy breezes right off the ocean just steps away, and being in the company of those who enjoy a relaxing Sunday listening to the top-notch jazz that keeps people coming back. Aruba Beach Cafe has been a favorite among the locals for many years, and they have perfected the art of service over the years, and they are the experts. (954-776-0001)
7 Bahia Cabana
Voted recently by a national nautical magazine as World's Best Dockside Patio Bar & Restaurant, Bahia Cabana is a delightfully breezy, casual restaurant that serves three meals a day that can easily satisfy everyone. Calm and relaxed and subtle sense of fun, with great service and all the traditional American breakfast, lunch and dinner favorites and also a generous list of specialty drinks, beers and wines. Known for great service, a view overlooking Fort Lauderdale's largest marina and endless selections of excellent food choices, no doubt, this is your best bet. Conveniently, this establishment can be reached by water taxi, car or boat. (954-524-1555)
6 Rustic Inn Crabhouse
What started as a self-admitted hole-in-the-wall, Rustic Inn Crabhouse has grown up to become a classic local favorite. Be sure to dress casual at this dockside seafood house, as diners garbed in fashionable bibs and grubby attire crack crabs with wooden mallets at picnic tables. What fun! In addition to crabs, shrimp, lobster, seafood pasta, and a variety of fish, grilled or broiled, make tasty dinners; meanwhile, chicken and beef dishes keep landlubbers from going hungry. Daily lunch specials run $5-7 and include side items (usually fries and coleslaw) and a beverage. Try Tuesday's dolphin platter with potatoes, rice and sautéed veggies. (954-584-1637)
5 15th Street Fisheries
Voted Best Waterfront Restaurant in South Florida in a 2011 local media poll, 15th Street Fisheries has rustic charm and waterfront views that make this Lauderdale Marina seafood house a popular destination. Take advantage of its unique location in this most famous nautical landmark to arrive in a car or a boat. There is no better way to enjoy this restaurant's many choices of fabulous seafood, drink specials, and their $5 Happy Hour menu, which includes chicken wings, calamarie, mini burgers and conch fritters, than in its ideal location right on the waterway near the amazing 17th Street Causeway drawbridge and Port Everglades inlet to the Atlantic Ocean. (954-763-2777)
4 Blue Moon Fish Company
This favorite and unique waterside restaurant offers Caribbean-inspired seafood dishes in a festive environment, with panoramic views of the Intercoastal Waterway from the elegant Art Deco dining room or from the breezy outdoor dock. The menu offers true Floridian favors with Louisiana, Cajun infusion and combining influences from both Chef Owners, Bryce Statham and Baron Skorish. Upscale dishes include baked prosciutto wrapped brie, shiitake mushroom crusted halibut with wilted Swiss chard, grilled salmon and crab stuffed portobello, or lump crab and corn roasted grouper. Desserts are extravagant. Try the Icky Sticky Caramel Tart with Chunky Monkey ice cream. Reservations requested.
3 Shula's On the Beach
Created by famed Miami Dolphin's coach Don Schula, and the recipient of the 2010 Open Table Diner's Choice Award, this classy dining room features two bars and an adjoining patio with spectacular oceanfront views. Located on the ground floor of the Westin Hotel and Resort, this elegant dining experience offers an exceptional evening candlelight ambiance with live music. Tasty appetizers such as barbecued shrimp, lobster cocktail and onion soup complement the succulent steaks. In addition to a variety of cuts of beef, dishes such as pistachio crusted grouper, lamb loin chops and Australian lobster tails appear on the menu. Looking for an especially sound way to start your day? Stop by for breakfast before heading out. For any day of the week, Shula's offers a great buffet for just under $17. (954-355-4000)
2 3030 Ocean
Residing at the beautiful Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and Spa, 3030 Ocean is a clear departure from the stereotypical seafood room, as this restaurant's interior is cloaked in rich colors and classy dark woods. The menu changes frequently and emphasizes organic ingredients. Starters such as watermelon and French feta salad complement the raw bar, and main course offerings might include grilled pompano on wild arugula salad with passion fruit vinaigrette or tempura tuna with sweet rice, pickled cucumber and sesame chili sauce. The Goombay Smash (rum, banana liqueur, orange and pineapple juices), Frozen Oreo Mudslide (Kahlua, vanilla vodka, Bailey's, Oreos and cream), and Blackberry Mojito highlight the cocktail menu. Rarely is there such an exquisite setting with such delectable fare. (954-765-3030, 954-525-4000)
1 Grille 66 & Bar
No question about it, this enchanting local favorite waterfront steakhouse exudes luxury. Located in the Hyatt, Grill 66 offers balcony dining that overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway. Available for the boating enthusiasts who want to arrive in style is a convenient 400 foot dock. The award-winning menu offers popular appetizers such as crispy shrimp and calamari, filet mignon carpaccio, and a charcuterie platter. Main course offerings include lobster, crab cakes, veal and lamb chops in case a strip steak, filet mignon or porterhouse doesn't do the trick. Artfully prepared potatoes and green veggies provide a satisfying accompaniments to the meat. Grill 66 & Bar has set a new standard in Fort Lauderdale for the finest in steakhouses. (954-728-3500)
About Dale Mack
Dale Mack has been involved in Fort Lauderdale tourism and promotions for over twenty years. Working for Travelhost Magazine in Dallas, Texas, he was especially drawn to the edition published by the Fort Lauderdale Associate Publisher; the city's beauty, its energy and the fun-in-the-sun atmosphere. When an opportunity came to relocate to Fort Lauderdale by another company, Dale accepted. He has spent the last eight years discovering "the Venice of America" and South Florida itself.
Dale is the author of three children's books and numerous articles. He has also worked as a copywriter for the South Florida real estate market.
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