I want to state for the record that I hate the word “shimmy.”
Unfortunately for my wordsmithing-self, it always starts as a “shimmy.” A little swing to my hips, and a bip-bop in my shoulders. During a really good meal, even clapping has been known to occur.
It took me years to realize that I have a Happy Food Dance. If you can believe it, I didn’t know I was dancing when I found food I loved. Maybe I’m not as in touch with my own love for food as I think I am.
I also don’t consider myself a foodie, but I realized that if you ask me for suggestions for any destination ever (that I’ve been to), 90% of my recommendations are for restaurants and bars.
I may not be a professional connoisseur, have a developed palate, or understand the technical and artistic aspects of food, but I do pay attention to it. Fort Lauderdale wanted me to pay attention, and so I would. Here are the foods you have to try when you visit Fort Lauderdale.
On the southern U.S. coast of the Atlantic, Fort Lauderdale has a plethora of options for food that come from the sea. Many of them were some of the freshest seafood dishes I’ve had in a long time, and many were adventurous and interesting.
Be sure to go fishing for:
- Buttery and indulgent Stone Crab claws.
- Night-sky black squid ink pasta with shrimp.
- Fresh lobster rolls – perfect for lunch!
- Whole red rockfish with lemons and tomatoes.
- If you’re feeling adventurous (I’m not!), octopus salad.
One of my favorite ways to experience a city is not in the innovative, eclectic experiments of chefs; it’s in the classics. I love to dive into hearty brunches, messy family recipes, and the stereotypical dishes of an area.
Some sweet Southern flavors you can find in Fort Lauderdale:
- Cuban sandwiches are a must when visiting Florida.
- Classic southern foods like BBQ ribs and hush puppies. (Tom Jenkins BBQ is the place to go!)
- Hearty brunch options like pancakes and open-faced breakfast sandwiches with thick-cut bacon.
Second to the classic dishes I mentioned above, I love to find the places where people are trying something “new” or “different.” I don’t mean the kind of dish or drink you can’t find anywhere else in the world, but the kinds of things that are new and exciting; the places where I’d want to hang out if I lived there.
Pair the above dishes and delights with some of these sips:
- Spend every night at Stache drinking their outrageously good custom cocktails. We had the chance to take a mixology class here too, which I’d highly recommend if you can find it.
- The Craft Beer Cartel is bringing craft beer to this part of South Florida, which is really exciting for a beer lover like me.
Plenty of Desserts
As one of the top three cruise ports in the world, Fort Lauderdale and Port Everglades see a lot of tourists who come to town looking for indulgent, world-class food. I found this reflected most in the desserts we tried; not normally a dessert person, I quickly learned to save room and share plates, just to get a taste of the amazing luxuries on each menu.
Other foodie highlights for those of you with a sweet tooth too:
- Key Lime Pie, in all its many forms. It’s a perfect Florida dessert!
- Lemon sorbet with sea salt.
- For more traditional sweet tooths, you can always find faves like apple pie crumble and chocolate chunk brownie s’mores.
Given that I was only in Fort Lauderdale for a week, it’s hard to believe how much I ate (actually, it’s not — all I have to do is step on a scale!). I savored the sea and the South, noshed on the Old School luxury dishes and got a flavor for the up-and-coming establishments. In short, I sampled it all.
Fort Lauderdale has a diverse dining scene that is going to develop a lot in the next few years: as more Millennial travelers become families and start looking into the cruise industry as part of their yearly travel investment, I think smart chefs and restauranteurs will respond with increasingly innovative restaurants and bars. The great classics will endure, and new, irreverent ones — such as Fork & Balls and YOLO — will gain tenure, and join their ranks.
Instead of taking a taxi straight from the airport to the cruise port, add a day or two to your itinerary to enjoy the different foods you can find. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Many thanks to Fort Lauderdale for hosting me during the first few days of my trip, and treating me to many of the restaurants highlighted in this guide.
This post was originally published in November 2015, and updated in January 2017.