A Weekend in Fort Lauderdale
Where to eat and drink in a city that has come into its own
Once the home of spring breakers, t-shirt shops, and cheap beer in plastic cups, Fort Lauderdale has come into its own in the past few years.
Visitors to Fort Lauderdale are treated to pristine beaches, gorgeous luxury hotels, and a burgeoning food scene.
Though Fort Lauderdale is more laid back than Miami, there’s still plenty to do and much to see — though there is less of a party scene. Want to go clubbing until the next day? Miami is just a half-hour Uber ride away.
Where to Stay
The Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort is a good home base for your Fort Lauderdale explorations. The hotel is located adjacent to the beach, offering amazing views of the Atlantic. There’s a Starbucks in the hotel so you can grab an iced coffee for your morning beach walk (be sure to look out for sea turtles during the nesting season that runs from March 1 to October 21). The hotel is also home to Lona Cocina & Tequileria, a Mexican restaurant with an oversized oceanfront patio.
Where to Eat
Owner/cook Steve Martorano (he will be the first to tell you not to call him a chef) has been making red sauce classics at his storefront restaurant for three decades. Martorano, himself a celebrity, has a cadre of celebrities who pass through these doors for a taste of homemade meatballs, chicken cacciatore, and pappardelle with sausage. The restaurant is a lively scene with Martorano, himself, switching between the kitchen and the DJ booth to entertain and feed his guests.
Located directly on Fort Lauderdale’s Intercoastal waterway, Coconuts is one of the beach’s few locals hangouts. People in the know come here for the restaurant’s conch fritters, fish dip, lobster club sandwich, and grilled local catch of the day.
Chef/owner Rino Cerbone has created an Italian restaurant with a rock and roll soul in Heritage. The restaurant, which gives off Keith Richards vibes, offers a succinct menu of classics done right: stuffed squash blossoms, meatballs, calamari, and eggplant parmigiana for starters; a hearty malfaldine Bolognese; and wood-fired pizzas.
Husband and wife team of Timon and Marissa Balloo run this tiny gem of a restaurant that offers a menu filled with the couple’s favorite foods from their lives and travels together. The result is part edible love story and part travelogue. The clam chowder fries are an absolute must — fries are seasoned with Old Bay tand topped with steamed clams. Other standouts include jerk chicken thighs, Thai pineapple and shrimp fried rice, and a tangy zatar beet and carrot salad.
After an afternoon shopping on Las Olas Boulevard, stop into Ya Mas for a Greek martini and a plate of flaming saganaki at this charming little taverna. The restaurant also has weekend brunch: Aura Saturdays offers a party vibe for those 21 and over, while Sundays is a relaxing family-friendly affair.