East Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach
Full of art, food and charm, downtown Delray is totally enchanting. It would be easy to get lost on the Avenue all day, hopping from bar to restaurant to after-dinner coffee spot, and ending with a walk down to the beach.
Lunch break: Find the perfect mid-day escape at The Office (201 E. Atlantic Ave.). Rustic meets refined at the trendy gastropub serving up prime burgers and craft beer, plus comfort food like truffled devil eggs, fried green tomatoes and creamy mac and cheese. We appreciate the running office-theme, with Water Cooler Martinis, an Office Supplies menu section and the cheeky, butt-imprinted chairs.
Drinks: One of the most happening spots when the sun goes down is Union (8 E. Atlantic Ave.). Creative cocktails like Grape Roundhouse (Monster, Svedka black-grape vodka, vodka-infused gummy bears) and the Peanut Butter & Jelly shot (NutLiquor, Chambord, peanut butter and chopped peanut rim) are complemented by the Candyfish sushi menu.
Dinner date: 32 East (32 E. Atlantic Ave.) has been open 18 years and is the ultimate special-occasion dinner spot. The menu by Chef Nick Morfogen (named one of Food & Wine’s top chefs) changes daily, and everything is homemade and fresh, from the fish to the ice cream. It’s a must on every foodie’s bucket list. For divine, upscale Italian and homemade pasta, walk farther east down the Avenue to Tramonti (119 E. Atlantic Ave.).
Coffee break: Bring a laptop, a book you can’t put down, and your imagination to Spot Coffee (44 E. Atlantic Ave.), which offers coffee brewed from 100 percent arabica beans, plenty of couches and free Wi-Fi.
On the water: The work of restaurateur Burt Rapoport, Deck 84 (840 E. Atlantic Ave.) is great for “Sunday Funday.” Enjoy fresh seafood and watch the boats pass on the water. Try the crispy fish tacos or the jumbo crab cake.
East Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale
Las Olas is to Fort Lauderdale what Rodeo Drive is to Beverly Hills and Fifth Avenue is to Manhattan: the streets and cities are synonymous with each other. Around since 1917, what started as a dirt road has evolved over the decades into its current state – 17 blocks of top-notch dining, shopping and outdoor events.
After-work drinks: Overworked business pros from nearby offices eagerly walk to the Boulevard for drinks. Those who love to “see and be seen” will feel at home having a craft beer (selection of 40+) or cocktail at the always popular American Social (721 E. Las Olas Blvd.). Cheese Culture (813 E. Las Olas Blvd.) is a more intimate spot for a cheese plate and wine. Even those who don’t know much about pairings will be impressed by the servers’ knowledge.
Lunch meeting: At YOLO (333 E. Las Olas Blvd.), locals will almost always run into someone they know, and visitors and tourists alike will be impressed by the cuisine, including stand-outs like fresh fish, tomato-gravy-covered meatballs, and espresso chocolate cookie and nut-crusted ice cream sandwiches. Even the potato chips are elevated – made with truffle oil, Maytag blue cheese herbs and crumbled bacon. Across the street, Royal Pig Pub (350 E. Las Olas Blvd.) serves up gastropub fare. Try the Cactus Burger (poblano peppers, fried shallots, guacamole, smoky Gouda and Oaxaca cheese), sweet potato fries and a spinach dip that some say is the best in town.
Special occasion: There’s a reason Johnny V (625 E. Las Olas Blvd.) has been open for more than 10 years – namesake Chef Johnny Vinczencz’s culinary creations are some of the best in the region. This intimate, elegant spot is great for a celebration. Start the meal with a glass of wine (350+ on the menu) and a cheese plate (39 different varieties), and don’t leave without trying the duck meatloaf or smoked tomato soup.
Brunch: There are plenty of places on the Boulevard for brunch, but one of our favorite spots for unlimited mimosas after an early-morning 5K is Big City Tavern (609 E. Las Olas Blvd.). Chef Louie Bossi is one of the nicest we’ve met, and his creative energy shines in menu items like house-made charcuterie, porchetta hash, breakfast pizza and Dutch baby pancakes. Be sure to grab a jar of housemade pig butter to take home.
Coffee break: Kick the Starbucks addiction and take a trip to Gran Forno Pronto (704 E. Las Olas Blvd.) for some of the best coffee, bread and cinnamon rolls in town.
Dessert: There are plenty of fro-yo and ice cream spots on Las Olas, but La Bonne Crepe (815 E. Las Olas Blvd.), open since 1979, offers a quaint, sit-down experience. Cure a case of Paris wanderlust with a selection of more than 50 types of crepes, including cheese, chicken, eggs, seafood and fruit. There’s even a burger crepe.
Plaza Real, Boca Raton
This street running through Mizner Park and parts of Royal Palm Plaza represents quintessential Boca Raton. Expect the restaurants to be as beautifully manicured, classical and refined as Boca itself.
Lunch: One of the most approachable and respected restaurants in Boca, Dennis Max’s eponymously named Max’s Grille (404 Plaza Real) is consistently good and the perfect mix of casual and elegant. Try the hummus and chips, creme brulee pie or radiatore chicken pasta. Next door, Gary Rack’s RACKS Downtown Eatery & Tavern (402 Plaza Real) is an uber-modern tavern serving up American comfort food.
People-watching spot: We’re in love with the rustic charm of The Cheese Course (305 Plaza Real, No. 1305). A long, wooden table is perched outside under a large umbrella for small groups enjoying a cheese and wine tasting. This fromagerie is a great spot to indulge in a cheese plate or sandwich, flip through a foodie magazine and watch passersby.
Dinner date: Get dressed up and head to Truluck’s (351 Plaza Real) for a romantic evening. Order the calamari, oysters and stone crabs. Be sure to save room for the Chocolate Bag dessert (a shareable “bag” made of chocolate stuffed with cake, berries, whipped cream and melted chocolate). Music lovers will appreciate the culture and energy at Jazziz (201 Plaza Real) with nightly live music, New Orleans-inspired fare and an ultra-chic atmosphere.
Dessert: Follow the scent of fresh-baked waffle cones to Sloan’s (329 Plaza Real). With an aesthetic like the Candy Land board game brought to life, the colorful candy and ice cream shop has something for everyone. The carrot cake ice cream is a must-try. Be sure to use the magical glass bathroom.
Brunch: Tanzy, the Italian restaurant attached to iPic Theaters (301 Plaza Real), serves up an amazing brunch – the kind where you’ll want to try everything on the menu. Try the poached egg with asparagus, prosciutto and ricotta cheese, or the sweet and savory Monte Cristo with smoked ham and Gruyere cheese, strawberries and maple syrup gelato. We also love the warm, cream-cheese-topped croissants. Wash it down with a blood orange Boca Mimosa.
Coffee break: Head to Côté France Café (100 Plaza Real S.) for coffee and croissants. The quiche is also light, fluffy and flavorful.
The view is unbeatable, and the restaurants, often the signature dining spots in area hotels, serve up top-notch cuisine.
Lunch with a view: Second-floor restaurant Thai on the Beach (901 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.) has great views of the Atlantic, and the food is done simply, but well. Order the Hawaiian fried rice and massaman curry. S3 (505 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.) is a chic spot for a lunch salad, sushi or to sneak in a mid-day craft cocktail.
Drinks and sushi: B Ocean Fort Lauderdale hotel is South Beach-chic, and its signature restaurant SAIA (999 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.) is no exception, with leather barstools and chairs, and round, metallic light fixtures hovering over the tables and bar. Small bites range from sushi to barbecue lamb lollipops. Order a round of Ruby Foo cocktails (fresh basil, strawberries, sake and vodka topped with ginger ale).
Dinner date: Located on the sixth floor of the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach, ilios (505 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.), is a great spot for an intimate meal. Try tableside guacamole, salmon, mac and cheese with five cheeses (it’s our favorite in Fort Lauderdale) and flourless chocolate cake.
Splurge-worthy spot: If the world was ending and we had to pick one place for a last meal, it would be Steak954 (401 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.). The boutique steakhouse at the W Fort Lauderdale is not only beautiful (the giant tank of jellyfish is hypnotizing), the food is also incredible. Wagyu filet, lump crab, burrata, ceviche – mmm. Saving room for dessert is essential – every menu item we’ve tried has been ridiculously good. They serve a mean breakfast, too. Try the vanilla French toast.
Via De Palmas, Boca Raton
This brick-paved road runs through Royal Palm Place, a shopping and dining plaza in downtown Boca. With plenty of free parking and wide sidewalks, it’s a great spot to grab a meal and then walk off the calories by wandering through the breezy, winding shopping center.
Cappuccino and tiramisu: Chef Avi Sekerel’s Italian bistro and bakery, Saquella Café (410 Via De Palmas), is a great spot for a guilt-free snack or meal. The restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, has a “no-fry” policy. The freshly roasted boutique coffee shines here. Pair it with a Guinness cupcake, espresso cookie or slice of tiramisu by award-winning Pastry Chef Lowil Stoller, who has a temperament as sweet as the treats she bakes.
Lunch: Dine al fresco at French café Casimir Bistro (416 Via De Palmas, Ste. 81), Boca’s little taste of Paris. Owned by French-trained Chef Laurent Di Meglio and his wife, this spot serves up some of the best bread, creme brulee, onion soup and escargot in our area.
Dinner: It’s not as if our area is devoid of excellent Italian restaurants, but Ristorante Sapori (301 Via De Palmas) serves up some of the freshest seafood, best pasta and most flavorful homemade sauces. Owner/Chef Marco Pindo is super personable and makes a point to interact with guests. Come on a Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday for the dining room pasta-making demonstrations.
Drinks: Sometimes, a craving for pretzels and beers just comes. And when it does, Biergarten (309 Via De Palmas, No. 90) is the place to go. “The Pretzel” (yes, it’s on the menu with a capital “P”) is plated with several homemade mustards and a cheese dip. Pair it with a German bier.