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Hardy Park Bistro – Ft. Lauderdale

Psst. If you live in South Florida, don’t tell anyone about this tiny, out-of-the-way restaurant located in the vicinity of downtown Fort Lauderdale. It’s really, really good, but it’s not very big, see? Once word gets out about the quality of food, well, you know how it goes with popular places that start our charming and friendly but run the risk of becoming a “one and done” eating establishment you enjoy with the intention of returning to soon, but when you finally do, you realize that now there’s a long wait for a table, parking has become an issue and the clientele…well, you get the idea.

We’re hoping Hardy Park Bistro stays exactly the way it is: A charming, unassuming little place that’s big on flavors and attention to detail.

The restaurant (aptly named because it sits right across the street from a city park that bears the name) is Fort Lauderdale’s newest eatery that is worth checking out. This particular Saturday we arrived around 9 p.m. after attending a downtown art walk event. I must admit I didn’t think we’d get seated as quickly as we did. A young woman had greeted us at the door and told us they needed to clear a table, but it would only be a few minutes.

The restaurant is spare but elegant (it was a barbecue restaurant in its former existence), containing seven tables inside; two tables located on one side in the front outside; as well as a pub-height bench table and chairs on the other side. HPB’s staff is very friendly and knowledgeable. The wine menu contained a respectable listing of reds and whites, all reasonably priced.

For dinner, we ordered the Grilled Octopus Salad with Arugula, Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and Eggplant and the Grilled Salmon with Risotto Cake, Asparagus, Red Pepper Coulis and Basil.  Both dishes were excellent.  The salmon was cooked to absolute perfection. It was moist, yet flaky, and combined with the other ingredients, never felt overpowering. The Risotto Cake was phenomenal and contrasted nicely with the fish. We were both impressed. With dinner finished, our server asked us if we saved any room for dessert. We politely declined the offer, but perhaps next time we will take them up on it.

Oh yes, we will be back, Hardy Park Bistro…you can count on it.

Sunday Brunch at Red Cow, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Smoked Bloody MaryDon’t look now, but Sunday brunch is back. Well, sort of…not that it really went away. To the legions of late-night denizens, drunkards and party hearty types, Sunday brunch is an indispensable meal, more an event, really, that welcomes the brain dead back to the land of the living.

And, even if you’re like us, with more late night adventures behind than in front of us, Sunday brunch is a nice departure from the usual Sunday paper, coffee and bowl of cold cereal routine. And South Florida has numerous options available for the brunch crowd, including Red Cow, one of Ft. Lauderdale’s newest restaurants, located at the site of the former Texas Hold ‘Em.

Red Cow is known for its down-home barbecue fare, but on Sundays it transforms the usual eggs-and-bacon into something quite Dizzy Chicken Hashremarkable. The service is friendly and welcoming, and the day we dined there we were seated right away.

The restaurant looks like your friendly, neighborhood eatery, a comfortable place you can kick back and relax. Red Cow has a bar, complete with a respectable wine and beer selection. We ordered Bloody Marys, including one that features a smoke-infused vodka. Garnished with beef jerky and a pickle, both were delicious and satisfying.

AustinFor our meals, we enjoyed The Austin and the Dizzy Chicken Hash.  The Austin features two eggs cooked to order, jalapeno cheddar sausage, a cowboy potato cake and corn bread. It was incredible, to say the least. The Hash is a big, delicious mound of breakfast goodness piled on the plate, consisting of pulled rotisserie chicken, an egg cooked to order and fresh pico de gallo. I cleaned my plate, barely.

I don’t know if food can cure what ails you, but Red Cow offers up exactly the type of food you’ll enjoy eating on a Sunday morning or early afternoon – regardless of your condition. Red Cow is Sunday Brunch done right, and definitely worth trying.

d.b.a./cafe, Fort Lauderdale – Saturday, January 5, 2013



Restaurant ownership can be a fly-by-night industry. It’s “Here today, gone today” in many cases, with the most promising of chefs packing their knives and owners counting their losses.

So when we heard about d.b.a./café opening up in the location of two former restaurants, we were hopeful this new venture would work out since it was being helmed by Executive Chef Steve Zobel.

Oyster Stew

Oyster Stew

Formerly of East End Brasserie, located in the Atlantic Resort & Spa, Zobel’s food never disappointed.  His departure was evident the first time we dined at East End under a different chef and menu. Although we didn’t know that was the situation at the time, we all noticed that something was off.  Nothing we had that evening compared to what we had previously from Zobel’s kitchen.

He is doing things a little more down tempo with his all-new d.b.a./café. The restaurant is located between ABC Liquors and Dick’s Sporting Goods in a non-descript shopping center located on North Federal Highway in Ft. Lauderdale. The location was once home to Asahi City, a Thai cuisine and sushi restaurant. Then, when that folded, Café Jamm opened their doors.  We moderately enjoyed both but neither stood out among other restaurants in the area.

Their loss is d.b.a./café’s gain. It’s easy to walk past this non-descript location, but it would be a shame, because the food is outstanding. Inside it looks more Bohemian than five star, with unfinished wood plank tables; napkins that look more like dish towels and a laid-back staff  whose service was more off-the-cuff  than urbane, which we appreciated. There are bookshelves stocked with an odd array of paperbacks, toys (one in particular, a small plastic “device” looked more suited for an adult than a child, no comment)…plus we noticed several guitars hanging on the wall. If you didn’t smell the delicious food being prepared in the back you’d expect to see people with laptop computers hanging out, taking advantage of free Wi Fi and drinking coffee.

Apricot Glazed Duck Confit

Apricot Glazed Duck Confit

The menu is an eclectic blend of comfort food and haute cuisine. There are a number of appetizers and entrees to satisfy most palates: from chicken and seafood to hearty meat and pasta dishes. We decided on a bowl of oyster stew to start that was savory, delicious and most importantly, didn’t lack its star ingredient. The wine menu isn’t lacking either, offering a number of choices—depending on one’s taste and budget—in whites and reds, and even sparkling wine. We ordered the Y3 Red Blend from Napa Valley, which was quite drinkable and would pair well with our dinner choices. Strangely enough our original wine choice was out of stock, so the Y3, at about the same price, turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Carnival Chicken

Carnival Chicken

Our entrees not only sounded delicious as described on the menu, they were nothing short of spectacular (note: entrée items are served half and full sizes; a nice option for those who like to order multiple small dishes to share).  The entrees our table chose included the apricot glazed duck confit served over an acorn squash crepe and brussel sprouts. The duck was cooked and seasoned to perfection. Another stellar choice was the “Carnival Chicken”, buttermilk-battered fried chicken and maple-glazed funnel cake (a whimsical take on fries chicken and waffles) which was flavorful and delicious. Next up were the braised short ribs, which came with a truffle potato puree and sautéed spinach. Our group’s short rib aficionado said it was one of the best he’s ever had. Lastly, but most certainly not least, was the pecan-crusted grouper with a buerre blanc, served over mushroom risotto and sautéed spinach. The grouper was flaky and delicious, and the pecan crust gave it a nice crunch. The risotto was also well prepared.

All in all, d.b.a./café has all the ingredients to be a success. So, ditch the coat and tie, forget all the hard and fast rules regarding fine dining, and just enjoy it for what it should be known for: great food in a comfortable, laid-back setting.

Pecan Crusted GrouperBraised Short Ribs



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