The Sunshine State is home to one of the gayest cities in the United States. Wilton Manors, a municipality in Broward County, has become one of the last gayborhoods in the country and one of Florida’s top LGBTQ+ destinations. The neighborhood has members of the queer community in government (including the mayor), the police force, real estate development, and both big and small businesses. And considering how parts of Miami aren’t even safe during Pride events and Florida’s current anti-gay laws, Wilton Manors is a crucial safe space for the LGBTQ+ community in South Florida.
Yes, there are a lot of bars and clubs in Wilton Manors, including gay sports bars, huge dance palaces, and the kind of leather bars that disappeared from Miami a long time ago. And while there are a lot of places to buy hot pants, jocks, and campy tee-shirts, there are also a lot of restaurants in Wilton Manors that provide safe gathering spaces for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Every Wilton Manors restaurant—whether or not they're on this guide—deserves credit for that. Traditionally, the dining scene here has always felt a little behind the times compared to its neighbor, Fort Lauderdale. But the Wilton Manors-Fort Lauderdale age gap is closing and some exciting newer spots have been popping up alongside classics we still love. Here are our favorite restaurants in Wilton Manors right now.
Le Patio calls itself “the tiniest, cutest restaurant in South Florida” and we strongly agree. As the name implies, all the tables—which you can count on one hand—are on the adorable patio at this two-woman-run restaurant. The menu features classic French brasserie food done exquisitely well. There isn’t a thing they make that doesn’t make us feel mighty real, but there are a few standouts. The duck mousse pâté is silky and assertively flavored with cognac, port, and peppercorns. The broiled artichoke bottoms stuffed with herbed goat cheese are also unforgettable (even before one of the owners cracks a joke about how we all love stuffed bottoms). Regardless of how full you think you are, you need to finish with the homemade vanilla ice cream, which the owner humble brags about being “somewhat better than Häagen Dazs.” To that we say, “don’t sell yourself so short, chérie.”
If you’re into serious cocktails, this is the only bar you need to know about in Wilton Manors. It’s modeled after the owners’ New York apartment and always feels like a great house party. Someone may tell you your handbag is fierce (especially if you’re a guy), and your soirée may be interrupted by another patron’s rendition of a Lady Gaga song in the style of Ethel Merman. We love the classic cocktails here, like the sazerac and vieux carré. But their signature cocktails are definitely worth trying, like the paper tiger that features gin and Becherovka liqueur. They do offer some food, which looks deceptively boring on the menu but is cooked well, seasoned perfectly, and just an excellent example of simple food done right. Ordering the turkey meatballs and baked goat cheese is non-negotiable.
Dolce Salato Pizza & Gelato
While this casual spot doesn’t brag about having some fancy imported 500-degree oven or a special dough starter that’s 30 years old, Dolce Salato makes some of South Florida’s best pizza. It is Neapolitan, so expect chewy, paper-thin, floppy crust. You really can’t go wrong with any option, but the brie and speck borders on transcendental: the chunks of brie melt and mingle with the very good tomato sauce under a blanket of stretchy mozzarella to make a ridiculously delicious take on a pink sauce. Their calzones are also some of our favorites in South Florida and feature the same chewy crust as their pizzas.
This is one of our favorite Thai restaurants, even though some of the best dishes here aren’t traditionally Thai. The Thai ceviche, for example, is excellent, despite the fact that it doesn’t include leche de tigre. The combination of raw tuna, lemongrass, chiles, and other Southeast Asian spices is more like a tartare than what you’d expect a ceviche to look like, but it’s so flavorful we don’t care. Thai Me Up also does a fantastic wagyu nigiri with a truffled chimichurri ponzu and a salmon tataki nigiri with a truffle and masago emulsion, serrano chile, and a drizzle of eel sauce they call T. Bites. This spot is a great sit-down option and has a large patio that’s close enough to the drive to people watch without feeling like you’re right on top of it. It’s a great place for a date or to hang out with friends over solid versions of drunken noodles and panang curry while sipping fruity cocktails.
We blame the many mall food court crap-eries for diminishing the status of the crêpe, which is why we almost skipped this restaurant entirely. But Voo La Voo truly respects the crêpe and its heartier savory cousin, the galette. The menu follows the rules: sweet fillings get stuffed into a delicate white flour crêpe, while savory fillings get wrapped in a chewier buckwheat galette. The gorgonzola, bacon, and apple galette with honey and walnuts is not only filling—but will make you feel better after a Leatherwerks employee tells you they’re out of your size. You can take your food to go, but it’s hard to walk past the charming covered patio and not take a seat. Just know that Voo La Voo is only open for breakfast and lunch.
Stork’s is a full-service cafe that serves eggy breakfast dishes, sandwiches, and is a favorite casual first date spot for the Wilton Manors crowd. But that’s not the real reason people line up in front of the counter here. You come for all the baked goods, and we do mean all of them because there are few things coming out of the oven at Stork’s that aren’t good. So, if you see something that makes your mouth water, it’ll most likely be love at first bite. We adore their Congo squares, and their honey bars remind us of little squares of portable pecan pie—but so much better. They also make fantastic cupcakes as well as a gargantuan baklava dripping in syrup.
There are a lot of foods you can’t find in Miami that are plentiful north of County Line Road, especially Asian food. But Miami is the undisputed champion of Cuban food, and it’s hard not to smirk at most Broward attempts at a Cuban sandwich. But Las Colinas truly feels like a cafetería in Hialeah, and the food here is as good as almost anything you’ll find in the 305. And yes, that includes their Cuban sandwich, medianoche, and croquetas. This is also the only place to get a proper cafecito if you’re in Wilton Manors. Whether you’re new to Cuban food or just emigrated from the chaos of Dade County and are finding yourself homesick, this is a spot to add to your regular rotation.
New York Grilled Cheese Co.
When Broward folks crave a grilled cheese sandwich, all roads lead to New York Grilled Cheese. This shop is right in the middle of Wilton’s most popular nightlife (and it’s open late on weekends), so this is the neighborhood’s best late-night drunk food. What makes the grilled cheese here unique is that they’re pressed on waffle irons, which increases the crispy surface area of each sandwich. But the fillings are what really bring people in like cheesy, melty sirens calling out to Odysseus. Our favorite sandwich is the Fifth Avenue, filled with boneless panko-crusted fried chicken tossed in a sweet Sriracha sauce and pressed with bacon, American cheese, and muenster. New York Grilled Cheese also serves waffle fries, including ones made into poutine and a sweet potato version with marshmallow dipping sauce.
In Broward, “Spanish food” is a loaded term. Too often, it’s code for Cuban or Puerto Rican food—a relic from when Anglo-Americans referred to all Latinos as “Spanish.” But Candela is truly a Spanish restaurant, as in they serve food from Spain in an ambiance that reminds us of a taberna. Start with an order of croquetas, including some of our favorite cod croquetas in South Florida. Then get a cazuela of almejas—excellent clams cooked in a garlicky, spicy white wine broth. Or, you can simply order a bottle of wine and several platters of Spanish cheeses and embutidos, like manchego, tetilla (stop giggling), jamón serrano, and chorizo cantimpalo.
Bravo Peruvian Kitchen was one of South Florida’s only places to get Peruvian sandwiches when it got its start in a narrow space in a strip mall next to a gay country western bar. They’re now about four times bigger and are more famous for their non-handheld Peruvian food than the sandwiches. Although you can still get a butifarra, the sandwiches are now more of a Peruvian-American thing on a crusty sub roll with more pork than you’d ever find on a sánguche in Lima. They do a proper classic ceviche (pay the extra few bucks to get it with corvina) and one of the better lomo saltados in this part of Broward. However, we really love their desayuno lurín, a big Peruvian breakfast that’s available all day and includes a platter of crispy confit pork, fried sweet potatoes, a red tamal, sarsa criolla, and a large roll so you can make your own pan con chicharrón. Make sure to ask for the cremitas to slather on your sandwich, or anything really.