The Meet In The Middle Guide: Where To Eat With Your Broward Friends  guide image

photo credit: Merritt Smail

MIAGuide

The Meet In The Middle Guide: Where To Eat With Your Broward Friends

Because if there’s one thing Broward and Miami can agree on, it’s that driving sucks.

There’s a classic sibling dynamic when it comes to Broward and Miami-Dade: Two counties so close to each other, bound by the very same geographic DNA. And yet, in classic familial fashion, they often want nothing to do with each other. This becomes abundantly clear the second you ask someone from Dade to drive to Broward, and vice versa. They’ll give you a look like you just asked them to take a pogo stick to Jupiter. But there very well might be people you love living across the county line, and agreeing on a restaurant to meet at shouldn’t require the diplomatic skill of a G7 Summit. Luckily, it doesn’t have to. Just use this guide. It has 10 great spots midway between both counties, and they’re well worth even the sh*ttiest of commutes.

THE SPOTS

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7.7

Icebox Cafe

$$$$

219 NE 3rd St, Hallandale
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This South Beach spot has an enormous second location on a quiet street in Hallandale Beach with three unique dining areas: a greenhouse filled with hanging plants, an indoor space with a church pew for seating, and a patio. The menu is mostly sandwiches, salads, and pasta—and it’s all solid. Get the curry chicken or the chicken parmesan. The big draw here is dessert, though, including a great key lime pie and a tres leches layer cake. Icebox is big enough to host a high school reunion but also has enough intimate spaces to reconnect with that one who got away. The menu is varied enough so that even that friend who’s on a new fad diet every week can find something to eat, and they have a full bar in case you’re forced to hear all about it. The best part: they have their own big, free, dedicated parking lot.

This Hallandale Beach restaurant is an absolute blast. Even on a random Wednesday, it feels like a party. Most of the festivities happen outside on the lush patio, where there’s a DJ, bar, and grill. But even if you sit inside, the staff may come to serenade you with Russian ballads they’ve remixed with lyrics about their restaurant. If that doesn’t make you smile, go see a doctor. The food here is solid. The khinkali—big caraway-flavored dumplings filled with juicy ground meat—are excellent. The adjaruli khachapuri is decent but not as mind-blowing as other versions in South Florida. However, their lobio—a spicy kidney bean stew—is one of our favorite legume dishes in town.


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On the southern border of Fort Lauderdale, along a little canal just a baseball toss away from the airport, you’ll find one of the greatest seafood establishments in the whole state: Rustic Inn Crabhouse. This place has been serving crabs and lots of other delicious seafood since 1955, and it’s like a museum you get to eat. Food aside, it’s a blast here. You get to wear plastic bibs and smash big piles of dungeness, garlic blue crabs, and Alaskan snow crab with little wooden mallets. Plus, if it’s your birthday, the whole restaurant just starts banging their crab mallets on the table like a bunch of butter-splattered judges. They also have a double-decker boat docked outside that you can eat on, weather permitting.


Etzel Itzik Deli is an outstanding - and affordable - Israeli restaurant in Aventura. On any given day, you can find a crowd of locals eating schnitzel, beautifully crispy falafel, shakshuka, and lots more dishes from the huge menu. It’s not a big spot, but can easily accommodate groups of two or four. The dining room is covered in Polaroid pictures of regulars enjoying some of the best hummus in town, and there are a few outdoor tables as well. But this will have to be a lunch meet up since they close at 7:30pm (and 4:30 on Friday and Saturday).


Hollywood is a great meet-in-the-middle city, since it’s, well, right on the border of Broward and Dade. And any time we’re talking about where to eat in Hollywood, we have one answer and one answer only: Le Tub. The gloriously old school spot was literally built from various debris and flotsam its owner found on the beach, just a couple of blocks away. The seafood here is great - especially the steamed shrimp - but you come to Le Tub for another reason: their massive Sirloinburger. It’s the size of a softball and truly deserves its own historical designation, as well as a statue inside the state capitol, because it’s a legendary South Florida burger. Just expect a wait for a table if you’re coming during the weekend.


Miami-Dade County has exactly one Ethiopian restaurant, which you’ll find right on the northern border of the county. We’d like more, but hey, at least our one Ethiopian restaurant is incredible - and a perfect spot for a casual group dinner with friends. Come here to tear chunks of spongy injera bread and scoop up piles of beautifully seasoned and spiced vegetables and meat. The best thing to get here is the Taste of Awash platter - or the vegetarian combo if you don’t eat meat. An Ethiopian coffee to finish things off is a good call too, especially if it looks like you’ll be sitting in traffic on the drive home.


So this isn’t necessarily a sit down dinner experience. But if you and your lovely Broward friends are the kind of people who love big marketplaces - especially ones filled with delicious things - then arrange a mini day trip to Yellow Green. The nearly 200,000 square-foot space in Hollywood is like a farmer’s market that ate some magical beans. The covered outdoor space is mostly comprised of food vendors too - ranging from arepas to barbecue and tons more. There are also a few bars located throughout, and usually a dude or two strumming an acoustic guitar and singing. It’s a great place to kill an afternoon and eat something good. Just be aware that it’s only open Saturday and Sunday from 10am-7pm, and there is a $10 parking fee.


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For a slightly more formal meal - perhaps a place to bring the parents (or your parents’ parents), try Perl. The Aventura restaurant is upscale - but not so much that you need to spend any time stressing about what to wear. The atmosphere here is fine, but the best part about this place is the food. They have the kind of fish and meat entrees that’ll make a less adventurous eater happy, but also serve interesting and tasty dishes like a chicken katsu sandwich, kampachi crudo, and grilled hearts of palm.


Your Broward friends will have to venture into Miami-Dade County just a bit to meet you at Paradis Books & Bread, but - if they enjoy wine and bread - it’ll certainly be worth the extra 15 minutes it takes to get to this North Miami spot. Paradis is small and intimate, the kind of place that feels less like a restaurant and more like the house of a friend with a baking obsession. The counter-service restaurant offers natural wine by the glass or bottle, and a small menu of baked things including bread and tinned fish as well as some of our favorite pizza in Miami. The inside space is good for groups of two, but the outdoor tables can accommodate larger parties pretty well too.


Located in Downtown Hollywood, Villa Romana’s space is what you’d expect at a special occasion Italian restaurant: white table cloths, waiters in button-downs, and elegant wood accents. And while the Italian food is very good, the menu’s Romanian options are where it’s at—a delicious mashup of Mediterranean and Eastern European flavors. For starters, try the zacusca, a zesty eggplant spread with peppers, garlic, and other seasonings. Our favorite entree is the tochitura dobrogeana, an orgy of pork in garlicky tomato-based sauce containing everything from braised pork chunks to several kinds of sausage. It’s served with mamaliga, a thick polenta topped with shredded feta cheese and a fried egg.


Maybe your friend met you in Miami last time, and is now refusing to cross county lines. Fair enough. Just meet up at Riverside Market, a great Fort Lauderdale beer bar that also serves surprisingly good bar food. There are two locations to choose from - Riverside Market South (slightly closer to Miami) and the original Riverside Market in Sailboat Bend, near downtown. Go for the original location, since it’s only a 12-minute difference and is a bit cozier. This place used to be an old gas station, but now has a charming Fort Lauderdale mancave aesthetic. All the fridges are stocked with a huge beer selection - you just grab what you want, hold onto your cans, and pay at the end. The great thin-crust barbecue chicken pizza is a good idea too.


You might still be arguing with your Broward friend on whether or not sandals are acceptable formalwear, but chances are you can both agree that Thai food is delicious. If that’s the case, then meet at Panya Thai, the best Thai spot in Miami-Dade County. It’s a quiet, lowkey space - but the menu is as exciting as anywhere else in town. From the tangy, spicy jumping squid to the sweet and sour boat noodles soup - everything here is well worth driving for. Plus, it’s casual enough that your friend from Delray can wear their beloved sandals.

If you just want to meet up for coffee and some snacks, go to Chocolada. It's an Eastern European bakery and cafe in Hollywood that leans heavily towards Romanian pastries and baked goods. It’s located right on the main drag of Downtown and is open until 11pm on weekends, making it a great place to grab a post-dinner dessert. On those weekend nights, you can expect to be serenaded on Chocolada’s patio by a middle-aged crooner dressed in bedazzled shirts and bootcut jeans who loves to ham it up like a Vegas Elvis impersonator. He's great, but we also recommend the dobos cake here, which features nearly a dozen slices of impossibly thin sponge cake cemented together with chocolate buttercream and topped with caramel. The penguin cake is also as adorable as it is delicious–a penguin-shaped chocolate complete with a little tuxedo concealing rich chocolate mousse.


This Hollywood restaurant makes its own tempeh and Indonesian sauces, which you can (and should) take home with you. The menu features an excellent Indonesian fried rice called nasi goreng, which is tinted yellow with turmeric. Our favorite thing to order here, though, is the sate. While many associate these skewers of grilled meat with Thailand, the dish actually originated in Indonesia, and Krakatoa has our favorite version in South Florida. The meat (we recommend the lamb) is super tender, assertively spiced, and lightly charred from grilling.

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