As you might expect from this sunny city on the water, Fort Lauderdale has its share of seafood restaurants and beachfront burger joints. However, as the city has outgrown its old reputation as a spring break bastion, it's also seen an influx of gourmet restaurants and ethnic options -- including places where you can try out the local "Floribbean" cuisine (which combines the influences of the Caribbean and the Southern U.S.). Las Olas Boulevard is dining central with dozens of eateries along its two-mile stretch.
Take the opportunity to enjoy some people watching at Mangos, on trendy Las Olas Boulevard. You'll find reasonable prices and inside (air-conditioned) or outside (sidewalk) dining; the restaurant serves everything from seafood to steak.
Also on Las Olas Boulevard is La Bonne Crepe, a charming French provincial country restaurant with alfresco dining on its terrace. Watch the town come alive while enjoying an assortment of crepes stuffed with cheese, chicken or seafood. La Bonne Crepe is also a "don't miss" for breakfast, serving up waffles, French toast, eggs and -- of course -- crepes.
At Rocco's Tacos on the quieter side of Las Olas Boulevard, there's a countdown to Cinco de Mayo every day. With its live DJ and massive tequila bar (with more than 400 varieties), Rocco's is the late-night spot on this end of town, but you won't find the standard frozen and pre-fab bar fare here. The menu features both Tex-Mex and authentic-style Mexican specialties made with fresh, high-quality ingredients, including some of the best tableside guac served on this side of the Gulf and an inventive selection of tacos, burritos and molcajetes (the restaurant's version of fajitas).
If you love Italian, you'll appreciate La Dolce Vita, offering delicious pastas and meat/fish dishes in an intimate setting -- perfect for date night.
Find your Zen at YOLO, a happening spot located downtown. YOLO, which stands for "you only live once," is an energetic place with a simple menu. Items range from grilled octopus salad to veggie burgers and prime rib. At night, the place transforms into a hip spot to clink cocktails and toast your vacation, and the outdoor fire pit makes for a nice place to sit and chat.
Located on the Intracoastal Waterway, with glorious views, 15th Street Fisheries is a fish-'n'-chowder house offering both casual dining downstairs and more formal meals upstairs. The Fort Lauderdale landmark serves up fresh fish, crab cakes and other seafood delights.
What fun to sit right on Hollywood Beach's Broadwalk, watching the skaters, mimes and kids having fun, with a yummy kebab in hand. Istanbul on the Beach is cheap, casual beachfront dining at its finest. Drawing on Turkish and Mediterranean influences, the fare is light, featuring choices that range from cucumber, tomato and feta salad to baba ganoush and hummus.
The specialty at the G&B Oyster Bar is fresh seafood, including not just oysters but also shrimp, scallops, clams, lobster and more.
Excellent Cuban coffee is served up fresh and hot in the sunny, hip Colada Cuban Coffee House on Federal Highway, just a few minutes' drive from the beach. The menu features pastries made at sister venue Miramar Bakery, sandwiches, build-your-own rice bowls and desserts, all with a Cuban flair. They even have local craft beers and sangria on tap, and offer a weekend brunch starring super-sized mimosas.
Casablanca Cafe, a brilliantly restored Mediterranean-style home that dates back to the 1920s, has been voted Fort Lauderdale's most romantic restaurant. The menu comprises dishes from Spain, Italy, France and even Africa, and live jazz/contemporary music fills the air in the evenings. After dining, take a romantic stroll on the beach -- this restaurant is on the peninsula between the ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway.
If you happen to be spending a Monday on Hollywood Beach, head over to Arts Park for a fun dinner at the end of the day. Each Monday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., the park hosts a food truck festival featuring more than 20 food trucks offering everything from barbecue to Cuban food.
Editor's Note: IndependentTraveler.com is published by The Independent Traveler, Inc., a subsidiary of TripAdvisor, Inc., which also owns Viator.