Though you can always drive up to the Historic Downtowner Saloon, that's not the recommended way to arrive. Instead, customers might want to take the water taxi right up to the downtown stop to get a preview of the river views granted by the restaurant's riverfront patio. Here, guests can enhance their waterside experience with expertly prepared American fare and 20 new craft beers waiting to quench to the most discerning drinker.
While new owners now helm Historic Downtowner Saloon, its chefs tend to their culinary labors, be it slow-roasting prime rib or turning out seafood specials, sandwiches, and appetizers. In the kitchen, they grill slabs of sizzling sirloins and pair them crab cakes drizzled in a Cajun remoulade. Once delivered to guests, ancho shrimp tacos do flavorful dances across palates, while a raw bar, stocked with bowls of littleneck clams and Caribbean jerk shrimp, puts appetites on ice. Most nights of the week, a live band serenades guests with tunes as relaxing as surfing on a waterbed—unless there are sharks inside the waterbed.
When Tropical Acres Steakhouse first opened in 1949, a green palm tree festooned its simple menu of seven steaks, chops, and sandwiches. Today, the Studiale family tops tables with a vast menu of T-bones, porterhouses, strip steaks, and filet mignon seared in a bustling kitchen alongside pork chops and veal cutlets. Chefs ladle sauces whisked with horseradish and dill or lemon and capers over shrimp, scallops, and fillets of fish such as snapper and wild-caught salmon. Dark wood columns and beams encircle the dining room's tufted booths and wall-inlaid tanks filled with colorful fish and treasure chests billowing bubbles of steak sauce. Tropical Acres also caters events from luncheons to weddings with light or formal meals, and it hosts celebrations for up to 250 guests in a refined banquet room.
15th Street Fisheries illustrates a key facet of the circle of life: you feed the fish, and the fish feed you. Every evening, guests head to the edge of the docks to feed schools of giant tarpon—fish that can grow up to 8 feet long—with shrimp from the nearby store. It's a feat made possible by the restaurant's location on the Lauderdale Marina, a hub for pedestrians and boats alike on the Intracoastal Waterway.
Floating above the silvery tarpon, yachts, fishing boats, and other charters pass in view of the upstairs dining room. The space resembles an upscale boathouse with eclectic seafood entrees to match. Start with a bowl of Bahamian-style conch chowder or shrimp and grits, then choose from an impressive list of prepared fish, including miso-glazed Chilean sea bass and pan-roasted black grouper. The Maine lobsters on the menu weigh 2 to 3 pounds, depending on how often they crawled ashore to go to the gym, but you can also order a spiny lobster tail with baby bok choy. Downstairs, the dockside café offers more casual fare and live music on weekends.
When discussing the inspiration behind his love of cooking and hospitality with reporters from the Sun Sentinel, Michael Tatton credited his father, saying, “I was fascinated by all the people my father knew and the different foods he introduced us to.” Following in his dad’s footsteps, Michael opened Thai Spice more than two decades ago at the young age of 19. Today, Michael continues to captain the restaurant, which The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences honored with the prestigious Five Star Diamond Award for excellence in cuisine and impeccable service.
Deep in the kitchen, Michael and his chefs place innovative spins on traditional Thai dishes using flavorful spices and premium seafood, meats, and vegetables delivered fresh daily. Pots of curries and tom yum soup simmer on the stoves, as lobster, duck, and Chilean sea bass sizzle in pans. Meanwhile, grills crackle with fine cuts of steak, and plump chickens roast over open fires.
Out in the dining room, tropical fish glide through the salt waters of towering tanks among swaying plants and colorful rocks. Blue lanterns dangle from the ceiling, casting a warm glow over white-clothed tables and intimate booths. The walls feature exotic artwork depicting traditional Thailand scenes, from elephants raising their trunks to a businessman who went on a soul-searching trip to find his inner sassiness.
Since 1998, the family-owned-and-operated Sunfish Grill has been loading its white-draped tables with new American cuisine crafted from seasonal ingredients. Though the focus is on seafood, which the restaurant brings in fresh daily, their chefs prepare a selection of pastas, salads and flatbread. In addition to searing diver scallops and other catches, chefs also craft a selection of pasta dishes. For a lighter fare, diners can opt for the tapas menu, highlighted by plates such as carpaccio of beef and blackened tuna sliders, or indulge on homemade comfort food like fried chicken on Monday nights. Whether diners are in for a weekday dinner or a special occasion, they should save room for dessert from the pastry chef, such as the "Not the Usual" key lime pie with plumes of meringue and housemade sorbet.
Flickering candles illuminate the warm-colored dining space, and airy white ceiling drapes billow overhead as diners sip espresso or clink glasses of handpicked wines over their lavish desserts. The elegant ambiance and fresh, imaginative food have earned the spot a good reputation: City & Shore Magazine praised Sunfish Grill for "the sheer simplicity of ingredients, served in an unpretentious atmosphere that is so rare, yet so delicious."
Lulu's Bait Shop serves an eclectic menu of Cajun and southern-style dishes in a laidback environment. Warm up hot sauce hatches with a bowl of homemade shrimp gumbo ($4.95) before adventuring into a plate piled with golden-fried bites of prime alligator tail ($8.95). Raw bar repasts feature half-pounds of peel-and-eat shrimp steamed in a house blend of spices ($9.95) or ice-cold oysters (market price). Freshly caught salmon, snapper, tilapia, and mahi filets sate Ahabian appetites with a customizable collection of toppings and rubs. Creole transplants looking for a taste of New Orleans can nostalgically nosh on a fried shrimp po' boy ($8.95) or crawfish étouffée made with a spicy roux and seasoned rice ($9.95).