By Julie Kay
It’s the age-old question, but doubly important in these tough economic times – where can you get a good meal at a good price? Never fear. We’ve done the legwork for you, scouring Broward County far and wide to find the best cheap eats out there. We’ve also tried to find you a variety of options, so you can dine on a budget for breakfast, lunch, dinner or happy hour.
Whether you have a hankering for spicy Jamaican food, want to slurp up seafood by the water, take a trip back to a ‘50s-style diner or get the best churrasco steak in town, you can do so without breaking your budget. We even found the best barbecue joint with a family special that will let your whole family – including aunts, uncles and cousins – chow down on the best ribs, beef, pork and soul food in town.
So, without further ado, here are our picks for the Top Cheap Eats of Broward County. Mangia, everyone
When you’re achin’ for Jamaican
With three locations in Broward County – downtown Fort Lauderdale, Lauderhill and Sunrise – the Jerk Machine has spread the gospel of Jamaican cooking far and wide. With lunch specials like $7.50 for the spicy jerk chicken served up with rice and peas and plantains, it’s easy to see why people line up at each location. There’s also curry goat and jerk stew peas and a vegetarian lunch, plus yummy Caribbean sides like fritters, bummy and boiled bananas. The Jamaican breakfast of ackee and catfish or Callaloo – Jamaican-style spinach sauteed with onions, garlic and tomatoes – may be more of an acquired taste. Tap your feet to the reggae music and say “yea, mon” to your neighbor while you wait for your food to be prepared fresh.
- 111 NW Second St., Fort Lauderdale; 954-467-8882
- 4261 NW 12th St., Lauderhill; 954-321-8556
- 8085 W. Oakland Park Blvd., Sunrise; 954-749-8877 www.jerkmachine.com
Best for waterfront seafood
Home of a world famous raw bar, Southport Raw Bar is all about sucking down raw oysters and cold beer while watching the sun set on the water. Wings, clam, shrimp and drink specials make Southport a popular – and crowded – happy hour spot. The joint is jumpin’ until 3 a.m. on weekends and 2 a.m. weekdays. Daily specials include dolphin fingers for $9.25, the gator burger for $4.95 and, if you have a hankering for seafood, a full pound-and-a-half of snow crab legs and corn on the cob for $19.95 – all washed down with Southport Sangria. Join the throngs and slap the famed “Eat Oysters Live Longer” bumper sticker on your car on the way out.
Southport Raw Bar
1536 Cordova Rd.
Cheap eats at any hour
If you want to know what an old-fashioned, ‘50s-style diner was like, stop by Lester’s Diner. From the glass display case upfront packed with mouth-watering desserts to the never-ending menu to the cushiony booths and surly waittresses, Lester’s is busy for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snacks. Open 24 hours a day, it’s a great place to fill up before a flight, located a stone’s throw from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The hardest part is choosing from the extensive menu, which includes everything from a chicken dinner to burgers to Greek pitas to breakfast all day to that most notable diner food, meatloaf – all reasonably priced.
250 W. State Road 84
Bistro, bakery and fresh roasted coffee
An institution in gentrified Wilton Manors, Stork’s Cafe & Bakery started as a bakery and hangout for the growing gay population but is now a full-service bistro featuring gourmet salads and sandwiches, reasonably priced. Early on, the place became known for its fresh baked goods such as the Storkberry pie, “Barbie cakes” and six varieties of fresh roasted coffee daily. Now, you can dive into sandwiches like The Pilgrim, an enormous concoction featuring roasted turkey breast, homemade cornbread stuffing, citrus cranberry vinaigrette, mayonnaise and beefsteak tomato, all wrapped up in a honey wheat wrap, for $8.95. Or just linger with a cup of coffee and freshly baked scone.
Stork’s Cafe & Bakery
2505 NE 15h Ave.
Best barbecue and sides
Consistently rated the best barbecue joint in Broward County, Tom Jenkins is a favorite take-out spot in Fort Lauderdale. The place has gained a national reputation for its barbecue sauce, which can be shipped anywhere, but those lucky enough to live nearby can quickly satisfy a craving for what many call the best ribs, collard greens, sweet potato pie and mac ‘n cheese in town. Prices for the enormous portions are reasonable (regular pork spare rib with muffin and two sides is $9.99, Mississippi catfish with hush puppies is $10.19). Bring the whole family and dive into the family sampler featuring spare ribs, chicken, beef, chopped pork and sides galore for $49.95. Or go light and scarf up a chopped pork or Mississippi catfish sandwich for just $4.99.
1236 S. Federal Highway
Burgers and seafood on the water
The unassuming The Le Tub Saloon is well-hidden amid the dense shrubs on the Intracoastal north of Hollywood Boulevard. For many years, it was a favorite hangout for locals who’d drive in or dock their boat to while away hours at a cozy waterfront table – and keep the beers coming. But then GQ Magazine named its burger number one in the nation, it was featured on Oprah, and now – well, it’s still a laidback local joint as comfortable as an old shoe, but now it attracts tourists and celebrities, too. The menu is limited but outstanding, including fresh seafood, homemade key lime pie, that famed sirloin burger and seafood gumbo.
The Le Tub Saloon
1100 N. Ocean Dr.
Linger with the lawyers
A popular hangout for lunch, dinner and drinks, The Downtowner is a downtown Fort Lauderdale institution frequented by lawyers, judges, Sun-Sentinel reporters and the ubiquitous boaters. Patrons can eat at scenic outside tables overlooking the Intracoastal, ogling the yachts gliding by, or grab a booth at the dark-wood tables inside, or belly up to the bar. The menu is extensive and reasonably priced, featuring everything from ginormous burgers to fresh rare tuna salads to clam chowder. The restaurant offers specials every night, including Monday steak nights for $10.99, Thursday surf and turf for $14.99 and a New England clambake Saturdays.
10 S. New River Dr. E
Hot dogs are heaven on the cheap
People come from all over the state to sample the Chicago dogs at Hot Dog Heaven, which feature pure beef Vienna hot dogs hickory smoked and nestled in a poppy-seed bun and smothered in mustard, relish, tomatoes, pickle, peppers and a dash of celery salt. More like a stand than a full-scale restaurant, Hot Dog Heaven is open for lunch only. Business people, construction workers and politicians can be seen lining up for a dog or chili with crispy fries and a Coke – lunch is always under $5 – then taking their trays to outside tables overlooking Sunrise Boulevard or grabbing a rare spot on the inside counter.
Hot Dog Heaven
101 E. Sunrise Blvd.
Best deal on best Chicago pizza
If you like thick and greasy New York pizza, Villa Rose Pizza is not for you. But if you like your pizza Chicago-style – thin, square, crisp and more saucy than cheesy – stop by for a heavenly pie. This is strictly a no-frills neighborhood joint, with linoleum floor and a couple posters on the walls, and they still don’t deliver. But the waitresses are friendly in that “what can I get you honey” way, the food comes out quick and hot and you can’t get better Chicago pizza anywhere in town. A pie will set you back just under $10.
Villa Rose Pizza
1114 N State Road 7
Have we missed your favorite bargain dining spots in Broward? Send us your suggestions (firstname.lastname@example.org) for Broward’s best cheap eats and we’ll write another story about the readers’ choices.