Florida Staples that are a Must

Table Hopping

It’s true, South Florida tends to have a short attention span. It may be a result of the balmy weather and party lifestyle which creates a constant influx of people coming and going or simply the thirst to find the next big thing. The same goes for our restaurants, which often don’t even last more than a year. Some eateries, however, have managed to evade such fate, and in fact, find themselves thriving with a constant and loyal fan base. Below, we celebrate two exceptional favorites that have clearly won the “test of time” contest.

Palme d’Or

Simply arriving at The Biltmore Hotel makes one feel special. After all, it was this grand hotel, built by developer George Merrick in 1926, that helped define the venerated neighborhood of Coral Gables—coined “The City Beautiful.” The hotel became the center stage for fashion shows and galas, luring the rich and famous to its luxury accommodations and stunning architectural design. So, it only makes sense that when Palme d’Or, the high-end restaurant that opened here in 1992, came to be, it would emanate the same air of style, sophistication and opulence. 

The fine dining eatery began with a strong focus on traditional French cuisine but has since evolved to offer a more modern spin, recently launching a new menu with a focus on local, seasonal fare while signature beloved traditions like their bread service (loaves are baked in-house daily) and the bountiful cheese cart remain staples of what can only be described as a luxurious meal.

Chef Rogelio Fiallo is the talent behind dishes like seared foie gras (served with strawberries, yellow and red bell confit, duck sauce, and ginger pepper foam), jumbo sea scallops with goat cheese cauliflower puree and vanilla sauce, and filet mignon with confit potatoes, asparagus puree and black peppercorn demi-glace, and their famous version of the Cobb salad and the Wagyu strip steak. 

“I want to make everyone happy because this is my point—as a chef, it’s not just about cooking, it’s about making everyone happy: the ambiance, how they feel, everything,” he says.

While recently appointed to the position of Palme d’Or Chef, Chef Fiallo is no newcomer to the award-winning restaurant. He has been working behind the scenes here since 2011 when he arrived for the role of Pastry Chef after graduating with high honors from Le Cordon Bleu and working in renowned establishments like Barton G and the Rusty Pelican. 

“My name is not a name that everyone knows. We have customers here that I’ve been watching for the last 11 years,” Chef adds, honing in on the appeal the elegant dining space has for repeat visitors, many of which make this romantic venue their go-to for special occasions. Of course, being in the hotel means there are a lot of out-of-towners who make this a must-stop destination.  Chef Fiallo confides that, like in its early days, celebrities and important dignitaries also still do come.

Some of the changes made have included eliminating time-consuming 12-course dinners and focusing on several slightly larger portions instead. Staples, and all-time favorites like the foie gras, remain. The humble chef explains that his customers are key and emphasizes the importance of listening to their needs. 

“Most important for me is the guest. I want them to feel comfortable, that they had a nice experience, this is my goal.”

He also keeps a keen focus on what has kept this iconic restaurant a gold standard all these years.

“The quality is key—I’m never going to change the quality. Probably we change the plates, but not the quality!” he adds, smiling as his eyes glance over the crowded dining room.

Tropical Acres Steakhouse

There wasn’t much around in 1949 when Gene Harvey, a successful restaurateur from Yonkers, New York, purchased an old frame house in Dania and Tropical Acres opened its doors for business. Set among palm trees and tomato fields along a two-lane road (now busy Federal Highway) the restaurant offered guests a classic American steakhouse dinner featuring prime cuts and seafood dishes. Not much has changed since. The restaurant is still owned by the same family (now the third and fourth generation) following the principle that guided them 70 years ago: attentive service paired with excellent food, all for a fair price. 

They seem to have survived it all: a restless dining culture, economic recessions, and even two fires, and although the world has developed and grown around them, Tropical Acres remains steadfast and consistent, keeping customers who have been dining here for years, thankful, happy, and full.  

“We are grateful for our strong customer base and welcome newcomers every week who have just discovered the values of Broward’s Oldest Steakhouse & Seafood Restaurant. And, we are very appreciative of our loyal employees, many who have traveled this path of success with us,” their website reads.

Currently celebrating its 70th anniversary, there’s an Old Florida charm within the elegant space, with cozy booths offering privacy and rich dark wood accents set the tone for classic, stately fare. Starters include gorgonzola toast, French onion soup, and mushroom caps stuffed with seafood served with a hollandaise sauce. There’s also an appetizer sampler which offers fried mozzarella, fried zucchini slices along with the gorgonzola toast and stuffed mushroom caps. Meat choices are abundant, with over 15 items on the menu ranging from their signature filet (eight-ounce seasoned and wrapped with bacon strip), an 18-ounce cowboy steak, rack of lamb, and steak au poivre. All come with a choice of sauce (hollandaise, béarnaise, peppercorn, or mushroom) and can be topped with gorgonzola cheese as well. There’s also the traditional side choices of baked potato, sweet potato, rice, fries, creamed spinach or steamed broccoli and all entrees include a garden or Caesar salad.

In traditional steakhouse style, there are surf and turf combo platters that add one or two lobster tails, crab cakes, broiled or fried sea scallops or fried or grilled shrimp. For those just wanting seafood, Tropical Acres has favorites like the aforementioned crab cakes, shrimp scampi over linguine, or broiled seafood platter (crab cake, shrimp, scallops and cobia). 

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