I remember back when the coolest thing about South Florida’s culinary landscape was a great Cuban coffee walk-up window. I had been living in the South, so the whole Cuban thing and island thing and New-York-transplant thing was revelatory—everything from great pizzas to scorched conch to pastrami sandwiches and matzo ball soup. After those first couple of years here, even that became routine; the entire culinary landscape in South Florida shifted decades ago, evolving into what is now a distinct global dining destination. It has rolled all the way up the coast, with new concepts and star chefs trending every mile.
In fact, it’s changing so fast it’s hard to track the very newest, brightest hot spot in the dining galaxy from one day to the next.
That’s why it feels somehow comforting to recall a few Old Florida places that predate Wagyu, gluten-free, açaí, omakase, poke bowls, and a million other things filling 2022 menus. These are places that still feel somehow like an occasion, or evoke someone’s birthday 20 years ago. Sometimes the floors creak, or the menus are laminated, or there’s still the option to order a Shirley Temple. Some have pristine white linen tablecloths; others have white-glove service. All are beloved, all have become icons in their own ways. And these are just the ones everyone knows, or that didn’t morph into a luxury townhome development.
What about the little guys we all miss now? A sub from Grace’s? Or how about the mile-high pie from Lucille and Otley’s in Boynton Beach? People still talk about the seafood buffet at the old Resort on a Friday night, and no one is over Uncle Tai’s yet; no one will ever be over Uncle Tai’s.
Given the past two years of global weirdness, add in an overheated local economy with stratospheric housing costs, and all bets are off now. Nothing is the same. With change coming at us at a breakneck pace and new people and new business flooding in, we’re going to take a little breather this summer. We’re going to poke around in some of the old places for a little while. We’re going to remind ourselves why we love it here, how we like to remember it and, above all, why some things last.