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The Top 5 Classic American Road Trips


Perhaps no country has quite the expanse, the open road, as America has. From the stretches of the great plains, to the rolling hills of the deep south, there’s something that brings out everyone’s inner Kerouac in simply loading up and hitting the pavement. Out of the many destinations, it’s hard to decide on the best road trip destinations in America.

There are numerous ways to travel, to see the world, and to simply get lost, but possibly none other brings the freedom of a devil-may-care experience like a road trip. Here’s our list of the top five American road trips for the inner rebel in all of us.

Get Your Kicks on Route 66

A true piece of Americana, Route 66 should be at the top of any road trip bucket list.

Route 66 is the quintessential American road trip, moving all the way from Chicago to the City of Angels, it continues to inspire. Best known for its stretches through miles of unbeatable scenery, small cafes and throwback hotels, Route 66 is a classic American road in every sense of the word. Post-World War II, the workers in the Rust Belt packed their bags and hit the famous stretch for better opportunities and new worlds as well as views across the States, bringing fresh perspectives to many along the romantic highway. There’s no need to start at the beginning – pick the locations that interest you and take your time to meander through the towns along the way. For a real piece of history that will take you back to the good old days, find your stay along Tucumcari’s Hotel Row in New Mexico, rife with relics from the warm neon lights of the mid-century. Another highlight of the famous route is a breathtaking visit to Meramec Caverns in Missouri, one of our favorite spots along the way. And the very place where the modern bumper sticker was born!

Helpful Hint: Don’t be afraid to venture off the Route itself, there are endless kitschy and cool attractions off the beaten path including Meteor Crater, Lowell Observatory and numerous Route 66 museums that chronicle the history of the Route’s embedding in American history. The ample opportunities to stop and reconnect with the classic scenery make this an ideal summer road trip destination.

See the Sun in South Florida

Photo Credit: Jenni Conrad

One of the most tropical and tempting stretches of road in the United States brings you from the white sand beaches of Miami all the way to the Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S. For 120 miles, roll down the windows and take in the sea air while you drive over the ocean itself. Pack some snacks and drinks for the 120-mile trip, some great tunes, and your sunscreen for the final destination in Key West! Along the way, make sure to stop at Islamorada to take in the local food (and cocktails) at the Hungry Tarpon Restaurant, all while sitting water-side next to the gigantic local Tarpon fish and pelicans, who are also eager to be fed by visitors.

For an even better, wind-in-your-hair experience, break out the motorcycle and bask in the sun (or sunset) along the bridges and causeways to get the full experience!

Helpful Hint: The weather can, and will, change in a second. Florida is known for frequent and wild weather swings, especially in the summer months, so make sure to equip any motorcycle with the best motorcycle tires online. If you’re prepared, the weather swings even add to this wild road trip!

The Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway

Photo Credit: Stephen Archer

The Appalachian Mountains are some of the most intriguing in the world, with your trip starting about two hours west of Washington D.C. and moving you over 500 miles through unbelievable scenery. As another great stretch that will make you want to hop on the motorcycle, find your way through the slow winding roads of Virginia and North Carolina with the wind in your hair. You’ll visit the long stretches of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia along the Skyline Drive before you get to the famous Smoky Mountains, a UNESCO National Heritage site.

Also, make sure to stop over in Charlottesville along the way and feed your inner history buff at Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, as well as the beautiful University of Virginia (where you’ll find great shopping and dining as well!).

Helpful Hint: Take your time! The tendency going through the Appalachians is to get through them, as though it’s simply a badge of honor. If you can take a few days on this trip and really embrace it – stop often, check out anything that looks interest, and of course, take plenty of pictures. The Appalachians are beautiful and will provide plenty of opportunity.

See the Loneliest Road from Coast to Coast

Photo Credit: Bill Herndon

For the most extreme road-trippers, find your way along Route 50, commonly known in Nevada as The Loneliest Road. Stretching from West Sacramento in California all the way to the East Coast of Ocean City in Maryland, this country-long pathway will take you about as far as you can go in the U.S. Once on the western part of the States, you’ll traverse through many desert valleys between beautiful mountains.

This historic route was actually used initially for the Pony Express and later for the Lincoln Highway. Be sure to stock up on gas, however, as at one point you’ll find yourself winding 112 miles with only one station – Middlegate Station in Fallon, Nevada, a town with a population of just 19 residents!

Helpful Hint: If you don’t have ample time to enjoy the entire trip, pick either the route out of California or going through the heartlands. You’ll have the least amount of traffic, the most sight-seeing, and the freest trip whether traveling via car or bike!

See the Sun along the Pacific Coast

Photo Credit: Kai Lehmann

Route 1 in California is definitely in contention for the one of the most famous stretches of highway in the country, and should be a part of any western road trip itinerary. Bringing the road-tripper views of mountainous terrain, forests and (of course) the ocean itself, take your time along the road where the asphalt seems to merge with the coast itself.

Don’t miss the highlight of California’s Central Coast – Big Sur – where you’ll find the breeze flowing along one of the most scenic and underpopulated coastlines in the U.S. The very place where Kerouac also found inspiration for his book of the same name, it makes this one of the best American road trip routes!

Helpful Hint: Route 1 is best traveled by bike, as this is a stretch where you really want the wind in your air! Some of the freshest landscape in the country, you can find whatever you need for this trip through great suppliers like www.bikebandit.com.

The U.S. is a vast, changing, and gorgeous landscape waiting for you to make your way around all her hills, valleys and oceans. Pick your favorite road and get out there; whether it’s the sparse landscape of Nevada or the sunlit roads of Florida, there’s something for every adventurous road-tripper!

Cover photo credit: JLS Photography

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5 Fun Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale


Fort Lauderdale is a fun and festive beach-side city with endless things to do, from the Atlantic coast to the Downtown vibe, it takes Miami’s tempo, chills it out a bit, and draws you in. Check out 5 things to do in this sunny city!

The Beautiful Beaches

Fort Lauderdale espouses some of the most gorgeous beaches in the continental U.S. With soft white sand and gently waving blue water, it’s the perfect place to relax. While a tourist attraction, its also a local favorite, and despite its beauty remains relatively uncrowded. Parking is relatively easy to access and inexpensive as well.

The famous Elbo Room on the corner of A1A and Las Olas is a favorite of vacationers and regulars alike, offering a classic location with drinks and a view of the sea. Grab a cocktail, make some new friends, and then venture out with your towels and sunglasses for a swim, just across the street! In addition to this beach favorite, take a walk along the main drag to stroll past the other myriad restaurants and shops. Many offer drink specials, including two-for-one tropical drinks in 30+ ounce martini glasses!

If day turns tonight along the beautiful beach, you’re well taken care of. All along A1A the Fort Lauderdale nightlife begins to thrive early in the evening and continues until the wee hours of the morning!

Hit Up Downtown

After a day at the beach, put away your sunscreen and head out to Fort Lauderdale’s vibrant downtown. Himmarshee Street is a fun and walkable strip of modern restaurants, great bars, and local favorites with upbeat live music ranging from salsa to hard rock. As you walk along you’ll find an amazing array of food and drinks, everything from fried chicken, to seafood, to tacos and pizza – all of which impress!

Check out Taco Craft or Bull Market for a drink and dinner, and if you’re feeling the need to dance the night away, (or just grab some handcrafted cocktails), make a visit to Stache. From the street, this eclectic and unique location doesn’t advertise – just look for the Chinese lettering on the red marquee off 2nd avenue, which is around the corner from Himmarshee Street itself. (Make sure to check out the upstairs “library”!)

Lastly, continue your walk behind the downtown/Himmarshee area to the riverfront and enjoy the scenic beauty of the Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk area, a long, winding riverside walkway that bends along the New River. Yachts stride up and down this stretch of calm waterway day and night, and the nighttime lights of the boats make for great romantic sightseeing on a crisp evening.

Take the Water Taxi

One of the best ways to get around the intracoastal is via the local water taxi. Hosted by charming and informative captains, these boats will take you through the winding waters of the local area, stopping at locations all the way from the Fort Lauderdale to the city of Hollywood, if you so choose! With stops all along the water, take your pick and hop on (and then, off!) wherever you’d like.
Make sure to stop at the 15th Street Fisheries restaurant, as well as Bahia Del Mar, both excellent waterfront places to get great food and drinks. Try the fish dip at Bahia, not to be missed! After a day on the intracostal, you can exit the taxi at any one of their stops as well. Running day and night daily, the Water Taxi is a thriving attraction while getting around the city every weekend – so why not give it a try?

See a Show at the Broward Center

Located right in the heart of Fort Lauderdale is the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Sitting along a quaint section of the intracoastal, it brings in an impressive array of Broadway productions and concerts during the year. From The Lion King and Rascal Flatts to smaller, local productions, their rotating schedule is one to keep an eye on. Ticket prices are reasonable, especially considering the caliber of performances, and the venue is a tribute to theater itself.

The Broward Center features both a classically beautiful main theater, often a center for popular national and global acts that seats thousands, as well as a smaller theater (pictured above) that focuses on providing an environment for local artistic troupes – which we often prefer. With comfortable seating, both inside and out, you can spend intermission on the terrace with a nice glass of wine and good conversation. Check out their schedule while you’re in town and find any number of intriguing performances!

Brunch it Up!

Fort Lauderdale is definitely a brunch-friendly city! After a few days in the sun, sand, and festivities of the area, you’ll find that the mid-morning scene in Fort Lauderdale is a welcome repose for a weekend morning (or, afternoon!). There are so many great places to experience great food and a couple mimosas, its difficult to pick favorites!

For starters, check out the classic Foxy Brown on East Broward Blvd for great American fare and a covered back patio where you can relax with your bubbly drinks. Get there early for the best seating, it’s a popular spot for a reason – the food is delicious! If you’re looking for more of a downtown vibe, head back to Himmarshee and sit along the street at Public House while you people watch, a favorite among locals. Make sure to ask for a spicy Bloody Mary to accent your meal. For some Latin flavor, make your way to The Chimney House, located near the Broward Center, which serves some of the best Latin cuisine in the city. Also a great place to sit outside, make sure to order their house-made Sangria and a plate of Empanadas… amazing!

At every turn, Fort Lauderdale is a fun and exciting place, with beautiful beaches, world-class food, theater, and excursions. Bring a couple towels, some sunglasses and your spirit for adventure, and get lost in the sunlight!

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Downtown Jacksonville – Where Art and Eateries Meet


Jacksonville’s downtown is one of our favorite familiar scenes, with good reason. Before moving to South Florida, we spent a few years living in Jacksonville and found it to be one of the most underrated cities in the U.S. From the bars along Bay Street to the Brooklyn area’s new nuances, there is something for everyone. A far cry from the over-saturated Town Center or beach areas, downtown Jacksonville is a slow beat, a riverside walk and a cold beer on a Saturday all in one.

Riverside’s Chill Side

A great way to get familiar with the city is to start out in historic Riverside where you can peruse kitschy and endearing antique shops, as well as locally owned boutiques and bars that draw in the colorful downtown scene with a vengeance.  The friendly nature of this area of downtown Jacksonville makes for a great weekend excursion as well as an exciting night on the town.

Strolling in downtown Jacksonville

For one of the best brunch restaurants in Jacksonville (or dinner, for that matter), check out Derby on Park, a contemporary American restaurant that is located in a refurbished building in Riverside – the site of the old diner that use to inhabit the space. Their back patio area is perfect for enjoying the Jacksonville weather almost any time of year, and the space itself is a Jacksonville cultural landmark. This area, formally known as the Five Points area, contains not only Derby on Park but in fact several popular eateries within mere feet of one another. Another of our favorites in the middle of Five Points is Black Sheep Restaurant, a slightly more upscale contemporary American outfit with a beautiful rooftop patio that is perfect for enjoying a glass of wine with lunch, or joining a group of friends for an unwound brunch. Their rich and tasty menu never disappoints, and includes everything from contemporary American classics to spins on Southwestern Asian dishes such as the Banh Mi Sandwich.

After brunch or dinner, Five Points offers numerous spots for a casual night cap. A spot we’ve frequented would be Raindogs or Birdie’s Bar, both just steps away from the main roundabout and again within a few dozen yards from the front door at Derby on Park. Birdie’s is known for it’s laid back attitude, interesting internal decor that features punk-inspired paraphernalia, inexpensive drinks and a jovial atmosphere with a lot of regulars who are eager to strike up a conversation! Raindogs is also a laid back, chill bar to have a drink and peruse the amazing local visual artists who display their work on the walls there.  On certain nights you’ll get to sit back with a beer while live music entertains you as well. (Try their white sangria for a real treat!) Both locations can range from the casual and relaxed to the outright raucous, depending on the time of day or night.

If you’re interested in vintage movie theaters and cinema, you have to check out the also locally-owned Sun-Ray Cinema, a virtual time capsule from the glory days of 1960’s movie houses. They offer rotating classics like Casablanca, to modern titles, but their biggest draw is the amazing independent films that are screened here. The scene inside is fantastically retro, down to the large-stand gaming machines that adorn the inside corridor. Grab a ticket, a beer, and some popcorn, and find yourself back in time no matter which movie they’re showing!

The legendary Sun-Ray

During the daytime, make sure to find your way to scenic Memorial Park (locally known as Riverside Park), a beautiful (and aptly named) river-facing grassy plateau where you can bring your coffee or lunch and sit in the shade by the St John’s River while the city walks by.  You can also take a jog around the park’s pathway or get in on a game of soccer or frisbee in the center of the expansive, well-maintained field.

The Brooklyn Beat

New to Downtown Jacksonville is the Brooklyn scene, right across from the St Johns River and nestled in between the nightlife and the vibe of Riverside. One of the additions to this part of the city is the well-known Burrito Gallery restaurant, with it’s original location in the heart of the city on Adams Street in downtown Jacksonville.

Named for it’s idea of focusing on local artists and featuring impressive paintings on it’s walls, this particular eatery was a favorite of ours. In Brooklyn, it’s now a fun and family-friendly place to get great local food with a view from the second floor that overlooks the river.

The draw of the Brooklyn area of Jacksonville is enhanced by the modern architecture that encircles the eateries, a vibrant and colorful palate of buildings that seem to stand alone in the district. Though close to both the bustling downtown and the hipster-esque lifestyle of Riverside, Brooklyn lives in a largely business area, welcoming everyone from late night party goers to families and briefcase holders. If you’re looking for things to do in Jacksonville, check out the walk across the street and enjoy the river view, you might even see a few dolphins swimming past as you stroll!

Downtown Nightlife

At night, head over to the real downtown, just minutes away from Riverside. Downtown you’ll find a mix of bars and nightclubs of all varieties to entertain you with music and excellent bartenders, ready to mix up your favorite cocktail or let you enjoy one of their signatures. For a fun and very classic Jacksonville experience, head over to Dos Gatos, directly across from the famous Florida Theater and the best bar in Jacksonville.  Owners Jay and Joy Albertelli are excellent hosts and have made this bar a local favorite for years. Try their delicious “Stolen Fish” cocktail, and tell them Tracy and Justin sent you!

For a more musical scene with live bands and a great crowd, head over a block to 1904 Music Hall. This bar offers a wide range of beers from local brews to international, depending on your taste! Check out the back patio area where local graffiti artists rotate their work, it’s a great place to sip a brew with friends and chat.

Downtown Art-life

For even more of the amazing art scene, Jacksonville has the MOCA, a modern art museum with an entryway that leads you to an expansive area where the walls are hand-painted by different artists before every opening event. Hosting some of the best modern art pieces from around the world, it’s sure to expand your mind! The museum’s restaurant, Café Nola, is also exceptional. Make sure to ask for their butter-of-the-day to spread on their sweet and delicious bread. (My favorite was lemongrass.)

Across from the MOCA sits Hemming Park, where every first Wednesday of the month the area hosts an expansive and impressive Art Walk. Everything from handmade jewelry, to local art, to performance art are on display for the evening.  Walk around and peruse the scene with a cold local beer, which many vendors have for sale around the festivities. While you’re there, make sure to step into Chamblin’s Book Store, our favorite local shop selling books of any age and genre, with genial and knowledgeable owners and a cozy coffee shop offering warm drinks, bottled beer, and vegan or vegetarian wraps and soups. We love this place, and it gets credit for about half of the books that remain in our library!

More Than Just a Beach Town

While coastal, Jacksonville is much more than just a beach area if you venture into the heart of the city. The art museums and general culture are a fresh window Take a walk along the St. Johns, sip a local brew and enjoy the local scenes, rife with art and culture. There are many hotel options in this area, many with views of the river. Check out the Hyatt, the Omni, or the Doubletree for optimum access to the city center.  Settle in to the artsy and upbeat scene of downtown Jacksonville, make a few new friends, and sample the local eats. You’ll be glad you did!

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Where Do Couples Eat in Fort Lauderdale?


We’re fortunate enough to live in a place that, even when we’re not on the road, feels a lot like vacationing. Tracy and I moved to Fort Lauderdale a few years ago, and have since been amazed at the sheer depth of things there are to do in the Venice of America, as it’s called.

Fort Lauderdale isn’t a large city, with only around 200,000 residents in what is considered “proper” Fort Lauderdale. One really does need to make the distinction, as rarely is done, between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. It’s essentially two different planets. The food, the attractions and the cities themselves are different enough to necessitate separating Fort Lauderdale out from Miami in a food-focused post. There are, of course, plenty of reasons we travel, but Fort Lauderdale is a great place to call home when you can’t, and there’s plenty of things to do.

With that being said, Fort Lauderdale is a major tourist attraction in the U.S., and you can’t cover all of it in one post. The beautiful beaches, hot climate and vibrant atmosphere attract visitors from not only the rest of the U.S, but South America, Europe and throughout Asia as well. It is as diverse a place as there is in the United States for tourism, and its deep culinary underbelly reflects much of that.

Given the depths of all there is to experience, we’ve tried to gather as much information to give you a great start the next time you find yourself along Las Olas and A1A, looking for a place to fill you up that won’t break the bank!

Southport Raw Bar

Intracoastal view from the back deck of Southport Raw Bar

Type: Seafood

It’s first on our list for a reason.

Southport Raw Bar is a Fort Lauderdale landmark that has its beginnings in the early 1970’s, and has seemingly grown alongside the city. At the time, Fort Lauderdale was primarily an undeveloped beach town aside from the notoriety it had gained by being featured in the 1960 movie Where The Boys Are. Now, both are synonymous with “island-life” in South Florida.

When company or family comes to town, the first stop is Southport, one of the best seafood restaurants in Fort Lauderdale. With outdoor seating facing the Intracoastal waterway, some of the freshest seafood catch you can find in the Southern U.S. and cheap beer specials, you can come, fill up, slam a couple of pops and just get away for a while.

The service is friendly, the food is great, and the prices are some of the more affordable along the beach considering the quality of the experience. We highly recommend as a place that is sure to get you in the beach-mood.

Gilbert’s 17th St. Grill

Havarti-stuffed burger? On a date? Yes, actually!

Type: Grill

Gilbert’s isn’t just burger joint, it’s the burger joint.

Family-owned for more than forty years, Gilbert’s boasts a small menu that’s heavy on taste, including a selection of more than ten different hand-crafted burgers, grill platters with beef, fish and chicken as well as excellent salads and desserts.

However, don’t sleep on the sides at Gilbert’s. Get the legendary sweet potato fries to go with the blue cheese stuffed burger for a truly transcendental experience!

Looking to keep it thin for your fun in the sun? Gilbert’s offers plenty of lighter-fare options to keep you from feeling beached on the beach!

Wild Sea

An excellent spot for great seafood and a glass wine.

Type: Seafood/Fine dining

Why include a “fine dining” establishment in a post about where to eat on a budget? Wild Sea offers a first-class experience at third-class prices, with one of the most creative seafood menus in all of Fort Lauderdale. The menu is stunning, and you can get a great meal for under $20 per person.

If you know your seafood, I mean really know, Wild Sea offers great catch options outside of the norm such as Monkfish and Wahoo. The decor is elegant, the inside is cozy and warm while also feeling exclusive and providing the background setting for a great date night.

Tap 42

“Tap” is a great spot to meet with friends or have a great cocktail.

Type: Gastropub

Tap 42 is a newer Fort Lauderdale invention that is off-the-rails popular. A place for 30-somethings to both see and be seen, Tap 42 is most popular as a brunch location that gets busy early and stays that way.

Complete with bottomless drink menus both Saturday and Sunday, the brunch features American-based fare with flair, such as Chicago-Style Steak and Eggs and the “Hangover,” a colossus of a meal consisting of Turkey Sausage, Scrambled Eggs, White Cheddar and Maple Hollandaise between a French Toast Challah Bun!

Located just down the street from Las Olas and on the edge of downtown Fort Lauderdale, “Tap”, as its called locally, has also spread to neighboring areas in Boca Raton and Miami for those just outside of Lauderdale limits. Go hungry, stay long and take a cab. Trust me.

Il Mulino

You probably want this.

Type: Italian

Mention Italian food in Fort Lauderdale, and Il Mulino is bound to come up. Located on N Federal Highway next to one of our favorite theaters, The Gateway Theater, Il Mulino serves classic Italian dishes in a warm and inviting setting.

I, quite honestly, have a very hard time recommending what to get at Il Mulino. Why? Everything is outstanding. You want pizza in Fort Lauderdale? The good stuff they make in the old country? Go to Il Mulino. You want pasta? Il Mulino. Flatbread Rustico? Il Mulino.

Just go to Il Mulino, the best Italian restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.

Moonlite Diner

If you romanticize the 1950s like we do, sometimes nothing is more quaint and fun than an American classic – diners.

Type: Diner

Tracy and I are absolute suckers for diners. Put one in an Airstream bus or other silvery, shiny exterior mimicking an Airstream, and we go fully unglued into nostalgia for a time forgotten in America. Fort Lauderdale is like any city – it needs a great diner.

Don’t get fancy, just stay with the diner classics for a cool, romantic experience and a taste of Americana – split a chocolate shake, for example. Two straws, please!

Perhaps you and your love need a base-coat after a fun night out? You can’t go wrong with off-the-griddle hash-browns and a couple of eggs, sunny-side up!

Galanga

Tom Kha Gai? Yes, please.

Type: Thai Fusion

Galanga is a Thai-Sushi location in the Wilton Manors area in northern Fort Lauderdale, about 2 miles from downtown and only 3 miles west of the coast. We frequent here when we need an international fix, as Galanga serves up one of the best Red Curry dishes in all of South Florida.

The interior is soft and ambient, providing an ideal mood-setting spot that is incredibly relaxing. Best of all? Two entrees and a bottle of wine will get you out the door for under $40!

This is absolutely one of our favorite places in Fort Lauderdale, and it comes highly recommended.

Shuck n’ Dive

The Fried Green Tomatoes are excellent.

Type: Cajun

Shuck n’ Dive serves up Louisiana Cajun like no one else in Fort Lauderdale, including nightly specials coming both in plates and bottles! Shuck is a place we go to often when we’re looking for a relaxing outdoor setting where we can have a casual conversation or possibly take in a ballgame. Cajun may not sound like the ideal centerpiece for a date night, but it absolutely is.

The popular Cajun classics are on point – from Jambalaya to Crawfish, and we’ve probably eaten our body weight in oysters here. Very cool, very laid-back spot that’s great to pass a few hours and down a few buckets.

Nuevo’s Cubano’s

When is a Cubano ever a bad idea?

Type: Cuban

Want authentic Cuban? Want a real Cubano? Guava Pastelito? Empanada? Come here as soon as your plane lands and get the best Cubano in Fort Lauderdale.

Nuevo’s Cubano’s is a local fixture that stands on its own in a city full of great Hispanic food and tradition. Nuevo’s is exactly how you want a place to look when having one of the best sandwiches you’ve ever had – small, roadside, tight parking, fast service, cheap (under $10) and delicious.

With the location only three miles from the beach, it’s a great spot to sit down for a day-break, maybe even split a meal (they’re filling) and head to the beach. Wash it all down with a delicious Cuban Coffee for the road, and off you go!

Tom Jenkins BBQ

Type: BBQ

You can smell it when you drive by. It’s as though the scents reach into your car, grab the wheel, and pull you in. It’s good. It’s really good, and (as un-beachy as BBQ may be) you’ll do yourself a service to get the good stuff anywhere you can, anytime you can.

Tom Jenkins is by far the best BBQ in Fort Lauderdale, but that isn’t a disservice to the rest of the BBQ joints in the city because Jenkins is the best BBQ restaurant in most cities.

Listen, is BBQ a romantic food? No, of course not. But it’s a great way to find out if you have the right one with you. “You don’t like BBQ? Maybe I don’t like you.” There’s possibly no better love than someone that can help you take down a pound of brisket – let’s be honest.

Homemade food. Homemade sauce. Do it.

The Foxy Brown

Foxy Brown is possibly the best brunch spot in Fort Lauderdale.

Type: Brunch

Unquestionably a top-five brunch spot in Fort Lauderdale, The Foxy Brown is a personal favorite. It’s a place that feels somehow less than Floridian, and more in line with what one would experience in a Charlestonian breakfast or brunch. It has a bit of Southern Charm that is equal parts relaxing, delicious and intoxicating.

The small, warm environment includes a somewhat secluded seating area outdoors, and generally is full after about 10am on the weekends. They have an excellent choice of frittatas and benedicts, but I’m partial to the Hangar Steak Hash- a lead cut with 2 eggs and a chimichurri hollandaise that is somewhere lighter than it should be, and so good. A place where Tracy likes to go traditional, try the Patty Melt as well – it did, after all, inspire the rest of the menu!

La Bamba

Type: Latin

More of a fusion restaurant than purely Mexican, intertwining with classic Spanish dishes, La Bamba is a great location for couples looking to have a few margaritas and unwind.

A small, comfortable and traditional restaurant, the lines at La Bamba are often long – with good reason. Worth the wait? Without question. The traditional Ropa Vieja is outstanding, and I highly recommend the Costillas de Puerco – two seasoned pork chops topped with sauteed onions served with white rice, black beans and fried ripe plantains.

Date Night Special: Mod Wine Lounge & The Gateway Theater

Type: Neighboring establishments – Wine Bar & traditional 1950s movie theater

One of our favorite date night plans involves two neighboring locations.

Start your night at Mod with a bottle of wine and charcuterie plate, perhaps mixing in an elegant country pate in a quaint, beautiful bar with a 1960s flair. Reasonably priced given the quality, we’ve loved going to Mod and sitting outside on yet another impeccable Fort Lauderdale night and watching the city go by. Frank and Chad are the owners, and if you have an opportunity to speak with these two you’ll fall in love with their love for wine, for providing a first-class experience, and their sheer kindness and hospitality.

After you’re finished, walk the ten steps next door to the Gateway Theater, a traditional movie theater opened in 1951 that is as much Fort Lauderdale as the beach, itself. The Gateway hearkens back to a pre-AMC homogenized era where theaters had a sense of character while offering films not commonly shown in your run-of-the-mill chain theaters, including art films and foreign new releases not available anywhere else!

It’s easy for us to pick out a few of the best, ones that we’ve frequented and loved, but it’s hard to go wrong in Fort Lauderdale. With the ocean as your backdrop, the sound of the gulls as your soundtrack and the smell of salt and fresh catch in the air, it’s easy to find the right choice.

 

 

 

 

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Music City Reborn: Nashville is Singing Once Again


A strange article for me to write is “how cool” Nashville is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great city. In fact now, it’s possibly the hottest, growing city in the American South. It’s hip. It’s cool. People are moving there by the thousands from larger, more well-known cities such as New York, Miami and Los Angeles. Nashville is not only a travel mecca, but in fact a domestic mecca – a place where 30-somethings are congregating in hoards to settle-in and raise a family in a place that is increasing in relevancy. These days, Nashville is the place to be.

Growing up as a child there in the 90’s? Not so much.

The city I grew up despising and devising plans to escape from in my misspent youth has grown to become, dare I say, a cultural icon. To say it has undergone a metamorphosis doesn’t begin to tell the tale. Nashville is, in many ways, synonymous with not only music, food and a good beverage but the American way of life itself. In many ways it is as it has always been – a blue-collar city full of old southern charm, Americana, deep cultural history and truly some of the kindest, gentlest people you could ever want to meet.

Downtown Nashville looking along historic Broadway.

The past decade has been kind to Nashville, as areas of previous degradation have risen from the ashes to spearhead a sort of cultural renaissance built on much of what made Nashville cool in its mid-century heyday. It’s hard to say where or why the rebirth started, but one needs look no further for an example than the Nashville’s East End. Until roughly 10 years ago, much of what is now a gastronomical haven in East Nashville was high-crime, and in many places unlivable with unemployment hovering around 40 percent. That’s until local entrepreneurs, sucked in by the antique building structures, low cost of doing business and relative non-existent barriers to entry, began opening hipster-inspired bars in a wide-spread re-gentrification of the area.

As new bar after new bar grasped a foothold in the local community, drawing in younger crowds with disposable income from nearby universities such as Belmont, Vanderbilt, and Middle Tennessee, unemployment dropped, the vibe changed and suddenly entrepreneurial capital from more northern states began pouring in. Culinarians looking for a fresh start in warmer weather aided in the area’s progress, which since has become a hotbed of activity for not only locals, but vacationers looking for a taste of the Old (and the New) South.

The rebirth of East Nashville was a harbinger of things to come, as developments in the area coincided with massive upgrades following in the “Gulch” area, the southwestern corner of Nashville’s business district, as well as along West End Avenue in downtown and in surrounding communities easily commutable from the city center. Among these included new shopping and restaurant areas in Franklin, a primarily business district 15 miles south of the downtown area, and a re-branded section of South Nashville known as Pie Town.

Beneath the veneer of new development, however, remained the classic Nashville ingredient that first put the city on the map in the 1930’s – music. Well known as the country music capitol, what is revealed in the Nashville underbelly is a broader music scene than is popularly known, supported by music programs feeding the local music communities from the aforementioned universities above. On a given Friday or Saturday night (or Tuesday, for that matter), within blocks one can hear budding upstarts in Rock, Metal, Blues, Folk and even Christian music.

The kitchen classics remain in Nashville, as well, despite the city’s new face. From diners and country kitchens, to soda shops and Rotisseries, Nashville hasn’t lost sight from where it came. Among the classic “musts” are Wendell Smith’s Restaurant in West Nashville, Rotier’s in the West End area (get the milkshake), the Loveless Cafe in Bellevue and Helen’s Hot Chicken on Jefferson Avenue. How hot is the Hot Chicken in Nashville? Enough for Chef/Author Anthony Bourdain to describe it as a “three-day commitment” after his recent taping.

When in Nashville, get the Hot Chicken.

So many of these places represent countless memories for me, such as Wendall Smith’s Restaurant. As a kid growing up in the Music City, it was simply called “Wendell’s”, and I remember coming back from golf rounds with my dad, sitting down in Wendell’s classic diner-style benches waiting on a flawlessly-made “Meat-n-3” to storm from the kitchen. I remember Sunday morning breakfast buffets at Loveless Cafe, the classic morning breakfast joint built within the shell of a classic 1950’s motel – old Americana sign and all. Memories are made easily in Nashville, as yours will be.

After you’ve tasted the classics, see how “New Nashville” stacks up against it’s legendary predecessors. Great places to check out include the Sky Blue Cafe and Pepperfire Chicken, both in East Nashville’s Edgefield district. Nashville is also littered with some of the best breweries in the South, such as Tennessee Brew Works,  Jackalope Brewing Company and the grandfather of modern Nashville craft breweries – Blackstone Brewing Company on West End Avenue.

Belly full and buzz accomplished, you might be in the mood for something to do. Perhaps, educational? Historical? Nashville’s got you.

The Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium and Johnny Cash Museum are well-known hotspots for southern audiophiles, and the home of the 7th U.S. President Andrew Jackson (The Hermitage) still attracts crowds of visitors each weekend. Lovers of classical history can get their fill of culture upon visiting Nashville’s full-scale replica of The Parthenon in Athens, Greece, which is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Similar travelers may be interested in the tomb of James K. Polk, America’s 11th President, located in the State Capitol building.

As if this and the untold number of pubs, bars, juke-joints, museums, halls and parks gone unmentioned in this article weren’t enough, Nashville provides ample fun for the sports-lover as well. Collegiate sports have always been a massive hit in the area, whether it’s watching the rivalry of in-state football rivals Tennessee and Vanderbilt battle alternately between Nashville and Knoxville, taking the family to the Vanderbilt basketball team at Memorial Gymnasium or attending the Music City Bowl, a Division I college bowl game played in Nashville for nearly 20 years. Football or Basketball not your thing? Greer Stadium provides a wonderful and wholesome experience each summer as families gather to watch a Nashville classic – the minor league Sounds, who have lit-up summertime nights for nearly 40 years.

It could be argued, in fact, that the city’s renaissance began not with the addition of new restaurants in lesser developed areas, but with the arrival of the National Football League’s Tennessee Titans in 1999. I, in fact, was one such lucky fan who was present at the “Music City Miracle,” Tennessee’s heroic last-second victory against the Buffalo Bills in January 2000. Believe it or not, it was my 18th birthday and one of countless memories Nashville provided.

 

Nashville presents something for everyone. From the music lover to the foodie, from the history buff to the sports enthusiast, you’ll find yourself overwhelmed with options and short on time to get it all done. What remains now, as the backdrop to the development and the city’s growth, is that which has always been and will always be. The people. In no place could one find finer people, wholesome of spirit, well-intended at heart and of caring nature. Upon moving from Nashville, I remember being shocked how strangers passing by simply didn’t wave and smile with a gentle southern nod as if to say “have a good day.” It’s a city that can spoil you.

So, be spoiled. Go to Nashville. Have a beer at Tootsie’s. Troll 2nd Avenue for a great new band. Get lost in the wonder of the history, and listen to the music spilling out of “The Row”. Have a conversation with a kind stranger bellied-up to the bar. Nashville’s waiting, and it won’t hold back.

Neither should you.

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7 Tropical Locations You Haven’t Seen, But Should!


When it comes to tropical destinations, most bucket lists contain the “usual suspects”. Of course, these idyllic locations are well worth the time spent, but what is to be said for the places a little off the beaten path?

Next time you and your mate sit down to book an island getaway, try one of these seven locations

Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles

Bonaire, one of the three that make up the “ABC Islands” of the South Caribbean, is a relative unknown that sits along its sisters (Aruba and Curacao) in the Netherlands Antilles. One of the most remarkable places we’ve visited, Bonaire boasts world-class diving and outdoor adventures, as well as incredible locals that are equal parts welcoming, kind and entertaining. If you haven’t been, Bonaire is a must-do. Don’t forget to check out Buddy Dive Resort on the western coast of the island, facing Klein Bonaire, where some of the best snorkeling and diving the in world is made possible!

Tsarabanjina Island, Madagascar

 

Looking for really off the beaten path? Tsarabanjina Island (marketed as “an island of your own”) sits off the Northwestern Coast of Madagascar in the Mitsio archipelago. Primarily a location for the Constance Hotels & Resorts one can enjoy azure blue water, powder soft beaches, and private bungalows fenced by tropical plants and some of the most incredible natural scenery available anywhere.

Boracay, Philippines

Only four square miles in area, Boracay is an absolutely stunning island located approximately 200 miles south of Manila and less than two miles off the northwest tip of Panay Island in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines. Boracay is a sporting paradise, a site of the Asian Windsurfing Tour, with the week-long Boracay International Funboard Cup competition usually held in January on Bulabog Beach. The best time to visit this tropical oasis is in mid to late winter (January through March), when the “dry season” produces only about one inch of rainfall per month.

Utila, Honduras

The smallest of Honduras’ major Bay Islands, Utila is a Central American hotspot despite its population of only about 4,000 residents. The beautiful weather and relative solitude can help any traveler feel truly “off-the-grid” while touring the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second-largest in the world.

Gavdos, Greece

I mean, its Greece, right? Seriously, Gavdos stands out as a unique target location for any traveler to Greece. If Santorini or Mykonos is a bit too touristy for you, you can get lost in the absolutely stunning, southern-most island that is home to only about 150 full-time residents!

Nikoi Island, Indonesia

The 42-acre resort island located 50 miles southeast of Singapore was purchased by Andrew and Julia Dixon, an Australian couple visiting Bintan, in 2005 and developed, with the aid of a group of financiers, into a boutique resort named Nikoi Island. The resort opened in 2007, and as of 2010 consists of fifteen beach houses. The resort is accessed by launch from Kawal, one hour’s drive from the Bintan Resorts ferry terminal, and stays fully booked many months in advance.

Mirihi Island, Maldives

Mirihi is an absolute stunner, currently used as a “tourist island” that hosts a holiday resort containing 36 guest bungalows, both closed and open-air. Another sporting paradise, Mirihi is a wonderful location for diving, snorkeling, boating and surfing!