Bite into a new restaurant in Broward

 

Bite into a new restaurant in Broward

blue_moon_diner

Elaine Walker

Suburban Davie and Cooper City are dominated by chain restaurants, but here are three locally owned places trying to build a following.

Open nearly two years, Blue Moon Diner in Cooper City has developed a loyal clientele. At midday on a recent Sunday, the three-room restaurant was packed with locals eating breakfast and lunch, and we had to wait briefly for a table. The selling points are the incredibly affordable prices and substantial portions, which make it the kind of place you can take a family without breaking the bank. Specials start at $2.99 at breakfast, $4.99 at lunch and $7.99 at dinner, and only a couple of dinner entrees cost more than $10. The setting is comfortable, with lots of large booths. The focus here is comfort food: omelets, pancakes and French toast for breakfast, sandwiches, salads and burgers for lunch and entrees like chicken Cajun pasta, fish and chips, meatloaf and blackened grouper for dinner. My Greek salad with grilled chicken included fresh spring-mix greens and a good-size chicken breast, but it was food-service quality and cooked on a griddle rather than a grill. The bargain prices are reflected in the flavor of the corned beef in the reuben sandwich — pre-sliced, not Jewish deli quality. Hamburgers are a solid bet, and next time we’ll try breakfast.

This Davie outpost of Stork’s Bakery & Coffee Café is going upscale as Esmeralda Trattoria. Breakfast and lunch are still served, but now there’s tapas, pizza and a wine bar to attract a higher-ticket evening crowd. It’s not a bad concept, but the execution needs work. The staff is trying hard, but on a Saturday night with a small crowd there was only one person in the front of the house and one in the kitchen, and they couldn’t keep up. There are gourmet-style sandwiches and salads, antipasti, pizzas with toppings like prosciutto di parma with arugula and tapas like bruschetta, smoked salmon, seafood salad and sautéed calamari. We got off to a great start with an artichoke bruschetta featuring fresh tomatoes, basil, artichokes and olive oil, plus glasses of house-made sangria loaded with brandy-soaked fruit. The pizza our server raved about was loaded with large slices of fresh chicken breast but the “homemade” crust was actually the frozen kind. A shrimp tapas with veggies subbing for the advertised mushrooms was well-executed, but overpriced at $15 for just four shrimp. The antipasti plate we ordered was a no-show, and by the time we got the server’s attention we no longer wanted it. To compensate, he offered a free white chocolate lemon tart, which definitely helped to end the meal on a positive note.

Open only a few months, Poolhouse Grill adds to the flourishing sports-bar scene along University Drive. It’s not packed and has plenty of comfortable booths and nightly drinks specials, so it’s not a bad place to watch the NBA finals. The menu is a mix of bar food and simple American fare: salads, burgers, quesadillas, sandwiches, plus steaks, seafood and barbecued ribs. Our naked wings were nicely grilled and not too greasy with a sweet and spicy Thai sauce, but there were few drumettes in the 10-piece order. A Chicken Corleon sandwich on a ciabatta roll with grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, arugula and balsamic vinegar was a flavorful combo, and a bacon-barbecue burger with cheese and crisp onion rings was a solid execution. The 99-cent upcharge for sweet potato fries is definitely worth it.

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