Break out of your dining rut at these 3 new Broward spots…
- Open only a month, JoJo’s Tacos serves up a flavor profile not often found in South Florida. Chef-owner Joseph Parsons comes from a fine dining background (Norman’s in Coral Gables; Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago), and perfected his Southwestern focus at Armadillo Café in Davie and Coyote Café in Santa Fe, NM. While there’s a lot of fast-casual Mexican competition, the food at his Lauderdale-by-the-Sea outpost will remind you of New Mexico and Arizona, not typical Tex-Mex. The small menu includes eight tacos with flavorful combos like Peachy Pollo — peach-smoked chicken, blistered corn, habanero peach aioli, romaine and queso blanco. Good starters for the table are the house-made guacamole with chips and a chicken and mushroom tostada. Another winner is the frito pie —New Mexican red chile sauce, Chihuahua cheese, jalapeños, sour cream cotija cheese and cilantro topped with a protein (choose chicken, two kinds of meat or rock shrimp). It’s a hearty, flavorful dish with a bit of a kick. Prices are comparable to a sit-down casual restaurant. Tacos average $5 and they are small, so you need two or three for a meal. If you don’t order carefully, the bill adds up. Seating is tight, with only nine seats at the bar facing the open kitchen and three tables; Parsons says he plans to add more tables, plus outdoor seating. We look forward to him working out the kinks because the food is a refreshing addition.
- This is the second location for a budding local chain, and if a recent Saturday night is any indication, J.Mark’s, which started in Pompano Beach, is hitting the right mix. There was a steady wait for tables, but it’s easy to pass the time in the large, bustling bar area. Entrees are affordably priced under $15 if you skip steaks and most seafood. There’s something for everyone, from sliders to salads, pastas, sandwiches and chicken dishes. We started with a bam bam shrimp appetizer, a generous plate of lightly fried rock shrimp in a Szechuan sauce on a bed of red cabbage. The sauce had just the right mix of sweet and spicy, and the dish offered plenty for sharing. The chopped salad with grilled chicken, diced apples, tomato, avocado, roasted corn, bacon and crumbled blue cheese is a good choice for a light meal. The chicken Madeira is heartier, with mozzarella and fontina cheese, mushrooms, asparagus and a slightly sweet wine sauce served with a side of garlic mashed potatoes. J.Mark’s is a comfortable, reliable spot for family dinners, date nights and business meals alike.
- Brick House Tavern + Tap is going after the sports-bar crowd with a few new twists. There are mini-couches at many of the tables and lots of flat-screen televisions, plus a man cave in one corner and a rec room in the other. Just a warning: The acoustics aren’t great, and it gets very loud. The waitresses are eye candy in denim shorts and low-cut crop tops. There’s no shortage of beers, with 70 or more selections. For those reliving their college days, drafts are available in a beer bong. The menu is divided under headings like “roughage,” “meat,” “the cure” (breakfast) and “sweets.” Stick to the basics. A white-meat chicken snack with french fries is a great appetizer for sharing or a meal for one, but the queso cheese in a Bleu & White Chips starter was cold and congealed. The chicken parm hero melt was flavorful, but the meat on a steak salad was overcooked and the greens past their prime. A manager came over unsolicited to apologize for the flaws, and tried to rectify the situation with a free dessert — a double chocolate cupcake that wasn’t nearly as rich and chocolaty as we had hoped.