The weather outside's delightful. What better time to head to a beachfront restaurant? Here are three places where you can enjoy South Florida like a tourist without busting the budget.
When you think beachfront dining, Japanese and Thai food don't leap to mind, but Sushi-Thai on the Beach is a welcome change of pace. Located on the quiet end of the Hollywood Broadwalk, south of Hollywood Boulevard, it's a great escape from the crowds and noise farther north. Here you can dine al fresco on a big covered patio and walk off the calories along the water. The menu is vast. We found the sushi incredibly fresh with ample pieces of fish in the rolls. The pad prik khing (chicken with curry paste, chili sauce and vegetables) had just enough zing, but the pad Thai was too tame for our taste.
Sushi-Thai on the Beach, 300 S. Broadwalk, Hollywood; 954-927-9511, www.sushi-thai.com. Most Thai entrees $12-$17, sushi rolls $4-$12.50, combos for one or two $12-$43
ARUBA BEACH CAFE
Located on the sand in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, this beachfront classic is the perfect place for visitors looking to sample tropical flavors or locals who want to pretend they're on vacation. The atmosphere is upbeat, with live music daily and dancing after 9 or 10 p.m. Looking for a bargain? Come for happy hour (4-7 p.m.) on Friday and enjoy a complimentary pig roast.
There's plenty of seafood on the menu along with options to suit just about any taste from Mexican to Italian. Order some of the signature Bimini bread for the table. (The full loaf is huge; a half order is plenty for parties of four or fewer.) The conch fritters -- not too greasy and loaded with meat -- are good for sharing, too. The Aruba burger, with a pineapple topping and teri-yaki glaze, was juicy. The seafood quesadilla was stuffed with plenty of fish and shrimp, but it arrived cold and came back soggy after reheating in the microwave.
Aruba Beach Cafe, 1 Commercial Blvd., Lauderdale-by-the-Sea; 954-776-0001. The majority of appetizers $8-$15, sandwiches/salads $12-$15 and entrees $15-$25
The big attraction here are glider tables that allow you to swing while eating and gazing across the street at Fort Lauderdale Beach. Of course, you have to look over the cars zooming by on A1A, but that's a minor inconvenience. Make sure to visit when there are no clouds, as there's only a tiny covered area with a few tables if a rainstorm sneaks up.
Come for the swings and view, and don't expect much from the food. It's slightly above fast-food quality, competent but hardly memorable. A blackened mahi-mahi Asian wrap was the best of what we tried. A grilled chicken cordon bleu sandwich attempted a healthy take on the classic but didn't quite work. You can tell from the pricing that Oasis is aimed at a tourist clientele. The restaurant up-charges for almost everything, from a slice of tomato to french fries (ours arrived cold twice). A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to the bill, too.
Your best strategy is to go for drinks or dessert. And the swings, of course.
Oasis Cafe, 600 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-463-3130. Appetizers $6-$12, sandwiches and salads $8-$11, entrees $15-$23
Sushi-Thai in Hollywood.