2.5 stars for Latin eats at Fort Lauderdale's Chimney House

When Frank and Yaddi Rodriguez fell in love with a truly homey location for their Latin restaurant, they had no idea it would be six years before they served their first empanada. There was even more red tape, rebuilding and expense than they expected involved in transforming a decrepit 1924 house into a charming neighborhood destination. But The Chimney House Grill & Cafe is looking like a dream come true for the Colombian-born couple.

Open since August on the edge of Fort Lauderdale’s artsy Sailboat Bend, the restaurant is already drawing a steady stream of regulars for authentic fare at reasonable prices (all items under $20) served by a gracious staff in a unique setting. The menu offers a few American (burgers, sandwiches) and Spanish (omelets, rice dishes) items, but it’s largely a pan-Latin mix. One cook is from Guatemala, the other from Peru, and Frank Rodriguez’s Colombian mom is often in the kitchen as well (yes, there’s even mom’s meatloaf).

Ambience: We picked a table on the covered deck, which looks like a front porch, and enjoyed a soundtrack of soothing Spanish guitar riffs and Latin jazz. Inside, the dining room only has 24 seats; the Rodriguezes had to work around the original brick fireplace, which proved integral to the structure and inspired the name. There’s also a dog-friendly patio, with water bowls for your pooch.

What Worked

  • Delicious house-made sangria with lots of fresh fruit, perfect to sip with tapas or ceviche
  • House patacon combo – a large fried green plantain patty topped with a terrific guacamole, saucy ropa vieja and flavorful pulled pork
  • Empanadas with a light, flaky crust
  • The house ceviche with octopus, corvina, shrimp, calamari, ají chiles, thinly sliced red onion, crunchy cancha (toasted Peruvian corn) and a slice of sweet potato
  • Thinly sliced ahi tuna ceviche with a Japanese-style nikkei sauce that adds honey and soy sauce to the lime juice marinade
  • Flavorful arroz marinero – a mini paella with shrimp, calamari, octopus, clams, mussels, slices of chorizo and a moist yellow rice that soaks up the sea-salty juices
  • Lomo saltado combining soy sauce and Peruvian ají amarillo peppers with tender slices of beef tenderloin, tomatoes, white rice & french fries
  • Tender, grilled churrasco elevated by a bright and tangy chimichurri sauce & served with black beans and rice
  • Mild mahi mahi with coconut milk, tomatoes, onions and white wine
  • Wondrously creamy flan topped with caramel
  • Sunday brunch with omelets and eggs with tortillas, pico de gallo and a black bean purée