I visited Fort Lauderdale, FL for the New Year holiday so I could start 2008 with a smile rather than chattering teeth. This was my first vacation to southern FL in nearly 10 years and my first time visiting Fort Lauderdale. First impressions were mixed because of the dated strip malls and tired looking buildings making the drive along Rte 1 seem cliche. However, the warm weather, accessible beaches and friendly residents more than made up for this.
The coolest part of town is Las Olas Blvd and the surrounding canals. Driving along Las Olas you can get up close views of the many Fort Lauderdale mini-mansions that line the canals. Wilton Manors - which is home to many of the gay bars in town I thought very forgettable. It is dotted with strip malls and wide boulevards and one street looked identical to the other. The bars (of which there are many) were very friendly and filled with guys, but all the smoking was a major detractor and something I had not realized would bother me so much.
Fort Lauderdale, FL lived up to its reputation as a gay-favorite holiday destination. The gay beach between the St. Regis Hotel and Casablanca Restaurant was as busy as P-town in late July. For that reason alone, I would prefer lodgings on the beach to provide convenient options between the pool and ocean. Staying further from the ocean would likely mean needing to drive to the beach and I liked having the option to walk back and forth.
While staying in Fort Lauderdale, we had several very forgetable meals but there were three restaurants in particular that I really enjoyed and would suggest anyone visiting check out. Note that none of the restaurants (either the hits or misses) were particularly affordable. I'm sure there are plenty of cheap eats (the South's reputation for affordability is legendary), but I found everything comprable to Boston prices ($20-$30+ entrees).
Four Rivers - Despite its strange location in a strip mall on N. Federal Hwy (Rte. 1), the restaurant offers delicious Thai cuisine, excellent service in a beautiful setting. If I only had one meal in Fort Lauderdale, I would make a bee-line here.
Kitchnetta - I arrived 15 minutes before the restaurant closed (note I arrived at 8:45pm so this place closes early), but fortunately I was able to grab a delicious Italian meal. The service was lacking, sizes were huge (even the single portions) and the restaurant very loud, but the food made it worth the visit.
Tommy's - This was the last meal that I had before leaving Fort Lauderdale. I was unable to check out the dinner menu as it was lunch when I ate here but the decor and vibe of the place definitely added to the delicious lunch and made me want to add this to my list of places to try when I return.