If you ever want to know why Fort Lauderdale is so lovingly referred to as Fort Liquordale, hang out around the corner of Las Olas Boulevard and A1A late at night.
For more than 60 years, alcohol has been over-consumed at the two-story Elbo Room on the corner. Bars and restaurants of every partying stripe line this strip of Fort Lauderdale Beach.
On St. Patrick's Day (of course!), the owners of the nearby Sandbar opened Taco Beach as an alternative to late night pizza slices. Knowing that Derek McNulty and Charlie O'Flaherty designed their restaurant with drinkers in mind says much more than I can ever say about their open air, beach taco shop.
As my friend at lunch said the other day: "It would be a lot better if I was drunk."
She was eating one of the best items on the menu: A duo of shrimp tacos ($10.99) on choice of flour or corn tortillas with blackened shrimp, black beans, Napa cabbage, avocado salsa and jalapeno ranch dressing. Like many dishes here, it has a bit of a bite.
Taco Beach is fast casual. You order at the counter and watch as your taco or burrito is being made. Three tacos or a burrito are $7.99. Not unlike the ubiquitous Chipotle Mexican Grill, you choose between ground beef, chicken, pork, steak or vegetables. Mahi is $2 extra.
Fillings include yellow rice, pinto beans, pineapple, diced or pickled jalapenos, lettuce and cheese. Guacamole or avocado is $1.99 extra. But skip the guacamole. We ordered a side of chips and guac ($3.19) and it had a tinny bland flavor that even a few packets of salt didn't help.
Chicken and pork, however, had a pleasant stewy, pulled flavor. Ground beef had a slight spiciness that I enjoyed. They also have 60 kinds of hot sauce if you want even more heat.
The only other menu items are bowls of queso ($2.49), soft drinks, beer and wine. Domestic beer is $3.99. Imports are $4.99. Craft beer, like Shift pale lager from New Belgium Brewing Company, is $5.99. They have plastic bottles of pinot grigio and chardonnay ($4.99) that look like old-fashioned wide-mouthed milk bottles.
After you've placed your order, you can either sit at outdoor picnic tables or stand at high-tops inside. With its walls of glass that open up the street, it has a nice beach vibe.
Daily lunch specials are $5.99 for two tacos, chips, salsa and a soda. On Taco Tuesdays, $7.99 gets you three tacos and a Corona.
There's always beer in this part of town.
2941 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Hours: 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-4 a.m. Friday-Saturday
Credit cards: AC, D, MC, V