October 20, 2014

Florida Trend's 1996 Golden Spoon Award Winners

Robert W. Tolf | 2/1/1996
It's been the best of years for the Golden Spoon winners and the worst of years for many of their competitors.

The current failure rate in the restaurant industry is extremely high, and according to some South Florida Realtors specializing in that industry, it's been at least 85%.

But the specter of potential failure hasn't slowed the expansion, delayed the openings or dampened the optimism of this year's crop of Golden Spoon newcomers. I could have doubled the number and found good reason to present 40 first-timers.

Among those not included are three restaurants on Fort Lauderdale's happily revitalized Boulevard of No Regrets - B's Las Olas Bistro, ZanZbar and Indigo in the Riverside Hotel - opened within a few feet of one another. In the process, they expanded mightily the cross- cultural culinary offerings on the street of great eats. The first is Cajun Creole Italian, the second South African and the third a combination of Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean.

On South Miami Beach, where the "restaurant du jour" mentality still applies, there are at least twice as many newcomers as those from SoBe which made the grade. In South Palm Beach County, I could have mentioned another half dozen in addition to the two on the final cut of 20.

Mark Militello, whose Mark's Las Olas was one of last year's newcomers, has spread himself even thinner with Mark's in the Grove, located on Grove Isle Drive in Coconut Grove. Darrel Broek and Oliver Saucy, Golden Spoon winners for their Cafe Maxx, have added to their headaches by opening the East City Grill at Fort Lauderdale's Riviera Ocean Resort on AlA.

On a lesser level was the cloning of St. Pete Beach's China Moon, one of last year's newcomers, opening another cafe of the same name on South MacDill in Tampa.

And several 1995 Golden Spoon winners were on the move. Norbert and Lidia Goldner moved their Cafe L'Europe from Worth Avenue a few blocks away to South County Road, but were not finished with all the remodeling as we went to press.

Rino Balzano moved his 1996 Golden Spoon winner, Il Tartufo, in the summer from its North Federal Highway home, investing major sums to transform the new property at 2400 East Las Olas into a bastion of elegance, complete with his beloved wood-burning oven, of course.

A few Goldeners dropped out of the charmed circle this year, including Armani's in Tampa and The Chef's Garden in Naples. The competition for their positions was too intense and not to be denied were the three first-time spoonies: Little Palm Island on Little Torch Key, Manuel's on the 28th in downtown Orlando and The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island.

The dining room of Little Palm is comfortably tropical and the food excitingly French-Floribbean-fantastic in Shangri-La surroundings reached only by boat.

Manuel's on the 28th is named for owner Manny Garcia's father and is the penthouse flagship of a restaurant empire that encompasses five Pebbles restaurants, one in Broward County, the rest in the Orlando area, and bunches of Burger Kings.

The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island has become a major force in the Florida restaurant whirl, introducing northeast palates to such zingers as grilled foie gras with cinnamon apples and seared scallops with miso crust and seaweed salad, while organizing winemaker's weekends, brewmaster's dinners, holding cooking classes and sponsoring a terrific New World Seminar showcasing many of the state's cutting-edge chefs.

The repeat Golden Spoon winners are worthy of the award because they've continued, without exception, to live up to the challenges of sitting on the summit.


Bern's Steak House
1208 S. Howard Ave.
Tampa
(813/251-2421)

Brooks Restaurant
500 S. Federal Highway
Deerfield Beach
(954/427-9302)

Chalet Suzanne
U.S. 27 and County Rd. 17A
Lake Wales
(941/676-6011)

Chef Allen's
19088 N.E. 29th Ave. North
North Miami Beach
(305/935-2900)

Criolla's
Highway 30A & Rd. 283
Grayton Beach
(904/267-1267)

Darrel & Oliver's Cafe Maxx
2601 E. Atlantic Blvd.
Pompano Beach
(954/782-0606)

Euphemia Haye
5540 Gulf of Mexico Dr.
Longboat Key
(941/383-3633)

Il Tartufo
2400 East Las Olas Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale
(954/767-9190)

Le Dome
333 Sunset Dr.
Fort Lauderdale
(954/463-3303)

Le Festival
2120 Salzedo St.
Coral Gables
(305/442-8545)

Little Palm Island
U.S. 1 Mile Marker 28.5,
Little Torch Key
(305/872-2524)

Manuel's On The 28th
Barnett Bank Building,
390 N. Orange Ave.
Orlando
(407/246-6580)

Mark's Place
2286 N.E. 123rd St., North
North Miami
(305/893-6888)

McGuire's Irish Pub
600 E. Gregory St.
Pensacola
(904/433-6789)

Michael's On East
1212 East Ave. S.
Sarasota
(941/366-0007)

Mise en Place
442 W. Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa
(813/254-5373)

Peter's La Cuisine
224 Bay St.
Fort Myers
(941/332-2228)

The Restaurant, Four Seasons Ocean Grand Hotel
2800 S. Ocean Blvd.
Palm Beach
(407/582-2800)

The Ritz-Carlton
4750 Amelia Island Parkway
Amelia Island
(904/277-1100)

Tio Pepe Restaurant
2930 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd.
Clearwater
(813/799-3082)

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