Hi There -- I'm the New Food Critic

charlie2.JPG
My dog, Charlie, tired after a very long journey here.​​
Two months ago, at the edge of a gentrifying area in Washington, D.C., I was sitting with some food-writer friends at Death Metal Cocktail Night in a very dark, very loud bar in a former garage called American Ice Company, sampling ominously named drinks such as the rum-based Jucifer and a spicy Rye on Fire. 

While talking shop, a colleague mentioned an opening at a sister paper to New Times, prompting a discussion on what it would take to jump ship from D.C. 

I loved living in Washington, even with its stereotype as a city of bureaucratic drones who toil for "the man."

 And yet. The next day, one of my colleagues pinged me: Why aren't you considering food-writing jobs in other cities?

I had shelved a career teaching high school English and journalism to focus on becoming a freelance food writer. I landed gigs for Washingtonian and Washington City Paper. I traipsed through exotic markets and learned how to make bread, rice noodles, and pizza for the  Washington Post. I worked as a server and cook in restaurants as a form of culinary boot camp -- and had my ass handed to me. I had helped NBC launch The Feast DC.

But I wanted to grow.

What I had known of Florida was as little as you can imagine from a couple of trips to Key West, Carl Hiaasen books, and Susan Orleans' Orchid Thief. Thankfully, on my interview visit, I was embraced by some very genuine and very generous Florida Sherpas who showed me around. I was intrigued by the juxtaposition of rich and poor, of desolate and lively spaces, of diners, dives, and Hooters-inspired culture. I was shown pockets of hipsters and hippies, gay guys and frat boys. I liked the quirk.

Soon after, I road-tripped down here with my father in his ol' man mobile stuffed with kitchen shit and linens. My dog, Charlie, barked and drooled in the back seat. Rush Limbaugh and Santana's Greatest Hits tortured me from the radio while the Garmin directed us toward my new home in Sailboat Bend.

The night we arrived, I blindly picked Quarterdeck for my maiden voyage of the bar scene -- it was the closest, least crowded spot near my father's hotel. As "Rapper's Delight" blared from the stereo, Joe the bartender briefed me on where to go as I put back a couple of Buds. While pretty, blond surfer dudes shot pool, I shifted between being grateful for advice, trying to stay awake after a day's drive, and stealing glances at the Nats-Marlins game.

Over the past few days, I've sampled a solid banh mi (at Coconuts), some of the best collards I've had (at Betty's Soul Food), and pizza as good as I remember from growing up in Jersey (Luigi's). I cast off my antibrunch stance for an ice-cold Warsteiner, kielbasa, and fried eggs at a little Austrian place (Cypress Nook). I drank locally brewed beer so hoppy, it tasted like pot. And I sipped some sugar-bomb cocktails that took me back to college from the days of vintage Lauderdale (M Bar).

I'm gaining footing but have a ways to go. I'll look to you for guidance along the way. Got any advice for me? What would you like to see on the blog? Holler!

Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Facebook and on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB.
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31 comments
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Wapiv
Wapiv

very cute dog, hope you ignored the jackass emails from those who didn't like your political commentswapiv

huweiwei
huweiwei

★ ★ ★ ★ ★go shopping at[[ w w w - (upsfashion )- c o m ]]favourable price.★ ★ ★ ★ ★FREE SHIPPINGYour satisfaction is our eternal pursuit!

Cfbyrne
Cfbyrne

Hi Melissa, I'm from NY and my daugher now lives in Arlington... so we have some common "locations". And now another one - welcome to SoFla.

I like finding low to middle budget restaurants with good to fantastic food, that I can't make at home myself. That's my usual goal. 

I'm partial to seafood and spice - Cajun, Jerk, Indian...

Although now that I think about it I also love pizza, burgers, steak, and bbq.

Good to have you. Come on up to Delray sometime!

Cfbyrne
Cfbyrne

And BTW if you like hoppy beers (as do I) - IPA's - you'll find some great ones at Tryst and Coffee District here in Delray (amongst plenty of other places - but those are two GREAT spots for Craft Beer - try Cigar City Jai Alai for starters - from Tampa).

Tricia Woolfenden
Tricia Woolfenden

I will second that Coffee District and Tryst recommendation.

DeathFrog3
DeathFrog3

Welcome Melissa,

As someone who has taken a "Gastric Tour" all over the US, I can tell you Primanti Brothers has decent pizza not great. They are known for that loaded burger. Dont do it. Way too starchy. If you have to try it go with the italian sausage. Atleast the added grease from the sausage makes the starch go down.

A couple of places in the North end of Ft Lauderdale you wanna check out. These are more dive than gourmet. Trust me the food is awesome.

You can have a great lunch in within a half mile radius of Prospect and Andrews.

Subs= Fat Freddy's just east of Andrews on Prospect. (Hot and cold subs are very good crushed ice machine and stryo cups too)

Pizza = Pizza and Brew Just west of Andrews on Prospect (if you like buttery garlic knots get the rolls) or Pizza Center 70th Ave and Broward Blvd, Plantation

Mexican = Cielito Lindo's Next to Pizza and Brew

BBQ = Dixe Pig just North of  Prospect on Dixie, Toms in Boca

Cheese steak = Sonny's in Hollywood, Taft st and 64ave? Spankys Oakland pk Blvd East of Dixie.

Breakfast = Duffy's diner Cypress Creek Rd just West of Dixie Highway or Mom's Kitchen NE 45th st just west of US1, Grandpa's in Dania.

Lunch and dessert pastries= Croisaan' time Just North of Sunrise on US1

Places you have to go while in So Fla

LeTub AIA in Hollywood, Jaxsons Ice Cream 128 S Federal Highway, Ernies BBQ Federal Highway near 17st Causeway, Catfish Deweys 4100 block N Andrews Ave, Runway 84. SR84 West of US1. Rustic Inn Ravenswood Rd N of Griffin

Miami trips you have to take, Joe's Stone Crab, and Versailles. If you find yourself driving to the Keys stop off at Robert is Here fruit stand for the best fresh fruit milkshake and on your way back stop off and pick up a key lime pie from there.

My email is Deathfrog33301@gmail.com 

Carl
Carl

While it's nice to reach out to "the people", if you get your ideas from these folks you'll have no chance. Good grief.

Alan Troop
Alan Troop

Welcome to the area. One suggestion, now that food trucks are getting big. How about posting food truck reviews occasionally and truck roundups weekly?

Look forward to reading your stuff.

Melissa McCart
Melissa McCart

Hi, Alan. We're working on how to bring you more info on food trucks over the course of the next couple weeks. I need to track them down myself. Any recommendations?

ErinHilburn
ErinHilburn

Food Trucks to try: Dim Ssam a gogo, Sugar Rush, Ms. Cheezious, GastroPod. 

Emgee
Emgee

Welcome to South Florida!Regarding the banh mi at Coconuts, was that a typo? Could you please elaborate? They are hard to find in this area (beyond the cluster of Vietnamese restaurants on 441) and I was extra curious as they don't even appear on the Coconuts menu on their website.

Thanks!

Melissa McCart
Melissa McCart

I'm obsessed with banh mi since they're super cheap, delicious and everywhere in DC. When I went to coconuts last month, the sandwich was a special; no liver pate, but still good.

The Pulp Blog
The Pulp Blog

Check out Saigon City in Lauderdale Lakes -- it has South Florida's best bahn mi. If you go on Saturday nights, they often have Vietnamese bands playing on the big stage.

freakerdude
freakerdude

Welcome sweet Melissa. i am a 4+ year transplant from Hotlanta and have found that you have to search out the really good places. I am in Palm Beach Gardens and we don't have as many options as those in Ft. Lauderdale. We just don't have many Korean or Indian restos here, so don't expect much in those areas.

For the northern part of PB county, I recommend my favorite resto Leftover's Cafe (creative fresh seafood), Food Shack, Reef Grill, Casa Mia (Italian), Carmine's Gourmet Market, Vietnamese Express Cafe, Indu's, a burger at CG's Burgers, Relish, Grease bar, or the divey Brass Ring, and Bamboo Fire in Delray.

BTW, holler is way too whitebread.....it's Holla!

Melissa McCart
Melissa McCart

I feel like I've already met you- or know where you like to eat out from chowhound. Thanks for the suggestions and the welcome.

Frank
Frank

good luck Melissa. keep us entertained.

FactResearcher
FactResearcher

Welcome to South Florida. Looking forward to your insights about food and restaurants. Not looking fwd to you signaling "Look at me, I am a smart liberal!" with your references to your father's politics. Thanks and really, welcome. Come on up to Boca and Delray, there's lots going on up here for foodies to enjoy... even from DC and NY.

Melissa McCart
Melissa McCart

I'll be up to Del Ray and Boca a lot. Seems like there's a ton opening in Boca in particular. (And who said being liberal means I'm smart? Or that's what my father would joke.) Thanks for the welcome.

Cheryl J Davis
Cheryl J Davis

Welcome, Melissa!  I moved here from DC two years ago and love it.  While I still go back to DC every couple of months for work and squeeze in meals at my favorite food joints (Pasta Mia, Blue Duck Tavern, and Two Amy's to name a few) there are lots of gems down here as well!  I'm originally a Philly girl, so I like going to Big Al's to get my wiz wit.  The yummiest pizza down here hands down is Primanti's and Tee Jay's is the best sushi/Thai restaurant.  Let me know if you ever want to go on a food crawl!  (The food trucks are awesome too!)  Good luck to ya. :)

Melissa McCart
Melissa McCart

I'm always up for a food crawl. I'll dm you soon if you're serious. You're the third person to recommend Primanti's for pizza. I thought that's where I was supposed to get a sandwich stuffed with fries. Thanks for the recs and the welcome.

The Pulp Blog
The Pulp Blog

I can't believe I haven't mentioned Primanti Bros. in all of our planning for your new gig. It's one of my favorites, although I always get the sandwiches. Try the kielbasa, egg, and cheese -- a fantastic hangover cure.

ErinHilburn
ErinHilburn

Primanti Bros.: The eternal struggle between whether to eat a killer sandwich or an awesome slice of pizza. 

ted inserra
ted inserra

welcome to south florida, i am sure our path's will cross in the near future, and the picture of your dog is a big plus in my book!!

Hungry
Hungry

Check out Charm City Burgers in Deerfield Beach and Burgerfi (2 locations- Lauderdale by the Sea and Delray Beach)

Melissa McCart
Melissa McCart

Nick and Hungry- I need a burger sherpa. There are so many here! Thanks for the suggestions.

Nick Yastremski
Nick Yastremski

Check out Chef Roy Villacruis in North Palm Beach.Awesome, and cheap, Asian/Korean Barbecue is at Sakaya Kitchen, or there Food Truck.CG Burgers for a Burger Chain you can only get in Sofla for the time being!

Jimmy
Jimmy

Wed like to see you keep your politics to yourself

Just Tellin'
Just Tellin'

Less cute about you, and more info on food around town.

hjshorter
hjshorter

Best of luck to you, Melissa! I've been lucky enough to spend a great deal of time in South Florida over the last couple of years, and there's lot of good food to discover.

Melissa McCart
Melissa McCart

Thanks for reading Heather. Lemme know if you're nearby next time.

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