Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cheap Eats In Ft. Lauderdale: Plaza Bistro

Last night we made the mistake of attending an "Italian buffet" at the San Marco Hilton. Between the 15% discount and the bonus Hilton points, it wasn't a bad deal, but we ate too much mediocre food and have felt remorseful since. It didn't diminish our opinion of the Hilton either. We would happily return there anytime - especially low season.

Driving back to Ft. Lauderdale today, we worked hard, juggling between the GPS and the map downloaded on Kathy's iPod Touch to avoid toll roads. Are we that cheap? No, it's a little more complicated.

We read the fine print on our Hertz rental agreement. Rental cars have a "plate pass" for Florida's toll roads. If you go through such a toll, you pay the cost of the toll plus a daily charge of $5-7 for every day of the rental, even if you only went through one toll. Hertz kindly tops off the charge and we figured if we paid one $3 toll something like $30-35 would be added to our bill.

What a ripoff, but it looks to us like the toll roads in Florida are less and less set up for cash customers, and it's hard to determine that as you're driving down the road. We're interested enough to follow up with an Internet search and learn that consumer class action suits against rental companies have been successful in New Jersey and Florida.

We checked into the Westin Beach Resort and we're not all that impressed. We had to go back out to the car to get Kathy's government I.D., which is demanded on check-in. It's mandatory valet parking, which is not only expensive but a minor nuisance. Anyway, it's close to the airport for our Tuesday departure.

What made up for a lot was our less than 10-minute stroll down the beachfront boulevard to one of the newest restaurant sensations in this neighborhood, the Plaza Bistro, a cute restaurant located completely outdoors on an old tennis court.

The kitchen, screened behind shrubbery, has the appearance of a food truck, but the menu, though limited, is inventive and includes some bargains.

We arrived just after 5:00 p.m., just in time for their Happy Hour, in which appetizers, salads,  "flatbreads" (thin-crust pizza), and wine by the bottle are 50% off. Now that's a Happy Hour!

We shared a generous bowl of guacamole and chips, followed by pizzas (we each ate only a half and brought a box back to the hotel for breakfast or lunch), washed down with a bottle of California Merlot - the total check before tip was about $31.00. What a deal!

We found them on Trip Advisor - ranked #15 of 1,105 in Ft. Lauderdale - and it's another case which shows T.A. is well worth reading.

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