By TIM SLIVINSKI
1850 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale, FL
I first visited and reviewed Market 17 about 10 months ago when it was still a new kid on the block to the Fort Lauderdale dining scene. I had a great experience while dining there, and I have since returned many times quite recently. If anything, this farm to table restaurant has only improved in its quality of farm fresh food and the creativity of its chef and the dishes he prepares.
One feature of Market 17 that I have fallen in love with is the special pricing and offer that comes with its daily happy hour, between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Includes Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings!) All appetizers and starters are 50% off at the bar. Not only that, but Market 17’s signature cocktails are also offered at 50% off the menu price. It is possible to sit and relax, enjoy top quality food and creatively mixed cocktails, and lose yourself in the peaceful, subtle atmosphere that defines Market 17 for a very reasonable price, because when the check arrives, it is simply cut in half. This is most definitely a win for serious foodies who enjoy dining on the lighter side by choosing several small plates rather than a large entrée.
Market 17’s cocktail menu is a patron’s first clue that this is no ordinary establishment. Kimi McCurry is the bar manager, and she has created each cocktail on the menu with attention to fresh fruit juices, fruit purees, infusions, and garnishes. I am partial to her take on the classic Manhattan: the M17. Starting with Maker’s Mark Bourbon, she adds ginger, macerated cherries and more for a delicious remix of that old stand-by. If vodka is your spirit, then try the Strawpow Capricosa. Tito’s vodka (fresh from Texas!) is mixed with fresh muddled strawberries, pomegranate seeds and lime, and agave nectar. It’s all topped off with a splash of soda. It’s refreshing, full of flavor and, like all the cocktails on the menu, oh-sobeautiful to look at. Market 17’s cocktail menu is creative, playful, and unique, with cocktails priced between $9 and $13.
For a light supper at the bar or for a starter for two, you cannot lose with the ever-changing Housemade Charcuterie ($18). It arrives with two in-house made sausages, most recently smoked chicken and garlic sausage along with chorizo verde. A cheese spread, an herb ricotta spread, thin toasts offering tang and crunch, and Canadian-style boar ham that gives a slight salty addition to the palate. Rounding out the plate are various picklings (superb!) and chutneys and a whole-grain mustard. Every taste bud is hit with flavor, making it difficult to decide what on the plate is your favorite.
If you are not squeamish about names, try the Crispy Pork Belly ($15). It is pork belly that crisps and then gives way to a smooth consistency of flavor unlike any bacon in the world. Served with parmesan polenta, caramelized onion, and arugula, this dish’s complexity of flavors and textures satisfies. Jumbo Stone Crab Claws are in season now, and Market 17 offers them – and they truly are jumbo – at $20 a piece. Sweet and tender, they come to you with three sauces for dipping: avocado soup, chililime aioli, and mustard sauce. As each sauce is as good and fresh as the next, it is nearly impossible to determine a favorite.
Feeling in the mood to splurge a bit on a recent Sunday evening visit, my partner and I decided to try a couple of entrées. Every entrée on the Market 17’s menu is offered in both petite and full entrée size. This is another plus that allows diners to be more adventurous and try more dishes while allowing the health conscious diner some portion control. I opted for the petite portion of the Roasted Red Feather Chicken ($19/$32). The chicken breast arrived moist and juicy and sitting atop a most delicious acorn squash spaetzle cake.
The fall flavors were a perfect harbinger of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Milk poached turnips escarole accompanied my entrée and I eagerly consumed every bit. My partner decided to try the Grilled Wreckfish ($22/$36), though neither of us were familiar with this particular fish. I have since found out this species lives in old shipwrecks, hence its name. It is a low harvested fish and is a great source of protein and B vitamins and minerals. A perfectly grilled and deliciously succulent piece of fish arrived, accompanied by chick pea puree, grilled heirloom tomatoes, arugula, basil hollandaise and pine nut pesto. Though it may sound like a too busy dish, it was not as each item was in perfect proportion and a complement to the others. He proclaimed the petite portion as perfect and just enough.
Market 17 seems to have found an audience of fresh “farm to table” food lovers in the South Florida market, and for very good reason. It offers a consistency of quality that is unrivaled in Fort Lauderdale. Cocktails, appetizers, and entrees use creative and fresh ingredients in unique ways. If you are looking for a special place for a relaxing and delicious evening out, head to Market 17. And if you begin your evening in the bar, look for me!