By Rebecca Cahilly-Taranto
City & Shore Magazine
This was the year Fort Lauderdale’s Las Olas Boulevard came back on the map as a dining destination. The year restaurateurs (and restaurant groups) expanded big-time. The year some international chefs began to notice South Florida, and, lucky us, set up shop here, too.
It’s not easy to choose from among the many restaurants that opened in the past year, for my annual list of the Best New Restaurants. Until I considered these contenders – in alphabetical order – all with exceptional concepts, atmosphere, chefs, value, and, of course, food.
Chef Miguel Angel Rebolledo is a prime example of an internationally acclaimed chef who’s taken notice of South Florida. He began cooking at the age of six in his hometown of Santander, Spain, and mastered his culinary skills at the famed El Bulli, near the town of Roses on the Costa Brava. He later served as the Executive Chef of ThinkFoodGroup by José Andrés and oversaw several U.S.-based restaurants while garnering numerous culinary awards. He then joined partners Ryan Zemel and Ricky Hussey, General Managers for būccan and Havana Restaurants, respectively, to launch Basque at the historic Hotel Bibi in West Palm Beach’s El Cid neighborhood. Open only seasonally, Basque offers both classic and modern interpretations of Spanish cooking in an historic setting. Spanish tapas, paella and sangria are staples, while Spanish meats and cheeses, seafood dishes and even vegetarian and vegan offerings round out the diverse menu.
320 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach
AT THE RIVERSIDE
Fort Lauderdale’s iconic Riverside Hotel has capitalized on its location with a new addition to its dining portfolio. The Boathouse at the Riverside now occupies a once seldom-used space on the New River and invites guests to come — by boat, if they like — and dine al fresco with a view of the water. Executive Chef Toby Joseph from the Wild Sea Oyster Bar & Grille on the Las Olas side of the hotel, oversees the menu here, featuring Mediterranean-inspired tapas-style dishes. Here’s an example of restaurateurs capitalizing on a terrific opportunity to enjoy the waterfront.
Boathouse at the Riverside
620 SE Fourth St., Fort Lauderdale
BROWN DOG EATERY
The be nice Restaurant Group is at it again, spreading its message of positivity and downright delicious dining concepts all over Fort Lauderdale. The latest addition to the portfolio — which includes Coconuts and G&G Oyster Bar, Top Hat Deli, Lunchroom and Foxy Brown — is Brown Dog Eatery. Residing in the space formerly occupied by Frankie & Johnny’s on Oakland Park Boulevard, Brown Dog Eatery is the seventh concept and design for the group. Owner Elliot Wolf says the be nice concepts evolved from things his team likes to eat. The name of this latest concept is an homage to Wolf’s first dog, a chocolate lab named Bailey, who he called “Brown Dog.”
Envisioned as a neighborhood fixture, Brown Dog is a sister restaurant to downtown Fort Lauderdale’s Foxy Brown and offers traditional comfort food. There’s “Proper” Bangers and Mash, Mahi Mahi, chicken club sandwiches, heirloom tomato salad and dishes with a twist, such as the Porchetta dip sandwich or the stone fruit salad with blackened shrimp. Don’t miss the weekend brunch, especially the chocolate “doughssants,” short-rib benedict and caramel apple French toast.
Brown Dog Eatery
2701 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Several concepts have come and gone in the oceanfront dining space at The Atlantic Hotel & Spa on Fort Lauderdale Beach, but Coastal, which opened in November 2017, has the right combination of food quality, atmosphere and value to live long and prosper. Executive Chef David “Rocco” Honig honed his talent for authentic Italian dishes at Anthony’s Runway 84, among other notables, before assuming his role last year at Coastal.
Chef Rocco has created an Italian-inspired menu here, which includes homemade tiramisu for dessert, of course. Coastal also offers a fixed price family-style menu for parties of six or more that includes home-style meatballs, platters of Italian meats and cheeses, Caesar salad, chicken Milanese, rigatoni Bolognese, sautéed yellow tail snapper followed by cannolis, miniature tiramisu and assorted Italian cookies.
Coastal (at The Atlantic Hotel & Spa)
601 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
EL CAMINO MEZCAL
& TEQUILA BAR
If you’ve driven down Fort Lauderdale’s Las Olas Boulevard in the past few weeks you’ve certainly noticed a change. The entire street is bustling with new restaurants and once-papered windows have opened to reveal open-air dining. Anyone looking for an impromptu al fresco dining experience on Las Olas will inevitably be drawn to the indoor/outdoor atmosphere of El Camino, where the colorful murals, alleyway bar seating and soaring industrial-inspired ceilings scream “this is a cool, fun place.”
Luckily for any foodies in the group, the food is even better than the atmosphere at El Camino. Your servers all have an affinity for Mexican culture and heritage and aim to deliver a dining experience not typically found north of the border. They call it “Mexican Soul Food” and from the scratch kitchen come all your favorites – tacos, nachos, fajitas, enchiladas, ensaladas – each with a creative twist that suggests this place has staying power. Pair your dishes with a fruit-infused margarita (you’ll find no syrup flavoring here), one of an unparalleled selection of mezcals, and punctuate the experience with a flan, Dolce de Leche and tequila-infused coffee.
Delray Beach-based restaurateurs Brian Albe, Brandon Belluscio and Chef Anthony Pizzo are the team behind the Modern Restaurant Group, which counts the new El Camino and Delray favorites Cut 432, Park Tavern and El Camino Delray among its growing portfolio.
El Camino Mezcal & Tequila Bar
817 E Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
LONA COCINA Y TEQUILERIA
Chef Pablo Salas, named one of the world’s Top 50 Tastemakers by Forbes magazine, is something of a sensation in Mexico. In December, the celebrated chef and tattoo devotee introduced South Florida to Lona, his soulful, somewhat eclectic Mexican restaurant in the chic space formerly occupied by Shula’s at the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. From authentic Mexican dishes to tried-and-true favorites, Lona – which roughly translates from Spanish to “blank slate” – offers something for the whole family. There’s much to try here, and we suggest you let your server guide you through the Chef Pablo experience. Don’t miss the spicy crab-infused guacamole paired with one of Lona’s agave-centric craft cocktails while you enjoy the ocean view.
Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort
321 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
MASTRO’S OCEAN CLUB
Finally, a fine dining restaurant has taken its rightful place on the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale. Touting “unsurpassed service” and a “paramount dining experience,” Mastro’s Ocean Club, which opened in July on the site of the former Chart House, is enticing diners nightly with live entertainment and exceptional steak and seafood dishes. (The two-foot-tall Seafood Tower or shrimp cocktail appetizer arrives, dramatically, on a vaporous bed of dry ice. You can see for yourself on facebook.com/CityAndShoreMagazine.) A sushi menu – developed by famed international sushi chef Angel Carbajal of Nick-San Gourmet Japanese in Cabo San Lucas – also complements the breathtaking waterway view and five-star service.
This is the first location in Florida for the Mastro’s Restaurants group, which has locations in Las Vegas, Scottsdale, Malibu, Newport Beach and Boston. The portfolio also includes Mastro’s Steakhouse, with locations in Beverly Hills, Thousand Oaks, Costa Mesa, Palm Desert, Chicago, Houston, Scottsdale, New York City and Washington, D.C. But the Fort Lauderdale menu offers local specialties, such as Fried Point Judith Calamari, Florida Grouper and Locally Caught Florida Snapper.
With the house packed nightly since opening, Mastro’s is poised to become the special waterfront dining destination we’ve been craving.
Mastro’s Ocean Club Fort Lauderdale
300 NE 32nd Ave., Fort Lauderdale
OLIVIA RESTAURANT & BAR
The new Circ hotel in Hollywood is one of the coolest things to happen on Hollywood Circle in recent years. Within this 111-room modern boutique hotel is Olivia Restaurant & Bar, serving authentic Italian fare “Stile Italiano” and offering a fresh mozzarella bar, extensive wine collection and a spacious lounge and bar area. Olivia is the vision of longtime friends and experienced restaurateurs Marcello Sindoni and Piero Filpi who joined forces on this first concept together, bringing in Italian-born Executive Chef Massimiliano Lozzi (who happened to get his start as Executive Sous Chef for the San Pietro Vatican Hotel in Rome).
Olivia Restaurant & Bar
1780 Polk St., Hollywood