Waterfront restaurants run deep in quality here. Come with us on a pleasure cruise.
BY REBECCA CAHILLY
The heat may linger, even into a November Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, and the waterfronts beckon with the promise of lazy, sun-filled afternoons equipped with nothing more than a frosty beverage and a tropical island tune. At dusk, we are drawn to the water again, lulled by gentle waves at our feet and waterfront dinners by candlelight.
You would be hard pressed to find someone as passionate about waterfront dining as yours truly, and with so many waterside establishments from which to choose, the task of creating a list of the most recommended was as arduous as relaxing al fresco on a sunny afternoon can get (we at City & Shore take our jobs very, very seriously.) What follows are the results: our selection of highly rated waterfront restaurants to check out this summer.
OFF THE BOAT
Whether you are out for a mid-day cruise and want to tie up for a quick beer and cheeseburger in paradise, or if you’re land-bound and feel like catching up with friends while watching the boats pass by, these Intracoastal Waterway spots are but a few of the fabulous finds that make our list for great waterfront dining.
The Key West-themed Deck 84 is the latest from successful restaurateur Burt Rapoport and symbolizes his dream endeavor. “I’ve always wanted to open a waterfront restaurant, and I couldn’t be prouder of Deck 84,” says Rapoport, the man behind some of the most successful venues in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, including Bogart’s and Henry’s. Deck 84 epitomizes the South Florida waterfront lifestyle – dock your boat alongside and enjoy a waterside table overlooking the Intracoastal. The signature cocktails here alone are worth the trip – weekend brunches feature the Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary Bar – as are the Black Angus sliders and Deck 84’s own Special Blend Cheeseburger. (Yes, it is like having a “cheeseburger in paradise.”) On a recent outing, we did happen to meet Deck 84’s pastry chef, whose signature Key lime pie with limoncello is the highlight of a tropical afternoon. Dog friendly, and featuring live entertainment on the weekends, Deck 84 delivers a quintessentially Florida waterfront dining experience.
840 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach, 33483, 561-665-8484,
There are few chain restaurants that make our recommended lists, but Houston’s and its focus on American classic cuisine has been a consistent favorite for years. Locally, it is the Atlantic Boulevard location on the Intracoastal Waterway in Pompano Beach that keeps us going back for more. When you can enjoy the signature spinach and artichoke dip and a glass of chardonnay from your umbrella’d table along the waterway on a summer day, well, it doesn’t get much better than that.
2821 E. Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach, 33062, 954-783-9499
WATER VIEW BY CANDLELIGHT
Looking for that special place to take your special someone? These waterfront restaurants meet our strict criteria of romantic atmosphere, exquisite dishes and a view guaranteed to amaze. Book a romantic meal at any of these classy restaurants and feel free to say we sent you.
Grille 66 & Bar
Grille 66 is one of our all-time favorite restaurants. You have the waterfront – dine outdoors on the terrace or inside with jazz piano in the background. You have the food – prepared by a 4-star chef – which is always fresh and consistently delicious. It is simply a great restaurant with a terrific location – especially if you are interested in checking out the megayachts.
2001 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale, 33316, 954-728-3500, www.grille66andbar.com
Floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean make this restaurant one of the most romantic on our list. Located at the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort and Spa, 3800 Ocean defies the typical hotel restaurant expectations by focusing on the finest seasonal and local ingredients. This innovative “collaborative kitchen” concept emphasizes a diverse and talented team of chefs, preparing signature dishes such as chilled rock shrimp ceviche and prosciutto and sage-wrapped veal tenderloin.
3800 N. Ocean Drive, Singer Island, 33404, 561-340-1795, www.marriott.com/pbisg
Having thought we had scoured, tasted and rated every waterfront dining establishment in South Florida, we were pleasantly intrigued when we were invited to dine at the very special, very private Secret Garden restaurant. Located within The Pillars luxury boutique hotel on Fort Lauderdale’s Intracoastal Waterway, the Secret Garden features a daily menu highlighted by the seasonal ingredients Executive Chef Youssef Hammi has discovered at the market that day. Whether you opt for the pan-seared, melt-in-your-mouth scallops served alongside a wild mushroom Sformato with Bechamel and squid ink or any of the fabulous starters – including a daily cheese plate selection – your dining experience will be memorable. Dine in the beautiful dining room or at one of the cozy candlelit outdoor tables on the dock and enjoy the boats passing by while underwater lights yield a spectacle of aquatic critters swimming beneath your feet. The staff here completes the experience, with friendly and knowledgeable advice that will ensure your enjoyment of every moment. The only catch? You must either be a guest of the hotel or a member of the Secret Garden Society (or friend of a member) to partake in the experience. It pays to have friends in the right place.
111 N. Birch Road, Fort Lauderdale, 33304, 954-467-9639,
If you love stumbling upon tiny waterfront gems, you will adore Serafina. This trattoria is nestled on 20th Avenue just east of Federal Highway off Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. From the street, its existence could be missed, but step along the path toward the water’s edge and you’ll feel you’re navigating a passageway in some ancient Italian village, where the proprietors greet you at the door in their native tongue and whisk you to your candlelit table. Owner/Chef Michele Viscosi, from Naples, Italy, will make you feel you’ve been invited to dine as his personal guest at his waterfront Italian villa. The menu features traditional Italian dishes, with an emphasis on cheeses, antipasti, pastas and fish, delicately paired with a fine selection of Italian wines. Leave your passport at home.
926 NE 20th Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 33304, 954-463-2566, www.serabythewater.com
For upscale waterfront dining Palm Beach style, look no further than The Breakers and its delightful oceanfront Seafood Bar. Enjoy a glass of wine from the extensive wine list at either of the two aquarium bars while tiny fish swim under your fingertips. Then try a sampling from the raw bar or any of the daily fresh fish entrées. The Breakers resort is a 116-year-old Florida landmark, and a dinner highlighted by breathtaking ocean views punctuates a truly luxurious visit.
One South County Road, Palm Beach, 33480, 888-273-2537, www.thebreakers.com
FOOD FOR THE FASHIONABLE
Whether you want to spice it up waterside (literally or figuratively), these hip and happening hot spots provide the right mix of entertainment, ambience and, of course, delightful fare.
East End Brasserie
Kicking it up a notch in comparison to its neighbors on the main strip of Fort Lauderdale beach is the East End Brasserie, located in The Atlantic Resort & Spa. Here you will enjoy a taste of France in a traditional bistro setting. The steak frites is magnifique while the fois gras-stuffed prunes will whisk you to the shores of the Mediterranean. Executive Chef Steve Zobel and his team focus on market-to-table ingredients prepared with classic French techniques. Enjoy the sea breeze from the ocean terrace bar or dine inside.
601 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 33304, 954-567-8070, www.eastendbrasserie.com
I have four words for you: go to Asia Bay. If you like Thai food, run, don’t walk. Sushi? Drop everything and go now. Asia Bay is a spicy slice of curry, cilantro, coconut-y heaven and their signature dishes, like the über satisfying Tuna Rock, are pure comfort. Enjoy your meal as take away/delivery or at a quiet waterside table overlooking the Tarpon River off Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. Oh yes, the icing on the cake? Try the Thai donuts for dessert. You’ll thank me later.
1111 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 33301, 954-848-9900, www.asiabayrestaurants.com
If you are looking for “chic” and “waterfront” – look no further than AiZiA, located across from the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa on the Intracoastal Waterway in Hollywood. Asian fusion dishes are served in style (as in, on fire, on ice or à la “smoke”) but taste just as good, if not better, than their presentation. From traditional ceviche to the impressive Wuxi Style Sous Vide Short Ribs, everything about AiZiA is chic and sophisticated; it’s a cool place for a hot night out.
3555 S. Ocean Drive, Hollywood, 954-602-8347, www.aiziahollywood.com
Da Campo Osteria
Celebrating regional Italian cuisine in a hip setting is Da Campo Osteria, in the Il Lugano hotel on Fort Lauderdale’s Intracoastal Waterway. The Osso Bucco receives raves reviews, as does the veal chop served over risotto, but don’t go without ordering the fresh mozzarella – prepared tableside and served with your choice of accompaniments. Enjoy the chef’s table or any of the waterfront tables in this intimate setting for an evening to remember.
3333 NE 32nd Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 33308, 954-226-5002, www.dacamporestaurant.com
GREAT FOR TAKING OUT-OF-TOWN VISITORS
If Fort Lauderdale is the Yachting Capital of the World, Boatyard should be its flagship. That’s the general idea behind the recently unveiled restaurant, which opened Oct. 17 – just in time for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show – in the location formerly known as the Bimini Boatyard.
The interior of the 285-restaurant received a facelift courtesy of Miami’s Big Time Design and now sports a “yachting chic” décor, featuring a mixture of maritime antiques and mid-century modern furnishings. The outdoor dining area has been revamped to incorporate a fire pit and an 80-seat patio. A 35-foot gumbo tree, trucked in from Cape Coral, adds to the waterfront dining ambience. The dockage was also renovated to accommodate yachts up to 75 feet in length.
Boatyard is now under the joint ownership of former owners Hudson Capital Group and The Restaurant People, whose portfolio includes YOLO, S3 and Fork & Balls. The Restaurant People co-founder and Executive Chef Peter Boulukos and Boatyard Executive Chef Doug Reiss collaborated to create the new menu, which, most notably, features fresh – never frozen – seafood that is 80 percent locally sourced.
The “Hook to Table” menu emphasizes simply grilled seafood, which diners can customize with a selection of sauces, from lemon herb vinaigrette to caper basil tomato brown butter. Boatyard offers a daily “seacuterie” plate with smoked and house-cured seafood, while a roving shellfish cart brings the raw bar to each table. The 25-year tradition of warm honey-sweetened bimini bread continues, served from a 12-foot long bread table.
The Restaurant People president and co-founder Tim Petrillo says that Boatyard will carry on a legacy for the next generation of this thriving yachting community. “The concept is about recognizing that the sea is a part of our soul; it defines who we are in Fort Lauderdale. Boatyard is a nod to the culture and allure that the yachting community is built upon.”
Boatyard serves dinner nightly; lunch six days a week and brunch on Sunday. 1555 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale, 954-525-7400, boatyard.restaurant.
You might mistake Coconuts for another of those watering holes that offer a great view but not much in the way of good food. But with an emphasis on authentic Bahamian cuisine, Coconuts delivers a step above the rest. Grab a waterfront table, an order of conch fritters and the fresh catch of the day and enjoy the sunset over a beer or a mandarin orange soda as the yachts come in.
429 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 33316, 954-525-2421, www.coconutsbahamagrill.com
15th Street Fisheries & Dockside Cafe
You can have your fish delicately sautéed or deep fried here, depending on your mood. 15th Street Fisheries offers two dining options – one casual and one formal. Want to nibble on a fish sandwich and some fries at a rustic outdoor table while listening to some great tropical beats? Try the deck seating at the Dockside Cafe. Heck, they even serve fried gator! But if you’re looking for something a bit more family style, make dinner reservations at the upstairs dining room – both offer great views and nice signature dishes. We recommend that you go around 5-6 p.m., when you can catch the giant tarpon feeding extravaganza. If you want to give your guests the complete experience, take the water taxi to get there.
1900 SE 15th St., Fort Lauderdale, 33316, 954-763-2777, www.15streetfisheries.com