Perhaps they took a wrong turn on Ocean Drive, but Fort Lauderdale’s ritzy Las Olas Boulevard is about to gain a wave of hip Miami restaurants.
South Beach hotspot and celebrity magnet Planta, the buzzy all-vegan hub for plant-based truffle burgers and “meat” lover’s pizza, is getting ready to bloom on the boulevard. Planta, along with a new location of clubby Wynwood taqueria Coyo Taco and fast-rising Miami chain Sushi Maki, are three of five new restaurants destined for the Fort Lauderdale drag this fall and winter.
“We come to Las Olas with a lot of humility,” says Abe Ng, president and CEO of Miami-born chain Sushi Maki, opening this October at 200 E. Las Olas. “There are a lot of great sushi players up here. All you see around you [on Las Olas] are people walking with strollers and dogs. The younger residential millennial market is really jumping here.”
“Las Olas has always been the natural progression for Coyo Taco,” says Sven Vogtland, co-founder of Coyo Taco, opening later this fall. “If we can make it in Wynwood, why not here?”
Miami restaurateurs aren’t the only ones feeling bullish about Fort Lauderdale. After uncommonly strong sales in the pandemic, Curtis Peery, owner of Southern-Cajun restaurant Voodoo Bayou, is eager to join the Las Olas boom with a dish Las Olas regulars don’t often see: alligator tail.
“We tell customers it’s not gamey at all. In fact, it’s the old adage: ‘It tastes like chicken,’ ” Peery says with a laugh. “Except we’re covering it in lemon Cajun aioli.”
Here are Las Olas Boulevard’s newest class of restaurants.
Open: 11 a.m.-10 a.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday
Carolina Trundle has been slammed with customers all summer at La Costa Olas, her pan-Latin restaurant on the beachy eastern edge of Las Olas. Part of this she attributes to the open-mindedness of Las Olas regulars eager to “try Honduran dishes they never had before.” The bigger reason her dining room has buzzed with customers, however, started when the manager of the Venetian – the Intracoastal condo high-rise across the street – decided he liked La Costa so much he put menus in all 237 rooms.
“They don’t stop. We’ve got a group of 10 coming from the Venetian tonight,” Trundle says. “They say our place has a clean beach vibe and they don’t have to order salsa on the side because my food is already too spicy.”
Trundle, who lived 15 years in Honduras and another 10 in Mexico, decided to fuse those cuisines with traditional Cuban dishes when she opened La Costa Olas, her 1,700-square-foot dining room adorned in mirrors, red brick and bamboo poles. This is her second location; last year she sold her first restaurant, La Costa Latin Cuisine on State Road 7 in Fort Lauderdale, to help finance the Las Olas move.
“I wanted to open further west on Las Olas but the prices were double this beach space,” says Trundle, who opened the restaurant in July. “We get people coming in their flip-flops and they come in their Maseratis, and they like that we’re different.”
Half of La Costa’s menu leans traditional Mexican, although there are unmistakable Honduran flourishes. Burritos are stuffed with refried beans, sour cream and Honduran queso duro (a hard white cheese). Enchiladas are served not only with a customary blanket of cheese and sauce but also with sweet plantains, carrots, peas, cabbage salad and a boiled egg.
Honduran specialties include sopa de caracol, a Caribbean conch coconut soup, and baleadas, fluffy flour tortillas filled with refried red beans, sour cream and queso duro. Trundle, who learned these recipes from her grandmother, says Mexican-Honduran-Cuban fusion is just what Las Olas needed.
“Customers on 441 are totally different than customers here,” she says. “They try new things. They appreciate our style of preparation.”
200 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 786-507-3333, SushiMaki.com
For entrepreneur Abe Ng, what began as his father’s Chinese takeout empire is now a thriving South Florida dynasty of sushi houses, the latest of which will debut inside the former Beehive Kitchen.
Ng, bringing a 2,500-square-foot Sushi Maki to the ground floor of the 200 E. Las Olas office tower, says Fort Lauderdale is his biggest investment yet. Though he operates two Sushi Makis in Coral Gables and Coconut Grove, he has only grab-and-go locations inside Whole Foods Markets across Broward.
So why a storefront on Las Olas? “It’s a great place to plant our flag in Broward County,” says Ng, who also runs his 80-year-old father’s two Canton Chinese restaurants in Miami-Dade County. “As great as Whole Foods is, nothing replaces what our restaurant can do. We control the atmosphere, the music, and it’s a fuller, bolder expression of us. We love the area because we’ve got office workers all around us.”
His fast-casual neighborhood bar will feature poke bowls, sushi boats, nigiri and sashimi platters, pad Thai and wok-fried rice. There are also kenko rolls, Sushi Maki’s rainbow-hued, fishless vegan rolls filled with purple rice, mango, avocado, cucumber and sweet potato purée.
The dining room, built with sustainability in mind, will feature bamboo tables and chairs made from recycled two-liter Coca-Cola bottles.
Can’t wait until October? Sushi Maki’s grab-and-go sushi entrees are already available near Las Olas, at two Fort Lauderdale Whole Foods on Southeast 17th Street and on North Federal Highway.
After capturing Wynwood’s heart with tacos, expansion is now the name of the game at Coyo Taco, set to rise on the ground floor of Las Olas’ Bank of America building.
“Coyo was never just meant for Wynwood, and Las Olas has always been the natural progression for us,” says Sven Vogtland, who with co-owner Alan Drummond and chef-partner Scott Linquist run 11 other Coyo locations under their 305 Concepts hospitality group.
Unlike its Wynwood flagship, Coyo Las Olas will be strictly a taco spot, ditching its usual speakeasy-style lounge because their 2,905-square-foot Las Olas storefront is too small. It was a concession Vogtland and partners made to get an inexpensive kitchen that didn’t need major upgrades, he says.
Coyo’s corn tortillas, hand-pressed in-house, come piled with cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork shoulder), alambre (seared Angus steak) and pollo al carbon. Guacamole is smashed to order, and other menu items – burritos, salad bowls and burrito bowls – add uncommon fillings like crispy duck and serrano salsa, queso falafel, cucumber pico de gallo and pumpkin seeds.
Customers seeking immediate taco relief don’t need to wait for the new storefront to open. For now, Coyo Taco exists as a ghost kitchen in downtown Fort Lauderdale, with an abbreviated version of its menu available on food-delivery apps.
Opening: December 2021/January 2022
Hamburgers, tater tots, tacos and sushi – all crafted without a trace of meat or dairy – are on the menu at restaurateur Steven Salm’s new Planta Las Olas.
A big adopter of trendy vegan comfort-food, Planta’s South Beach flagship became a celebrity magnet from the moment it opened in 2018, courting famous faces from rapper Pharell to supermodel Bella Hadid.
“It’s just a good restaurant that’s better for the planet and better for your health,” says Salm, who grew another Planta in West Palm Beach this spring with chef-partner David Lee. He says construction crews are still busy transforming the dining room with “brighter and more tropical décor” that resembles Planta Queen, his all-vegan Asian offshoot in Coconut Grove.
In Fort Lauderdale, Salm says, plant-based dishes will draw all the attention, such as truffle burgers, coconut ceviche, meat lover’s pizza and creamy bucatini pasta with mushroom Bolognese.
The menu, created by Lee, also features a sushi bar stocked with faux fish.
Dehydrated watermelon, for example, mimics the texture of fatty tuna. Coconut ceviche is crafted with raw coconut meat scooped from the shell to re-create the texture of fish, with corn nuts, date guajillo and pickled cucumber sprinkled on top. The rest of Planta’s menu uses vegetables, fruits and whole grains to imitate dairy and meat ingredients. Eggplant lasagna, for example, is topped with a blanket of cashew-based mozzarella.
Opening: January/February 2022
Radiating French Quarter cool with a wrought-iron balcony to match, Voodoo Bayou is owner Curtis Peery’s vision of New Orleans cuisine on the upscale drag.
His Southern-Cajun restaurant will debut inside the former Café de Paris in early 2022. The storefront, he says, will be completley gutted, transformed with an open kitchen, checkboard floors, two cocktail bars, a new second story and a wrought-iron balcony overlooking Las Olas.
The COVID-19 pandemic nearly killed Peery’s vision before it began. The fifth-generation Floridian, who grew up catching alligator near Bradenton and cooking Southern food with his grandmother, fell in love with cuisine from the Crescent City as vice president of operations for BB King’s Blues Club. In March 2020, the same week he debuted his first Voodoo Bayou in Palm Beach Gardens, pandemic shutdowns closed him right back down.
Then something weird – well, weirder – happened. Lines 200 customers deep started forming around the block, hankering for Voodoo’s Louisiana-style fried chicken and scratch buttermilk biscuits topped with honey butter and jalapeno jam. That lasted for months – and their appetites convinced Peery to set his sights on Las Olas.
“They started calling me the quarantine king,” says Peery, who also owns Calaveras Cantina in West Palm Beach and Boca Raton. “The comfort-food crowds really kept us going.”
On Las Olas, Voodoo Bayou’s menu will be identical, with New Orleans-inspired dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp and crawfish étouffée and po boy sandwiches. Many entrees will be fired at 700 degrees in Voodoo’s wood-fired dome oven, such as its 18-ounce bone-in Cajun ribeye with bourbon jus, crispy-skinned redfish and – yes – gator tail.
“I know some customers are skeptical about it, so we’ll give anyone a piece of gator to try,” Peery says. “I like people to be adventurous, to live a little.”