Pandemic or no pandemic, when snowbirds take flight, South Florida restaurants always brave a summertime slump in customers.
Enter Dine Out Lauderdale, a moveable feast that will roll through Broward County Aug. 1-Sept. 30 and give diners access to scores of deeply discounted multi-course dinners at top eateries. Broward County’s annual two-month restaurant promotion is organized by Visit Lauderdale, the tax-funded tourism arm of the county, with the goal of propping up sluggish summer sales.
Dine Out Lauderdale will feature prix-fixe three-course meals at $35 for lunch and $45 for dinner (minus tax and tip, of course), dished by local favorites (3030 Ocean, Aruba Beach Café, Le Bistro) and newcomers (Cuba Libre, Even Keel Fish Shack, Toro Latin Kitchen & Tequila Library). Make sure to call ahead, as reservations are suggested, and some restaurants don’t offer the deal on Fridays or Saturdays.
More important, the Dine Out menus reveal a portrait of the pandemic’s lingering toll on local restaurants. Only 43 restaurants – as of this writing – have agreed to partake in the summer deal (down from 51 in 2020 and 70 in 2019). Dockside eatery Boatyard has added a $7 upcharge for petite filets on its $45 prix-fixe menu, while beachfront Casablanca Café added a $10 upcharge to its 8-ounce center-cut filet, another sign of the ongoing instability of meat and ingredient costs. Meanwhile, take-out and curbside pickups, a trend created amid last year’s shutdowns, will continue at Dine Out restaurants such as Café Maxx in Pompano Beach.
“With the pandemic, small restaurants on the beach and off-the-beaten-path places west of I-95 were hit particularly hard, and this helps them,” says Visit Lauderdale spokesperson Ivonne MacMillan, adding that local hotel occupancy rates this summer are “much stronger than last year.” “You see the labor shortages are still a problem.”
Shady, helmed by new master distiller Devin Walden, sells small-batch rums, whiskeys and gins by the bottle in a 20,000-square-foot warehouse space attached to the food hall. Its $45 Dine Out deal features a four-course meal with cocktail pairings for each dish, Dapuzzo says.
“I’m not convinced we’ll do a pre-pandemic amount of [orders], but we have to get back to some kind of new normal,” he says. “There are rays of sunshine between the clouds, and maybe this will inspire people to get out there and try new things.”
The only location dishing a four-course meal with cocktail pairings, Sistrunk Marketplace’s in-house distillery touts, arguably, Dine Out Lauderdale’s best deal. Jarrid Duvall, owner of Sistrunk butcher shop Chop Shoppe, is in charge of this $45 Wednesday-Sunday menu, which starts with summer salad, candied almonds and a champagne mint vinaigrette. Next comes truffle ravioli dressed with light truffle cream sauce, pancetta and mushrooms, followed by an impressive coffee-rubbed NY strip drizzled in rum peppercorn sauce. Chocolate Nutella bread pudding with a walnut bourbon glaze finishes the meal. Devin Walden, Shady’s newest master distiller (and, so far, South Florida’s only female one) is in charge of cocktails, which include Shady Vodka Spiked Minted Lemonade, 12 Mile Perfect Storm, 12 Mile Coffee Rum and Shady Rosemary Fresca. Reservation only, and each intimate dinner seats 12.
2601 E. Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach; 954-782-0606, CafeMaxx.com
Darrel Broek and chef Oliver Saucy (is there a more perfect chef’s name?) are still at the helm of this stalwart of modern-American fine dining after 35 years, and offer a wide selection of Dine Out dishes for $45: a choice of eight appetizers, seven entrees and four desserts. Start with banana-lime grilled shrimp with sweet mashed potatoes and fried plantains. Make room for entrees that include peppercorn-dusted and butterflied pork tenderloin, pasta shell-stuffed chicken or a mixed berry-glazed duck breast with Israeli couscous. Finish with tropical carrot cake topped with macadamia, mango and pineapple cream cheese. The deal (Sunday-Friday only) is also available for takeout, delivery and curbside pickup, and customers can add a second appetizer for $10 more. (Café Maxx’s Sunday Brunch menu is $29.)
C.L.A.S.S. Soiree Steakhouse
A promising upscale newcomer in downtown Hollywood from chef Ali Mourad (ex-Shula’s Steak House, Fontainebleau Miami Beach), C.L.A.S.S. is as luxe as it sounds. Its $45 dine-in menu (Thursday and Sunday only) begins with choice of five-cheese bruschetta, short-rib empanadas and Thai-fried shrimp. For mains, choose filet mignon medallions (normally $37 for eight ounces on its menu) with mushrooms and onions or roasted salmon filet with green beans (normally $26 for six ounces), and wrap it up with doughnut beignets or blueberry bread pudding. Reservations required.
Once a fussy special-occasion Neapolitan restaurant for the white-tablecloth set, longtime restaurateur Bob Woltin (ex-Johnny V’s) decided to lower prices and lighten up the 25-year-old place a few years back. Luigi’s $35 Dine Out deal (valid Sunday-Thursday only) is similarly unfussy: Begin with choice of house salad, fried calamari, grilled octopus or a homemade meatball. Next, choose between bucatini all’amatriciana and pear ravioli for pasta, and between chicken Sorrentino and sea bass with lemon sauce for protein. Polish it off with tiramisu for dessert. Reservations required.
Toro Latin Kitchen & Tequila Library
Chef Richard Sandoval’s (Miami’s Toro Toro) pan-Latin and Asian eatery inside the year-old Le Meridien Dania Beach hotel has a menu that pales compared to the trendy opulence of its bar, La Biblioteca, a dim library den stocked with reading lamps and 400 rare tequilas and mezcals. Still, Toro’s $45 Dine Out menu (available daily) makes a fine pairing. Begin with choice of corn empanadas with avocado crema and cilantro chimichurri or kampachi tiradito with radish, yuzu and rocoto. Next, choose Cusco grilled chicken with creamy Yukon mashed potatoes, broccolini and Peruvian salsa criolla, or grilled salmon in an achiote-dashi broth with bacon jam and cauliflower puree. Dessert features plantains foster with dulce de leche and a mound of fried vanilla bean ice cream.