But things have changed. Over the past several years, the city's dining scene has evolved — namely along the Las Olas Boulevard strip, where several up-and-coming establishments have planted roots.
If you're thinking of getting out of the Magic City to try something new, Fort Lauderdale is chock-full of options that make it worth the trek north. And for those looking to snag a deal, the trip becomes even more enticing with the arrival of the city's annual Dine Out Lauderdale promotion.
From August 1 through September 30, Dine Out Lauderdale offers adventurous diners a chance to explore more than 40 of the city's best restaurants with affordable, prix-fixe packages. Priced between $35 to $45, these menus include three and four-course lunch or dinner tasting menus that present the establishment's signature items.
Whether they're beloved establishments that have stood the test of time or newly opened concepts from some of the area's top restaurateurs, here are the six best restaurants to try during Dine Out Lauderdale.
Casa Sensei1200 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
casasensei.comThis waterfront restaurant is celebrating Dine Out Lauderdale with a three-course lunch and dinner option that includes an appetizer, entree, and a dessert of choice. That means you can pair decadent sushi rolls with a bevy of Pan-Asian and Latin-inspired dishes like the Salt and Pepper Prawns (wok-tossed prawns, seasoned with salt and cayenne pepper) or classic pad thai served with a choice of chicken, beef, shrimp or crispy tofu to their famous Truffle Butter Crunch Roll (yellowtail, soy paper, shredded kana, lemon pepper topped with veggie tempura flakes and drizzled with truffle clarified butter) and Mongolian duck (tender roast duck in a sweet soy glaze and served with vegetable fried rice). Top it off with one of Casa Sensei’s house-made desserts like the coconut cream cake, cheesecake dulce de leche, or the chocolate lover's cake.
Dune by Laurent Tourondel2200 N. Ocean Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
dunefl.comThis year's choice for New Times' "Best Restaurant Fort Lauderdale," Dune by Laurent Tourondel is a picturesque eatery that deserves mention here. Tourondel — best known for BLT Steak and BLT Fish in NYC — serves his signature international influences with Asian, Italian, and Mediterranean-inspired seafood dishes. Try them during Dine Out Lauderdale with a lunch and dinner menu valid Sunday through Thursday. The $45 meal includes a choice of appetizer like the crispy parmesan soufflé with prosciutto, mustard greens, and truffle vinaigrette; entrees like orecchiette topped with sausage, broccoli rabe, and black pepper lemon bread crumbs; and desserts including a house-made key lime meringue cheesecake served with key lime gelato.
The Katherine723 E. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
thekatherinerestaurant.com Dubbed New Times' "Best New Restaurant Fort Lauderdale," the Katherine is everything we love about chef/owner Timon Balloo, who taps into his Chinese-Indian-Trinidadian heritage to indulge fans with his personal favorites. Eating off mismatched china in a bistro-like ambiance, guests enjoy a variety of seafood, vegetables, and comfort foods flavored with Balloo's signature touch. Available on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday during Dine Out Lauderdale, the $45 meal includes a choice of three dishes that feature the restaurant's clam chowder fries (steamed clams and salsa verde over fries); a main plate of Thai red curry braised fish over coconut rice; and vanilla-bean-soaked torrejas, a Latin-style take on French toast, for dessert.
Planta Queen1201 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
plantarestaurants.comVegan and plant-based restaurant Planta Queen recently expanded from its sister location in Coconut Grove. Part of the family of restaurants that includes Planta, Planta Cocina, and Planta Burger, the concept presents diners with chef David Lee's vegan dishes and his dedication to bold Asian flavors. To that end, Planta Queen’s lunch and dinner menus offer an exciting list of plant-based bites and desserts. For $35-$45 per person for lunch and dinner, guests can sample everything from the truffle miso-infused unagi eggplant appetizer and curry kale Singapore noodles flavored with Thai basil and lime juice to their "Chick'n Fried" mushrooms bao buns and a Vietnamese coffee sundae that marries vanilla ice cream and chia pudding with mochi and a drizzling of coffee syrup.
Sushi Garage Las Olas500 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
sushigarage.comRestaurateurs Jonás and Alexandra Millán of Juvia, along with partner and chef Sunny Oh, recently opened their second location of Sushi Garage in Fort Lauderdale. The popular Miami Beach Japanese and sushi restaurant best known for its happy hour spread is now offering an even better deal during Dine Out Lauderdale. For $45 per person, a four-course menu offers appetizers like avocado crispy rice, seared tuna salad, and moves on to vegetable fried rice before a choice of entrée like beef yakisoba or chicken teriyaki. The final dish: a choice of mango, vanilla, green tea, or strawberry mochi.
Steak 954401 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
steak954.comLongtime Fort Lauderdale steakhouse Steak 954 is destination-worthy dining any day of the year, but even more so during Dine Out Lauderdale. Their deal, available Monday through Friday (lunch only), includes the option of a $45 per person tasting menu that gets you a taste of their signature dishes for a fraction of the price. Choose from classic offerings like the caesar salad, snapper crudo, or melon and prosciutto before moving on to a six-ounce prime skirt steak with the steak frites or jumbo shrimp served with a poached egg and grits smothered in a lobster cream sauce. End it all on a sweet note with the homemade rum cake topped with fresh pineapple compote.