You probably won’t hear this too often within the current news cycle, but now is the time to dine out.
Dine Out Lauderdale, an initiative designed by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau to boost restaurants’ summer business, is underway.
The proceedings kicked off nearly a month earlier than usual — at the beginning of July, in large part to help restaurants that much more amid the pandemic — and will run through the end of September.
More than 50 restaurants are offering the prix-fixe dinner options at $35 and $45 per person, including B Square Burgers + Booze, Casablanca Café, Dune Fort Lauderdale, and Wild Thyme Oceanside Eatery. The full list is available at sunny.org.
How are things going so far in this pandemically influenced summer?
“We’re seeing interest in our Dine Out Lauderdale menu tick up a bit in the last few days,” reports Victor Diaz, co-owner of Asian-Latin fusion restaurant Casa Sensei (1200 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale). “The first week was slow in terms of interest, but more and more people seem to know it’s happening and are coming for just that.”
Dine Out Lauderdale has been just one piece of the pandemic puzzle in Casa Sensei's efforts to keep customers engaged and coming back for more. The restaurant has remained open by offering takeout and delivery and is now operating at 50 percent dine-in capacity. The eatery is taking advantage of its picturesque canal-side patio with live music, a bottomless weekend brunch, and other inducements.
Just down the street at Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila Bar (1313 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale), owner Rocco Mangel says business has been running “at a steady pace.” A big part of Rocco's pandemic-era success has come from an evolving menu of stalwarts and specials, including to-go margaritas by the liter and taco boxes.
“Our guests always love the new specials and offerings we bring to the table,” Mangel says. “The Dine Out dinner menu is definitely gaining popularity since it is a great price with an array of our favorite dishes.”
And what might Mangel order off Rocco's Dine Out Lauderdale menu for himself?
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“To start, you can’t go wrong with our housemade guacamole — it's a staple of ours,” he says. “For the second course, depending on what I’m in the mood for, I would pick either our chicken al carbón or our tacos de casa platter, which comes with two tacos, yellow rice, and ensalada mixta. You can’t forget dessert, and I’m always a fan of churros, which are Mexican-style doughnuts with cinnamon-caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, and vanilla ice cream.”
Though Lauderdale is in its name, Dine Out Lauderdale expands well beyond the Fort Lauderdale city limits. Up in Pompano Beach, business has been solid for Beach House (270 N. Pompano Beach Blvd., Pompano Beach), which is situated on the sand at Atlantic Boulevard and features a panoramic, open-air rooftop.
“We’ve been very optimistic about what’s happening,” senior general manager Thad Kaworski says. “From our position here in Pompano, we’re definitely seeing some tourism here on the beach and, at many times throughout the week, we’ve had a wait.”
Beach House Pompano’s Dine Out Lauderdale offerings include grilled artichokes, a classic Caesar salad, cedar-plank salmon, white chocolate bread pudding, and more. “When people know we are offering it, they’re willing to dive in,” Kaworski says. “For the price point and volume of food, it’s really tough to beat.”