To paraphrase that great philosopher, Dorothy Gale, “Things come and go so quickly here.” In the six years that I’ve been covering dining in South Florida for SFGN, I have reviewed numerous restaurants in the same location.
The global pandemic has only added to the attrition rate. A National Restaurant Association survey released last month offered a grim dose of reality: almost 17% of all the nation’s restaurants, or 1,110,000, have closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are 2.1 million fewer restaurant jobs now than there were a year ago. While those are sobering statistics, some are willing to take a gamble and open or expand during these difficult times.
Even Keel Fish & Oyster (not to be confused with Even Keel Fish Shack) on Federal and 41st St., went out of business, but it didn’t take long for a sign to go up indicating that it will be replaced by Phat Boy Sushi, which is moving from a smaller location a few doors north on Federal. Mason Jar Café has opened a Mason Jar Pub at 1388 E Oakland Park Blvd., in the space just east of Peter Pan that has been home to several other restaurants, most recently Gordo’s Grill, in the past few years. Duke’s Deli is going into space at 1952 N. Wilton Dr., which formerly housed Yellow Brick Road antiques, between Tropics and the Dairy Queen. Across the street, Palmyra Hookah Lounge is opening in the old Sidelines space, while work is still progressing on Violet Hour, which is renovating the old Siam Cuisine building. This in addition to the recently opened Chef Nate’s and Tulio’s Tacos and Tequila, also on Wilton Drive.
Although the construction and opening were delayed by the pandemic, Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar, at 800 E. Las Olas, should be open by the time you read this. It brings a modern twist on traditional Cuban fare and is the fifth location for this mini-chain. Sweet Alchemy Confectionery, 4101 W, Davie Rd., has opened on the Bergeron Rodeo Grounds in Davie. Toula Amanna and George Thiakos, the husband-and-wife owners of Flashback Diner, partnered with the city to convert the parking lots around the buildings into public garden pavilions. Plans involve opening a barbecue restaurant next to Sweet Alchemy. In Miami’s trendy Wynwood area, “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto’s has opened a new ramen shop. Momosan, 415 NW 26th St. in Miami, features ramen as well as other upscale takes on comfort food staples; Peking duck tacos, spicy wontons, tonkatsu, and soft-shell crab bao. Wilton Manors’ Bravo Peruvian will open a second location, Bravo Peruvian Kitchen, at 9711 W. Sample Rd., in Coral Springs. Big Time Restaurant Group opened its second Elisabetta’s location on the West Palm Beach waterfront at 185 Banyan Blvd. The restaurant includes a multi-tiered patio overlooking the Intracoastal waterway.
And, just like those award show montages, we must mourn those restaurants that closed this year, many because they were not able to survive the COVID restrictions: Chuck’s Steak House, Brown Dog Eatery, Valentino Cucina Italiana, ETARU Fort Lauderdale, Sage, Jackson’s Prime, the Frog Lounge, One Door East, Siam Cuisine, and Skyline Chili.
Finally, in a dubious distinction, Friendly’s Lounge, 2513 N. Andrews, in Wilton Manors was the last place in 2020 to be ordered shut by health inspectors in South Florida. According to the report, Friendly’s had eight violations including a “stop sale” for cabbage because live roaches were found on them. Friendly’s was also operating with an expired license at the time of the inspection.