Like most businesses, the hospitality industry has been hit hard by the pandemic.
Standard restaurants have been able to adapt with reduced capacity dining and increasing delivery and take-out service.
However, buffet service restaurants have been especially hard hit. Some, such as the popular Nabu has closed permanently, a casualty of the pandemic. You’d think the corporate chains would have some immunity, many have converted to take-out or cafeteria service.
Garden Fresh Restaurants, the parent company of the salad bar concepts Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes, opted not to reopen at all and filed for bankruptcy.
One local spot, Luxe buffet in the Casino at Dania Beach has taken a more creative approach; it has been re-imagining as a prix fixe dining room, offering a limited menu for a bargain price.
Luxe now offers a pre-set three-course meal for $19.95 served only on weekends. Holiday offerings are also available at a slightly higher price. The weekly menu offers a choice of appetizer, entrée, and dessert.
On the night of our visit, my husband and I sampled the menu in its entirety, as we split the two options for each course. I began with a wedge salad with creamy bleu cheese dressing and chopped bacon. It was quite a healthy portion, easily enough for two to share. My hubby thoroughly enjoyed his trio of miniature crab cakes.
After a bit of a pause between courses, I thought our server forgot about us. Then she appeared with what I thought was dessert. I informed her that we hadn’t had our entrées yet and she surprised me by announcing that this course was a palate cleanser. I’ve had palate cleansers served between courses before, but this was a nice surprise, as it wasn’t listed on the menu, and the portion of sorbet served was large enough to sub for a dessert.
The entrées rely heavily on starches, with the protein acting more as an accompaniment, not a surprise given the lower price-point of the meal. My beef stroganoff over linguini was rich and flavorful with tender slices of beef and mushrooms coating the perfectly al dente pasta.
My husband’s shrimp and grits provided plenty of tiny shrimp in a flavorful sauce over perfectly prepared, creamy, grits. We would have preferred larger shrimp (the ones we were served are what I like to call bait-sized), even if it meant a lesser quantity. However, the kitchen managed to cook the tiny crustaceans perfectly, not an easy feat. Although not included in the prix fixe, a variety of wines are available. The sauvignon blanc I enjoyed with my appetizer was excellent.
Desserts offered just enough to satisfy without overwhelming. The menu listed a passionfruit cheesecake, which our waiter informed us was not available. A strawberry cheesecake square was a fine substitute. The chocolate layer cake was a bit dry, but the dark chocolate curls and creamy ganache more than made up for that slight drawback.
Service is masked and the staff wears gloves. Tables are spaced a healthy distance apart, but not so much that you feel as if you are dining in the middle of an ocean.
If I had one complaint, it would be a lack of vegetarian entrées. However, when looking at the weekly menu online I noticed that a third, vegetarian entrée option has been added.
On the night of our visit there were about a dozen or so tables occupied. I hope that as word of the bargain meal spreads, that bookings increase. This kind of innovative reinvention of a dining experience should be encouraged.
Casino at Dania Beach
301 E. Dania Beach Blvd., Dania Beach