South Florida and early-bird dinners are the butts of many a joke, however, these specials come in handy when you’re trying to make it to your seat before the curtain rises on a play or concert.

Not only do you have a timely meal (always let your server know that you have theater or concert or movie tickets as soon as you sit down), but you often save money as well. Others prefer to wait until after a show for their repast, as it gives them a chance to chat about the show as well as have a more relaxing meal. Whichever is your preference, check with the restaurants listed to see if the specials mentioned are being offered on the night of your visit and any restrictions that may be in place.


3017 E. Commercial, Fort Lauderdale


At this charming Italian spot reminiscent of every place you went with your parents growing up, you have two early dining options. Sit at the bar and take advantage of the happy hour specials or order a “Sunset Dinner.” The bar options, available until 7 p.m., not only include reduced prices on wine and cocktails, but also such treats as fried calamari, mozzarella, chicken tenders, Caprese salad, eggplant rollatini, or mussels for $6.95. The Sunset Dinners include soup or salad, coffee or tea, and dessert and run the gamut from pasta dishes such as spaghetti Bolognese to chicken dishes, such as Francese or Marsala, for less than $20 a person. Salmon, veal, lamb shank, or crab ravioli are a few dollars more. The special is offered seven days a week from 4 to 6 p.m. (except holidays) and cannot be combined with any other promotions or coupons.

J Marks

1245 N Federal, Fort Lauderdale 


1490 NE 23rd St., Pompano Beach 


While it doesn’t have an early-bird special per se, J. Marks does offer mid-day meal specials from 2 to 5 p.m. that are smaller portions of their dinner entrees. Among the options are five-cheese pasta, orange chicken, a half-rack ribs, crispy walnut shrimp, an 8 oz. aged prime rib, or blackened chicken pasta from $13-$20. There’s even a slice of Key lime pie for $3. For those opting to dine after the theater, J Marks reinstates happy hour from 9 p.m. to closing, every day.


620 S. Federal, Ft. Lauderdale


The upscale Primadonna doesn’t offer an early bird menu, but it does offer an extensive happy hour menu at the bar from 6-7:30 p.m., with 50% off specialty cocktails and wines by the glass. Edibles treats, all priced less than $10, include crispy shrimp with a citrus aioli, grilled ciabatta with prosciutto and Parmesan, Thai chicken skewers, grilled polenta with beef and pork ragout, and chilled sous vide shrimp.

Union Kitchen & Bar

2309 N Dixie, Wilton Manors


Now open in the space formerly occupied by the short-lived XES, Union Kitchen & Bar is being brought to life by an experienced husband and wife team. They have both a pre-theater and post-theater menu. With a location right across the street from Island City Stage and Ronnie Larsen’s studio theater, and a menu that includes lobster rolls and fresh pasta, it’s certain to be a popular place with our community.

Chimney House

701 W. Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Chimney House offers theater or concertgoers at the Broward Center a pre-theater prix fixe menu that provides for a discount on its most popular dishes and a promise of timely arrival at the theater. The three-course menu offers a choice of appetizer, entrée, and dessert for $32 per person. As a bonus, you can park in the restaurant’s lot, right behind the Center, and avoid the parking delays after the show.

Marti’s New River Bistro

Broward Center for the Performing Arts


Of course, the easiest one-stop-shopping option, if attending a show at the Broward Center, is Marti’s New River Bistro, located right within the Center. Marti’s three-course prix fixe dinner menu is perfect for theatergoers who want to savor a relaxed dinner before the curtain rises. There’s an extensive wine list and a selection of contemporary cocktails to complement your meal and brunch is served before weekend matinees. With indoor and outdoor seating, and nearby and valet parking, the setting of this riverfront find couldn’t be more convenient.

Courtyard Café

2211 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors


This Wilton Manors staple is no longer open 24/7, but it is still open 24 hours on weekends, and late-night during the week, making it an excellent choice for pre- or post-theater dining. It also has a large parking lot in the back (one-hour free parking with coupon code from the restaurant beforehand). It offers two-for-one entrées on Wednesdays from 4-10 p.m. (with purchase of a drink) and now offers a full bar. The menu is classic diner fare, although the kitchen does get “fancy” with the daily specials sometimes.  On a recent night, two of the specials were haddock with an Asian ginger sauce and horseradish-peppercorn steak, both priced well under $20. Service is friendly and sassy!

The Floridian

1410 E Las Olas Blvd, Fort Lauderdale


While it doesn’t have a happy hour special, the Floridian is one of the few places in the area open 24 hours. The Floridian has been dishing up classic diner fare since 1937, so whether you want to grab a pre-theater dinner or a late-night breakfast meal after the show, the Floridian’s the place to go.

Rick Karlin is SFGN's food editor. Visit to read his previous reviews. Have a culinary tip to share? Email Rick at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..