A slice of Mediterranean life has wedged itself into a corner on Las Olas.
Taking over a dark and dank biker bar, Ya Mas! has converted it into a celebration of all things Greek, and some neighboring countries as well. The minute you walk you feel as if you are in the middle of a party scene from “Mamma Mia!” I half expected a helicopter to land on Las Olas and drop off Cher.
From the large communal table running down the center of the colorful dining room, to the sidewalk café this place feels like a movie set, and I mean that as a compliment. The décor is beautiful, but the staff is even better looking; they all look like they just stepped out of central casting. The best part is not only are they all gorgeous, but they are also friendly, efficient, knowledgeable, and hospitable. I felt as if I were a guest at a party. Even more remarkable because I visited Ya Mas! in the middle of high season and during spring break.
When Greeks are overjoyed, they yell “Opa!” and break plates and throw napkins in the air. And while I don’t recommend you do that; you’ll certainly have the urge to do so. “Ya Mas!” means “Cheers” in Greek, and this latest taverna from Garrett Hospitality Group (they also own No Man’s Land), is a vibrant new concept, transporting diners to the Mediterranean through fresh, chef-driven dishes and a curated beverage program. The only negative I have is that the thumping house music played doesn’t fit the mood of the restaurant. It is also overly loud and too bass-driven.
The house cocktails are inventive. We started with a signature cocktail, the Sevilla Sunset, a spritz with a refreshing blend of Tanqueray Seville Orange, Ramazzotti Amaro, Pellegrino Blood Orange, and sparkling wine, before moving on to a glass of the Selby, sauvignon blanc, with dinner. Some of the other cocktails include a Greek Salad Martini and the Santorini Sour. There are also sangrias available. Both the sangrias and spritzes are also available in large pitchers, perfect for sharing.
And you will want to sit, socialize, share the wide variety of dips, and enjoy small and medium plates. The small plates include artichokes with vegan tzatziki, mussels with sundried tomato, harissa Buffalo wings, and ceviche. Medium dishes showcase such delicacies as saganaki (flaming Greek cheese) and an outstanding Greek salad with tomatoes that actually tasted like tomatoes. Whatever your dining choices, be certain to include a flight of hummus and tzatziki — and you must try the muhammara, an earthy dip made with walnuts, pomegranate molasses, and red bell peppers. It’s got a subtle spiciness that is addictive.
For our large dish, we went with the whole branzino and it arrived boned and perfectly prepared with nice, charred skin and moist flesh. I want to go back and order the short rib moussaka, the cross between eggplant parmesan and lasagna sounds exquisite. We ordered a side of Greek potatoes, and they were crispy and lemony, just as they should be, but we were so full we could barely put a dent in the order. However, we still shared an order of baklava for dessert. After all, how could you take a trip to Greece and not have baklava? Oh, right. We didn’t go to Greece, it just felt as if we had. Ya Mas! is the perfect place to spend an evening sharing food and visiting with friends, creating new memories. Even without a visit from Cher.
1103 East Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale
What’s Up Doc’s?
Doc’s, the landmark burger and ice cream shop, looks like a set for “Happy Days.” The former Dairy Queen, once owned by a local dentist (irony), operated on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Swinton from 1951 until last year. It served generations of Delray Beach residents. After being shuttered for more than a year, it looked as if the place was going to be torn down to make room for an office building and retail space by MDG Banyan Partners. After an uproar from the community about the proposed demolition of the structure, the company is now in negotiations with the City of Delray to save the landmark building. MDG spent the past six months on a plan to renovate and reopen Doc’s, in which it would retain its vintage charm while getting upgrades to its air conditioning, kitchen, and outdoor area. The company presented a proposal, including a rendering to the City of Delray, and is awaiting approval before moving ahead.