It took 3 1/2 months and twice as much money as budgeted, but the old Bimini Boatyard will open Saturday, Oct. 17, with a new name, new owners and a new menu.
Among the key changes is the removal of the word "Bimini" from the restaurant's name, although the new menu will pay homage to the 25-year tradition of honey-sweetened bimini bread. The bread now has a place of honor on a 12-foot-long bread table just in front the kitchen.
"As soon as we told people we were taking over, they asked about the bimini bread," says Tim Petrillo, co-founder and president of Fort Lauderdale-based the Restaurant People, which operates six other South Florida hotspots, including YOLO, S3 and Tarpon Bend Food and Tackle.
Petrillo also wanted to create a restaurant that lets people know that Fort Lauderdale is the yachting capital of the world.
"The goal at Boatyard from the minute we got involved was to honor the yachting community," Petrillo says of the joint venture with Hudson Capital Group, which has owned the restaurant for seven years. "There's a love for the yachting industry in this town, but there's no showplace for it. That's kind of our goal."
Boatyard sits on a yacht-filled canal just off the Intracoastal Waterway. Inside, Miami's Big Time Design updated the décor with a mixture of antique boathouse and mid-century chic that includes Danish modern-style chairs and nautically themed copper lighting pendants. Cable railings were designed by a local designer. "'We wanted to speak of yachting without being too kitschy," Petrillo says.
Guests entering the 285-seat restaurant will now be greeted by a wall of vintage porthole windows. Inside the bar is an 800-pound, 35-foot chandelier from which hangs 70 wooden oars.
Farther inside, the Copper Bar leads to an 80-seat patio and 120 feet of dockage, with room for boats as big as 75 feet. As with so many of the Restaurant People's properties, there will be an outdoor fire pit. In another outdoor dining area stands a 36-foot gumbo limbo tree that was trucked from Cape Coral to Fort Lauderdale and then loaded onto a barge before being lifted by crane onto the patio.
The kitchen, once closed off to the dining room, is wide open, so diners can be part of the cooking action. Unlike the old Bimini Boatyard, no frozen fish will be served at Boatyard.
Peter Boulukos, executive chef and the Restaurant People co-founder, says at least 80 percent of all the seafood will be locally sourced. The "Hook to Table" menu includes the names of the fishermen who supply seafood along with the names of their boats and the waters where they fish. Simply grilled seafood will be a menu hallmark, which diners can personalize with a choice of at least five sauces, including lemon herb vinaigrette and caper basil tomato brown butter. Entrees will be priced between $20 and $38, while appetizers will fall between $8 and $16.
Dinner will be served seven days a week, lunch six days. Bimini Boatyard's former Sunday brunch buffett will be replaced by an a la carte brunch menu. There will also be two-for-one happy hour food specials.
Boulukos says a custom-made shellfish cart will bring the raw bar to every table. He'll also feature a daily seacuterie plate with house-cured and smoked seafood.
Petrillo, who spent three weeks at Bimini Boatyard before the restaurant closed in July for renovations, says he saw just six familiar faces from his other restaurants during that time. Eighty percent of the restaurant's customers were tourists, many dragging luggage from cruise ships while waiting for 3 o'clock check-in times at local hotels.
"We want to bring back locals along with the tourists," Petrillo says. "Tourists will follow the locals."
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