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The Eat Beat Dining around South Florida
with Mike Mayo

Wave of new Fort Lauderdale restaurants planned for Las Olas Boulevard

A restaurant renaissance is under way on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. At least six new eateries are planned to fill vacancies on a stretch that has been riddled by closures in recent years.

Red Door Asian Bistro is scheduled to open April 23 in the former site of Johnny V, at 625 E. Las Olas Blvd. The Balcony, a New Orleans-style eatery from former Miami Dolphin turned restaurateur Kim Bokamper, is scheduled to open later this spring at 1309 E. Las Olas Blvd., former site of Whiskey Jack’s.

Four other restaurants have signed leases along the corridor and are expected to open in the next year.

They include: Del Frisco’s Grille, an American chain steakhouse that will occupy a former SunTrust branch; Vapiano’s, a European chain offering modern takes on classic dishes that will open in the former home of Café de Paris (which shuttered after 50 years in 2016); Sushi Shack, a California-style Japanese restaurant at the former site of short-lived Fork & Balls; and Talento, a modern Italian restaurant in a vacant space that once housed the Cathode Ray Club.

The Las Olas restaurant revival has also seen several high-profile openings in recent months, including the relaunch of Mangos in February, the debut of El Camino Mexican restaurant in March and the opening of Boathouse, a restaurant overlooking the New River at the Riverside Hotel.

Competition will be intense, but restaurateurs and landlords are banking on population growth and diversity of cuisine to allow for success. More than 8,000 residential units have opened in downtown Fort Lauderdale in recent years, with another 7,000 residential units and 1,000 hotel rooms planned.

Three new restaurants — Sushi Shack, Talento and the Balcony — will operate side by side on the 1300 block of East Las Olas, next to the Fort Lauderdale location of Rocco’s Tacos and near many established eateries such as Louie Bossi’s Ristorante, Bao Bar + Asian Kitchen, and Caffe Europa. The Balcony held a hiring fair earlier this month, and the two-story restaurant will feature rooftop seating and a French Quarter style balcony.

Shuttered restaurants cited soaring rents and diminishing profits, and Las Olas Company, the corridor’s biggest land owner and dominant landlord, has embraced a strategy of attracting chains and deep-pocketed investors and restaurant groups over independent mom-and-pop operators.

Red Door Asian Bistro is owned by Tony Asta, who runs a chain of Asian-fusion restaurants around the Hamptons and other cities on Long Island, N.Y., with partner Tony Liu. Asta also operated a sushi lounge at the Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach. Red Door Asian Bistro will offer Japanese, Thai and Chinese cuisine and will feature hibachi-grill dining in a separate room. The restaurant passed its initial state inspection and received its operating license last week.

“There’s been a marked shift in the overall feel of the boulevard,” Michael Weymouth, president of Las Olas Company, says in a press release. “Our new international restaurants and modern fashion and lifestyle tenants have been attracting a huge number of new visitors and pushing the entire neighborhood into its next chapter. We’re looking forward to the success of Red Door as well as all of the new businesses coming to the boulevard.”

The release gives these descriptions of the future openings:

Vapiano, 715 E. Las Olas Blvd.: “Foodservice Europe” magazine dubbed this popular European chain the “future of fresh casual.” It features made-to-order, hand-tossed pizzas, housemade pastas, paninis, fresh-tossed gourmet salads and housemade desserts. Opening is expected in 2019.

Del Frisco’s Grille, 501 E. Las Olas Blvd.: Scheduled to open in November, Del Frisco’s will offer an upscale bar-and-grill experience complete with fresh, modern American cuisine and handcrafted cocktails.

Sushi Shack, 1301 E. Las Olas Blvd.: Sushi chef Jimmy Ha will bring his California-style Japanese fare to Las Olas in the fall. The eatery will feature fresh sushi, sashimi, grilled foods including Wagyu beef burgers, signature cocktails and authentic Japanese sake.

Talento, 1307 E. Las Olas Blvd.: The latest concept from southern Italian chef Luigi Criscuolo, Talento will serve authentic pastas, breads and desserts made from scratch and cured meats imported from Italy. It is expected to open late this year.

mmayo@southflorida.com, 954-356-4508. Follow my food adventures on Instagram: @mikemayoeats. Sign up for my weekly dining newsletter at SouthFlorida.com/EatBeatMail.

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