Don’t utter the word “bored” here. We’ve got some culinary experiences that will shake up your usual dining routine.
You’ve checked out all the hottest restaurants. You’re bored with your regular restaurant rotation. Or, you’re just visiting and looking for an experience that introduces you to the flavors of the area. We see you.
From food tours that involve walking or even pedaling to dining in complete darkness to cherished Polynesian shows, Greater Fort Lauderdale is home to many unique food experiences. Here’s a taste of what you can expect.
Not Your Average Meal
Situated on the ground floor of One West Las Olas in downtown Fort Lauderdale, you’ll find TRP Taste, an intimate, 26-seat venue centered around an open kitchen where culinary theater takes place. The venue, which is the brainchild of The Restaurant People (which operates several of the area’s hottest restaurants like YOLO, S3, and Boatyard), hosts pop-up dinners, many of which are themed, along with chef experiences where guests can chat with the culinary masterminds and watch them work their magic. The space is meant for gathering friends and family together to bond over good food. Check out their website, or the movie-style marquee above the restaurant to see “what’s playing” next.
Another way to punch up your average dinner routine—try cutting the lights with Dining in the Dark at One Door East in Fort Lauderdale. After you’re led to a special room by a host wearing night-vision goggles, you’ll take a seat at a communal table to dine on six courses in complete darkness. All your senses will be in high gear as you try to decipher what you’re eating by tasting, touching, and smelling. If you spill something, no worries—it’s all part of the fun. Every menu is different, so expect an entirely new experience each visit. You can also rent the room for an epic dinner party with a customized menu.
If you haven’t been to the Mai-Kai Restaurant & Polynesian Show, have you even been to Fort Lauderdale? It’s one of those classic experiences that has to be done at least once, whether you live here or are visiting. The Polynesian-themed restaurant and show has captivated crowds since the 1950s, transporting them to the islands of the South Pacific with its authentic decor, talented entertainers, and potent tropical cocktails. Cross the thatched bridge to be greeted by tiki torches, lush gardens, lagoons, and even waterfalls, and there are various dining rooms reflecting a different region of Polynesia. Feast on an exotic menu of specialties like lobster Bora Bora and Peking duck, then catch the energetic show packed with vibrant costumes, music, dancing, and fire-throwing.
In the Know
If you want to hang with all the “cool kids” (young and old), check out The Wharf Fort Lauderdale, a sprawling, open-air event space primely situated on the New River. Open Thursday through Sunday, a row of food vendors (including some of the area’s most popular food chefs/concepts) churn out everything from seafood and sushi to pizza and gourmet donuts. With so many options, it’s best to share plates with friends at one of the many communal tables. There are numerous bars and reservation-only tables with bottle service, and don’t miss Knot Your Average Thursday Happy Hour and Sundays On The River, meant for popping bottles of Champagne. Live music often floats through the space that offers a family-friendly atmosphere during the day but turns into a lively party at night.
True wine connoisseurs should not miss a beautiful evening at the hidden gem Wine Watch, where locals-in-the-know flock for one of the best selections of fine wines in the area and elaborate wine dinners/tastings where you’ll hob-nob with winemakers. At the very least, stop by the wine bar for a glass or two, a charcuterie plate, and their to-die-for truffle and parmesan fries. Or, reserve a spot at NSU Art Museum’s monthly “Art of Wine & Food” series, a themed wine tasting where you’ll sip and chat with wine makers, while enjoying a perfect food pairing. Arrive early to take a tour of the museum, which offers free admission on the first Thursday of every month.
If you love dim sum (and beautiful ocean views) head to DUNE restaurant located at the swanky Auberge Beach Residences & Spa for their weekend Dim Sum Brunch, where you can pluck a range of sweet and savory dishes from a roving cart. Dishes rotate from week to week, but may include lobster-stuffed popovers, kicked-up rock shrimp, and chicken-fried quail waffles.
There’s nothing like having the experts tell you where to eat and what to eat. Every Saturday, Fort Lauderdale Food Tours leads a guided food crawl down Las Olas Boulevard, offering guests the chance to sample dishes from some of the boulevard’s top restaurants—think Latin American, Caribbean, and European dishes—while learning about the area’s fascinating history and architecture. You can also zip down Las Olas with Segway Fort Lauderdale for a two-hour food tour that stops at several restaurants while coasting by some of the top sites.
For a movable feast, book a Cycle Party to pedal your way through Fort Lauderdale with music blasting, hopping on and off at your favorite bars and restaurants. They also offer specialty tours like a Foodie Tour or Progressive Dinner for a fancy-pants night out. Truth is, you might have so much fun on the bike that you won’t want to get off.
Teaching and Tasting
For those who want a hands-on experience, try a cooking class at popular Chef Jean Pierre’s, which is a cooking school and a restaurant. Check their always-packed schedule for classes where Master Chef John Pierre presents easy tips and tricks for creating a delicious three-course meal, or classes where he’ll teach expert cooking techniques. After each dish is made, you’ll sample it; and if you bring the wine, they’ll supply the glasses. You can also host a private celebration or dinner there.
Another celebrated chef, Lenore Nolan-Ryan, offers an array of weekly themed pop-up dinners, Bubbles & Brunch on the weekends, happy hours with tapas and wine tastings, and hands-on cooking classes at Lenore Nolan Ryan Catering & Cooking School on Galt Ocean Mile in Fort Lauderdale. This lady knows how to cook; she is known for her ethereal biscuits or famous Lenore’s salad, and everything is always made with fresh, hand-picked ingredients. Plus, you can also find more of her decadent desserts, quiches, famous salads, and traditional tea service with clotted cream and sugar cubes shaped like roses, at the fancy tea salon located in the lifestyle boutique, La Vie En Blanc. In Pompano, book a cooking class with Chef Alice Colin, who will take you on a culinary adventure through many global cuisines. The idea is the same: grab some friends or the family to cook, laugh, and eat.
What are you waiting for? Those reservations won’t book themselves.