13|Even Owner Dishes on What's Wrong With Wilton Manors Restaurants
Wilton Manors has a problem, and it has nothing to do with the density of same-sex couples living in the Fort Lauderdale suburb.
"I think within a half a mile there are five Thai and sushi restaurants," said Nancy Goldwin, a co-owner of 13|Even, the craft beer and small plates spot that opened in May. "There's no variety on the drive."
Goldwin said the lack of good eating forces her to search elsewhere.
She and her partner Carol Moran often head to global soul food spot, Hot and Soul for a bite and even (gasp) Las Olas Boulevard. On the rare occasion they can make it to Miami (you don't get a lot of nights off owning a bar) they head for Michael Schwartz's flagship Michael's Genuine Food & Drink.
Recently at the Funky Buddha Brewery just up the road I came across a large group of men sipping pineapple Sriracha IPA and chocolaty Doc Brown's Ale from glass snifters. When I asked why they opted for the Buddha as opposed to somewhere on Wilton Drive (near where they all live) the answer was simple.
"The beer," one told me, "but also the food trucks are better than most of the restaurants in the neighborhood."
There's no doubt Wilton Manors has undergone massive changes in the last decade, nearly all for the good. Home prices in town of 12,000 have more than doubled over the last decade, according to a WLRN report.
Former Mayor John Fiore told the radio station if you tried to sell your house there two decades ago, "you'd advertise it saying northeast Fort Lauderdale because if you mentioned Wilton Manors, no one knew where it was."
Yet now a part of the national consciousness Wilton Manors seems has yet to attract chefs and restaurateurs to help the town thrive.
A couple of doors away from 13|Even the space occupied for a short time by Pinche Taqueria sits dormant. In a late 2012 review I called it a place for drinking and people watching as opposed to dining.
The Mexican restaurant was an offshoot of a New York City concept launched by filmmaker-financier Jeffrey Chartier, and ran seemed to run into trouble early on.
Goldwin said she thinks people underestimate what it takes to run a restaurant.
"If you build something great, you've got to have great service," she said.
She and Moran have had plenty of success the lesbian pick-up spot and gathering place New Moon, but are eager to see some genuine competition on the drive.
"People ask, 'Aren't you glad Rodeo (a southern-style restaurant) closed?' And I said no," she declared. "The more choices and restaurants there are, the more people will come."
For more follow Zach on Twitter @ZachIsWeird.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to South Florida dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.