Reclaimed wood and brick, Edison bulbs, tufted leather booths, small plates, and an emphasis on "craft" seem to be the main ingredients for a trendy restaurant these days.
Beauty & the Feast Bar | Kitchen on Fort Lauderdale Beach has all of the above.
Set in the base of the boutique Atlantic Resort & Spa, the restaurant boasts that rustic/industrial vibe that has been sprouting up all around South Florida. It's perfectly "on trend" and, as such, fits neatly inside the box of au courant dining establishments saturating the culinary landscape. Here, however, it's a welcome addition to the beach's evolving dining scene.
The eateries on Fort Lauderdale Beach have long been recognized for catering to tourists, not locals. Recently, however, a new crop of restaurants -- Steak 954, G&B Oyster Bar, S3, Tsukuro, the reinvented 3030 Ocean -- has been attempting to bring Broward residents back to the coast.
Owned and operated by Society 8 Hospitality Group, the idea came about when the lease for the space's former occupant, SoLita Las Olas, expired. Overhearing that the hotel was under new ownership, Steven Dapuzzo and his team approached the proprietors of the Atlantic with a concept.
"SoLita wasn't a beach thing," says Dapuzzo. "We saw the need for fun, eclectic dining on the beach, as opposed to something more formal."
The restaurant offers an array of shareable fare with influences from across the globe, in small, large, and feast-sized portions.
Sea scallops are one of the highlights from the appetizer section. Two lightly seared scallops sit atop crisp crostini in a shallow pool of sweet basil oil. Finished with vivid microgreens and a porcini cream sauce, the dish is clean and earthy.
Crispy chicken sliders are another must-try. Crunchy fried chicken is slathered with a pungent honey sriracha blend and topped with a bright mango slaw. The combination is sandwiched between a pillowy Hawaiian bun and served on a wood board with homemade pickles and freshly fried potato chips. Sweet, salty, sour, and spicy, it's exciting for the palate and comforting at the same time.
A handful of creative pizzas is offered, ranging from "Old School" meatball (using the same recipe found at SoLita) with tomato gravy and ricotta to seafood with lobster sauce, shrimp, scallops, and boursin.
Don't pass on the white clam pizza; topped with the fresh bivalves boursin, garlic, and parsley, it's like eating linguini with clam sauce in convenient handheld form.
Although large plates are available, the feast plates are more of an experience.
For a minimum of two people, guests can order family-style platters of dishes like paella (served in a huge pan with chicken, chorizo, roasted peppers, and green peas in saffron-scented rice) and sliced hanger steak (presented atop truffle-oil-infused roasted potatoes on a wood cutting board).
The grand prize, however, is the roasted pig. Available for six or more guests, a whole or half suckling pig is roasted for five hours. The entire thing is rolled out on a butcher's cart, then carved tableside. Black beans and rice as well as a selection of sauces come on the side. It requires 48 hours advance notice, but the restaurant offers an all-you-can-eat option for $15 per person on Thursdays, along with $5 pints of beer.
"Whatever we do, we try to make it social and entertaining to some degree," says Dapuzzo. "It's the way I like to eat."
Save room for dessert. Pastry chef Donna Silverhorn creates an array of nostalgic sweet treats. Although many of the selections change regularly (think Milky Way pie and home made Nutella ice cream), some items are always featured.
One constant is carrot cake, slathered with a tangy cream-cheese icing and a side of coconut gelato. It's rich and satisfying. Mississippi mud cake is another pillar.
"We're more about craft and taking pride," says Dapuzzo. "It's not about being fancy or sophisticated, more fresh and interesting."
Although this ethos on originality is far from, well, original -- after all, it's the restaurant concept du jour across the country -- here, it's a good fit for Broward County and a huge step forward for tourist-filled Fort Lauderdale Beach.
"I think the beach will come around full circle," says Dapuzzo. "Where the beach was all tourists, now it's going the other way."
With friendly service, interesting menu items, and a cool casual vibe, Beauty & the Feast seems to have what it takes to attract Broward residents back to the beach.
Beauty & the Feast Bar | Kitchen is located at 601 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-567-8070, atlantichotelfl.com.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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