It certainly isn't the most likely spot to grab a burger. From the outside, it looks like any normal, boring office park, an imposing boxlike structure with guarded gates and a parking lot.
But the Design Center of the Americas (DCOTA) is far from ordinary once you walk in the door. The museum-like center was once limited to designers and their patrons (aside from special days designated for the public).
However, a couple of years back, DCOTA expanded with the addition of DCOTA Cay, a swanky new lunch spot catering to the showroom staff, its customers, and the 99 percenters who want to peek into the lifestyles -- and decor -- of the rich and famous.
Undulating azure natural stone inlays in the floor are highlighted by an equally fluidic, backlit, sea-colored ceiling panel in the front entrance. It feels as if you've entered a gently rolling wave as you walk to the front desk.
The whole thing is flanked by glass-encased showrooms displaying an array of chic furnishings and decor: crisp classic American living rooms to the right, minimalist European bedrooms to the left, ornate Louis XV armchairs up ahead.
Set in the center's Atrium B, which echoes the wave-like decor at the front entrance, DCOTA Cay is just as intricately designed as the surrounding showrooms.
Sectioned off by a white pergola lined with boxes of dark jagged snake plants, nautical-inspired navy-and-white-striped booths flank the inner perimeter of the space. In the middle, Edison bulbs hang in expensive industrial-style cages above trendy unfinished wood tables.
Pearlescent geometric spheres glimmer under the room-length skylights in the four-story atrium overhead. The vibe is similar to something one would expect at a luxury beachside hotel, but the price points and the fare are certainly more approachable.
The menu offers a small selection of garden-variety lunch items done well. The DCOTA signature burger includes a natural beef patty topped with red onion marmalade, Brie, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and signature sauce between a springy brioche bun. A chicken salad sandwich is elevated with the addition of fresh tarragon and sweet and savory walnut raisin bread. The turkey sandwich is rich and buttery. It combines caramelized onion and avocado with the usual fixings on flaky foccacia.
One of the bestsellers, the Key West cay salad, incorporates fried coconut shrimp and Brie with sliced peaches, Mandarin oranges, candied pecans, mixed spinach, arugula, and romaine tossed with raspberry vinaigrette. While the flavors meld together well, the fried cheese and shrimp slightly overpower the delicate flavors of the fresh produce.
"For lack of a better term, we're going for less institutionalized," says DCOTA General Manager Brad Shepherd. "We want to make sure the menu is fresh and we're catering to what the people like and enjoy."
The eatery offers a number of daily specials, ranging from fresh fish and pastas to roast turkey with mashed potatoes to soups, like curried creamed cauliflower and carrot ginger.
Chef Thierry Goulard is planning to change the menu twice a year, adding and subtracting items like flatbreads, pizzas, and veggie burgers, many of which are currently being tested as specials.
Manager Caroline Poussardin, a French native and lifelong restaurant-industry veteran, is working on improving the wine list with boutique selections.
"You won't get three different Merlots," says Shepherd. "There will be no house wines. We'll have, say, one really good wine and one really, really good wine. It's going to be small but really fresh."
The introduction of the restaurant was part of a major overhaul at the center two years back.
Opened in 1985, the DCOTA was advertised as a leading destination for designers in South Florida and Latin America. For two decades, the place was filled with designers and their clients, eager to check out the newest trends in luxury decor. But with the housing-market collapse and the ensuing recession, many affluent customers slashed spending, and those in high-end design were forced to cut expenses.
The center dropped from about 150 showrooms to about 50, prompting Cohen Design Centers to redevelop some of the space for nondesign tenants and to renovate the building with atrium upgrades and the addition of the restaurant.
And for art and design enthusiasts, it offers a chance to admire spectacular ambiance while enjoying a simple and satisfying lunch.
DCOTA Cay is located at 1855 Griffin Road, Atrium B, Dania Beach. Call 954-362-5512, or visit dcota.com. Open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
DCOTA signature burger $15.50
Turkey sandwich $13.50
Tarragon chicken salad sandwich $13.50
Key West cay salad $14.50
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.