I heard about this new spot from a friend, who himself had heard about it from a friend who had stumbled across some new outdoor bar a few weeks ago. He told me the place was called Rhythm & Vine, and he wasn't really sure how to describe it. Was it a beer garden? Or some pop-up cocktail bar? He wasn't entirely sure.
That air of mystery is partly thanks to Rhythm & Vine co-owners and creators David Cardaci and Derek Young. Together, the duo have been drawing crowds to their clandestine beer garden for weeks now, sans advertising or promotion. The space, they say, is still evolving.
"This was originally supposed to be used as car storage, and I had plans to turn it into a man cave," says Cardaci, who is also founder of the Whole Enchilada chain. "But that idea didn't last long. This is what happened instead."
A Fort Lauderdale resident, Cardaci says he has always been drawn to this part of town. Four years ago, he purchased an old gas station just a few blocks north, the same lot that currently houses the Whole Enchilada's second location (745 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale). Rhythm & Vine — his latest venture alongside friend and lawyer Young and several investors — is now just a stone's throw away and within walking distance of Flagler Village, a mix of upscale apartments and retail space located a few blocks north of the city's downtown hub.
Nothing screams "summer in South Florida" quite like the crowds of tank-top-wearing, sundress-draped, flip-flop-shod revelers. Sure, there are plenty of waterfront bars and trendy patios for you to get your drink on in South Florida. But for gathering with friends, there’s nothing quite like a secluded beer garden.
In Fort Lauderdale, that equals the ultimate backyard party. All it takes is an open-air area, picnic-style tables, some good music, and a few craft brews and cocktails. And you can find it all at Rhythm & Vine, the secret garden located in the heart of the city at the corner of NE Fifth Terrace and NE Fourth Street in Fort Lauderdale — just a few feet from Federal Highway.
Rhythm & Vine's outdoor beer garden serves a number of craft beers by the bottle or can and a short menu of cocktails from a repurposed Airstream. Patrons mingle around the space, taking a seat at any of the vintage, thrift-store-chic couches, high-tops, and picnic tables. It's almost a given that there will be a group of people playing cornhole when you arrive.
The beer garden will not be serving food; there is no kitchen. Instead, patrons can meander up to one of the food trucks parked at the south end of the property. Several rolling kitchens will swap out throughout the day (or evening) hours, offering casual eats to hungry guests.
The vibe is relaxed here, and most of the patrons are dressed casually in tank tops and flip-flops. Some of them choose to take a seat on the blankets and pillows strewn across the beer garden's faux grass lawn. Go ahead — take your shoes off too. It's totally OK.
"From my perspective, Rhythm & Vine is the product of being a part-time resident of Fort Lauderdale and discovering the dearth of creative hospitality in the area," Young said in a recent interview. "I'll come down here [to Fort Lauderdale] after living in cities like New York City or Los Angeles for several months, and it's kind of depressing. So that was the genesis of this place: I wanted to create a cool spot to hang out."
Rhythm & Vine offers something you won't find anywhere else: a truly communal environment. When you find yourself sharing a picnic table or patch of grass with another group of people, the outdoor garden makes it all too easy to make new friends. And that's exactly they type of establishment Cardaci and Young were hoping to create. In all, the entire scene has a definite Wynwoodesque vibe.
The crowd at Rhythm & Vine is overwhelmingly young and hip. Many of the patrons — and now regulars — are residents of the nearby Flagler Village complex, which is within walking distance from the outdoor beer garden. Others wander in through the "back gate" entrance, which is located across a back alley driveway behind a used-exotic-car dealership.
An indoor bar and lounge isn't fully constructed but has been artfully fashioned from two, 20-foot metal shipping containers. Billed as both a lounge and live music venue, a small stage will offer intimate performances from DJs, as well as local and touring national acts. The space will also serve as a platform for local artists to display their work.
Rhythm & Vine is located at 401 NE Fifth Terrace in Fort Lauderdale. The bar is open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday through Friday and 2 p.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Visit the Rhythm & Vine Facebook page.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.