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Taste Notes: Chef José Mendín Opens Rivertail in Fort Lauderdale

A rendering of new Las Olas Riverfront restaurant Rivertail.
A rendering of new Las Olas Riverfront restaurant Rivertail.
Photo courtesy of Rivertail

Mounds of socks, sweaters, and gift cards aren’t the only things we’re getting this week.

Keeping the spirit alive and on the day after Christmas (Thursday, December 26), celebrated chef and James Beard nominated restaurateur José Mendín will officially open his first restaurant in Broward County.

Rivertail, which is adjacent to the new and bustling Wharf Fort Lauderdale, is located Riverside in Downtown Fort Lauderdale at 305 S. Andrews Ave., Suite 123.

The spot promises a “seafood-driven upscale yet approachable dining experience” with inside seating for 150, an expansive covered patio overlooking the New River and a raw bar, with fresh seafood delivered daily. Its opening further signifies an emerging revival in the previously defunct Riverwalk area, with South Beach hotspot Bodega slated to arrive nearby in 2020, too.

Some of the Rivertail morsels that are shaping up to arouse the culinary senses include crab donuts (with celeriac, brioche, spicy honey and sea salt), veal brains “Meuniere” (with blue crab tartar sauce, black butter and petite herbs) and a Rivertail crab broil anchored by a pound of snow crab legs and king crab legs.

Open Wednesday through Sunday, initial happy hour specials (until 7 p.m.) include $1 oysters, $2 peel-and-eat shrimp and $3 medium stone crab claws.

Rivertail marks the latest concept for Mendín’s Food Comma Hospitality Group, which he founded in 2017 with partners Sergio Navarro, Maximiliano Silva and Joey Cancel. The group’s other spots include Pubbelly Sushi, Habitat and La Placita.

So, the next time you decide to go get crunk at The Wharf, you have an option to class it up a little beforehand! Your date will thank me.

And now on to other news and notes in South Florida's restaurants scene.

Daer South Florida's Dayclub will host the Culinary Kickoff on January 30.
Daer South Florida's Dayclub will host the Culinary Kickoff on January 30.
Photo courtesy of Daer

A football feast. In addition to a circus by Shaq and Lady Gaga playing on an island, there are some stellar food happenings emerging around Super Bowl LIV in Miami. Among them, a star-studded Culinary Kickoff will take place in the Daer South Florida Dayclub at Hard Rock Hollywood on January 30. Chefs Charlie Palmer, Michael Mina and many more will each host a culinary station, pairing their dishes with a wine offering. The whole shindig benefits a scholarship fund at the Culinary Institute of America, so you can feel good eating everything in sight.

Let it Flo. Global superstar and Carol City native Flo Rida is opening Old Sistrunk Distillery in Fort Lauderdale. The 13,000 square-foot space, at 1012 Sistrunk Blvd., will feature a restaurant, lounge, and event space, according to South Florida Business Journal, which broke the news. The project is slated to break ground in February.

Hangover help. Grandview Public Market in West Palm Beach wants to help cure your "holiday hangover.” And perhaps, after its Holiday Hangover Hoopla on Saturday, give you an all new-hangover. The food stall-loaded event will include market vendors serving unique food specials. Rude Bwoy Spirits out of Tampa will be on-site with rum samples. If you drag the kids along, there's a kid-friendly music class with Miss Amy at 10 a.m., and milk and cookies will be served.

Take the plunge. Looking ahead to next week and what will surely make anyone from a truly cold part of the country genuinely LOL, there’s a Polar Plunge set for January 1 at 11 a.m., hosted by the Atlantic Hotel & Spa and Wild Thyme Oceanside Eatery. Jump into the “frigid” South Florida ocean water (LMAO), dry off, and then hit a food station, mimosa, and small plate-loaded brunch with your fellow Arctic survivors.

Blind bubbles. Let’s put those taste buds to the test. On Friday night, Vinos on Galt Mile will host a Bubbles Blind Tasting in which guests will drink different bubbly alcoholic beverages without knowing what they are. Is it a champagne? Cava? Sparkling wine? Prosecco? You’ll be left guessing (or educated guessing) until each are revealed. Hors d’oeuvres will be served to keep all those bubbles from going to your head too quickly.

Saltwater’s sixth. If you have a birthday this time of year, it’s basically one non-stop party. Well, Delray Beach’s Saltwater Brewery is celebrating its sixth anniversary starting Thursday and the party goes through the weekend. On Thursday, there will be an out-of-state tap takeover, with Sierra Nevada, St. Bernadus, Half Acre, and more offering up brews. On Friday, things shift in-state, with MIA, Cigar City, 3 Sons, and Prosperity, among others, serving up rare brews. Saturday is the big party day, with live music from the likes of Smoke & Mirrors and SloFunk Pump, as well as food trucks and special releases, including a Peanut Butter Cookie Cow, Rum Coconut King Cow, and a Pineapple Upside Down Cake brew.

News and notes.
The FemAle Brew Fest will return March 21 for a fourth consecutive year. More than 13 women-led breweries are confirmed for the Dania Pointe festival and more will surely be added. This year’s ticket packages include a yoga and beer option as well as a beer sensory training course. ... A special shoutout to III Forks’ Tommy Nevill for taking home the gold in the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival’s Grand Chef Showdown. Amid a number of competitors, Nevill impressed celeb judges Adam Richman and Robert Irvine, among others, to take home a $10,000 prize, which will benefit Loggerhead Marinelife Center. 

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