The end of the decade is upon us, a 10-year-period that inspired a number of new gathering spots which helped change the reputation of greater Fort Lauderdale as a modern — dare we say, cool? — culture and entertainment destination.
It was not all gain, of course. There was the pain of saying goodbye to Maguire’s Hill 16, the Internationally World Famous Treasure Trove, Bahia Cabana and Ireland’s Inn, to name a few. Riverfront was knocked down, too. Addition by obliteration.
But here are 19 fresh places that opened in the past decade and, in retrospect, civilized us with craft beer, coffee, country music and face-to-face community. It’s a new Fort Lauderdale.
At the beginning of the decade, when Joshua Miller moved his creative “idea agency,” C&I Studios, from a space on Commercial Boulevard to a warehouse bordered by a rugged stretch of Northwest First Avenue and the FEC tracks, few people knew what or where FAT Village was. While some folks might have instinctively kept things locked up at night, Miller rolled his large garage door open to host free neighborhood barbecues, live music and movie nights. The monthly Art Walk that draws thousands of people to FAT Village and Flagler Village, lighting the fuse that created the MASS District, happened in no small part because of the funky-chic community-building instigated by C&I Studios. C-IStudios.com
Tortuga Music Festival
Since 2013, the beach made famous by Connie and the Elbo Room is now better known to a generation of country-music fans for Chesney and no elbow room during the three-day springtime hootenanny that draws 100,000 visitors each year from all 50 states and multiple countries around the world to Fort Lauderdale Beach Park. The 2020 edition of Tortuga, taking place April 17-19, will feature Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan, Tim McGraw, Pitbull, Kelsea Ballerini and many others. TortugaMusicFesival.com
Shooter’s on the Intracoastal, long infamous for cheap drinks and bikini contests, underwent a dramatic makeover and rebranded itself as a sophisticated place to eat by a glowing fire pit on a palm-dotted al fresco dining deck, winning unanimous praise from critics. If you are looking for a metaphor for the decade in Fort Lauderdale, this is it. ShootersWaterfront.com.
Funky Buddha Brewery
There was no local craft-beer scene in 2010 (unless you count the cooler at Riverside Market), when Ryan and KC Sentz first began serving Hop Gun IPA and Floridian Hefeweizen at the Funky Buddha Lounge & Brewery in Boca Raton, joining Due South Brewing in Boynton Beach as the complete list of South Florida beer-production facilities. In 2013, the instant popularity of the massive Funky Buddha Brewery on the edge of Oakland Park showed what the scene could be.
Park & Ocean
Tucked inside Hugh Taylor Birch State Park on East Sunrise Boulevard, just across A1A from Fort Lauderdale beach, Park & Ocean is one of those places that feels like it’s always been there. Or should have been. This unapologetically casual eatery and bar, created by Society 8 Hospitality Group, is best enjoyed from tables scattered in the shade of the sea grapes. A welcome spot for dogs and kids and musicians, it feels like a secret you want to keep. ParkAndOcean.com
Rhythm & Vine Beer Garden
David Cardaci (The Wilder) opened Rhythm & Vine in 2015 at 401 NE 5th Terrace, across from a paint store on a nondescript downtown side street off Federal Highway, but that did not prevent lines from forming quickly. Such was the thirst among a growing population of nearby condo residents for its signature chill vibe, symbolized by the classic silver Airstream RV enjoying a second life as a bar surrounded by trees, picnic tables and a carpet of soothing turf. Rhythm-Vine.com.
Broward Center for the Performing Arts
Completed in 2014, the $58 million expansion and renovation of the Broward Center was distinctive for its architectural embrace of “the great context we have,” Kelley Shanley, Broward Center’s CEO, said at the time. Overlooking a gentle bend in the New River, the gem in the setting was Huizenga Pavilion (reachable by a new tunnel) and Marti’s New River Bistro, offering waterfront dining behind glassed walls or on the hillside terraces. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more gorgeous spot to experience the city. BrowardCenter.org
Top Hat Deli
On an unremarkable downtown street best known as the home of the Greyhound bus station, Elliot Wolf (Coconuts, Foxy Brown) applied his magical touch with Top Hat, a warm and sunny space that exudes all the frenetic charm of your favorite New York deli. It also is another spot in which to pick up a “be nice” window sticker that has united a congenial fraternity of locals over the past few years. TopHatFTL.com