In South Florida, now more than ever, an upscale meal can be just steps away from a pillow-top mattress and free, fancy toiletries. Whether you chalk it up to quality, service or sheer convenience, the fact of the matter is that hotel dining is on the rise.
An industry study from earlier this year noted that restaurants within hotels and resorts have been trending upward over time. According to Technomic, a global food-service data company, total spending by consumers in hotels totaled to $48.7 billion last year.
And it’s only supposed to go up in 2018. South Florida Sun Sentinel food critic Mike Mayo says that resort dining poses advantages for all parties involved.
“Because the hotels are usually attached to big corporations, the hotels are able to pay well and bring in big-name chefs,” Mayo says. “It also enables them to get better products at lower prices.”
The Technomic report also noted that local and regional offerings are more in demand. It’s something we’d safely bet our South Florida resorts have caught wind of—whether looking at JWB Prime Steak and Seafood’s fresh fish that is literally speared hours before hitting a plate at Margaritaville or Terra Mare’s cold-pressed juices at The Conrad.
To celebrate South Florida’s best fine dining establishments that are connected to luxury resorts, check out the following restaurants.
Boathouse • Riverside Hotel
Where: 620 E Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Kitchen confidential: One of the city’s newest dock-and-dine locations, Boathouse opened in March and offers Mediterranean-inspired lunch and dinner dishes on the water. Chef Toby Joseph dishes out experimental hot and cold tapas—like the hot shrimp served with smoked paprika, garlic and basil on a baguette ($14) or the cold Spanish chorizo with emmental cheese and tapenade, atop crostini ($7).
Don’t-miss dish: According to Joseph, Boathouse is the only place to get pickled mussels in all of Las Olas. To make the cold tapas dish, Joseph and his kitchen staff steam fresh mussels and use that stock to form the pickling base. Vinegar and spices, including rosemary and parsley, are added to the marinade. The $8 dish (pictured above) is served with red pepper mayo atop fried crostini.
Contact: 954.377.5494, boathouseriverside.com
AQ Chop House by Il Mulino • Acqualina
Where: 17875 Collins Ave., Sunny Isles Beach
Kitchen confidential: This upscale steakhouse melds Italian flavors and grand mid-century European decor. The patio is charmingly cozy—often offering live music—while the inside is dimmed and romantic. AQ Chop House is a “special occasion” experience for dinner, but when it comes to brunch, bottomless mimosas and an ice cream bar with around 10 flavors to try might be worth a return visit.
Don’t-miss dish: Despite an extensive menu full of luscious ingredients like truffle oil—featured on a crudo with steak tartare and egg—and grilled octopus, the star remains a classic: lobster ravioli. The decadent dish has stolen visitor’s hearts.
Contact: 877.312.9742, acqualinaresort.com/restaurants
Monkitail • The Diplomat Beach Resort
Where: 3555 S. Ocean Drive, Hollywood
Kitchen confidential: Japanese cuisine visits Hollywood, under Chef Michael Schulson. The modern restaurant—set in a lavish dining room with ornate chandeliers and leather booths—brings delicacies like edamame, bao buns and dumplings to patrons. It’s not Schulson’s first effort. The celebrity chef and restaurateur, who was featured on TV shows like “Ultimate Cake Off” and “Pantry Raid,” has opened six other restaurants.
Don’t-miss dish: Lauded as not just a reason to visit, but a reason to come back, the duck scrapple bao bun ($12) is a unique example of Schulson’s creativity. The fluffy, cloud-like bao buns sandwich a duck scrapple doused in maple teriyaki, cucumber and a finishing kick of chili. In addition to purchasing it on its own, Monkitail also offers a chef’s tasting menu at $65 a person, which includes 10 menu items (the bao would count as one) and a dessert.
Contact: 954.602.8755, monkitail.com