If you’re looking for a trendy culinary scene alongside white-sand beaches and luxurious hotel stays, all without the hefty price tag of Miami, then Fort Lauderdale is for you.
An international culinary scene is emerging along the shores of Fort Lauderdale. The best part? Being able to dine outdoors with waterfront views all year long. Whether you’re a seasoned snowbird or a weekender with friends, here are some recommendations for where to eat, stay, and play:
W Fort Lauderdale
Situated on the coastlines of Fort Lauderdale beach is W Fort Lauderdale, offering a trendy yet luxurious hotel experience for your stay. W Fort Lauderdale has a pulse on what’s in, hosting electrifying art and vibrant nighttime events. During the day, the space is laidback with remote workers, business meetings, and loungers scattered across The Living Room, the hotel’s lobby area.
The rooms here are spacious, equipped with plush-top beds and equally lavish spa robes. Floor-to-ceiling windows invite you to soak in the scene on the balcony. Inspired by ocean waves, hues of blue and sail-shaped architecture subtly echo the nautical theme throughout the hotel. The part worth writing home? The bathrooms, complete with a deep soak tub, marble countertops, and even a separate vanity area for your hair and makeup products.
While it’s easy to stay tucked in bed all day, W Fort Lauderdale’s complimentary programming is worth a try. With daily beach boot camps, sunrise yoga, and even the option to rent a bicycle to cruise the beach boardwalk, there’s a little something for everyone looking to explore.
Amenities are where W Fort Lauderdale shines. The hotel flaunts two pool areas, with the WET rooftop pool being the epicenter of the hotel with its views of both the ocean and the city. Grab a cabana or a daybed and lounge with drinks and a DJ on the deck. Despite all the makings of a party atmosphere, the crowd here is friendly without being rowdy. There’s also a 24-hour FIT gym and AWAY spa offering manicures, facials, massages, and more.
With multiple dining venues situated on the property alone, the W Fort Lauderdale is a frontrunner for unforgettable foodie hotels.
Kick the weekend off with your first bite of ceviche on El Vez’s scenic oceanfront patios. The all-day eatery specializes in Mexican fare, with an emphasis on Baja-style cooking. Here you’ll find walls adorned with murals, including one of Frida Kahlo, and a neon sign reading “¿Qué quieres tomar?” Fittingly, El Vaz serves 150 varieties of tequilas and mezcals and happens to be a prime spot for a happy hour margarita. Start with the grilled corn, topped with chipotle aioli and queso cotija, before moving on to an order of the crispy Mahi Mahi tacos.
Beloved by locals and tourists alike, Steak 954 has cemented itself as a staple in the Fort Lauderdale fine dining space. It’s no surprise that this is the brainchild of James Beard Award-winning restauranteur, Stephen Starr. Steak 954 boasts a stylish oceanfront dining experience, a welcome contrast to your typical dark and moody steakhouse. For one, it’s hard not to ogle as you walk by the restaurant’s focal point, a mesmerizing 15-foot-aquarium filled with 200 floating jellyfish.
As the name implies, if you’re after a premium steak in Fort Lauderdale, this is where to get it. The extensive list of Wagyu cuts and ribeyes are cooked to impress, as each bite effortlessly melts in your mouth. Ironically, Steak 954’s freshly caught seafood deserves a standing ovation. Try the seafood platter if you’re feeling hungry, you’ll get to sample a bit of everything. Don’t miss the red snapper or crab cake. Leave room for dessert or grab an order of cookies to go, you will not be disappointed.
The Wilder offers a swanky ambiance to cozy up with a date or dance the night away. Its playful vibe is accentuated by the flawless ‘90s playlists and moody lighting. Inventive libations and shareable plates like the yuca fries are served in this prohibition-inspired space. Try the Madame Pele — a concoction of poblano-infused patron reposado tequila, ancho reyes chile liquor, chipotle agave, and smoked salt.
Ya Mas! Taverna
For happy hour, head to Ya Mas!, a chic Mediterranean-inspired taverna tucked along Las Olas Boulevard. The dusty pink room features stylish details like beaded chandeliers, wicker chairs, and aesthetically pleasing floral arrangements. Here, they serve the Greek cheesecake signature cocktail, Ya Mas’s twist on the traditional espresso martini. Reminiscent of tiramisu, it became a contender for one of the most memorable drinks of this trip. For some light bites, try the assorted mezes or the flaming saganaki torch-lit in front of you.
Hop across the road to Casa Sensei for an indulgent fusion dinner. Casa Sensai harmonizes Japanese, Pan-Asian, and Latin American flavors into one eclectic menu. You’ll find something you like with an array of comfort foods offered from pad thai, bao buns, and even an omakase-style sushi bar. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Korean grilled steak chimichurri with a side of wasabi mashed potatoes. Or better yet, the ‘sushi for three’, with more than 60 pieces of sushi, including deep-fried rolls and high-quality sashimi. There are few feelings as satisfying as a sushi boat being placed at your table. Don’t forget to sample a sake or two from their lengthy list of sakes, Japanese whiskies, and Asian cocktails.
For your last morning, grab lunch at SoBe Vegan, a plant-based fast-casual restaurant dedicated to bringing healthy and delicious options to an otherwise decadent beach scene. The colorful space alone supplies the energy you need to fuel your morning. Don’t let the name fool you, the restaurant serves plant-based renditions of comfort foods like burgers, cheesy fries, and protein-packed bowls. If the Instagram-worthy walls aren’t enough to pull you in, maybe you’ll meet a four-legged friend in this pet-friendly venue.
If you’re entertaining the idea of a winter getaway, Florida’s best-kept culinary secret is reason enough to hop on a flight from the East Coast. Bring your appetite, you won’t regret it!