Restaurants Now and for the Ages
“If you wait 50 years, you may get only crumbs from the table. And pretty stale ones at that.”
It is hard for us to review our annual food issue, featuring as it does new and different restaurants, without a nostalgic look to the past, and once popular eateries that aren’t here anymore. The magazine goes back more than 50 years, and the memories of what used to be date about as far back.
Now 50-plus years is not such a long time if you have lived it, and most of our readers have, and some a good bit more than that. However, if you put that time frame in the context of history, it feels quite a bit different. For instance when the Civil War ended in 1865, the steam engine had begun to revolutionize travel, yet most people’s usual mode of fast transportation was still the horse. The average person could get around no faster than Julius Caesar some two thousand years before.
But fast forward 50 years, to 1915, and not only were steam-powered trains able to hit 100 mph, but they were already surpassed as rapid transit by the airplane, and that novel device had become a formidable weapon of war in the skies over France. A propeller could outrun a horse.
Thus it is not so shocking that the South Florida restaurant business has undergone some dramatic changes in the last 50 years. In fact, our magazines did not even have regular restaurant listings in 1965. We introduced that section in 1970. The idea was among several we brought from Philadelphia magazine. It was an immediate success, but of the 29 advertising listings in an early issue, only one of the names is still around. It is the Mai-Kai, which had already celebrated its 15th birthday when it made our list. Among the restaurant advertisers that have passed on are some of the finest of that time—the Bayou in Boca Raton; Riverview in Deerfield Beach; Dante’s, Down Under, Le Cordon Bleu, Le Dome of the Four Seasons and Sea Grill, all in Fort Lauderdale; and Top of the Home in Hollywood.
Of course, over the following decades many other good restaurants have come and gone. In this issue last year we had a requiem for Le Cafe De Paris, a Las Olas Boulevard fixture going back even longer than the magazine. And this year there have been several recent closings of well known spots. We recently lamented the departure of Maguire’s Hill 16, which since the late 1980s has been the leading Irish pub/restaurant in South Florida, and a cozy hangout for all manner and political and legal types. It closed because the owners got a great price for a location slated for development in a neighborhood where everything is getting knocked down in the name of progress. See our last-page column for some thoughts on that. The future of Maguire’s is uncertain. The new owners, experienced restaurant people, bought the liquor license and kept all the Irish decor in place, suggesting it might reopen as part of a surrounding development, or possibly move to another location.
Even more recent is the shuttering of Mangos on Las Olas Boulevard, which has been a restaurant corner as long as we can recall, and had operated under the Mangos name for quarter of a century. Before that it was a popular media hangout known as Poet’s. Unlike Maguire’s, its future is less uncertain. It is being renovated for what is being billed as a high-end Italian restaurant. Not a bad addition to the boulevard.
Is there a moral to these ramblings? Not really, unless it’s a warning to visit all the many culinary delights mentioned in this issue—as soon as possible. If you wait 50 years, you may get only crumbs from the table. And pretty stale ones at that.