Dining with Tolf
Former Miami Dolphin John Offerdahl has another hit on his hands with Offerdahl's Cafe Grill.
Other Dolphins tried to do the same, namely Jimmy Johnson, who had a Jimmy Johnson's 3 Rings Bar & Grill at Miami Beach's Eden Roc Hotel, and much more successfully Dan Marino with popular Town Taverns in Miami's Coconut Grove, Fort Lauderdale's Riverwalk, St. Petersburg's BayWalk and Orlando.
Florida Atlantic football coach Howard Schnellenberger, who was Shula's assistant for a total of six years before moving on to greener turfs, has Howard Schnellenberger's Original Steakhouse and Sports Bar, and it's a defensive great, John Offerdahl, who is also scoring points in his post-Dolphin career.
Offerdahl, from Western Michigan University, was the Dolphins' No. 1 draft pick in 1986 when he was rookie of the year and went on to be a Pro Bowler five times in his eight-year career as defensive captain. With wife, Lynn, an All-American diver from Michigan Kalamazoo College, he also went on to open Offerdahl's Bagel Gourmet, expanding the concept to 10 locations before selling it in 1995. His and other bagel chains around the country eventually became the Einstein Bros. bagel chain.
Bringing bagels to south Florida was a bit like carrying coal to Newcastle, but the Offerdahls had developed recipes for beautiful bagels, unique in taste and texture and freshly baked. With a non-compete clause in the sales contract, they had to study other possibilities for five years, but in 2000 they were ready and opened the first Offerdahl's Café Grill. With some pretty savvy market surveying, they chose the new and booming area of Weston. There were soon eight other locations in south Florida, in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. Six are corporate-owned, and three are franchised.
The cafes are what the trade calls "fast casual," family friendly, kind to the wallet, non-threatening settings with an emphasis on made-to-order freshness and flavor with a flame grill and industrial oven on view behind the counters.
The concept and its realization was recognized in May by the Nation's Restaurant News as one of the Top 50 Fast Casual Restaurant Chains in the country, winner of its Hot Concepts! award.
The hot concepts can be enjoyed all day, every day, with Offerdahl's redefinition of Super Bowl into large bowls of soup, superb chicken chowder thick with chunks of tender chicken and tons of flavor and a meatless chili or one loaded with flame-grilled chicken or prime steak ($3.29 to $5.79) or Super Chop Bowls, combo assemblages of freshness featuring flame-grilled steak, marinated chicken or glazed salmon served over pasta or rice and sprinkled with special Offerdahl-created sauces -- peanut Thai, curry, teriyaki sesame and lemon wine, among others ($6 to $8.50). Without the flame-grilled chicken, steak or sal-mon the bowls are $3.99 to $5.49. Then there's a fine selection of sandwiches, some intended for breakfast with eggs and cheese, steak, bacon or ham ($2.89 to $6) and mouth-bending beauties later in the day served on freshly baked baguettes or one of those gourmet bagels ($5.49 to $7.49). And you can buy bagels by the bunch -- they are in fact Johnny O's Famous Bagels, plain or poppyseed, eight-grain or garlic, with such zingers as cinnamon sugar, blueberry and banana nut. You can even get a half-pound tub of freshly whipped light cream cheese with tomato pesto, scallions, homemade roasted garlic, hummus or honey butter ($2.50 to $3.29).
The Offerdahls are poised for expansion, a statewide -- maybe nationwide -- rollout, using these first nine winners as launching pads:
Offerdahl's Café Grills
Fort Lauderdale (downtown)
401 E. Las Olas Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale (Coral Ridge)
1535 N. Federal Hwy.
3361 Hollywood Blvd.
2400 N. Federal Hwy.
2274 Weston Road
Palm Beach County
17940 N. Military Trail
195 SE 3rd Ave. and U.S. 1
14685 S. Dixie Hwy.
11327 S. Dixie Hwy.