Photo: Chip Litherland/Tampa Bay Times
All-day dining at restaurants across Florida
More restaurants are choosing to stay open from 2 to 5 p.m.
When chef Shawn Kaplan and his partners were planning Kasa, the sleek restaurant and raw bar in downtown Orlando, they created a sophisticated lunch menu, including bison burgers, calamari pad Thai and yucca fries, and splendid dinner offerings — pumpkin gnocchi, Korean duck drummettes and chimichurri hanger steak.
In between the two mealtimes, however, the restaurant, like most, hung out a “closed” sign.
But Kasa’s managers realized that dining habits have changed: These days, people lunch late, dine early or duck out of work for midafternoon drinks and snacks.
And so they decided to stay open through the afternoon. As Kaplan and most of his staff mount what he calls a “ferocious attack” preparing for dinner service, a small crew seats, serves and cooks a hybrid menu for the late afternoon crowd — crab cake BLTs, plus favorites from lunch and dinner, like the allhours apple and sage macaroni.
Who eats between 2 and 5 p.m.? Anyone not bound by traditional dining hours — entrepreneurs, executives, creatives, retirees and stay-at-homes looking for a rendezvous place. “My clientele is as diverse as my menu,” says Kaplan.
The expansion into formerly empty hours has gained momentum everywhere, following the example set by coffee bars, gastro pubs, eat-in bookstores, bakeries and breweries. “Anytime menus” are now commonplace, featuring small plates, sandwiches, barbecue and pizza.
In Tampa, Datz gastro deli stays open all day, helping satisfy Tampa’s big appetites for artisan pork and brews with its five-way bacon splurge, “biggity big big” burgers and eggs barbacoa. Owners Roger and Suzanne Perry cater to a full spectrum of tastes and dining times: Their Creole restaurant, Roux, maintains traditional lunch and dinner hours; the bakery, called Dough, feeds parents, kids and dessert lovers from breakfast to after school and evening. Meanwhile, Datz remains open all day.
“There’s never a dead time in our day,” Roger Perry says. “In fact, afternoon’s a good opportunity for us because people can find a parking space.”
The pioneer of modern all-day dining was probably Miami’s Mark Soyka, an Israeli who created News Cafe and brought sidewalk cafe and bistro dining to South Beach 25 years ago. It remains Ocean Drive’s place to chill at all hours, with Benedicts and bagels for breakfast to burgers, baba ghanoush and entrees of steak or snapper.
Soyka has taken the idea of the restaurant as community center to the forgotten 55th Street Station in Midtown Miami. He converted the old train station with his trademark warmth and style, giving the emerging Design District a home for lunch, dinner and in between — and a steady diet of meatloaf (hot and cold), roast chicken and blue tilapia.
Today, a range of all-day dining is common throughout Miami, from the beach hotels to Lincoln Road and sushi bars and Latin restaurants from downtown to Calle Ocho and Coral Gables.
Likewise at Grille 401 in Fort Lauderdale, which is full of the flash of Las Olas throughout the day and into the evening. Lunch all afternoon on top-dollar sushi, Asian sea bass and Hawaiian skirt steak until 5 p.m., when dinner could be a fresh fish sandwich on challah, 8-ounce filet mignon or seared scallops.
Among the chains, Seasons 52, which once had diners lined up at 5 p.m., now serves from 11:30 on. Likewise Outback, which began as dinner only. Want a celebratory steak or blackened snapper with a deal-closing bottle of wine before catching a 5:15 p.m. flight? Ruth’s Chris, Capital Grille, Morton’s, Mitchell’s Fish Market, Ocean Prime and many others may have a table for you at 3:30.
Just remember to put in a full day at work and to squeeze in your workout.