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“Fun Place for a Casual Meal”

The Historic Downtowner
Ranked #243 of 1,369 Restaurants in Fort Lauderdale
Price range: $7 - $15
Cuisines: American, Bar
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Bar scene
Dining options: Breakfast, Late Night, Outdoor Seating
Neighborhood: Downtown Fort Lauderdale
Description: The Downtowner is a Fort Lauderdale Institution for over 20 years. Situated on the banks of The New River in Downtown Fort Lauderdale. It's a fabulous location to have a business lunch, dinner or take in the view of the mega yachts as the go by from the bar.
Reviewed August 20, 2013

Ok, I'll admit the food at the Downtowner is not best I've had, and frankly it's not even close. However, there are countless restaurants with average food, but they are still good places to go. The Downtowner is a great place for a number of reasons besides the food. First, of course, is the location. Right on the New River across from Huizenga Plaza with a view of downtown Ft Lauderdale, and lots of beautiful boats passing by. Second, is their make your own Bloody Marys on the weekend, which makes for some surprisingly interesting conversations at the Bloody Mary fixins bar. Third, is the staff. They are very friendly and welcoming. Half the fun of going here is talking to the bartenders. I could go on and on, but go see for yourself. Grab a table outside and enjoy the view.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
1  Thank Michael W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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128 - 132 of 174 reviews

Reviewed July 26, 2013

My husband and I stopped going to the Downtowner two or three years ago after many many less-than-mediocre meals, but the poor man, given the huge responsibility of choosing the restaurant for tonight, brightly said "Let's try the Downtowner - who knows, it may be a LOT better by now!" [on a side note, we had avoided the Pirate Republic as well for two or three years after some mediocre meals - and when we recently re-tried it, we were thrilled at the wonderful new menu and really good food - so we thought maybe the Downtowner would be the same - definitely worth a try, no!?]

Before I go on, I must say that I give the DT 5 out of 5 for free parking with ample spaces, and one of the best restaurant docks in Fort Lauderdale (it's a floating dock, so it makes embarking and disembarking a piece of cake). It's a good location - almost right in the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale, almost under Andrews Avenue bridge - so you get a good view of the river - there's outside seating under an adequate awning - so it really does have a lot going for it. Can't say there's much atmosphere, at least not outside - and there are a lot fewer tables now than there used to be, outside.

HOWEVER.... and this is where we get to the food..... shame on the DT - in the two of three years that we have avoided this place, they haven't so much as changed a sausage (that's an expression, they don't really serve sausages) on the menu - there's not a SINGLE change that we could tell - not the menus themselves, same design, same colors, same look - I mean EXACTLY the same - and exactly the same menu items! Seriously, in this day and age, in three years, if the menu doesn't change a single thing, it's either a massively successful menu, or else the owners don't care or don't know better. You choose.

The service was VERY good - no complaints there at all - there was a storm brewing so they were shuffling the tables in to the wall, but we were the only outside guests so it was pretty easy for them to do that and recommended, looking at the sky. OK it's summer, but you'd think with the view etc., there'd be more people outside - but there weren't. (the storm never came, just passed by, in case you're wondering).

So, service was very good - as I said, but the menu is prehistoric with its contents (maybe the DT isn't the Historic DT but the prehistoric DT?). The music was very loud - we asked a server if he could turn it down - but as he was in charge of reorganizing the tables, he asked if we could wait a few minutes, which we did, but he never got round to turning the music down. It was unnecessarily loud, and ranged from early 60's music to heavy metal/rock).

I ordered from the daily specials menu, pan seared mahi mahi with pico de gallo (which I ordered on the side) on a bed of creamy risotto. Poor, long suffering husband (who had just had a telling off for leaving the boat lines draped all over the dock instead of tying them up neatly like he normally does and who admitted that no, that wasn't his best effort) ordered a cuban sandwich with fries.

I attach photos of the dishes - and I have to say when they came, they looked good, the fish gently resting on the bed of risotto as described. However, when I tasted my risotto, it was cold . The fish was luke warm, but not warm enough for me to eat it. I told the waiter who happily took it away to reheat it - it came back some time later (hubby was halfway through his dinner) with the fish on the side now and a fresh portion (I hope) of much warmer (still not hot) risotto. Fish was warmer but still not hot, but I just couldn't face sending it back again.

The fish was not great, not bad, but the risotto, oh my goodness.... let's just say that if you look at the photo of the forkful of risotto, you would be forgiven for thinking it was potato salad - I can't believe this was really arborio rice - it was like a big clump of glue or paste with rice mixed in. Every mouthful I took, I could feel it like a lead weight, and when I got back on the boat, it started listing seriously to one side with my additional weight and I had to sit in the middle - although the waterline was now seriously affected (of course I am joking, but it felt like I was 20 pounds heavier and I felt like I'd eaten a lead balloon). My advice to restaurants - unless you do risotto properly and well, don't do it at all. Don't offer "creamy risotto" when all it is is overcooked normal white rice held together with paste. It may look lovely (which it did) but I could only manage a few mouthfuls because it was just so clumpy and heavy. What I was pleased to see that on the bill, the recommended tip percentages were based on the pre-tax total (which is correct) - so many restaurants suggest tips based on the POST-tax total, which is incorrect - you should only tip on the amount before tax. So that was nice to see.

Hubby's cuban sandwich was average, so he said, and his fries were of the seasoned kind - definitely out of a bag - not very good. In fact, he said he thought these were the cheapest ingredients you could find. I have to agree, unfortunately.

So, to sum it up - poor, poor, poor food, less than average bar food, food we would not go back for and could not recommend. The service was great, music too loud, great dockage if you're going by boat and easy parking if you're going by car, great location, and overall, tremendous potential. Just don't eat there.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank chewedpup
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 26, 2013

My husband and I stopped going to the Downtowner two or three years ago after many many less-than-mediocre meals, but the poor man, given the huge responsibility of choosing the restaurant for tonight, brightly said "Let's try the Downtowner - who knows, it may be a LOT better by now!" [on a side note, we had avoided the Pirate Republic as well for two or three years after some mediocre meals - and when we recently re-tried it, we were thrilled at the wonderful new menu and really good food - so we thought maybe the Downtowner would be the same - definitely worth a try, no!?]

Before I go on, I must say that I give the DT 5 out of 5 for free parking with ample spaces, and one of the best restaurant docks in Fort Lauderdale (it's a floating dock, so it makes embarking and disembarking a piece of cake). It's a good location - almost right in the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale, almost under Andrews Avenue bridge - so you get a good view of the river - there's outside seating under an adequate awning - so it really does have a lot going for it.

HOWEVER.... and this is where we get to the food..... shame on the DT - in the two of three years that we have avoided this place, they haven't so much as changed a sausage (that's an expression, they don't really serve sausages) on the menu - there's not a SINGLE change that we could tell - not the menus themselves, same design, same colors, same look - I mean EXACTLY the same - and exactly the same menu items! Seriously, in this day and age, in three years, if the menu doesn't change a single thing, it's either a massively successful menu, or else the owners don't care or don't know better. You choose.

The service was VERY good - no complaints there at all - there was a storm brewing so they were shuffling the tables in to the wall, but we were the only outside guests so it was pretty easy for them to do that and recommended, looking at the sky. OK it's summer, but you'd think with the view etc., there'd be more people outside - but there weren't. (the storm never came, just passed by, in case you're wondering).

So, service was very good - as I said, but the menu is prehistoric with its contents (maybe the DT isn't the Historic DT but the prehistoric DT?). The music was very loud - we asked a server if he could turn it down - but as he was in charge of reorganizing the tables, he asked if we could wait a few minutes, which we did, but he never got round to turning the music down. It was unnecessarily loud, and ranged from early 60's music to heavy metal/rock).

I ordered from the daily specials menu, pan seared mahi mahi with pico de gallo (which I ordered on the side) on a bed of creamy risotto. Poor, long suffering husband (who had just had a telling off for leaving the boat lines draped all over the dock instead of tying them up neatly like he normally does and who admitted that no, that wasn't his best effort) ordered a cuban sandwich with fries.

I attach photos of the dishes - and I have to say when they came, they looked good, the fish gently resting on the bed of risotto as described. However, when I tasted my risotto, it was cold . The fish was luke warm, but not warm enough for me to eat it. I told the waiter who happily took it away to reheat it - it came back some time later (hubby was halfway through his dinner) with the fish on the side now and a fresh portion (I hope) of much warmer (still not hot) risotto. Fish was warmer but still not hot, but I just couldn't face sending it back again.

The fish was not great, not bad, but the risotto, oh my goodness.... let's just say that if you look at the photo of the forkful of risotto, you would be forgiven for thinking it was potato salad - I can't believe this was really arborio rice - it was like a big clump of glue or paste with rice mixed in. Every mouthful I took, I could feel it like a lead weight, and when I got back on the boat, it started listing seriously to one side with my additional weight and I had to sit in the middle - although the waterline was now seriously affected (of course I am joking, but it felt like I was 20 pounds heavier and I felt like I'd eaten a lead balloon). My advice to restaurants - unless you do risotto properly and well, don't do it at all. Don't offer "creamy risotto" when all it is is overcooked normal white rice held together with paste. It may look lovely (which it did) but I could only manage a few mouthfuls because it was just so clumpy and heavy.

Hubby's cuban sandwich was average, so he said, and his fries were of the seasoned kind - definitely out of a bag - not very good. In fact, he said he thought these were the cheapest ingredients you could find. I have to agree, unfortunately.

So, to sum it up - poor, poor, poor food, less than average bar food, food we would not go back for and could not recommend. The service was great, music too loud, great dockage if you're going by boat and easy parking if you're going by car, great location, and overall, tremendous potential. Just don't eat there.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank chewedpup
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 9, 2013 via mobile

We took the water taxi over from the beach. I ordered cheddar onion potato soup and ribs w potatoes.... Hubs ordered oysters. For drinks we had red stripe and pina colada. It was rib night so it was $12 for a full rack, they were great as was all of our food. Price was perfect ($48). Will def recommend

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank Almostbrady
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 26, 2013

We returned to the Downtowner after a long break from visits. The location is great, right downtown, albeit next to the jail, and on the New River right under the Andrews Ave bridge. Great to watch the yachts move up and down the river on a late afternoon.

We stopped being regular, loyal customers shortly after the restaurant changed hands a few years back. The quality of the food and overall menu had gone "in the river" and they had this horrible manager who yelled at staff and reduced a good waitress to tears in front of customers.

I am afraid there were few changes upon our return. The food quality was poor and underwhelming, preparation and presentaion was mediocre and the overall menu lacking. As the old adage says, "You can't make a silk purse from a sows ear".

This visit we ate an appetizer only because nothing was very appealing on the menu. We loved the bartender, very pleasant and funny gal from Spain. They have the same manager who was agian abrupt to the staff and the body language from them was very telling. I was floored that he was still there and was informed that he had been fired and was hired back!

The shining hope is we were told that the restaurant was just sold again. I really write this review in hopes that new owners read it and pay attention. Improve the food, reward wait staff and bartenders and fire that manager! This is a gem location and many fomally loyal customers would love to come back to good food and a great venue. It just needs the right touch.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
1  Thank goodeatin10
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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