Don’t let the name fool you. The Old Fort Lauderdale Breakfast House is now open nightly — for dinner.
Fans of the O-B/House, as it’s nicknamed, no longer have to wait till morning for fluffy monster pancakes or perfectly poached eggs. They’re on the evening menu along with burgers, BLTs and fish sandwiches. There’s also a limited selection of more elaborate fare like oyster pan roast, sirloin with brown mustard-hollandaise sauce and mahi provençal.
The breakfast house has been drawing morning and lunchtime crowds since it opened a year ago, so owner Rodney Ely, who got his start at the Andrews Riverside in the ’80s, and chef Aaron Johnson decided it was time to take the next step.
The “Old Fort Lauderdale” in the name comes from the charming setting — a small, stand-alone 1925 building in Himmarshee Village. Vintage black-and-white photos and maritime items decorate the cozy interior, yellow roses brighten each table, and the staff is sweet and accommodating.
Best of all is the food. Ely and Johnson have the same approach at breakfast, lunch and dinner — cooking with care and top-notch ingredients including fresh fish, seasonal produce and grass-fed beef. The Las Olas bakery Gran Forno makes the wondrous artisan breads from Ely’s recipes. (On the restaurant’s website, he says his sense of “wholesomeness” comes from growing up in Iowa’s corn country.)
Quality ingredients carry a higher price tag, and breakfast here isn’t cheap — from $7 to $16. Yet at dinner, it’s a bargain to pay $7 for fish stew and greens or $13 for mahi mahi with Yukon Gold potatoes and roasted vegetables.
You can find healthy choices, but many O-B/House dishes are ultra rich, like the opulent oyster pan roast. Gulf oysters are nestled in a creamy sauce spiked with Pernod and tarragon, topped with bread crumbs, popped in the stone oven (used for just about everything here) and served with buttered toast points.
Paula Deen would have a hard time resisting the corn chowder, with fresh-shucked corn cooked in a heavy cream base, finished with Cheddar, bacon and chopped chives.
Lighten up with the smoked marlin dip, which comes from a local fish company, served with crudités and buttered toast points. (The gently melted butter is delicious.) The kitchen uses white wine in the dip so it’s not as hearty as the usual spread.
One of our favorite entrees is the Mahi Pop Eye, a nod to the cartoon sailor. Fresh spinach cooked in a cream-white wine reduction with a hint of garlic and lots of chopped shallots is served over a juicy slab of mahi mahi, with roasted Yukon Golds and buttered julienne carrots on the side.
The more delicate mahi provençal is also a hit, cooked in a fragrant tomato sauce and served with kalamata olives, potatoes and roasted spinach.
There’s also a flavorful meatloaf, though we thought the sauce a bit cloying, and a few nightly specials, including a well-marbled rib-eye that was cooked as we asked to medium-rare.
We can’t resist breakfast here, so we ordered the O-B House Hollandaise. Supremely comforting yet elegant, the sauce cradles two softly poached eggs set atop a mound of fresh spinach and thick bread. And yes, their 8-inch, baked buttermilk pancakes are available at night.
Full as we were, we shared their two terrific desserts. One is a modern take on chocolate ice box cake made with from-scratch chocolate chip cookies, a double-chocolate pudding filling and whipped cream. The other is a summery shortcake made with strawberries (or whatever fruit is in season), a sweet biscuit and more whipped cream.
It looks like dinner is a new success for the Old Fort Lauderdale Breakfast House.