Whether or not corporations really are people, businesses surely have life spans similar to human beings. Some seem eternal while others live, die, grow or evolve. Here are two local restaurant chains — one that remains as it was; the other set to begin its next chapter.
Jack’s Old Fashion Hamburgers
Hamburgers are quite the thing among gourmands these days, with arcane blends of ground meats, artisan-crafted buns and a cornucopia of toppings that render the finished product taller and wider than the span of most human mouths. If you like foie gras, caramelized artichoke hearts and persimmon-wood smoked weasel bellies on your burger, great, but if you fancy some lean fresh-ground, fresh-grilled unseasoned beef on a sturdy bun with your choice of popular toppings, head over to a low-key, non-glitzy dual-location chain in eastern Broward County that has been serving up better burgers for more than 40 years.
After founding the original in Fort Lauderdale in 1972, Jack M. Berry opened his second namesake spot a year later in Pompano Beach. To this day, the menu has focused on hamburgers: quarter-, third- and half-pound grilled patties with or without cheese. A number of free toppings are proffered as well as a few options they charge for — mushrooms, bacon, grilled onions, chili, et al.
Managing partner Jeff Gluth said that when Jack opened the first restaurant, his landlord at the time thought he was crazy. “Why go up against all the chain burger places?” he asked. But Gluth said Jack had no intention of competing with the ruling clowns and kings of burgerdom. “We sell a better product, and our customers know it. It’s really simple, and that’s why we’ve been doing it for more than 40 years,” he said.
In addition to burgers, Jack’s sells turkey breast, ham, roast beef and grilled cheese sandwiches, chili (all meat, no beans), hot dogs, salads, milk shakes and soft drinks. French fries, like the burgers, arrive unsalted, which is great for those who prefer to control their sodium intake. They’re also offered with chili or cheese. Gluth is especially proud of the roast beef. “It’s prime beef round, roasted and sliced every morning in house,” he said. Jack’s also offers fresh patties to go at a discount for home picnics, parties and cookouts.
Its Hallandale Beach and Davie locations began as links in Lum’s, another beloved South Florida chain, and all three current Flashbacks honor the defunct predecessor by recreating some of its menu items, notably the Ollie Burger.
As a student, founder Toula Amanna, a Greek immigrant, also waitressed at the original Hallandale location. With credit cards, family investments and a loan from her landlord, she opened her first restaurant in 1990. Why a diner?
In a phone interview, Amanna laughed. “Well, first I tried a deli but I didn’t realize I needed to be Jewish,” she said. With an advanced degree from FIU in information services, she did a bit of research and discovered that Greek Americans were “supposed to” open either Greek restaurants or diners, so she pivoted to the latter.
The current Flashback menu is loaded with diner-favorite comfort foods: burgers, salads, sandwiches, dinner plates, breakfast specials and extravagant desserts, including a giant blackout-style chocolate cake and a tempting array of pies, pastries, puddings, ice cream and more.
The second Flashback diner also replaced a moribund Lum’s in Davie in 2009. The Sun Sentinel reported that a $100,000 grant for renovation from the city of Davie aided in the transition.
The third, in northern Boca Raton, opened in 2014. It had previously been swanky Italian restaurants Vivo Partenza and Bova Ristorante, operated by a former Scott Rothstein business associate. The current Flashback in that space is one of the nicest diners you’ll ever see.
All three Flashbacks have large menus with food for every taste. The staff is friendly — many, Amanna says, have been with her for decades. She also shares her hard-won business knowledge and speaks to community groups and organizations, and lectures on working with community redevelopment agencies and the Small Business Administration.
In addition to the three Flashback Diners, Amanna and her partner Pano Bartzis also operate the Deerfield Beach Café, an environmentally friendly LEED-certified restaurant. They own the former McDonald’s building next door to their Davie location, making sweets, artisan chocolates, cakes and ice cream, which they sell in their diners and through Costco. In addition, they operate a thriving catering company, which provides food and refreshments for local city and private events.
The group recently purchased Grady’s Diner in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Amanna said they hope to emulate Miami’s Wynwood area and transform it into a gathering place for the arts and food.
Amanna and Bartzis say that they are in the process of starting Flashback’s next chapter. The Boca Raton Flashback Diner will become something else soon. “We’re doing very well there, but the name ‘diner’ comes with certain expectations; certain kinds of food and prices. It’s limiting,” Amanna said. Added Bartzis: “We will see what we will do at our other locations after that.”
If You Go
Jack’s Old Fashion Hamburgers
Where: Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach
Atmosphere: Timeless and casual
Essentials: Burgers, fries, roast beef, shakes
More info: jacksoldfashionhamburgers.com
Where: Hallandale Beach, Davie and Boca Raton
Atmosphere: Casual and familiar
Essentials: Ollie Burger, fried chicken, celebrity sandwiches, desserts
More info: flashbackdiner.com