Fourteen may seem young for a facelift, but the owner of Himmarshee Bar & Grille decided the popular Fort Lauderdale restaurant needed a visual boost, so this summer he will spruce it up with new paint, furniture and fabrics. A wood-burning oven will be installed, and the small kitchen will gain “capability,” says Dave Nicholas, owner since 2005.
Open since 1997, Himmarshee has long been a hot pre- and post-show hangout for the nearby Broward Center for the Performing Arts, and with good reason. It’s an upscale culinary refuge on a street packed with party-hearty bars. With seating for 65 inside and 45 outside, it’s the kind of place you can bring the kids, the college students and grandma. (Just try to arrive before the music cranks up at the adjacent Side Bar.)
Nicholas offers a thoughtful wine list of about 100 choices, 50 of them by the glass, including vintages he recently found on trips to Chile and Argentina. (The restaurant hosts beer and wine dinners in conjunction with Whole Foods Market.)
Chef Chris Miracolo, who helped open the restaurant and returned in 2009, recently left. At the helm now is chef Phil Bryant, who has cooked with Norman Van Aken for the past five years, as Himmarshee moves to a trendier, farm-to-table concept.
The menu changes often, but popular staples remain, though in slightly different form. The restaurant now gets produce from Loxahatchee’s Swank Farms, including the baby greens in the Neighborhood Salad (with marinated beets, walnuts, Gorgonzola and fig vinaigrette). We like the butter leaf salad with small goat cheese croquettes, slivers of apple and roasted red peppers in a perky sour cherry and herb vinaigrette.
Himmarshee has jumped on the pork belly bandwagon, serving the crisp, pan-seared morsels in a stack with lightly grilled watermelon — what a delicious combo — green apples, peanuts and coriander leaves, giving the dish a cool, light flair.
We ordered a longtime favorite, the butternut squash purses, fragrant of cinnamon, now fashioned from house-made pasta instead of store-bought wonton skins
There’s a lot of grazing fare, with small plates, snacks, limited raw bar and flat breads like ours with grilled steak. The meat was juicy and tender, served with chopped broccolini, caramelized onion, mushrooms, cambozola (like a mix of brie and Gorgonzola) and tomato-jalapeño relish. The topping was a little sweet for us, and the flatbread somewhat bland.
Grilled chicken wings were tasty, served with a guava-chile glaze and a jicama slaw, plus a blue cheese sauce on the side.
One of our favorite entrees was a simple, well-seasoned grilled chicken served with risotto, a go-to side here. Fennel-dusted diver scallops were succulent and perfectly seared, plated with a hearty butternut squash risotto, duck confit, sweet peas and roasted mushrooms.
Wahoo may be tough to catch, but it’s easy to devour this lightly pan-seared, herb-crusted mackerel. It’s ruby red inside, accompanied by winter bean cassoulet, poached tomatoes and arugula.
Mac and cheese is ultra creamy, served with smoked gouda and bits of ham (though we wish it had that old-fashioned browned crust).
Finish with an espresso crème brülée, chocolate cake or apple cake served with scrumptious cinnamon ice cream — nice and moist but so much better if served warm.
While we don’t want to see Himmarshee change too much, we’ll toast the next chapter for this local favorite.
If you go
Place: Himmarshee Bar & Grille
Address: 210 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale
Rating:★ ★ ★ (Very Good)
Contact: 954-524-1818, www.himmarshee.com
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday, 5:30-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4:30-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and 3:30-9 p.m. Sunday; adjacent Sidebar 5-midnight Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-3 a.m. Friday-Saturday, noon-9 p.m. Sunday
Prices: Small plates $12-$15, snacks $10, salads $8-$14, raw bar $12-$14 (market prices on some items), entrees $19-$38, sides $5, desserts $4-$7
FYI: Himmarshee’s next beer dinner (with Whole Foods Market) is 6:30 p.m. April 25 ($35 for four courses). Full bar; no corkage fee. Live music Wednesday nights, DJ Friday-Saturday nights in Side Bar. AX, DS, MC, VS.