Chris Young doesn’t mind tourists walking into Flight 19. But you only have to look at the photos on the walls or the items on the menu of this Las Olas café to catch on that this is a spot made with locals in mind.
“If the tourists are looking for cheap food, there are places they can go,” he says. “We care more about the locals.”
And it’s hard to get more local than Chris.
Inspiration from both of his parents is present here. Chris says he basically grew up on Las Olas, where his mother owned two shops when he was a boy, so this stretch of prime real estate is a kind of second home. The art on the walls – here’s a black-and-white photo of a plane at Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale, there’s an old Delta Airlines poster extolling the virtues of visiting the city, there’s a wall hanging made from an old airplane propeller – is inspired more by his late father, a pilot for the Navy, then Delta. The name’s a flight reference too. “Flight 19,” aviation history buffs will know, was the name of the group of bombers that left Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale for a training exercise on December 5, 1945. Neither they nor a rescue plane sent to find them were ever found; a Navy report later declared no exact cause of a crash could be found. The crash became the primary inspiration for the legend of the Bermuda Triangle.
The menu defines the Flight 19 style as “Florida fare, southern roots with Caribbean flair,” and that’s a good description for a menu that divides between all the Florida fish and meats like pork loin, smoked baby back ribs and short-rib tacos. The lobster’s of the spiny, Florida variety; the grouper gets served with a pineapple buerre blanc and jasmine rice; and the scallops a la plancha come either on their own or paired with the eight-oz filet mignon. This is game-raising Florida fare.
“Some of the recipes are family recipes,” Young says. “Seafood’s obviously going to be a staple for us. We focus heavily on community.”
That also means a focus on local, something that Young says can be done without much problem. If the seafood comes from the nearest bits of the Atlantic, he’d like the meat to come from somewhere off US 27, or closer. Same goes for the greens.
“Davie and Homestead are great for produce,” he says. Bread comes from Fort Lauderdale bakery Gran Forno.
Drinks have a similarly local vibe. Juices are freshly squeezed. Coffee comes from Fort Lauderdale’s Argyle Coffee Roasters. Only Florida beers are on tap. The Cocktails playsup the restaurant’s aviation connection; drinks include the Lost Squadron (vodka, lemon, blueberry and pinot noir), the Mysterious Lights (gin, rosemary, agave, grapefruit and chinola) and the Missing Man, a drink named for the Blue Angels flying formation. (This Missing Man includes Casamigos Blanco, hibiscus, Green Chartreuse and agave.)
There’s live music on Friday nights and during the Sunday brunch. Straws are stainless steel, and you get a free non-alcoholic drink if you bring yours back on a return visit.
Out front, a small covered patio looks out onto Las Olas, a street that has changed a bit since Young was growing up around it. It’s a spot that offers plenty of people-watching opportunities – which, as the season gets into full swing, means tourist-watching. And they’re welcome to stop into Flight 19 if they’d like.
But it’s the people who’ll still be here when they’re gone that Chris Young most wants to serve.
The Dish: Cajun Gulf Shrimp with cauliflower polenta and butter‑roasted cauliflower
- 8 wild-caught gulf white shrimp
- Head of cauliflower
- ¼ cup polenta
- ¼ cup of unsalted butter
- Blackening seasoning
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup of water
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- Pinch of garlic powder
Clean and peel shrimp. After making blackening seasoning, heavily cover shrimp with it.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash cauliflower and cut into florets. Put florets on baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Put small cubes of butter between florets. Cook in oven for 10–12 minutes or until florets are slightly golden.
Heat sauté pan to medium heat. Add 1 cup of water and then add ¼ cup of polenta. Mix together until smooth. Remove polenta and add to food processor. When cauliflower is removed add half of the florets to the food processor. Leave the other half for garnish. In food processor, blend cauliflower and polenta until combined.
Heat sauté pan to medium/high heat. Add butter to pan and sear the shrimp until fully cooked. Remove shrimp from pan and add the cauliflower polenta to pan to bring it up to temperature.
Plate the cauliflower polenta in a shallow bowl. Around the edges place the shrimp and remaining cauliflower florets.