You can’t change where you’ve been, but you can change where you’re going. It’s one of those old truisms that’s a bit of a cliché, but also a good bit of truth. Understanding and learning from the past is important and necessary; making it a weight that keeps us from moving forward is a problem.
This is our annual food and drink issue, and in it we talk to a few people who are glad to be looking forward. Boy, are they glad to be looking forward. Like so many of us, people in the hospitality industry have for more than a year had to confront problems and questions they’d never imagined. Now, many are getting back to worrying most about things such as the tilapia delivery. It’s refreshing.
I spoke to David MacLennan, one of the people behind Even Keel Fish Shack in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea. Until recently, Even Keel wasn’t a “fish shack” and it wasn’t in LBTS. But pandemic shutdowns and slowdowns made the restaurant’s former, larger location on Federal Highway unsustainable. So they closed it, moved out and found a smaller place and a slightly different concept on A1A.
When I spoke to MacLennan, he didn’t sound mad about what hadn’t worked. He was excited about what had. He could envision a day when they’d look to open more Even Keel Fish Shacks; it is, he says, a concept that can be duplicated. In many ways, it’s worked better than the original restaurant.
I’ve been writing about restaurants and bars in Fort Lauderdale and farther away for, oh, let’s call it a few years now. In that time, I’ve never failed to be impressed by the creativity and resiliency that exists in this industry. It exists at the best of times and wow, has it ever existed in the worst of times.
Restaurants are busy places with fickle, live products and patrons that can be, well, a bit demanding at times. Stand back and watch skilled restaurant professionals at work on a busy night; it’s an exercise in watching potential disaster made into something beautiful. It’s a special kind of adrenaline that restaurants run on.
And sometimes, that spills over into the bigger-picture stuff. Sometimes, the need to make something out of the unexpected results not in an amazing daily special but an amazing new concept.
Sometimes you find yourself on A1A rather than Federal, and you find that it’s working.