The Jet Runway Café at Executive Airport serves several different kinds of patrons. There are the people who work at Executive or who are using it for travel. And then there are the folks who just think jets are cool and want to look out on a runway while they’re having a meal. Now, the people behind the café are looking to do for big boats what they did for small planes.
Yot – yes, the name is in fact “yacht” spelled phonetically – is scheduled to open this month, in time for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. The restaurant sits inside the Lauderdale Marine Center. The center’s one of the world’s largest marine repair spaces and an important part of the local yachting industry – but if you’re not in the yachting world, you might know it as the big one that looms up east of I-95 at the south fork of the New River. The restaurant also includes an event space. And if you like your meal to include a bit of yacht-spotting, it sits next to the slips reserved for LMC’s biggest yachts.
For LMC president Doug West, the addition of a restaurant is part of a strategy that’s been in the works since new ownership took over the center. In 2015, the Carlyle Group bought LMC; West came on board shortly after.
The new team quickly began looking at the facility and its current customers, and what new customers they would want if they were going to maximize the facility’s potential. “One of the early things we knew we needed to add,” West says, “was food and beverage.”
Partially, the goal with that was to bring in people who otherwise wouldn’t have reason to visit LMC. But they were also thinking of other changes that might require amenities such as a restaurant. Since 2015, they’ve made improvements targeted at bigger yachts and specifically targeted that market. It’s working. Previously, yachts less than 100 feet occupied about 70 percent of LMC’s slips. Now it’s about 50-50.
With those bigger boats come different needs. A larger yacht typically has a full-time crew of about five.
“They need amenities,” West says. “They need a gym, they need a place to go connect to the internet and a workspace. They need a place to eat and drink.”
West and colleagues looked around and saw poor options on the restaurant side. They also saw about 50,000 square feet of office space, leased out to tenants. They wanted crew amenities and traffic drivers, so they looked to reconfigure that space.
The reconfiguration work – turning office space into restaurant and event space – started about a year ago. The Jet Runway team came in later to turn a newly created restaurant-shaped space into an actual restaurant.
For Jet Runway Café co-founder Mike Linder, the concept’s straightforward: what they did with aviation at Jet Runway Cafe, they’ll now do with yachting at Yot.
For that to work, they need more than just a cool location. Yot’s executive chef, Greg Schesser, is a Culinary Institute of America graduate whose career stops include one at celebrated Napa Valley restaurant French Laundry. The idea for the food at Yot, he says, involves “being very approachable and recognizable but elevating it. Keeping it in that realm as a destination, we need to attract people to where we’re at. We need to do something that’s not necessarily in the box of what everybody else is doing.
“I like to refer to it as American bistro style food – things that people can recognize and come to enjoy.
“We want people to come for the views and stay for the food and drink.”
Linder believes they will, and that they’ll fulfill LMC’s goals of making the center a destination for people with no connection to yachting. He predicts it’ll be busy seven days a week – breakfast, lunch and dinner. They plan to host networking events, charity events private events and more.
“I think we just have a great audience we’re going to be able to capture,” Linder says.
As they’ve begun introducing it to people, Schesser has noticed the effect it has.
“Any time someone who hasn’t seen it sees it for the first time, the first thing they say is ‘I can’t wait to come in and eat.’ It is for sure going to be that destination.”
The Dish: Smoked Lionfish Dip w/ Lavash Chips
- 2 cleaned, deboned and skinned lionfish fillets
- 1.5 gal water
- 20 oz salt
- 1 bag applewood chips
For dip base
- 1/3 cup cream cheese
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup crème fraiche (can substitute sour cream)
- 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup pickled jalapeños, chopped
- 2 tbsp parsley, chopped
- 2 tbsp chives, chopped
- 1 tbsp Tabasco sauce
- Salt to taste
- Fresh cracked black pepper
- Cover applewood chips with water and let soak for at least 2 hours. Remove from water and hold until ready for smoking.
- Mix 1.5 gal of room temperature water w/ 20 oz of salt. Stir well with whisk until salt is dissolved.
- Pour salt brine over fish fillets and brine for 4 minutes.
- Remove fish from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Place fish on sheet tray with resting rack.
- Smoke fish in barbecue or smoker at 180 degrees for 2 hours.
- Remove fish from smoker and let cool overnight in fridge, uncovered.
- In stand mixer or by hand, flake smoked fish pieces to desired size. Set aside flaked fish to mix with base.
For dip base
- Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl, including the smoked fish.
- Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, remembering that the fish was brined so it will already be nicely seasoned with salt.
- Serve with your favorite chip (we love our house made lavash chips) and accoutrements.