The Historic Downtowner in Fort Lauderdale – Waterfront Drinks & Dining

The Historic Downtowner brings together a bit of history with modern vibes all in one waterfront location.  This cornerstone of Fort Lauderdale has been serving up an experience steeped in 1925 charm and current-day buzz since its inception. Discover what keeps this venue a favorite for dining, live music, and local flair.

This is a regular spot for us being it’s the official home base of the Miami Vikes, a group of fans of the Minnesota Vikings that get together to watch their team through wins, losses, and heartbreaks.  I’ve been a die hard Viking fan since birth and can say that yes, it’s very difficult being a Viking fan.

We really like the group that gathers for Vikings games, but in this Historic Downtowner review I’ll go well into everything you need to know about this iconic spot and tell you why it’s a great place to venture into by foot, car, or even boat.

Key Takeaways

  • The Historic Downtowner combines nearly a century of history with a lively atmosphere including delicious food, live music, and prime location on the New River in Ft Lauderdale.
  • Apart from seafood specialties like fish tacos and shrimp platter, it also offers hearty options like Bacon Jam Hamburgers for meat lovers, integrating locally-sourced ingredients and sustainability.
  • The restaurant is a hit for chilling out with its Happy Hour specials from 4 pm to 7 pm, live music nights, and an outdoor patio that offers a pet-friendly waterfront dining experience.

Exploring the Historic Downtowner: A Fort Lauderdale Staple

Football at the Downtowner
The Downtowner is a great place to not only watch the Minnesota Vikings, but also any other team.

The Historic Downtowner, our main character, is a must-visit for both locals and tourists. Sprung from the vision of Fred Maxwell in 1925, this Mediterranean Revival architecture masterpiece has been a part of the city’s landscape for nearly a century.

Nestled near a 60-acre botanical garden and Everglades wildlife sanctuary, and forming part of the Riverwalk, the establishment holds an irresistible appeal. Its fusion of delectable food, refreshing drinks, and vibrant live music adds to the energetic ambiance of downtown Fort Lauderdale, just a short distance from the beautiful Fort Lauderdale Beach and steps from the popular restaurants on Las Olas Boulevard, a main drag in Ft Lauderdale.

The Story Behind the Building

The Historic Downtowner building is like a time capsule that lets us peek into the Roaring 20’s. Despite the 1926 hurricane that wreaked havoc in the area, this structure stood tall and unyielding, a testament to its strength and resilience. Its historical significance is further amplified by its continued service in the present day.

While the building’s designer remains a mystery, the architecture style is a classic example of the Mediterranean Revival. It pairs perfectly with the divey atmosphere, friendly staff, and delicious food that the Historic Downtowner is known for. It’s not just a building; it’s a piece of history that continues to serve the community.

New River Dr: Scenic Views and Boating Culture

Boating culture along New River Dr

New River Dr, famed for its lush tropics and bustling boating culture, is conveniently situated a short distance from the Historic Downtowner. As you cruise along, the sight of the majestic New River Gorge Bridge will leave you awestruck. A plethora of activities awaits outdoor enthusiasts, including:

  • hiking
  • biking
  • camping
  • fishing

The river also hosts exciting annual boating events, adding a splash of festivity to the serene surroundings. The allure of the Historic Downtowner is perfectly echoed by the ambiance of New River Dr.

Delectable Dining Options

Tom & Jerrys Drink
The Downtowner got festive for the holidays, offering a traditional Minnesota comfort food menu.

The Historic Downtowner offers a culinary journey that is as diverse as Fort Lauderdale itself. Whether you’re in the mood for:

this place has got you covered. And when it comes to must-try dishes, the shrimp and grits are a crowd favorite, along with the chicken wings, fish tacos, ribeye, key lime pie, and brownies. Each dish is a testament to the restaurant’s commitment to quality and flavor.

Seafood Delights: Fish Dip, Shrimp Platter, and More

For seafood lovers, the Historic Downtowner’s menu teems with mouthwatering selections. Some must-try dishes include:

  • Fish Dip: a scrumptious blend of mayonnaise, cream cheese, lemon juice, mustard, horseradish, Old Bay, smoked fish, and onions
  • Fish Tacos
  • Old Bay Shrimp
  • Mahi Sandwich

These dishes will leave you craving for more.

The restaurant is committed to sustainability, sourcing only the freshest and sustainably caught fish and quality shellfish from around the world. On top of that, the menu boasts seasonal seafood dishes, ensuring that there is always something new to try. It’s a seafood lover’s paradise!

While you are in Fort Lauderdale, here’s my list of the best places for seafood.

Savory Selections: Bacon Jam Hamburger and Chicken Sandwich

The Historic Downtowner’s menu is not just limited to seafood. Meat lovers can devour the Bacon Jam Hamburger, a mouthwatering concoction of a juicy beef patty, gouda cheese, bacon slices, and a rich bacon jam. The Chicken Sandwich is another standout, made special by its unique ingredients and spice blend. To enhance your dining experience, you can pair these with sides like French fries, coleslaw, or a mixed green salad. And to top it all off, the meat used in these dishes is sourced locally, ensuring freshness and supporting the local community. It’s a feast for the senses and the soul!

Unwind with Live Music and Happy Hour Specials

After a hectic week, the Historic Downtowner offers the perfect refuge, complete with live music and enticing happy hour deals. Every Saturday, the restaurant buzzes with lively music, infusing the place with an energetic atmosphere. And if you’re lucky, you might catch a street festival or a special guest during Sunday Brunch.

The happy hour, running from 4 pm to 7 pm, features $6 Happytizers and a wide selection of reasonably priced beverages. So, grab a glass and let the music carry you away!

Live Music Nights

The Historic Downtowner’s live music nights are a delightful experience. On Sundays, from 12-4 pm, you can groove to Xavier’s Steel Drum Caribbean vibes. But the best time to catch the live music is on Saturdays, the most popular day for music lovers at the restaurant.

On such nights, the restaurant often organizes street festivals and invites special guests. Some of the bands that have graced the stage are Whipping Post, adding to the eclectic mix of sounds. And the best part? There’s no info on whether there’s a cover charge or any extra costs, so you can just relax and enjoy the music!

Happy Hour Highlights

The Historic Downtowner knows how to liven up your evenings with its happy hour specials. Every day from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., you can indulge in $6 ‘Happytizers’ and sip on discounted drinks. It’s the perfect way to kick back and relax after a long day!

As for the drinks, enjoy $11 specials on classic cocktails such as Cucumber Cobbler, Classic Margarita, and Old-Fashioned. So whether you’re a fan of fruity cocktails or prefer a classic old-fashioned, there’s something for everyone. Cheers to good times and great deals!

Navigating Parking and Transportation

Reaching the Historic Downtowner is hassle-free due to the ample parking and various public transportation options. Whether you prefer driving, riding the bus, or hopping on a water taxi, you’re sure to find a convenient way to reach this Fort Lauderdale gem.

Plus, free parking behind the building makes it even easier for those driving their own cars.

Free Parking Spots

Though the Historic Downtowner provides free parking at the back of the building, you can also find numerous free parking spaces in the vicinity. Whether you’re checking the SpotAngels map or exploring the Las Olas area, you’re sure to find a convenient spot to park your car.

To help you navigate, we’ve got a few spots to suggest. You can park for free at:

  • 1208 Sistrunk Blvd
  • 313 NE 2nd St
  • 217 NW 1st St
  • 100 N. Andrews Ave

These are usually within walking distance from the Historic Downtowner. However, parking hours may vary, so it’s always a good idea to check in advance.

Public Transportation and Ridesharing

If you’d rather not worry about parking, public transportation is a great option. In Fort Lauderdale, you’ve got options like:

  • Amtrak
  • Broward County Transit (BCT)
  • Brightline
  • B-Cycle/AvMed Rides
  • Riverwalk Water Trolley
  • Community Shuttle
  • LauderGo
  • Tri-Rail

The closest bus stop to the Historic Downtowner is just a 2-minute walk away, making it a convenient choice.

Moreover, the Historic Downtowner caters to rideshare services, offering designated zones for pick-ups and drop-offs. An Uber ride to the restaurant from different spots in Fort Lauderdale usually costs around $40-$55, depending on your starting location. So, whether you prefer public transportation or rideshares, reaching the Historic Downtowner is easy and convenient.

Outdoor Patio: Gorgeous Views and Relaxing Ambiance

the downtowner outside

The Historic Downtowner’s enchanting outdoor patio stands as one of its major attractions. The relaxed ambiance, coupled with stunning views of Downtown’s tall buildings, boats, and yachts passing by, make for a truly magical outdoor dining spot.

Although the patio isn’t situated directly by the water, the scenic views are within sight, enhancing the charm of the dining experience.

Waterfront Dining Experience

The outdoor patio offers a unique waterfront dining experience. As you enjoy live entertainment and sip on craft cocktails, you can bask in the serene river views. It’s the perfect backdrop to a meal, enhancing the overall dining experience.

From jerk chicken, fish tacos, smoked fish dip, salmon burger, to a Ragin’ Cajun sandwich and a Gulf shrimp platter, you can dig into a variety of delicious dishes while taking in the beautiful views. It’s not just a meal; it’s an experience that indulges all your senses.

Pet-Friendly Environment

Not only does the Historic Downtowner appeal to people, but it’s also a favorite among their furry pals! It won the Best Pet-Friendly Restaurant in the 2021 Readers Choice Awards by South Florida Magazine, proving its dedication to providing a comfortable space for pets.

To ensure a pleasant dining experience for pets, the Historic Downtowner provides special amenities. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Take care of your pet’s needs before visiting.
  • Keep your pet nearby and on their best behavior.
  • Remember, the Historic Downtowner is all about creating a welcoming atmosphere for everyone, pets included!

Customer Experiences and Feedback

With its excellent food and service, the Historic Downtowner has earned a reputation, reflected in its 4 out of 5 rating on TripAdvisor and 3.5 stars on Yelp. While some guests felt that the bar experience could be improved, many praised the food and the ample free parking.

As with any business, the Downtowner values feedback and continually strives to enhance the dining experience for its patrons.

Praise for Food and Service

Reviews for the Historic Downtowner often highlight its delicious food and high-quality service. Some of the dishes that have received praise include:

  • Chicken wings
  • Fish tacos
  • Ribeye
  • Key lime pie
  • Brownies

These positive reviews indicate the restaurant’s commitment to good food, great service, and culinary excellence.

Despite varying opinions, numerous guests have expressed appreciation for the food, free parking, and overall dining experience, as seen in positive reviews across several platforms. It’s clear that the Historic Downtowner is a place that knows how to make its guests feel special.

Areas for Improvement

Despite the praise, the Historic Downtowner is not without its share of criticism. Some guests have expressed dissatisfaction with the bar experience and the mix of old-school vibe and modern changes. Additionally, there were a few complaints about specific dishes like the Key Lime Pie and mussels special being served cold.

Feedback has also pointed out issues with the parking attendant’s behavior. In response to these criticisms, the Historic Downtowner is eager to improve and enhance the service. Suggestions from customers include:

  • creating outdoor hangout spots
  • sprucing up the building exteriors
  • making downtown more attractive
  • adding more parking

All these feedback are valuable for the Historic Downtowner as it continues to strive for excellence.


In conclusion, the Historic Downtowner is more than just a restaurant. It’s a piece of Fort Lauderdale’s history, a place where culinary delights meet a lively atmosphere, and a testament to a community’s spirit. Despite some areas for improvement, the overall customer experience speaks volumes about its dedication to service. So, the next time you’re in Fort Lauderdale, make sure to visit the Historic Downtowner. It’s not just a meal; it’s an experience that will leave you with cherished memories!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the history of the Downtowner Fort Lauderdale?

The history of the Downtowner Fort Lauderdale dates back to the Roaring 20’s, and despite facing destruction in the 1926 hurricane, the arcade continued to thrive.

What is the famous street in Fort Lauderdale?

The famous street in Fort Lauderdale is Las Olas Boulevard, which is known for its variety of dining options and is considered a “must visit destination.

Does Fort Lauderdale have a downtown area?

Yes, Fort Lauderdale has a downtown area known for its fashion, dining, and entertainment options, as well as being home to various educational and governmental institutions. It’s a blend of glamour and charm, making it a modern sub-tropical urban center.

What is the Historic Downtowner?

The Historic Downtowner is a popular dining spot in Fort Lauderdale known for its scenic location and rich history. It’s a great place to enjoy a meal with a side of local heritage.

What kind of food is available at the Historic Downtowner?

The Historic Downtowner offers seafood delights, savory selections, and a variety of appetizers and sides for you to enjoy.

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Tim Schmidt is a 20+ year Entrepreneur and Digital Marketer. A Fort Lauderdale-based "Digital Nomad," he enjoys traveling as much as possible with family and friends. AllWorld is his escape to document all of his adventures, including being a hardcore "foodie." He has property in Costa Rica and visits several times each year and is happy to offer his expert advice for planning your trip.

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