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Vibrant dining scene grows in downtown Oakland Park



Oakland Park – A drive or walk through downtown Oakland Park will reveal something that business owners and diners have waited a year to see: the city’s dining scene appears to be back in full swing.

With many restrictions being lifted on businesses and more residents opting to become vaccinated from COVID-19, locals and tourists alike are beginning to venture out more and more to area restaurants, bars and dining establishments throughout the city.

The current spring break season, which typically brings in millions of dollars in revenue annually, is especially important for restaurant and bar owners whose industry was hit particularly hard due to last year’s lockdowns.

“Things are definitely getting a lot better. Customer traffic has really picked up in recent weeks, and you can tell they are wanting that authentic, enjoyable dining experience after being cooped up in the house for all those months,” said Patrick Little, owner and chef at The Butcher’s Barrel, a local butcher shop and restaurant located across from city hall.

“Places like Wilton Manors and Las Olas do a fantastic job of marketing their dining and entertainment districts,” he said. “Oakland Park is certainly headed in the right direction when it comes to promoting the fantastic gems we have right here in our very backyard.”

Patrick Little, owner of The Butcher’s Barrel, is one of the business owners who have made the Culinary Arts District their home. [Javon Anthony Lloyd]

The Culinary Arts District, located at Oakland Park Boulevard and Dixie Highway, was established in 2013 as a catalyst to create a well-rounded food culture and healthy living experience.

Its biggest occupant, Funky Buddha, which also opened the same year, has become one of South Florida’s most popular and well-known breweries.

A branding initiative was launched back in 2015 to support the district and now there’s an even bigger push by community leaders and business owners to promote the area’s growing culinary scene.

“The vision for the Culinary Arts District was to create a vibrant community in downtown Oakland Park. We wanted to lay the groundwork to encourage economic investment and growth,” said Oakland Park Mayor Jane Bolin. “As restaurants and businesses start to open, it’s exciting to see that vision come to life and watch the downtown area evolve as a premiere destination.”

Last year, the Oakland Park Community Redevelopment Agency launched its “Find It In Oakland Park” promotional campaign to encourage residents to shop and dine locally.

As part of the campaign, city-goers who use the social media hashtag, #LiveLikeALoakL, are offered special discounts at shops and restaurants, such as Fat Tap Beer Bar and Eatery, Funky Buddha Brewery, El Guanaco Taqueria y Antojitos and more.

For Long Island snowbird Andrew Puleo, along with his wife and two daughters, going out to eat at different restaurants around the city is part of the perks that come with vacationing in South Florida.

“We own a condo not too far from the downtown area. The best thing about coming down here is getting the opportunity to enjoy good food, great vibes and new places that seem to be popping up all over the city,” said Puleo. “It’s always special being able to spend quality time with family in a community that supports its local business owners and workers.”

City spokeswoman Shannon Vezina told The New Pelican through email that the city intends to launch new events and initiatives to activate awareness about the expanding Culinary Arts District once additional safety restrictions are lifted.

“We’re looking forward to resuming our popular annual events that highlight our restaurants and businesses, including Taste of Oakland Park and Dancing in the Street,” wrote Vezina.

Visit for a full listing of participating businesses and discounts being offered by Oakland Park restaurants, shops and other retail stores.

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