YOLO has updated their menu; there are some new items and they've raised prices once again, and YOLO now qualifies as an expensive restaurant. Prime Rib is up $3 to $32 ($29 for Lunch), a half chicken is $19 (Same at Lunch), and a burger is now $14 ($13 at Lunch). The mystery meat "Manhattan Steak" remains at $35. Sides are now $5. Calamari remains at $11.50, because without the calamari they'd have no customers at all.
Supposedly they did $1 million in "renovations", but I don't see that a Plan Review was submitted. My understanding is that a plan review is required for any material change so they must not have done anything worth reporting.
Back in 2009, Michael M wrote:
Imagine that for some inexplicable reason, Bennigans became the new "it" spot. All the area movers and shakers lined up six deep at the door to get a chance to sample southwest egg rolls and mozzarella cheese sticks. Seriously. Yolo was packed wall to wall with faux glittery cretins and we actually had to be let through a velvet rope to see the hostess. There were literally three identical red Ferraris out front fighting for parking spaces. I'm not exaggerating. It was the funniest thing I've seen in a year. I almost felt bad for one of the guys. He fired up the convertible Ferrari, sped down to Yolo to impress and bammo, he's fighting with two other identical red Ferraris for prime fan-my-peacock-feathers real estate
All in all , it was a lot of fun but the food was mediocre at best....sort of like going to the circus...a lot of glitter and desperation with food that caters to the lowest common denominator. Our cool older friends (inside joke) said it reminded them of the bar scene in Star Wars.
After reading this, I knew I had to hire him to write for Inside Fort Lauderdale. He captured the essence of the place in a couple of paragraphs. He turned out to be a knowledgable foodie who grew up in restaurants and who wrote copy for an ad agency; the perfect meld of credibility and writing prowess; You can read his reviews of Marumi Sushi and Kitchenetta; but he ended up leaving town and things never materialized the way I'd envisioned it.>
The first time you come to YOLO, you'll probably think it's pretty cool. A Karen Hanlon design; the decor is funky abstract and they have a fire pit on the patio which is nice on a cool evening. The scene is what matters here; you don't come here to watch a game. When you're seated they stamp your table with 3 of the specials; it seems cool the first time you see it, but there are often more then 3 specials and there are no prices or descriptions, so it's really just a gimmick and not particularly useful. After 5 years with practically zero changes; the decor has lost it's appeal to me.
Sunday through Tuesday YOLO is a a sleepy restaurant with very light crowds; Wed through Sat it's more of a club.
Over time, YOLO has changed quite a bit. Three years ago it was the only place to go in downtown Fort Lauderdale. It started out as a new-concept restaurant with a big outdoor patio that served as the newest spot for people in the neighborhood to hang out. But over time, it's fallen out of favor with the true locals. The Ferrari guys turned YOLO into such a meat market that the nice girls stopped coming. When VIBE opened; the "plaza" became more like a club than a restaurant. Unsuspecting tourists would arrive at 9:30 to find Vibe dead empty, and they'd end up at YOLO eating Calamari and Potato Chips. Without question, the opening of VIBE lowered the perceived classiness of YOLO.
I've eaten at YOLO many times, and I can't say that I've ever had 1 thing that I really liked. The much ballyhooed Calimari is mostly batter; they shave it thin and puff it up and serve it with a sticky asian sauce, and the underdeveloped palates that dine here go nutty for it, just as they do for stuff like the Bang Bang shrimp at Bonefish Grill. You can get a decent meal here, but the MO is small portions of protein and a big heap of fries or green mashed potatoes. Their vegetable selection is often beets, Rapini or corn; not exactly enticing. Also, avoid the $9 wines. They have a $9 floor, so the stuff they sell for $9 is worth about $7.
The soups are to be avoided, as is anything else that requires culinary skill. Stick with the salads, burgers, ribs or grilled meats for entrees. I don't care for any of the Apps except the Tuna, but the small Tuna is microscopic, and at $18 the large has become a questionable value. The pork hash looks good but fails to deliver much flavor; the prime rib varies in size from smallish to Flintstonian. At brunch you'll pay $9 for a Bellini; make sure you ask how they make it before you order as you might be surprised.
Wednesday through Saturday the restaurant is filled with a disco beat; so be advised that it's like eating in a club, particularly later in the evening.
The training of the staff here irks me as well; they regularly have Rapini, and they've trained their servers to tell customers "It's like Broccoli Rabe". Considering that Rapini is just another name for Broccoli Rabe, I find such a description condescending; as if they assume their customers are stupid and know nothing about food.
On Wednesdays they have their Ladies Night, but it's only in the O Lounge; it's another one of their policies that just makes the city look bad. At the regular bar, if you don't know it's ladies night, you pay full price and no-one will tell you it's ladies night. It's a way for them to cater to those who come to drink free while not having to give unsuspecting tourists a deal. A lot of women don't even bother with the specials because they don't want to have to fight with the 22yos for the drinks and the complimentary beef-a-roni. Their advertising gives me a chuckle; It's "Ladies Night" from 7-Close, with complimentary drinks from 7-10. So if you get there at 9:30 you might get 1 drink; if you get there after 10 then it's Ladies Night with no gender-related benefits.
The owners of YOLO are so cool that they won't serve me; criticism isn't tolerated here. When you write a bad review, they'll hunt you down and try to get you to change it. I've heard this from more than one person who has written negative reviews on Yelp (See Danielle R's review). Unfortunately, unlike Danielle, I couldn't be bought off. Everything at YOLO is fake; even the reviews.
YOLO does win my award for "Best Place on Las Olas to Pick Up Hispanic or Russian Chicks". And there's nothing wrong with that.
I just felt a bit hungry, and unlike other places in town that charge $8 for enough Mac & Cheese for 4 people, they have a "side" portion that's only $4. I ordered it up.
Yolo Mac and Cheese
Nice and cheesy, no fancy unneeded ingredients. A winner; order it with your steak.
I was having a glass of wine and saw the specials stamp on a table showing that they had Black Bean soup, so I decided to try it. Of course I didn't have my camera with me and my stupid iPhone has no flash, so getting a picture in the luminance challenged restaurant was difficult.
Yolo Black Bean Soup
I can say with total confidence that this was the worst black bean soup I've ever had. You can eat beans right out of the can and they'd be better than this. The tortilla strips don't belong in soup; you can't make a dish Mexican by putting tortilla strips on top.
Avoid the soups.>
This will be the most comprehensive review of YOLO ever written; the good, the bad and the ugly. I will preface this by saying that based on pure fundamentals; I don't like YOLO. If YOLO were just another restaurant located somewhere else, I'd never go there. But YOLO is not just another restaurant. YOLO is like a mean, annoying girlfriend who you keep going back to.
When you first walk into YOLO, you'll likely be taken with the decor. You'll probably think it's cool. There's a fire pit outside, an indoor-outdoor bar, bamboo surrounds the patio. The indoor decor is abstract; different to say the least. By your 20th visit, you'll want to rip the faux strawberries off the wall and smash them on the ground.
If you eat in the dining room, you'll be greeted by their cutesy crew of hostesses; a bunch of nice girls who do a very good job. They'll bring you to your table carrying a big stamp; all of the tables are covered with paper; and they'll gloriously stamp the specials right onto the paper. Again, another one of those things that's unique and pretty cool the first time you go.
While many enjoy the patio, the problem with outdoor spaces in modern times is that they've become a favorite of smokers (and those who dine with their dogs). In summer, it's not comfortable outside. Inside, the bar is simply mal-designed. It's too small. There are stools with no backs which are uncomfortable; if you're standing you'll always be in someone's way, getting pushed by patrons trying to get by and bumped by employees trying to do their jobs. They always leave the windows open, which is great for the smokers outside; but bad for everyone inside. It's too warm in the summer and too cold in the winter; smoke from cigars outside blows in. Service can be slow; bartenders work in a small area and have to service a bar 3 or 4 deep at times.
Physically, the bar looks cheap. The bar itself is resin with bad seams, the wood shelves above remind me of Ikea. The TVs are small; it bugs me when a restaurant shows advertisements with Lambourghini's and Porsches but is too cheap to spring for HD TV (they have basic cable here). And the TV system is a disaster; bartenders can't change a channel; the game that should be on rarely is.
The have the O-Lounge, a too-small room with a too small bar and bad TVs that seems to be a favorite with young girls who still think that just being in a lounge is a big deal.
Lunch is no bargain here; sandwiches and salads are 50 cents or $1. less than the dinner prices. It's an expensive lunch.
If I sound like a gloomy gus; perhaps. But I know a lot of people, not one or two but a LOT, who hate YOLO so much they'll never step foot in it. On weekends it's too crowded and you get those kind of guys who think they're so important that everyone should just get out of their way when they walk in. It's the opposite of what most of us who moved to Fort Lauderdale liked about it; laid-back, friendly and casual. YOLO doesn't fit that description.
That being said, YOLO is where everyone goes. It's where you'll find the hot chicks, and you'll never have to worry about it being dead on a weekend. If you want a more pleasant experience, go on Tuesday or Thursday. There's a decent crowd but it's not crowded. Service is better. And the food is the same. Wednesday is Ladies night and it's a younger crowd (and very crowded). Note that ladies only drink free in the O-lounge, so don't wait for drinks at the main bar only to find out you've been wasting your time.
One thing that you have to understand about YOLO is that it's largely a pseudo-sophisticated crowd. Fort Lauderdale is not Miami. Groups of women come here all decked out and split a chopped salad and calamari. So while you might hear about how good the food is; it's really hit or miss. One thing good about YOLO is that they make frequent changes to the menu so there's always something new to try. I also give them credit for keeping the menus on their web site up to date. The menu is jam-packed with really good sounding stuff; it's the execution that often disappoints. They have quite a few good dishes; it's just not usually as good as it sounds. The most recent addition is the "Mediterranean mussels". Mussels are on a lot of menus; not not too many on Las Olas. Timpano has a unique version across the street, but these are more standard:
From the description on the menu, with garlic and saffron, you'd expect them to have a garlicky, flavorful broth. But the result was much different. Of particular note, is that the mussels were very plump and meaty; much more so than usual. The dominant ingredients are fresh tomatoes and fresh parsley, which provide a very clean tasting base for the mussels. The broth was fairly bland, surprisingly, but I enjoyed the dish.
The crowd favorite on the menu is by far the Calamari, which are breaded rings served with a sticky-sweet "szechuan" sauce; they call it chili/garlic sauce but it's not very spicy or garlicky. It also has sesame seeds on it. I personally don't care for it; I like my calamari with a spicy tomato sauce, maybe with some hot peppers. But it's a pretty big portion and certainly enough for 2 or 3 as an appetizer.
Their "Truffled Potato Chips" are another favorite, served with blue cheese. Once in a while I grab one when a friend orders them, but they're not something I'd order. One thing that's particularly good is the tuna; possibly the best quality tuna sashimi that you'll get at any restaurant on Las Olas. They have a large and a small version; the small is enough for an appetizer for 1. If you're sharing get the large.
Yolo Tuna Appetizer
The chopped salad is a favorite among the ladies here; splitting one of these massive domes of leaves and "seasonal veggies" seems like the "healthy" thing to do. The greek salad the village kind with no lettuce, so don't be surprised by expecting something else.
There are some interesting entrees here as well. The Tuna entree is served in a stainless steel skillet. It's a bit odd, but again, it's different. YOLO is one of the few places you can get prime rib 7 days a week (other than the J restaurants and the Outback), and it's pretty good. One peeve I have is that the size of the cut can vary dramatically; the last one I had here was very unimpressive.
Yolo Prime Rib with Broccoli Rabe
I've seen some much bigger cuts coming out; the seem to vary in side from moment to moment. My guess is that if they're running low you get less, which is pretty bush league. The oak grilled salmon doesn't inspire me either; they used to have a very nice Pasta Vongole, but they've removed the clams and now just have angel's hair pasta. I wouldn't pay $30 for crab cakes; instead I'd order the very good ribs; a whole rack served with french fries and a mild and creamy green apple slaw (don't worry, you can't really taste the apples).
They have rotating specials here; expect some combination of Trout, Cobia or Swordfish. The swordfish is a small portion; the trout is ok if you're counting calories and are just looking for some protein.
For some reason, the chef is obsessed with vegetables that few people like. They often have broccoli rabe or brussels sprouts. I can't tell you how many people I've seen order the rabe only to leave it on the plate (most likely thinking it's like broccoli). It's just a case of a chef trying to prove that he can make an unpopular vegetable taste better. I like both, but for the palates that most often dine here it doesn't make sense.
If you have room for dessert, the chocolate lava cake is crazy good, served in a souffle dish with a scoop of ice cream. You can't end a meal any better.
Their wine list is all over the place; they had some nice wines by the glass for $12 and one day decided to raise the prices to $15. Why price a wine so high that no-one will buy it?
I stopped into YOLO and tried their BBQ Port Hash, which is available for both Lunch and Brunch.
Yolo Pork Hash
It really isn't as much as it looks; there is no hash under the eggs. I asked for the eggs over easy but I guess the chef didn't care to honor my request. The hash was OK, but it wasn't as good as the more traditional corned beef hash you get at many diners. There just wasn't a lot of flavor to it. Considering that this is $12 and doesn't include toast, its twice as expensive as your typical breakfast fare.
YOLO, an acronym for "You Only Live Once", combines a restaurant, lounge and outside patio area to bring the newest hot spot on Las Olas blvd. Expect big crowds on Friday and Saturday; YOLO is the place to be. The bar area is small, so most of the action is outside,and its a bit hot in the summer to be hanging outside.
The bland presentation of food at YOLO not withstanding, they do have some interesting choices. The meatball sliders, sold at $4 per, are delicious. Try the rainbow trout filet, served skin on, or the ribs, St Louis style. I'm not a fan of their calimari, which is served in a sweet, chili sauce, much like chinese hot wings. They put some other stuff on it, like seseme seeds, which just doesn't work for me.
I recently had their prime rib sandwich; thinly sliced prime rib on a grilled ciabatta roll with onions and swiss cheese. Its served with a ridiculous mountain of shoestring fries that no one person should eat in a week much less a single meal. The sandwich is very good, the meat is tender but unseasoned. Its difficult to season the thick stack properly, so you need to dip into the "au jus" that's included.
Yolo Prime Rib Sandwich (2010)
They have a separate lounge with a DJ, bar and TVs that attempts a NYC atmosphere; of course when you fill it with Floridians it doesn't quite fly. On weekends it just seems like an overflow room for Timpano's, with an older crowd.
Wednesdays is ladies night, and the place is packed with those who seek free drinks and beef-a-roni. They won't let you sit at a table unless you're having dinner, so plan on standing or get there early and get a seat in the lounge. At 7:30 it starts filling up. I suggest against starting a tab outside as they don't seem to really care if you have to wait forever to cash out. I had to track down my server as she busied herself taking orders and serving others well after I'd asked for my check.