Whether it’s for lunch, dinner, a romantic date or an evening out with good friends, Mario’s Catalina’s is a must try. The popular South Florida gem, also known simply as Catalina, is located on Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale. Owner Mario, originally from Honduras, first opened his restaurant in 2000 on a side street off of Oakland Park Boulevard…
Mario’s Catalina Restaurant:
Expect Creative Dishes and Elegance at Catalina
Whether it’s for lunch, dinner, a romantic date or an evening out with good friends, Mario’s Catalina’s is a must try. The popular South Florida gem, also known simply as Catalina, is located on Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale. Owner Mario, originally from Honduras, first opened his restaurant in 2000 on a side street off of Oakland Park Boulevard. It was such a success that he moved it to its present, more prominent location in 2004. Now, almost 10 years later, Catalina is a popular, well-known establishment known for its phenomenal menu of Cuban and Spanish dishes.
Catalina has a beautiful interior featuring an array of stylish paintings covering the walls, dazzling chandeliers, dim romantic lighting and an attractive bar area. Open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, it is the perfect place for a business lunch or a romantic date. It’s also a great place for a large group – they have two private dining areas and patio seating in addition to the main dining/bar area.
On the Tuesday evening that my friend Tonio visited, there was a group of 10 dining near us and several couples at surrounding tables. Owner Mario was also on the floor, greeting diners and posing for pictures with the group seated near us. Handsome and friendly, Mario’s charm adds to the already radiant dining experience at Catalina.
Tonio and I don’t often get to see each other and we decided that celebratory drinks were in order. He chose the Red Sangria and I chose the White. The drinks were lightly frozen, chock full of pieces of fruit and very refreshing. Our server Louis recommended several tasty sounding appetizers and we chose the beef empanadas to start with. After we placed the order, Louis brought us plantain chips with an amazing garlicky chimichurri sauce to dunk them in.
We both agreed that the empanadas were the best we’ve ever had. I actually stopped ordering empanadas a few years ago when going out because inevitably they would be dry and disappointing. Catalina’s empanadas had a juicy filling—the beef was seasoned beautifully and the crust was light. These also came with the addictive chimichurri sauce.
We were then served a salad, which was unique with its chopped apples and garlic flair. As Tonio and I are both garlic lovers, we were very happy with the way our evening was going.
For his main entree, Tonio ordered the grilled Argentinean skirt steak with garlic shrimp and I ordered the red snapper in lobster sauce. Each dish came with plantains, rice and black beans. The entrees at Catalina range from $12.95 to $49.50 and there is a lot to choose from.
We tried each other’s dishes and were both impressed. Tonio’s Argentinean skirt steak was melt-in-your-mouth tender and grilled perfectly in the famous Argentinean fashion. My red snapper in lobster sauce was true creamy decadence – flaky, perfectly cooked fish, topped with a lobster tail and sauce.
Tonio pointed out to me that there wasn’t any salt and pepper on the table and he said that it was because the food is flavored so flawlessly that neither are ever needed.
For dessert, Tonio and I split the housemade Quatto Leches – you heard right, not three but four milks (the fourth milk is Dulce de Leche) and the Chocolate Beast (chocolate cake, mousse, rich icing and chocolate chips).
With its warm friendly atmosphere and tasty take on Cuban and Spanish classics, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Mario’s Catalina.