Last Update
Oct 15th, 2018

Grille 401

401 E Las Olas Blvd
Fort Lauderdale FL, 33301
954 767-0222
Overall Rating
2.2
Food
Service
Ambiance
Value
Last Review
04/02/2015

Details

Hours: M-T 11:30am-11pm, Fri/Sat 11:30am-12am, Sun 11:30am-10pm
Dress Code: Neat Casual
Parking: Street Metered, Valet
CC: Yes
Alcohol: Full Bar
Outdoor: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Happy Hour: M-F 4-7pm

Pros

Big Indoor/Outdoor Bar
Beautiful Dining Room

Cons

More of a club than a restaurant
Eat to loud dance music
Fake Marketing
Terrible Cookie Cutter Menu
Horrific Service

Insider Tips

Come for a Drink if you like clubby lounges, but eat before you come.

Critic's Review

Grille 401 is what happens what a rich guy from out of town decides he needs to park some money and relies on other, incompetent people to put it together for him. The place is a disaster from head to toe, starting with their website which is one of the worst I've ever seen that was supposedly done by a professional. It looks like it was designed on a phone by someone with no understanding of the visual process. Everything is off scale, photos are in the wrong proportions, the menus span like 10 pages. There are huge areas of white space, they spell palate "pallet". It's an embarrassment; I don't see how anyone could sign off on such a piece of junk for a multi-million dollar business.

Their restaurant branding is also a mess; they have 3 restaurants that almost nobody knows are the same owner; they called themselves "Rainmaker Restaurant Group" sometimes but I can't find any registration for a business with that name. They settled on Brimstone WFG Holding Company in 2013; why choose a restaurant in Pembroke Pines as your corporate brand?

Their message is a series of false premises; they opened the restaurants with pages and pages of "testimonials" which they've since removed; maybe they discovered that making up testimonials is considered false advertising? They have one of the worst menus in the city; when I see "Barbecued Salmon" and "New Orleans Pasta" I know that I'm dealing with a corporate kitchen with roots from the TGI Friday's culinary institute. The menu is one bad recipe after another; they've taken just about all of the steak off of the menu; why have a wood-fired grill if you're not going to have any beef? This is the kind of restaurant that should serve Steak and Broccoli, and they don't have either.

The original bar area was also a huge mistake; it's too bright with mirrors and it was the reason that nobody came here until they got the open air patio bar built. It was like they ripped the place and rebuilt something worse; something that rich guys without a plan tend to do.

So, for a long time I thought about coming in again, looked at the menu, and then went somewhere else. Every time I walk by I hear the loud, blaring music and I wonder why anyone would want to eat here; it's Bova Prime reborn. I live across the street and haven't been in the place for 2 years. Today I decided to go, even if I had to order something I didn't want.

I walked in at 2:31pm to a largely empty restaurant; there were a couple of people at the "old" bar and nobody even manning the open air bar.

The hostess gave me the obligatory "Would you like to sit in the bar". I said no, and she proceeded to try to seat me at a booth in the bar. "I feel like I'm in the bar here, can I get something on the other side". Hostesses always look so mad when you don't want the table they pick out for you. This table was better; the only people in the dining room was a manager sitting in the back and an employee.

My server took my beverage order and asked if I wanted to know the specials. "Yes Please". A corvina sandwich, a soup that sounded really bad, and when she started to describe the asparagus I had to keep myself from laughing; the same sad recipe they served when I came here when they first opened. They had a chicken special that sounded like a variation of the Chicken Paillard I was considering; I playfully asked how much it was: $26 she said; I smiled and said I needed a few minutes. So why was the special $8 more than the regular menu chicken? Was Emeril going to make it for me?

She delivered the tea and I ordered the Chicken Paillard mainly because it was the only thing on the menu that I hadn't summarily rejected based on the absurdity of the description.

They only have the raw sugar; Note to restaurant owners: raw sugar doesn't dissolve in cold beverages. Ever. There's no bread at the 401 Grille; only good restaurants serve bread. Music from Yuna, Estelle feat Cee-Lo. Rihanna. All dance music all the time.

12 minutes at a breadless table and the food is delivered.

Quite a pile of stuff. This dish should be about the chicken, but they succeeded in diminishing it. I brushed away the Arugula to see what was going on. There were 2 small pieces of chicken and a huge mound of pasta.

The strips of sun dried tomato served no purpose and frankly needed to be discarded. The menu said that a red roasted pepper tapenade was included, but there was no such thing on the plate.

There were 4 capers buried in the pasta, which I thought was kind of funny. I don't really care for capers anyway.

The sauce wasn't browned butter. Brown butter has almost a nutty taste. This was just some bland sauce with something added to color it.

I ended up eating the chicken and the arugula. My glass was empty for quite a while, so long that I put it at the edge of the table. Servers and managers walked by; none of them giving a crap that I had an empty glass. At a real restaurant ANY server will notice such things.

After a while, my server shuffled by with a bunch of plates; they don't seem to have busboys here, because at $18/plate they can't afford those. "Would you like a refill?". Um, yeah. She waddled into the back and came back 6 minutes later with another glass. No sense of urgency; I also thought it was rich that she didn't even bother to take away the empty glass.

At this point I was almost done as I'd had the chicken for 22 minutes. Waiting, waiting and more waiting. I decide to go to the bathroom.

When I returned, nothing had changed. Empty plates and glass on the table. I see my server. Can I get the check? Sure. She saunters into the back; 7 minutes later she comes out with my check.

All of this is quite unbelievable. I'm out at 3:28, 57 minutes for a 1 course lunch.

Conclusion

Despite the transparent attempt at marketing this as some sort of serious restaurant, it doesn't take much of a sleuth to learn the truth. One look at the menu and you know that this is just another corporate restaurant serving bad recipes at NYC prices. The "chef" here used to work at Seasons 52, which explains a lot.

While making good food is something that requires skill, the awful, indifferent service is a function of incompetent management. With a manager sitting in the restaurant, it's fairly clear that they don't know how to run a restaurant, and they don't care either. It's too bad, because with a better menu and people working here who cared, this could be a really good spot.

Update 5/25/14

I've stopped in here a couple of times since they've opened the new patio. Both times I left without even buying a drink. Both times were on the weekend. The new indoor/outdoor bar is certainly better than before. There were 0 people at the main (original) bar both times; on Saturday night.

What's happened is that they've taken some business from YOLO with the exact same product: Bad Music, loud, bad corporate menu, lots of empty-headed people. Nobody has any ideas in this town; just crank out the same product and hope some people are tired of the other places. At least Rare had good food; this concept has failed twice at this location, why is this one better, because they have a nicer patio?

It's very, very unfortunate. Everyone wants to be a club in a town where people moved because there weren't any clubs.

Review 2/21/13

I went to Grille 401 on the day that they opened and sat in the dining room; They did a nice job; There are lots of booths and an attractive decor. There's nothing wrong with the dining room.

They recently came out with a lunch menu, which is basically the same as the dinner menu without the steaks; this is the most expensive lunch on the street.

I had some $8.95 ribs that cost $17 on that visit; not terrible but nothing I'd recommend or order again. Saucy, not very smokey.

I sub'ed out the Fries for the special of chilled Asparagus; a big mistake. First, asparagus doesn't go with ribs very well; second they put some flavorless, wonky sauce on it that didn't help.

I've thought about stopping in for a re-visit multiple times as I live nearby, but never make it past the front steps. Bad music and an empty bar are like a forcefield around the restaurant; causing people to bounce off and head to YOLO or the Royal Pig. Why go in here when there are people at other restaurants nearby?

I can't express how much I hate the bar here. They've toned down the lights since they first opened, but it's still mirrored mania; too loud with a low mirrored ceiling and creepy mirrored posts; mirrors behind the bar. You'd think that this place was designed in the 80s, when mirrors where "in".

What's really unfortunate is that sitting at the bar is eerily like being at the bar at Rare or Bova Prime, which is sort of like dating a girl who looks just like your crazy aunt. On a Thursday night there are 7 people at the bar, counting myself; a couple who clearly were there by mistake and 4 older dudes watching the Heat game. The TVs here aren't as good as they had here before either; even though they're pretty close to the bar I was having trouble reading the scores. Partially my fault; but I can read the scores at other venues.

To get an idea of the space without people or chairs, this is a shot from just as construction was completed.

The bar ambiance is not inviting; the girls behind the bar are busy barking out orders and tasking and have no time to spend on their customers; it's more like boot camp than a pleasant place to dine or hang out. I asked for a wine by the glass menu and a food menu when I sat down; I guess they don't have any specials because they didn't tell me about anything. The wine list here sucks rocks if you drink red wine; one Pinot Noir @$15, nothing italian and nothing under $10. $10 a glass for wine that's $10/bottle. I ordered an Abita Turbo Dog and a "baby" wedge salad.

I can tell from the menu that there's nothing worthwhile going in the kitchen here; no chef with any self-respect would serve Cajun Pasta or Hawaiian Skirt Steak; This is a TGI Friday's menu. When there's a lot of asian influence you know that they don't have any real ideas. They use the CAB program for beef; and adhere to the usual trick of trying to pass off beef marginally better than choice at Prime prices.

Grille 401 uses a PR company known for "marketing" restaurants with false messages, and this restaurant fits the bill perfectly. They have 3 restaurants that serve similar menus, and now all of a sudden they're claiming to use "local" sources; except there's no specific commitment to what dishes are local. There's also nothing "seasonal" about the menu as they claim. It's a stupid concept that appeals to few and fools even fewer; why so many restaurants buy into using losing concepts is somewhat of a mystery, particularly as evidence mounts that it doesn't work. Their web site is riddled with questionable claims and "reviews" from the kind of publications that do friendly reviews for PR agencies. It's unfortunate that the "media" in South Florida has become such a joke. When restaurants can get rosy reviews from local clown-act critics they just get the false sense that they have a good restaurant, and everyone suffers as a result. If you wonder why there are few if any really good restaurants in Fort Lauderdale; the reason is the that all of the local "critics" care more about pandering to restaurant owners and PR agencies than they do telling the Truth to their readers.

There was a group of dudes from a bachelor party who were loud and stupid at some tables behind me; I was thinking why would someone decide to have a bachelor party at a frooffy restaurant bar with no man-food and no babes? The salad came out pretty quickly, thank goodness.

They're making a mistake calling this a "baby" wedge salad, because the implication is that it's small. I doubt if many people know what baby iceberg lettuce is. This dish was a mixed bag; good lettuce and blue cheese dressing, but chopped tomatoes, no red onion and bacon bits that were more chewy than crispy. There was also a piece of bone; and we all know that real bacon doesn't have bone. Chopped tomatoes are usually an indication of lower quality; certainly not as good as a thick slice of a ripe beefsteak.

I could have used some more dressing, but I made due with what they gave me. Better than the junk I got at Rice and Dough and a lot more food than you get for more money at YOLO.

I couldn't wait to cash out and watch the end of the heat game at The Royal Pig, where a pretty, smiling girl would pour me a cheap but decent $8 Pinot Noir.

Comment Policy Add Comment
Ian
Reply
401 closed on Saturday; was there Friday afternoon and the staff was informed of the sale of the business. No one is shocked; frequented this place for years before it went downhill. If it wasn't now, Del Frisco's was going to spell the end for them.
Administrator
Reply
Del Frisco's opening this week would have been the dagger to end the place.
Administrator
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A new menu; effectively they have no lunch menu as 80% of it is the same as the dinner menu with the same price, with a couple of extra entrees. $18 for a cheeseburger; $29 shrimp and grits. No return to the original steakhouse concept.

No chance they're making their $30K+ monthly rent.
Administrator
Reply
Now under new ownership. Same horrid menu at even higher prices. No lunch menu; just an all day menu. They've renamed the New Orleans Pasta to Bourbon Street Pasta and changed the $18 chicken pilliard to a $22 chicken milanese (breaded cutlet).

Is the point of buying a failed restaurant to FIX it? Maybe they fixed the atmosphere.
Administrator
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The owners of Oceans 234 in Deerfield Beach seem to have taken over Grille 401, but it seems astonishing to me that they're keeping the same failed brand. The place is so poorly managed and the menu is trash. Why not take the opportunity to do something better?
Tim
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Word on the street that the Grille is closing its doors next month just heard from reliable sources...No not CNN...
Administrator
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Word on the Street is that Grille 401 is trying to renegotiate their lease as they're bleeding cash. Considering that they've never had an idea for this place, what's the point? Rich guy from Cincinnati hires bad PR firm and ex Yolo GM and what do you expect?
Administrator
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Everyone once in a while I check the lunch menu here, saying to myself that they can't possibly still have a menu with Hawaiian skirt steak and cajun pasta. Wrong every time. They have the same ridiculously awful menu they've had for 4 years.
Administrator
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It's amazing that this place is sticking with the same bad menu. Same as Kaluz. They're delusional enough to think that they are in the "top 100 restaurants in the country". I don't even think they're in the top 100 in Broward County.
Bob
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This menu is terrible. They have apples in their Steak and Blue salad.
Administrator
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I've wanted to re-visit, but there isn't one thing on the menu that I want.
Josie
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Why haven't they fixed anything? The menu is just as bad as when they opened. Haven't they learned anything in a year? Is the owner so rich that he's happy to just own big restaurants that lose money and that people in the neighborhood hate?
Administrator
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They've made some changes to the menu; a couple of new appetizers and some minor price changes. They didn't bother to update their web site though. Still no reason to go there.
Flay
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Im taking a poll...Please comment on who will close first...Mancini's,Tundra or Grill 401?
Administrator
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Grille 401 needs to remodel the bar this summer. If they don't come up with something better, they're going to have a tough time. Once Sea Grille Lobster bar opens, they're going to be dead empty.
Puck
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I vote Mancini
Tracy G
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The prices at this place are RIDICULOUS! They build a restaurant and charge $19 for lunch chicken? Why, should I pay that much for chicken?
Hooper
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Grille 401 will soon go the way of Mcdermorts,Rare,Bova Prime...Way too big and not much bar atmosphere there..I heard the bar manager already quit and is working as a bartender at the Pig.....BTW the porkchops with the bourbon curry sauce stinks....
Administrator
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Saturday night. 10:08pm. 1 person at the bar. Probably an employee that just got off.
JerryC
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Went in on Saturday about 10pm. No seats at the bar, but no scene either. It's establishing itself as the quiet place to go in the neighborhood.
Sinsu
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The old manager of Bova and Rare, Patrick, is NO LONGER there!
Administrator
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That's certainly a positive development.
Mike
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Execution not looking good there. Isn't it somewhat stunning that a company can spend so much money- including ripping up the sidewalks, no less - and deliver a completely mis-guided product like this? I knew it didn't sound right when I randomly ran into the ex-Bova manager at the Royal Pig bar a few weeks back, and he said he was going to be running this place. Next up- Lobster Bar!
Administrator
Reply
He's not just the ex Bova Manager. He opened Rare.
Administrator
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3 People at the bar on Thursday night. Dance music was blaring. It's Rare without the Prime beef. At least Rare had customers for a few months. At least there's no wait for a table.
Frank
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Sadly, I don't think it has much chance of surviving. Have had lunch and dinner there - and if it is quiet on it's first Saturday night, what chance does it realistically have? The sea bass that you featured above just did not work - the pesto with the thai chilli sauce combo was not good, and the server did not notice my half eaten dish. The sushi is waaay too expensive. The pressed tuna was $16 for 4 pieces - that is ludicrous. And they need to somehow figure our how to make the outside bar area attractive for people, as all the other patios on Las Olas were packed and it was empty.
Administrator
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Let's give them more than a week. Food and prices are easy to change.
Frank
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Have you ever heard of a restaurant like this lowering prices?
Administrator
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Re-working the menu is a more likely scenario. Rotate out overpriced stuff that nobody is going to buy and replace it with more wallet-friendly choices. It's been done. Market 17 comes to mind.
Missy R
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If you can't afford a pricey menu than it's best you should stay home. I really enjoyed the place and I know in a few weeks it will be even better....loved having lunch here!!
Steve S
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The problem is the food they serve isn't worth the prices they charge in my opinion. When my coworkers and I went we all thought the food alright but was similar to J. Marks or Alexander's -- however all the prices are higher here. Maybe if they had actually created something different as the PR team had been saying for months, but there is very little different here from the countless other American restaurants throughout the town (or on Las Olas for that matter).
Administrator
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There are 2 reasons not to buy something. One, if you can't "afford" it, and Two, if you don't think it's worth the price. 2) applies here.
Carter
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It's J Alexander's without bothering to establish themselves first. People will try it. Whether they come back is the trick.
MarkusM
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I can't believe that their prices are actually higher than Rare's were... you would think that they would have realized that didn't work out too well for Rare... no? What a disappointment, especially since they were constantly talking about affordable, innovative food thats different from all the restaurants on Las Olas... what do we get? Basically a hybrid of Rare and Riley McDermott's with higher prices... All the people in this space seem to think that by changing the restaurant name, interior, and the menu slightly that eventually its going to be a big hit?

I give them a few months.
Administrator
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They have deep pockets. Rare didn't fail just because of the prices; they failed because they had no ability to figure out why people didn't go there. Outsiders who come to Las Olas always think that it's just a bunch of rich people pining for a new place to eat.

One thing they clearly didn't understand is how important the bar is in this area. Shrinking the bar to squeeze in a few more tables that are going to be empty 1/2 of the year is a huge mistake.
MarcusM
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Yup, and the whole upstairs area will be empty unless they're having a private party / event.
Sid
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Went there on opening night. The lighting behind the bar was blinding. No warmth and nothing inviting that made us want to stay. What a shame.
Administrator
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I really don't get this place. It's like two different entities designed the restaurant and the bar. The restaurant is beautiful. The bar is a disaster.
Hugh Nose
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I was there opening night sat at bar....Was very hot and maybe AC not working...Very Very bright at the bar and not too much ambience...Not impressed so far and I liked Bova Prime Decor much better...Had one drink and left..
Jonny Nose
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This location is cursed...5 restuarants in 6 years could not make it and the location took down the king of the ponzi scammers...Was this place an Indian burial ground?
Nathan
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From a business standpoint, I think the problem is the sheer size of the space creating too much overhead. Two levels of seating, and a private back room, are not cheap.

There is always a market for a restaurant like this one in Las Olas, that's not the problem. I just don't think the market is big enough to sustain a place of that size.
Administrator
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I think that problem is that the place would be empty if it were half the size. They screwed up. They should have made a bigger bar and a smaller restaurant. The bar is a disaster.
Administrator
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Locations are only cursed until something good opens.

Next: St Patrick's Day Parade 2013