Updated
May 19th, 2019
First Posted
Dec 27th, 2014

Yolo

333 East Las Olas Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale FL, 33301
(954) 523-1000
Overall Rating
2.5
Food
Service
Ambiance
Value
Last Review
05/19/2019

Details

Hours: M-Th 11:30am - 11pm, Fri 11:30-12am Sat 12pm-12am, Sun 12am-10pm
Dress Code: Neat Casual
Parking: Valet, Street Metered, Garage
CC: Yes
Alcohol: Full Bar
Entree Prices: $16 - $32
Outdoor: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Delivery: No

Pros

Trendy Decor
Large Outdoor Space
Trendy Crowd

Cons

Small, Uncomfortable Bar Area
Bad Choice when Cold, Windy or Raining (Open Air)
Mediocre, Overpriced Food

Critic's Review

YOLO has their new "Summer" 3 course menu where you can get $25 worth of food for $25 with limited choices; to be fair some of the choices would cost more (assuming the same portions as the regular menu); but $25 for a meatball slider, a burger and an ice cream sandwich doesn't seem like something I'm going to get excited about. With Tuscan Prime opening next week, YOLO is going for the kids; no longer able to attract the movers and shakers that used to populate the patio here.

I hadn't been to YOLO in many years, and frankly I was surprised at how virtually nothing had changed. Cramped, uncomfortable bar, bad small TVs and a crusty, unattractive crowd. As I was waiting for a drink a bartender was punching away on a tablet; I didn't know what was going on; it seems they use tablets for Credit Cards now; slowing down the already too slow service provided by the overmatched bartenders. Most bars don't even want to deal with chip-readers because they slow down the flow and cost the restaurant money; but the guys at YOLO are taking it a bit further. So I have to give my email to get a receipt? I didnt see anyone getting a receipt.

The restaurant was busy on a Saturday night; mostly 20-somethings probably having burgers and ice cream sandwiches. The O-lounge, once the pride and joy of the YOLO experience, was completely empty at 10:30pm.

Time to find another use for this room.

After half a beer I was ready to bolt; I couldn't really see the game and there was certainly nobody I wanted to talk to in this place.

Conclusion

I thought I'd check out the "scene" at post Vibe YOLO, and it's sort of the way it was before Vibe opened. When Vibe was open, a lot of the dopey party people would start their evening at Yolo; so there would be a lot of cretins in sequin dresses. Now its just an old tired crowd; a 50 something couple at the bar noshing on shoestring fries and meatball sliders brought back some memories.

Notes from 10/23/18

This came up on my code case tracker last week; YOLO using their fencing at Vibe to advertise their happy hour. Imagine if every business slapped up a banner advertising their specials? After a week the unpermitted advertising remains right on Las Olas.

Self proclaimed "visionary restauranteur" Tim Petrillo has his manager doing a song and dance about how they're "working on" a permit; except he knows very well that you can't get a permit for a sign like this. His vision is apparently a city that uses the NASCAR model.

What bothers me is that this is not some desperate small business trying to lure in a few customers to an empty restaurant; these are multimillionaires doing things they know are not allowed because they know the codes have little teeth. Hooper Construction, who probably put the sign up and who is a partner in YOLO/TRP, and Petrillo know the rules. They know they're not allowed to put signage up on a fence. They also know that they can get away with leaving it up for 2 weeks, pretending that they didn't get around to it or that they're working on getting a permit. We basically have 2 rich guys who sit on the Downtown Development Board thumbing their nose at the city because all they care about are their wallets.

Remember that Petrillo was the one who allowed smoking at Tarpon Bend after food service, which broke both his SRX liquor license compliance and the State Smoking laws.

You can follow the case here. I say boycott YOLO until they take it down. Or maybe all TRP restaurants.

Musings in February 2018

The new YOLO menus prove what we all already know; YOLO is just another bad expensive restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Why would anyone pay $27 for $3.50 worth of farmed salmon? When YOLO first opened the portions were larger, there was less filler, and the prices were fair. No more. They've also taken the only good dishes they had off the menu; the dinner menu is more like a lunch menu. $15.50 for a Lunch Burger. Because it's oh-so-good.

Review 1/23/13

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

and

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.

Review 5/11/12

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.

Nice and cheesy, no fancy unneeded ingredients. A winner; order it with your steak.

Review 9/13/11

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.

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.

Review 8/3/11

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.

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.

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?

Review 11/10/10

I stopped into YOLO and tried their BBQ Port Hash, which is available for both Lunch and Brunch.

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.

Review 4/20/10

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.

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.

Comment Policy Add Comment
Administrator
Reply
They ended up paying $1250 in fines for the sign
Administrator
Reply
They seem to have decided to pay the 100/day fines; $800 as of today.
Administrator
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Yolo has 10 days to comply or be fined $100/day. So they got 4 months of advertising for $150. Pretty sweet.
Administrator
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TRP have added another sign for their new venue where VIBE was.

Petrillo should be permanently banned from serving on any board or committee in charge of making any rules for this city.
Max
Reply
Zero people here on Sun night.
Administrator
Reply
Apparently some manager openly accused the Royal Pig Pub of reporting their sign. It shows how delusional the TRP team is; as if there aren't 1000 people in this city who have some beef with Petrillo. Imagine openly breaking city ordinances and then complaining that someone complained. This is how delusional people reason.
Administrator
Reply
YOLO paying the fines ($150) and leaving their signs up. I believe they double until they reach a max of $500.

We need rules with more teeth. This is like giving someone a $2 parking ticket; The value or the advertising is worth more than the fine.
Crenshaw
Reply
I drove by today and they still have the sign up. Note to all business owners in Fort Lauderdale. Put up a big sign in front of your business and you'll only have to pay $150 for 2 months of advertising. You're stupid if you don't do it.
Tommy
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So for $150 you can get a month of billboard size advertising on Las Olas Blvd. Cheaper than a bench.
Administrator
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TRP issued a citation as they refuse to take down their street advertising and comply with city zoning ordinances. What a great bunch of guys!
Todd
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They're desperate to keep YOLO relevant.
Jay
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Hadn't been here in years. When did it turn so ghetto?
Administrator
Reply
Years ago, when Vibe became a roach motel. Note that YOLO is closed this week; maybe trying to save as much as possible in case of flooding.
Rob
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SOS at YOLO. You leave a bad review, and they try to buy you off. How many 1000s of bad reviews would they have if they didn't?
Rene
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Petrillo fired a long time employee because some shopper hit on her and she didn't like it. Unbelievable.
Administrator
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Soon he won't be able to staff his restaurants. He made a comment about how the economy must be better because they got so many fewer applications at S3 than they did at YOLO. Or maybe it's because nobody wants to work for him?
Wayne
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I'm shocked that YOLO and S3 both have tables at 7pm on the Friday of Boat Show Weekend.
John R
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You have to see the video they have posted with Bulukos on their facebook page showing off some fish dish. It's hilarious.
Administrator
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Is that a recipe or just a bunch of stuff they had lying around in the kitchen? :)
Rob
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Portions continue to shrink. They spread out the Calamari now to make it look like more. Big Cucumber slices around the Tuna. They think we're stupid.
Administrator
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[cowardly rant with fake email removed]
Jane
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Yolo's facebook page has become THE place for spammers. Did they fire their social media person?
Shiela
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I never realized how similar YOLO's menu was to Houston's. It's like the borrowed the whole idea, except for the sophisticated atmosphere and good service.
Administrator
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YOLO has raised their prices once again, $.50 to $1.00 across the board.
JennyJ
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Rough Review. I'm surprised you didn't mention how ratty the bamboo is getting, or that they don't run the fire pit anymore. I usually just stick to the meatball sliders.
Ginni
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Love the Calamari!
Benny
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I went into the O Lounge a couple of Wednesdays ago and I think I was the only white person in there. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But it sure has changed.
R Mack
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Yolo may have its downsides but I really don't see it being as terrible as you claim. If someone just read your review without having been there, they would think it was hell on earth. Truth is, the service is always decent and the food is very consistent. [truncated]
Administrator
Reply
I think that I've documented fairly clearly that my experiences have been anything but "consistent". The reason that I updated the review is because it's become noticeably worse lately, and I couldn't stand by the previous review any longer.

Service is fine, but don't get me started on those stupid outfits the servers wear....
JennyJ
Reply
I feel bad for the servers. Its like something you'd expect servers to wear at a cheesy BBQ joint.

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