If you eat at Truluck’s tonight, expect a phone call tomorrow.
“There might be times when you come in and you don’t want to say anything in person, so we try to give people the opportunity to do that,” general manager William Salogar says. It’s a small detail, but it’s those little things you can single out as the sign of a restaurant raising its game. Which is not to say that Truluck’s game needs a great deal of raising – the small national brand, whose Fort Lauderdale location sits facing Sunrise Boulevard at the Galleria, has in recent years established itself as a popular spot for quality dining, one of the city’s better wine selections and a lounge with a killer cocktail menu and live music every night.
At the restaurant, they’re unapologetic about the experience they’re trying to create – it’s upmarket, and an event. A message on the website announces that “PROPER ATTIRE IS REQUIRED” and explains what’s not allowed, as well as requesting that hats be removed when entering the restaurant. (This being Florida, allowances are made for “dress shorts.”)
“When you come to dine at Truluck’s, it truly is an evening out,” Salogar says.
To raise that game, the restaurant relaunched the menu last year. “We took a little hit,” Salogar admits. “We really went for that next level with our menu and our price point.”
But business remains strong, Salogar believes, because of the quality that runs through the menu. You’ll find nothing but prime steaks, and it's possible to get many of their better wines by the glass – helpful for when the table can’t agree.
“We have great wines that if you don’t want the bottle for $300 or $400, we can get you a glass for $45,” Salogar says. “We’re trying to start the trend before anyone else does.”
And during the winter months, another trend brings people through Truluck’s doors. “Nothing really brings the crowd in like the fresh Florida stone crab season,” Salogar says. He describes the restaurant’s Monday night - all-you-can-eat stone crabs – as like another Friday or Saturday.
Truluck’s gets all its Florida stone crab from the same fisheries off the west coast near Naples. Even here in Florida, freshness isn’t always guaranteed with Florida stone crab. Truluck’s crabs, Salogar says, all come from the same place, all make the same immediate drive across the state and all wind up fresh on plates.
“We catch it fresh, we cook them, you can’t get them any fresher than we can cook them for you,” Salogar says. “People are in love with their Florida stone crab.”
From there, they want you to finish up with dessert (all made in-house, naturally) and then maybe a cocktail with some live music in the lounge. In the winter months, the outdoor seating area’s a popular place to be. And of course, there’s the live music – a recipe for keeping people at a place long after their dinner is ended. Which means there’s one more rule regarding those follow-up calls they do the day after.
“We try not to do it too early in the morning,” Salogar says.
• 12 oz cioppino broth
• 6 scrubbed mussels
• 3 large clams
• 1 oz blue crab meat
• 2 oz (16 to 20) gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
• 4 oz grouper, large dice
• 2 oz cuttlefish or squid, large rings and tentacles
• ½ lemon, juiced
• 1 tsp finely chopped chives
• 1 baguette, toasted with clarified butter
• Salt and pepper to taste
FOR THE BROTH
• 2 qts water
• 2 cups clam juice
• 2 quarts shrimp stock
• 1 tbsp garlic (chopped, ends removed)
• 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 1 cup white wine
• 8 tomatoes, blanched and peeled
• 4 tbsp fresh chopped basil
• ½ tbsp. fresh thyme
• 3 tbsp fresh oregano
• 2 anchovy fillets
• 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
• 1 pinch sea salt
• ¼ tsp red chili flakes
broth: In a large pot, heat olive oil and sauté garlic until fragrant. Add white wine, shrimp stock, clam juice and tomatoes. Crush tomatoes while adding to break apart. Simmer for 45 minutes on low heat, then add herbs and seasoning. Simmer an additional 30 minutes on low to medium heat. Cool in ice bath and store in refrigerator for 24 hours.
cioppino: In a sauté pan, sear large pieces of fish in olive oil. Add broth and reduce by ¼. Add the mussels and clams and, when they begin to open, add the shrimp and cuttlefish. Remove from the heat. Brush the baguette with butter and toast until crispy and golden brown. Squeeze lemon into the cioppino. Toss and adjust seasoning if necessary. Pour soup base into a hot pasta bowl. Mound seafood in the center of the bowl. Top with seasoned crab and chives in the center. Place toasted baguette across the cioppino and serve.