Gastrotheque, a European-themed eatery, replacing Canyon Southwest Cafe in Fort Lauderdale

Big changes are afoot this month at the old Canyon Southwest Café in Fort Lauderdale, and the proof is painted right on the building: giant splashes of eye-popping, burnt-orange.

The rusty patina is only part of the spectacle planned for Gastrotheque, a new eclectic European restaurant and cocktail lounge opening this September inside the former Canyon space at 1818 E. Sunrise Blvd. The 7,000-square-foot eatery, which comes from restaurateur Gary Bouvier (Wilton Wings, the former Dream Wine Lounge), is beside the Classic Gateway Theatre on the bend where East Sunrise Boulevard meets North Federal Highway.

“Why burnt orange? It’s a personal preference. There’s 67,000 cars driving by this location every day and I want to attract all of them,” says Bouvier, who will operate the fine-dining eatery with business partner Joshua Perfit, formerly a managing partner of El Camino Las Olas. “With the LED lights glowing at night, it will look awesome from the road.”

Gastrotheque will showcase a menu of American comfort classics and pan-European dishes under head chef Gastón Campana, previously chef Giovanni Rocchio’s right hand for four years at the late Valentino Cucina Italiana. It is not – as the name may suggest – a discotheque, nor will it have a dance floor or disco balls. What Gastrotheque will have: a clubby lounge adorned in blue neon lights and piped-in French house music, plus TBA wines-by-the-glass and craft cocktails.

Gastrotheque will showcase a menu of American comfort classics and pan-European dishes under head chef Gastón Campana, formerly of the late Valentino Cucina Italiana.
Gastrotheque will showcase a menu of American comfort classics and pan-European dishes under head chef Gastón Campana, formerly of the late Valentino Cucina Italiana. (Gary Bouvier / Courtesy)

Bouvier says the menu and price points are still being finalized but meals will start with nine appetizers, such as charred Spanish octopus and smoked Kurobuta pork belly. Entrees will be similarly upscale, and feature Wagyu skirt steak with French fries and chimichurri; Floridian red snapper with mussels escabeche; and red wine-braised fettucine Bolognese.

In July, Canyon Southwest Café announced it would leave its old location after 25 years and blaze new trails inside the former One Door East. Days later, Bouvier says he eagerly pounced on the restaurant space, signing a 15-year lease in August.

For Bouvier, transforming the old Canyon was personal. He says he’s been a Canyon regular since 1996, when he was a “rookie stockbroker,” making cold calls at lunch over prickly pear margaritas and bread pudding. Much of Gastrotheque’s layout will resemble that of the old Canyon, he says.

“Everything looked well-maintained inside, a perfect turn-key, so we only did a few changes,” Bouvier says. “Mostly all I did was buy a $4,200 ice maker.”

He admits opening during COVID-19 is a challenge but the pandemic has been unusually kind to his businesses. Since March, takeout business has surged 30 percent at Wilton Wings, his comfort-food joint in Wilton Manors, which he says enabled him to invest in Gastrotheque.

To comply with Florida’s Phase 1 guidelines, Gastrotheque will offer half of its 70 dining-room seats indoors and add 16 seats on the patio facing Sunrise Boulevard, Bouvier says. There will also be sanitizer on every table and masks will be required except when guests are seated and eating.

The happy-hour menu, still being finalized, will be offered 4-6 p.m. Monday through Friday at diners’ tables instead of at the bar.

Gastrotheque, at 1818 E. Sunrise Blvd., will open to the public this September. Hours of operation will be 4-11 p.m. Monday through Sunday. Go to Gastrotheque.com.