Home » Insider’s Guide: Detlef Walenter, Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale

Insider’s Guide: Detlef Walenter, Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale

by Jimmy Im
Detlef Walenter

What’s the best place for a romantic dinner? Who serves the best weekend brunch? What are some must-see museums? Detlef shares his views.

In Fort Lauderdale, it’s not common for hotels to tout members of Les Clefs d’Or. The global professional association (pronounced “lay clay door” and translated as “keys of gold”) represents around 4,000 hotel concierges working in 60-plus countries, and it’s the highest recognition for professional service standards with concierge at luxury hotels. Among few (if not the only) members of Les Clefs d’ Or in Fort Lauderdale, Detlef Walenter represents this level of prestige at Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale (1 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Tel: 954-4652300. www.ritzcarlton.com), a AAA-Five Diamond, beachfront resort that recently unveiled a multi-million renovation. As an enthusiastic concierge on property, Detlef brings years of experience, as well as cultural flair.

“I was born in Germany and through my father’s career I had the opportunity to live in many different cities throughout the world,” he says, “including Izmir, Turkey; Athens, Greece; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Vicenza, Italy.” After attending Indiana University in Germanic studies, he found a new passion in the hotel landscape, starting a career as a server at a Marriott in Kansas City, working his way up to The Ritz-Carlton as concierge (where he was accepted as Les Clefs d’Or) then ultimately transferring to South Florida with the company, where he’s lived for the past 14 years. “I first lived in West Palm Beach and found that I was traveling during all of time off to Fort Lauderdale,” he recalls. “I fell in love with the community and the area. All of the people are friendly and helpful. The beaches are beautiful with a great three-mile stretch of sidewalk along the beach to enjoy watching the waves come ashore. One of my favorite things is laying out on Sebastian Beach, a gay section near the hotel.”

Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale

Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale

Working with the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale (and living in the gay-friendly city) seemed like fate for him. There’s never a dull moment in Fort Lauderdale’s most luxurious resort (he was the marriage officiant for a couple in the Club Lounge!), and there’s no other city he’s more passionate about.

What’s the best place for a romantic dinner?
For an exceptional dining experience equaled only by the panoramic view, enjoy four-star cuisine with outside seating at Grille 66 (17th Street Causeway, Tel: 954-7283500. www.grille66andbar.com). The ambiance is inviting, romantic, and upscale. Favorites include fresh seafood and prime 28-day-aged beef. If you love traditional Italian cuisine, then Casa D’Angelo (1201 North Federal Highway, Tel: 954-564-1234. www.casa-d-angelo.com) is the spot. With warm and cozy seating and fresh cheeses and pasta, you will want to return soon after. Go ahead and hold hands here. You will see couples of all kinds as Ft. Lauderdale is a very gay-friendly city.

Who serves the best weekend brunch?
Hands down, Burlock Coast (1 North Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard, Tel: 954-3026460. www.ritzcarlton.com), our hotel’s restaurant with a busy outdoor patio features locally sourced products and produce mostly from local farms. It has the look and feel of going back to the rum-running era. Incidentally, a burlock sack is what the rum runners used to transport and smuggle the rum during prohibition, also part of the namesake for the restaurant. Rosie’s Bar and Grill (2449 Wilton Drive, Tel: 954-563-0123. www.rosiesbng.com) in Wilton Manors (originally Hamburger Mary’s) is a fun and very popular spot. It has colorful lanterns and outdoor seating, and you’ll need to get there early, or you will have a long wait for a table. Kick back on the patio and enjoy the people watching while you savor Miss Truvy’s Deep-Dish Southern-Style Not-so-French Toast topped with a pecan praline glaze or enjoy other more traditional favorites.

What are the Coolest places for cocktails?
In downtown Fort Lauderdale there is a great place called Stache Drinking Den (109 SW 2nd Avenue, Tel: 954-449-1044. www.stacheftl.com), a speakeasy type of environment and a nightlife hot spot. Otherwise, visit our LGBT area Wilton Manors, that is part of greater Fort Lauderdale. There are quite a few different bars for all different tastes. Some of the more popular are gay hangout Georgie’s Alibi (2266 Wilton Drive, Tel: 954-565-2526. www.alibiwiltonmanors.com), local favorite The Village Pub (2283 Wilton Drive, Tel: 754200-5244. www.villagepupwm.com), and iconic nightclub Hunters (2232 Wilton Drive, Tel: 954-630-3556. www.huntersflauderdale.com) with late-night dancing.

What are some must-see museums?
NSU Art Museum’s (1 East Las Olas Boulevard, Tel: 954-525-5500. www.nsuartmuseum.org) celebrated permanent collection contains more than 6,000 works. Among its highlights is the country’s largest collection of 19thand early 20th-century paintings and drawings by the American-realist William Glackens. They recently had a wonderful Frank Stella retrospective, and it’s the premier destination for exhibitions and special events. At Bonnett House (900 North Birch Road, Tel: 954-563-5393. www.bonnethouse.org), you are magically transported to the beginning of the 20th century, and the days of gracious living, charm, and whimsy when Florida was one of the nation’s last frontier outposts. The museum’s modern history began when Hugh Taylor Birch gave the Bonnet House property as a wedding gift to his daughter Helen and her husband, Chicago artist Frederic Clay Bartlett in 1919. The house now sits on the US National Register of Historic Places. Stranahan House (335 SE 6th Avenue, Tel: 954-524-4736. www.stranahanhouse.org) is the home of Fort Lauderdale pioneers Frank and Ivy Stranahan. I simply love this museum. It was built in 1901 as a trading post then converted into a residence for the Stranahans in 1906. This amazing house is the oldest surviving structure in Broward County.

Where can you get the best views of the city?
Without a doubt, the views from our hotel are spectacular. The views from our pool deck on the 7th floor face the ocean and it feels like you’re on a ship, looking out toward the endless ocean. Depending on where you are in the hotel, you can look at the Intracoastal waterway and see some exclusive homes as well as the city. One of the neat features of our hotel is that it was built to look like you are on a cruise ship. So, when you look out any window or from a balcony, you do not see the street below—just the sand and the ocean. Take a short walk and cross the causeway drawbridge. It is the tallest bridge in the area, and you will see the cruise ships at Port Everglades. On the other side, you will see the skyline of Fort Lauderdale.

What are the best places to work out?
Embrace the outdoors! I am a runner, and love running half marathons and 5Ks, so I run a lot on the boardwalk and around homes. When I am not running races, Crunch Gym in Oakland Park (3500 North Andrews Avenue, Tel: 954652-1221. www.crunch.com) is very popular with the community, and the eye candy is yummy as well. Since it is always swimsuit weather here, there are a lot of other options!

If someone is looking for a full-service spa, where do you send them?
You really can’t beat our spa. The Ritz-Carlton Spa is the best spa in town and is the only full-service, beachfront spa in Fort Lauderdale. It’s a spot where you can truly get away, relax, and be pampered. We have the best massages, facials, and body treatments in town. Ask for Mark, our most requested masseur. His specialty is deep tissue, perfect for getting the knots out of sore muscles from a hard day at play or from the gym.

Designer labels for less. What do you recommend for the savvy shopper?
Sawgrass Mills Mall (12801 West Sunrise Boulevard, Tel: 954-846-2300. www.simon.com) is a huge outlet mall that features more than 350 stores, with outlets from Off Fifth, Neiman Marcus Last Call, and Burlington all in one convenient location.

Burlock Coast - overall seating area

Burlock Coast – overall seating area

What are the best gay and lesbian bar?
Come to Wilton Manors, our city’s GLBT neighborhood. It features many different bars and restaurants with all different styles and tastes. Since the city is made for ‘walking,’ you will experience a truly amazing community atmosphere. At Georgie’s Alibi, (2266 Wilton, Tel: 954-565-2526. www.alibiwiltonmanors.com), one of the oldest bars in the area, you can catch up with friends, have a good meal, and meet new friends of all ages. You can enjoy the dancers at Johnsons (2340 Wilton Drive, Tel: 954-945-9453. www.johnsonsfl.com) or the Boardwalk (1721 North Andrews Avenue, Tel: 954-463-6969. No website), sports on TVs at the Gym Bar (2287 Wilton Drive, Tel: 954-566-9030. www.gymsportsbar.com), or just sit back and relax enjoying a martini alfresco watching the crowds walk on Wilton Drive.

What is the most popular gay dance club?
Hands down, The Manor in Wilton Manors (2345 Wilton Drive, Tel: 954-626-0082. www.themanorcomplex.com). It’s a bi-level dance club that’s fashioned after The Abbey in West Hollywood. You can also dance the night away at Hunters Nightclub (2232 Wilton Drive, Tel: 954-630-3556. www.huntersftlauderdale.com). Watch people dance from the second-floor balcony, or mark a spot on the dance floor. It has themed nights every day of the week, so join the fun of “in the biz,” “fur” or a memorable Sunday tea where they recreate Studio 54, the great nostalgic disco!

Where can someone go at 3 A.M. for a good meal?
The Floridian (1410 East Las Olas Boulevard, Tel: 954-463-4041. www.thefloridiandiner.com) is a 24-hour diner on Las Olas that’s full of local color. It opened over 70 years ago. Think of any latenight spot and add many care-free tourists…this is a recipe for fun. Satisfy your late-night cravings but beware of the large portions. Primanti Bros. (901 North Atlantic Boulevard, Tel: 954-565-0605) is another 24-hour location. The Pittsburgh tradition here in Fort Lauderdale is located right on the beach and is a good place to get a slice of pizza, or try an Almost Famous Sandwich, which is freshly sliced meat and cheeses, coleslaw, and crispy French fries piled high on Italian bread. I also recommend Courtyard Café in Wilton Manors (2211 Wilton Drive, Tel: 954-563-2499. www.wiltonmanorscourtyardcafe.com), that is open 24 hours Thursday through Saturday.

What is the iconic tourist souvenir?
Our beaches have a lot of sea turtle nests on them during nesting season, so anything with a sea turtle. Also, Fort Lauderdale is the boating capital of the world, so a small boat/yacht model—one can only dream.

Please finish this sentence: Don’t leave the city without…
Fort Lauderdale is known also as the Venice of America, with all the canals around the city. What better way to see it than from the water. The Water Taxi Tel: 954-467-6677 (www.watertaxi.com) is a fun casual way of seeing all of the sights and sounds that Fort Lauderdale has to offer. It will take you through Millionaire’s Row and the local marinas that dock some of the luxurious yachts. Imagine yourself owning one of the mansions! Sit back, relax, and feel the sun and wind on your face. Tickets are $26 per person and are valid all-day long. The entire loop on the Water Taxi will last about 3 1⁄2 hours.

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