By Christie Galeano-DeMott
Portraits by Eduardo Schneider
Hidden and unknown are not synonyms in Mike Linder’s world.
Linder specializes in dining destinations that both challenge and complement the notion that a restaurant’s success is attributed to location, location, location. His restaurants are cuisine terminals tucked inside some of Broward County’s most unassuming roads, but when you find them you’re rewarded with lavish views of soaring jets or magnificent megayachts. Linder’s restaurants may be tricky to find, but once you discover them, you’ll never forget them—and you’ll keep going back.
His first dining destination was Jet Runway Café, a restaurant that is located in an unorthodox location but is also everyone’s secret spot. Situated at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, the eatery overlooks sleek private jets gliding down the runway, a view diners enjoy while savoring a crab cake hash in the morning or a crispy goat cheese salad for lunch. In the evenings, Linder opens his adjacent 15,000-square-foot hangar and plays host to charity galas, weddings and executive events with hundreds of guests.
From a fundraiser featuring a private plane parade to a one-of-a-kind wedding boasting pristine jets, floating crystal chandeliers and swanky white couches, Linder’s Event Effects Group party planning company creates jaw-dropping experiences for each of its clients. Companywide, Linder fashions about 10 events every week.
“Clients come to us because we create custom events and take care of everything from start to finish,” Linder, 42, says.
Jet Runway Café may have made him a household name for those searching for a food and fête haven, but it wasn’t Linder’s original launch into entrepreneurship. Twenty years ago, and 10 years before the restaurant debuted, Linder and business partner Mitch Amsterdam opened Silver Lining Inflight Catering, a catering company for those flying via private jets.
However, his history with hospitality stretches back even further. Linder grew up in Broward County watching his dad, an executive chef and club owner, maneuver around kitchens. So, with a hospitality degree from Florida State University, he started his career amid Tallahassee and Fort Lauderdale bars and kitchens with a goal of one day opening his own.
But Linder’s eatery empire almost didn’t happen. After graduation, he was managing a Bennigan’s when he suffered a stroke in the kitchen on Christmas Day. He was 22 with no family history of the disease. The experience was a shock, but even more devastating for Linder was his paralysis.
After a six months of intense therapy, he regained full mobility. A year and a half after his traumatic health scare, he co-founded Silver Lining Inflight Catering. Within six years, the food purveyor, which began with three employees, had put the competition out of business. Today, with 150 employees, the company serves all of Central and South Florida, brokers catering services across the nation and owns two kitchens that never close—ever—to deliver 1,000 VIP meals every day.
With three successful companies, Linder wasn’t looking to expand until he was approached with a rare opportunity to open the Lauderdale Marine Center’s first restaurant. Set to open this fall is Yot Bar & Kitchen, a unique 5,500-square-foot floating dock that will feature outdoor seating and an expansive bar nestled around the neighboring beatific bateaux. Under the direction of former French Laundry chef Greg Schesser, the marina joint will serve American fare with a seasonal and seafood twist set among 360-degree views of the New River.
Now that he’s conquered air and sea, Linder’s next step is land. He’s investing in Pompano Beach’s downtown redevelopment with two venues: Wood & Wire, his take on Southern comfort food with a 5,000-square-foot outdoor patio, and a yet-to-be-named wine bar located inside a historical building that once housed a doctor’s office. Both establishments are set to open next year.
“I’m always focused on service; that’s what it’s all about,” he says. “So the sky’s the limit from here.”
The article originally appeared in the Fall 2019 Issue.