By Jill Fox
Greg El-Hage and Justin Moreno are fulfilling their dream of opening a South Florida seafood restaurant.
With a goal of quality food at great prices, First Catch Seafood & Grill opened on January 20 to an overwhelming response. The owners may have prepared for a soft opening on Tuesday but leave it to social media to change their plans.
“People anticipated our opening, and the first week was incredible,” said El-Hage. “We just can’t thank the city of Parkland enough.”
The co-owners describe themselves as being young, reckless, who love to eat. Both single, they grew up in Coconut Creek and have known each other since the age of four. El-Hage, 26, attended American Heritage High School, and Moreno, 21, went to Monarch High School, and the two continued on to Florida Atlantic University.
While working in restaurants for quite some time, including six years together at Ethos Greek Bistro in Coconut Creek, they always talked about opening their own place but weren’t sure when.
After waiting almost two years, they decided to take a chance when they found the perfect location – a nice, small, comfy spot in Parkland.
Most recently, home to Brooklyn’s Best, which closed its doors soon after opening, the location at the corner of 441 and Loxahatchee Road, in the Waterways Shoppes at Parkland, has had quite some turnover.
But El-Hage felt this spot was a gift.
“We had two other places we were looking at in Coral Springs, and I wanted to be in Parkland, but it was tough to find a great spot,” he said.
With just a few high-top tables inside and 12 to 14 shaded covered tables for outdoor dining, they felt the small location was ideal in the current climate and because it was their first business venture.
They chose to focus on seafood for multiple reasons, including the Parkland area’s lack of options and their passion for the cuisine.
“I love seafood. I could eat shrimp, crab, or lobster almost every day of the week,” said El-Hage.
Their head chef, Damaine Powell, worked with them at Ethos.
“He was the top chef I have ever seen in a kitchen,” said El-Hage. “During Covid, when I found out he wasn’t working, I grabbed him.”
Inside, everything is made to order, and all of the sauces are homemade to compliment the food.
Plenty of traditional options grace the menu, like fish and chips, peel and eat shrimp and hush puppies, as well as a “from the land” section offering burgers and chicken for those, not as game.
Although it’s still early, El-Hage thinks the most popular items will be the lobster mac and cheese bites, which he makes from scratch daily, and the fantastic four: four tacos, each with a different protein (mahi-mahi, shrimp, snapper, and cod) served fried, grilled, blackened or jerked, with cabbage, pico de gallo and house-made cilantro lime sauce.
Their goal is an upscale style while still trying to get the food out as fast as they can.
“It’s a very fine line with seafood — that’s why it’s tough,” he said.
First Catch Seafood & Grill is located at 7679 North State Road 7 in Parkland. They offer dine-in, take-out, and catering options. Hours are Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. 754-229-6862
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- Jill Fox is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer. She has worked in public relations and television for over 20 years. Fox lives in Parkland with her husband and their two children.