Don Shula, Restaurateur and Coach, Dead at 90

Written By Scott Joseph On May 4, 2020

Shula shulaDon Shula at the Orlando restaurant last June. In the other room, a portrait of the coach after a Super Bowl Southeast 9 23 Boschwin can be seen.

He also achieved some notoriety as a football coach.

In fact, he is known as the winningest coach in the National Football League and led the Miami Dolphins in the NFL’s only perfect season, beating the Washington franchise 14-7 in Super Bowl VII to go undefeated for the season.

In the quarter century that he coached the Dolphins, Shula wracked up 347 wins. That number is noted in another of his restaurant brand’s name: Shula’s 347, a more casual sports-themed restaurant to the high-end Shula’s Steak House.

Although certainly in the later years only a figurehead and face of the restaurant, Shula stayed active in promoting the steakhouse. In June, he hosted a table of regulars and media representatives to showcase the renovations at the Shula’s Steak House at Walt Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin Resort. (The restaurant is inside the Dolphin hotel; easy to remember.)

Shula sigShula’s opened at the Dolphin in 1995, the year he stepped down as coach. It was one of the first high-end steakhouses in Central Florida. Although Christner’s Prime Steaks & Lobster (then known as Del Frisco’s) had been in operation for a couple of years, Shula’s preceded the likes of Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris. The Disney restaurant was the third Shula’s Steak House. The original was in Miami Lakes and the second in Tampa. There are currently eight Shula’s Steak Houses. There are four 347 Grilles, including one in Lake Mary. The restaurant group also operates a Shula’s Bar & Grill and Shula Burger. The latter had a location in Kissimmee that has closed.

Although it had the fineries of fine dining, Shula’s Steak House wasn’t without its kitsch at the beginning. The menu was printed on a regulation football (and guarded closely by servers ready to tackle any guests who might try to sneak out with one). There was also a meat cart that the servers wheeled to the tables of new guests to show the various cuts of meat. Also on the cart was a massive lobsters, its claws banded, but very much alive and moving.

The footballs are gone. With last year’s renovation, the new gimmick is to offer a block to each table for guests to choose from among a mismatched set of steak knives.

One of Shula’s star players, Dan Marino, tried to follow his coaches success with a couple of restaurants in Orlando. The first was Dan Marino’s Town Tavern, which opened in 1998 at the then-new Pointe Orlando. In those early days, Pointe Orlando was a troubled venue and few of the early concepts survived, including Marino’s. He tried again, in 2007, with Dan Marino’s Tavern on the Lake in Veranda Park near MetroWest. It was well received but not destined to last.

Clearly, Marino could have used a good restaurant coach.

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