Elliot Wolf says he opened his 4-month-old restaurant, the Foxy Brown, because he wanted to re-create the meals he shared with his father when he was growing up in Coral Gables.
"I remember Saturday morning going to breakfast with my dad," Wolf says. "I'd have bacon, which my mom wouldn't let us have at home. I have two young children. I wanted a place where I could belly-up to the bar and have a milkshake and a patty melt with my kids."
It was the patty melt ($10) that inspired the menu, which is like a mashup of sophisticated diner food with gastropub fare. The restaurant serves some very good $7 milkshakes, too. Wolf says he named it after a friend's dog, and not the Pam Grier blaxploitation flick or the rapper. But if a name is everything, the Foxy Brown has it all.
Years ago, this spot housed News Room Cafe. It was set to become an Italian restaurant when Wolf and his partner, Merv Jonata, bought the lease. Wolf and Jonata met when they were both working at Houston's in Boca Raton. Five years ago, the pair bought Coconuts on the Intracoastal in Fort Lauderdale. This past January, they opened G&B Oyster Bar next door to Coconuts.
Wolf has also worked in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. At the Foxy Brown, he wanted to create the kind of restaurant you may find in a walkable city. At night, the dining room glows as you sit at long banquettes and cars drive by on Broward Boulevard. The neighborhood tavern is alive and well in Fort Lauderdale's Victoria Park neighborhood.
One Saturday night, we arrived after 9 p.m., and the welcome was warm despite the fact that the kitchen closes at 10. The bar keeps eight exceptional beers on tap, and another 12 in bottles.
The chef is Christian Clausen, who has worked at Mark's Las Olas and YOLO. I could make a meal of his snacks. Philly pretzel bread ($9) came with deviled ham and beer-cheese spread. Green fries ($7) are tempura-battered green beans served with a refreshing aioli. Little shorties ($10) are lollipop chicken wings with a red-bean-ginger-and-garlic sauce. If you like deviled eggs ($3), be sure to order them here. French onion soup ($8) was hearty without being overloaded with cheese.
A special appetizer that night was a soft-shell crab ($14) served in the style of Buffalo chicken wings: crispy, of course, but served with a creamy sauce that was equal parts ranch dressing and Frank's hot sauce. Truly inventive.
On that Saturday night, entrees weren't as strong as appetizers. Mabel's chicken ($18) — chicken thighs, house-made spaetzle with an herb pan gravy — tasted as if it had been sitting around for far too long. Likewise, a rib special ($18) had the same held-too-long quality, with the texture of the ribs identical to the accompanying polenta. Hangar steak ($22) was tasteless, and despite being "dry-seasoned rubbed," it had virtually no flavor.
So I went back to the Foxy Brown on another day, and everything was perfect. Lump crab cakes ($24) were nicely seasoned and served over a five-grain mustard sauce that complemented rather than took over the delicate flavor of the crab. Beef a roni ($18) — pasta with braised short-rib ragout topped with a dollop of fresh ricotta — tasted like pure comfort on a plate.
What I love about the Foxy Brown is that you can eat a sandwich for less than $15 or, on the high end, those crab cakes for $24. Desserts are simple and familiar: strawberry biscuit cake ($6), blueberry crisp ($6) and bread pudding ($7).
Service is youthful but attentive. The servers wear what look like bowling shirts embroidered with the restaurant's name.
The Foxy Brown serves the same menu at lunch and dinner. I never made it to brunch, but that menu includes biscuit and gravy ($10), bananas Foster pancakes ($12), ham-and-cheese waffle with egg ($13) and classic eggs Benedict ($12).
I'll be back.
Just never again late on a Saturday night.
725 E. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale