Eric Stripay's family thought he was a bit crazy for opening a restaurant just when he and wife Stephanie were about to have their first child.
Harry was born in March 2012. Paradero Original followed in June. Both are kind of amazing.
Stripay, 36, is a culinary graduate of Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island. He has spent most of his culinary career as a banquet chef, first in Boston hotels and then at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne and the Surf Club in Miami Beach.
Talk about a career change.
A paradero is a bus stop or rest area in Spanish. To Stripay, it's also a place where people congregate, which sums up the plaza at Oakland Park Boulevard and A1A. It includes two bars as well as a bakery, where people sit outside with espresso and pastries.
Many of Stripay's customers buy his sandwiches and bring them next door to Archie's Place, where they can buy a beer. Paradero Original has quickly become part of the community.
Done with banquets, Stripay cooks what he wants and each dish follows an original recipe — thus, the other part of the restaurant's name. His menu is simple: St. Louis spare ribs, roaster chicken, three side dishes and six of the most-inventive sandwiches in town. He also serves roasted-tomato bisque ($3.95) and a serviceable Caesar salad ($5.99).
Those ribs ($7.99 for a quarter slab, $12.99 for a half and $19.99 for a full) start with a very careful trimming and a 12-hour dry rub before being slowly smoked in a mixture of hickory and mesquite. They're slightly sweet and fall-off-the-bone tender. The accompanying ketchup-based sauce is also house-made. His 3 1/2-pound roaster chicken ($7.99 for a half order, $12.99 for a full) start with a Chardonnay brine before being roasted with garlic and herbs.
While I wish there were some nonfried side dishes available, all three are well done: hand-cut fries ($2), thick buttermilk onion rings ($3) and some of the best sweet-potato fries ($3.50) I've ever had. They're thin and crisp and not overly salted.
His sandwiches ($5.95 each), served on fresh hoagie rolls, are his biggest sellers, with pulled pork leading the way. Pork shoulder gets an overnight dry rub before being roasted at 200 degrees for 12 hours. Stripay makes his own chorizo, which he serves on a roll with beer-smothered onions and mustard sauce.
His next two best sellers were inspired by trips to South America. Stephanie Stripay grew up in Peru. So while lomo saltado is traditionally served as a stir fry with rice, here it's served as a sandwich. And what a sandwich it is: tender, balsamic soy-marinated sirloin, tomato, red onion, aji amarillo, garlic and ginger. You have to try this.
You also have to try the Hangover: roasted pork loin, fried sweet potato, lime-marinated onions and that slightly spicy aji amarillo. Superb!
This is mostly a takeout restaurant. There's no dessert. You don't come here to dine, as much as you do to grab an incredible bite, which you'll likely eat with a cold beer next door.
And that's what makes Paradero Original.
3335 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Hours: Noon-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Reservations: Not accepted
Credit cards: All major
Bar: None served
Sound level: Moderate
Outside smoking: Yes
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Metered lotCopyright © 2015, South Florida