The new Bokamper's overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale is doing to sports bars what stadium seating did to dingy movie theaters. The entertainment is the same, but the accommodations have been supersized to cathedral-like proportions.
The object of worship at this Bokamper's is the LED screen. More than 160 of them line the enormous property. Bokamper's is so serious about its TVs that every urinal is equipped with a small, dedicated television. Mind your aim when the Miami Heat scores.
Under a vaulted ceiling that is at least two stories high, the restaurant has five distinct sections, three of which are easily roped off for private events. At the restaurant's center, enormous, dramatically illuminated photo murals of South Florida sports celebrities in action surround a bar with 10 screens and enough servers to keep patrons happy.
It gets even better outside, with a semi-enclosed area that runs the length of the restaurant and offers more screens than a horse track. Smokers and nonsmokers alike will appreciate this area, which is reasonably climate-controlled, has tall ceilings with giant fans and a beautiful view of the water. At one end is a warm, open-air fire pit that makes for a natural place to congregate. A nearby walkway offers plenty of dock space, palm trees and benches with ashtrays.
One bummer: There's no getting around paying for parking in this area, though the restaurant offers snappy valet service for $5.
The atmosphere here is upbeat and social. Even the Heat's trailing the lowly Wizards by 30 points at halftime couldn't spoil the mood during a recent visit. We got in an even better mood when we noticed that the restaurant replaces the televisions' audio during commercials with music.
Suitably impressed by our surroundings, we were curious to see if the kitchen could keep up. This Bokamper's location features an expanded menu with a serious sushi list, raw bar and a "skinny menu" for the poor souls who won't be having the ribs.
We started with a set of four tuna wontons ($12.99). The airy, crispy wontons were large enough to accommodate the wad of tuna with sesame seeds, scallions and a semisweet glaze. The "Bo's Bangin Shrimp" shrimp appetizer is best enjoyed in taco form ($14.99), a sinful dish with diced tomato and red onions topped with a delectable sweet sauce. The Miami Vice roll ($13.99) with tuna, mango, pineapple, cilantro, cream cheese and masago boasted an enjoyable combination of ingredients but suffered from undercooked rice.
The Bo's wings ($13.99 for 10) struck a sweet spot with me with their blend of barbecue, garlic and Buffalo sauces. The wings themselves were enjoyable, though not particularly extraordinary. A side of mac and cheese ($3.99) was well prepared, with a mound of shredded cheese topping the wetter cheese below. I'd like this with more breadcrumbs than the tiny bit sprinkled on top, but we didn't regret ordering it. I had high hopes for the stone crab soup ($5.99 for a cup), though I was worried the low price meant little crab. Sure enough, this soup tastes mostly like cream and filler.
For dinner, go straight for the outstanding baby-back ribs with fries and coleslaw (a more-than-reasonable $18.99). The ribs were perfectly grilled, and featured a thick, bold and just-sweet-enough sauce with a peppery accent. They don't come as a half-rack, and that's just as well.
Boneless Southern-fried chicken ($14.99) was like a grown man's chicken tenders, with hunks of heavily battered chicken breast that's seasoned lightly to make way for some nice gravy that comes on the side. This is all served with dense, skin-laden mashed potatoes and a small bowl of delicious coleslaw.
Despite Bokamper's claim to serve the "best burgers ever," the pretzel bacon Swiss burger ($12.99) arrived cooked gray throughout with nearly flavorless beef and strips of bacon that were far more fat than meat. The Caribbean grouper ($19.99) was similarly bland, despite the promising description of pineapple mango chutney paired with wild grilled asparagus. The tasteless mango didn't contribute much to the barely seasoned grouper filet.
For dessert, Bokamper's offerings are a notch above many of its sports bar peers, especially with their above-average plating. A personal-sized caramel cheesecake ($4.99) was delicious, with a wad of salted caramel balancing the cake's flavors. Molten cake ($6.98) was enjoyable, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Fried Oreos ($4.99) are ideal for people who love the taste of the fried-dough elephant ears found at carnivals.
While the service was friendly and passable, dirty dishes were slow to be removed from our table and drinks weren't refilled often enough. Our server seemed to be carrying the brunt of the cleanup in a fairly large section, even though bus boys seemed to be in abundance.
If you're a sports nut who travels in a large pack, make the pilgrimage to Bokamper's latest temple. With a broad-enough menu to please nearly any diner, a picturesque waterfront setting and enough screens to light the neighborhood, Bokamper's has elevated South Florida's sports-bar scene.
3115 NE 32nd Ave., Fort Lauderdale
Cuisine: American, sushi
Hours: 11:30 a.m.- 2 a.m. daily
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Loud
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Highchairs, kids meals
Wheelchair accessible: Yes