American Social, the newish mecca for beer connoisseurs on Las Olas Boulevard, made me yearn for my college days in Gainesville, where we'd drink all sorts of concoctions in one night, sing loudly in bars, wear baseball caps all the time and make fast friends. American Social takes the best elements of that experience but smartly omits the sticky floors, nasty food and watered-down drinks. Instead, you'll find a place where you can pour a wide variety of high-end beers from six taps on the wall or, if you score one of the coveted special spots, right at your table (though you'll need to spend at least $120 per hour in food and drink as a group to sit there).
If you're on the market, American Social may be a good place to check out. You'll find a crowd of people in their 20s and 30s, though folks older than that won't feel awkward thanks to the classy settings. The seating and bar are arranged in such a way that you easily find yourself conversing with others, yet without feeling intruded upon. The place also boasts about as many pairs of enhanced breasts as it does beer taps – not an uncommon occurrence on Las Olas.
Like any popular bar, it gets noisy, yet the acoustics still allowed us to hear each other at the table above the din and the speakers playing an ear-catching mix of barfly favorites ("Sweeeeeeeet Caroline … DUN DUN DUN!," the crowd hollers), Top 40 songs (the recently popular "Gangnam Style") and late '90s-era groups such as the Dave Matthews Band and Incubus.
As we settled into one of the comfortable, couchlike booths, our first order of business was to sample every beer in sight. If you endeavor to do this at any other restaurant, you'll have to either order a set of beer flights – which aren't always available – or run up your tab and leave behind a disgraceful amount of warm beer. Instead, you hand over a credit card, and American Social gives you a small magnet you click onto the wall to pour as much or as little as you want, and you'll be charged accordingly. Each beer is charged relative to the prices on the menu, which range from $6 to $13 a glass, though most fall in the $7-$8 range.
Fresh frozen glasses are made available as often as you like, or you can rinse your glass right at the tap by flipping the glass and pressing it down. Servers, and even other patrons, are happy to instruct you in the basic art of beer-pouring: Tip the glass 45 degrees, pour along the middle of the slope and make sure that the tap handle is all the way down so you don't end up with a bubbly mess.
So off we went, scurrying around the bar with our little magnets, pouring an eighth of a pint of all sorts of fun stuff: Capital Hop Cream, Redhook Wit, a series of beers from San Diego's Green Flash Brewing Co. and yes, even Bud Light for the philistines. We also got lucky enough to snag one of the tables with the taps built into them, where we poured a bit of Brooklyn Lager, Stella Artois, Breckenridge Vanilla Porter and Cigar City Jai Alai IPA.
While American Social scores huge points for its beer setup, the food is decent at the price yet doesn't rise above the offerings at South Florida's best brewpubs. In general, you may be better off binging on the appetizers rather than ordering too much off the sandwich menu.
The spinach-and-artichoke dip ($11) here is exceptional, light tasting, deliciously creamy and topped with tasty bread crumbs served with multicolored tortilla chips. The pretzel bread sticks ($8) are another highlight, served hot and fluffy with dipping sauces such as cheddar cheese and a lovely ranch sauce. A wild mushroom and truffle flatbread with a balsamic sauce ($11) isn't as flavorful as it sounds, with the bread being two heavily caked in mushrooms that don't taste like much, despite the warm, crunchy crust.
You won't go wrong, especially with a group, by ordering a trio of sliders ($12) with small, tasty burgers of beef, short rib and roast pork. Another good bet is the mac and cheese ($6, plus $2 for add-ons), small shell pasta that can be mixed in with your choice of pulled chicken, bacon, lump crab, sauteed shrimp, blue cheese and/or caramelized onions. We went for some chorizo in our version, and we merrily dug in, though the chorizo could use some more grilling or sauteing to draw out the flavor.
The meatball sandwich ($12.50 with fries) tastes as generic as it gets, with bland, unremarkable meatballs and a plain hoagie. The AmSo beef Philly cheese steak ($13.50) is a stronger offering, with horseradish sauce and Gruyere cheese melted well throughout. Laurie's apple tuna-salad sandwich ($11.50) is even better, a fun offering with sweetness coming from the slices of apple and the raisin-walnut bread.
Dessert here isn't particularly original, but it does the job. Key lime pie ($6) was lip-puckering sour, like a good Floridian should like it. A Reese's peanut-butter pie ($6) was light, creamy and heavy on the peanut-butter flavor. Similarly, a helping of pistachio gelato ($6) was also extremely nutty tasting.
As we walked out with that happy, tingly feeling in our cheeks and "Sweet Caroline" in our heads, we vowed to return for happy hour with as many beer aficionados as we can round up.
721 E. Las Olas Blvd.
Cuisine: Pub, American, craft beer
Hours: 11:30 a.m.- 1 a.m. Monday-Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-midnight Sunday
Reservations: Accepted only for the two tables with taps
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Moderate to loud
Outside smoking: Yes
Wheelchair accessible: YesCopyright © 2015, South Florida