Soon after opening Stout Irish Bar & Grill 13 months ago, the owners changed the name of their restaurant to Stout Sports Bar & Grill.
Owner Ed D'Ottavio and his three partners — all of them Irish — realized that customers were looking for much more than shepherd's pie and corned beef and cabbage. Not that either has gone away. But they'd taken over Biddy Early's, another Irish-themed restaurant, which thrived and then withered during its 12-year run.
Stout's owners — who also run the popular watering hole McSorley's Beach Pub, on Fort Lauderdale Beach — spent a bundle redoing the building. There are now 40 HD TVs throughout the restaurant. Seven private booths have their own televisions. The kitchen was upgraded. And the pièce de résistance on the bar side of the operation is the 60-foot-long hammered copper bar covered in clear resin.
Stout still has plenty of Irish flair, including a deep beer list, a menu section devoted to Irish specialties and a staff trained in the ways of Irish hospitality. Soccer is just as popular as football and basketball here.
It's the kind of neighborhood sports bar I wish were in my neighborhood. What separates Stout from similar restaurants is a partnership with Hugh McCauley, the Fort Lauderdale caterer, who oversees the kitchen.
While much of what McCauley's Hugh's Catering does is high-end fare for social and corporate events, Stout is all about top-notch bar food. The three biggest sellers on the menu are grilled chicken wings ($11); Stout's ground-sirloin burger ($10), made with fresh ground beef from the nearby Smitty's Old Fashioned Butcher Shop; and fish and chips ($12), made with cod and served with crispy fries.
I'd call this some of the best fish and chips I've had in South Florida, right down to the bottle of malt vinegar that automatically comes with every order. And you have to love a burger that includes the provenance of its beef. Smitty's has been selling "meats for particular people," as its vintage sign once said, since 1962. This burger is simply excellent.
Three of us shared a mini shepherd's pie appetizer ($9). As a rule, this is one of my least-favorite foods, but Stout turned me around. It may have something to do with the tomato-and-Guinness broth, the nicely whipped and browned potato topping and the total absence of grease. The appetizer portion is plenty big, but you can order an entree-size serving for $14.
Bangers and mash ($13), calf's liver and onions ($15) and corned beef and cabbage ($13) round out the Irish offering. But it's not all pub fare. Healthy choices include a chopped salad ($9) or Caesar salad ($9) served with grilled chicken ($4), grilled shrimp ($5) or grilled steak ($7).
Simple entrees such as grilled chicken Sante Fe ($14), with cheese-topped chicken breast, or grilled twin pork chops ($17) are served with a choice of starch and vegetable. All meat comes from Smitty's, in case you're thinking about splurging on the $26 (16-ounce) New York strip steak.
The menu really does have something for everyone and at every price point. Daily specials include sliders on Wednesdays ($12), brisket on Thursdays ($14) and tilapia Francaise on Fridays ($14).
Desserts are the weak link. Key lime pie ($6) didn't have any tart notes, and chocolate molten cake ($7) needed to start with higher-quality chocolate.
With seating for 200 people and standing room for 350, Stout is big enough to feel like an eating and entertainment complex. But if you're sitting in the dining room, you'd never know how many people are occupying the bar side.
Stout's owners bought the adjoining building and call the area in between Stout Plaza. An outdoor beer garden features a dartboard, and a DJ spins in the bar on weekend nights. But D'Ottavio says families come early for dinner, while the party crowd comes later.
Stout Sports Bar & Grill
3419 N. Andrews Ave., Oakland Park
Cuisine: American and Irish
Hours: Lunch and dinner daily
Reservations: Accepted, but not required.
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Noisier on the bar side
Outside smoking: No
For kids: Highchairs, boosters, menu
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Free lot, free valet on weekends