British chef Tom Norrington-Davies defines the ideal gastropub as having "scuffed wooden floors, open-plan kitchen, simple, robust food and menus on blackboards." His description can apply to gastropubs throughout South Florida, the majority of which are found near beaches or downtown areas.
These restaurants serve lowbrow food with highbrow ambition, such as grilled-cheese sandwiches made with artisanal cheeses and fried chicken braised in top-shelf bourbon. Gastropubs attract diners who want to avoid chain restaurants but still gorge on familiar foods.
More and more, however, chefs are yearning to slow-roast organic proteins and mince locally grown vegetables in residential areas out west, which typically are dominated by large chains such as Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse.
Kim Paszkiewicz of Bash American Bistro in Sunrise says her customers are looking for fresh cuisine made with quality ingredients and attention to detail.
"We buy [produce] from local farms," she says. "We're really commercial out here [in Sunrise], so we try to support local."
Paszkiewicz's restaurant also heavily features local craft beer. The staff is friendly and the vibe is relaxed, traits it shares with South Florida's best suburban gastropubs, compiled below.
Bash American Bistro, 10053 Sunset Strip, Sunrise, 954-578-6700, BashAmericanBistro.com
Groups dining at Bash can share an appetizer of warm beggar's purses stuffed with black truffles and aged cheese and drizzled with champagne-cream sauce, while splitting a bottle of Chenin Blanc and letting the picky eaters of the pack munch on chicken nuggets. Not because Bash serves small mounds of rubbery meat, but because the shopping-plaza restaurant is feet away from a McDonald's.
Bash owners Paszkiewicz and husband Shannon Weinberg worked in, but didn't own, the restaurant when it was Bash Wine Cafe and Catering on Oakland Park Boulevard and University Drive. Weinberg is executive chef at the new location, as he was at the old one.
Paszkiewicz says her husband interned in Jacksonville and New Orleans after leaving the Marines to attend culinary school in North Carolina. His Bourbon Street chicken is served with a sweet-pecan crust and bourbon-mustard-butter sauce. Hodad crab cakes come in pairs, each as big as the palm of your hand and about a half-inch thick.
Every month, Bash holds winetastings, and Paszkiewicz says they often set up "beer versus wine" dinners to compare a dish's flavor when paired with either drink.
Big Bear Brewing Company, 1800 N. University Drive, Coral Springs, 954-341-5545, BigBearBrewingCo.com
At this brewpub, brewer Matthew Cox's beers help make up the dinner menu: Brew-house chicken tenders are battered in Big Bear's award-winning Polar Light Kolsch, and dishes are served with seasonal house-beer suggestions.
Daily food specials and whatever beer is being fermented are detailed on the pub's website. If you're a frequent visitor, consider joining the mug club. Every April, enrollment opens for $50 and includes a 22-ounce mug you can fill at the bar for the price of an 18-ounce beer.
The brick-and-wood theme gives Big Bear the feel of a neighborhood restaurant. But chef Lance Kraebel's turkey meatloaf — served with light gravy, sun-dried cranberries, fried haystack onions, roasted-garlic mashed potatoes and cranberry chutney — elevates the family-friendly place to trendy foodie attraction.
Sybarite Pig, 20642 State Road 7, Boca Raton, 561-883-3200, SybaritePig.com
Daniel Naumko's bone-in Hereford pork chops, topped with chicharron and a sweet-sour glaze, and his selection of house-made sausages, including tamarind-lamb and Peruvian anticucho (that's beef heart), are not the dinner you'd expect to get in a West Boca shopping plaza.
Naumko took over the space where Wicked Awesome Snackbar once served small plates and craft beer. He created a small menu packed with dishes such as roasted bone marrow and pickled tongue. But the chef is also a craft-beer fanatic.