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.
The Pig's monthly bottle-share parties rally the area's beer collectors to come in and share their rarities, often acquired on trips to breweries that don't distribute their products everywhere. The beer selection is arguably Naumko's focus, but chef Suzanne Cochard's food is hardly an afterthought. The kitchen staff even takes care to bake all the bread in-house.
Butcher Block Grill, 7000 W. Camino Real, Boca Raton, 561-409-3035, ButcherBlockGrill.com
Another West Boca option for diners concerned about the origin of their food opened in late August. The seafood at Butcher Block Grill is caught locally, and produce comes from roughly a dozen South Florida farms.
Chef Joshua Hedquist has worked with the Big Time Restaurant Group (Big City Tavern, Grease Burger Bar) and Todd English's Da Campo Osteria. All the steaks on his menu are served with red-wine demi-glace and hand-cut, malt-vinegar steak fries. For grilled lamb chops, forget just mint jelly. They come with pesto made with romesco sauce and mint, Lyonnaise Brussels sprouts and fingerling potatoes, and almond gremolata.
B&S Gastropub (Barley and Swine), 9059 SW 73rd Court, Miami, 305-397-8678, BarleyAndSwine.com
Before Barley and Swine's July opening, dining options in Kendall's Dadeland area were mostly limited to Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, World of Beer, the Italian chain Villagio and the Cheesecake Factory.
Now, chef Jorgie Ramos' serrano-ham-and-manchego-cheese croquettes, served with guava sauce, give locals a break from reheated fettuccine Alfredo and tortilla chips. B&S is the only place in Kendall serving pork-rib tips (with sweet-potato hash and bourbon-barrel maple sauce) or pork belly with sweet-corn puree and an au jus so geared toward Miamians it's made from Jupiña pineapple soda.
From Tuesday through Saturday, daily mac and cheese offerings include chipotle-smoked Gouda, goat cheese-fig and lobster-mascarpone.
Latin House Grill, 9565 SW 72nd St., Miami, 786-564-5683, LatinHouseGrill.com
Farther west is a steak and seafood joint that started as a burger and taco food truck in 2010. Now, Latin House serves seasonal lobster lollipops, made from fresh-caught lobster delivered twice weekly by Florida's Sable Seafood. Chef and owner Michell Sanchez says the lobsters are kept alive and tempura-fried to order, and then served skewered on bamboo sticks.
LGH serves 18 types of tacos and 10 types of burgers, Sanchez says. But aside from the jalapeno and Havarti-topped Bulgarian mini burger and other varieties, the grub house makes a 64-ounce porterhouse priced at $129.
"People come in and challenge each other to eat it," Sanchez says. "But it's meant to be shared."Copyright © 2015, South Florida