I imagine that Township is a fine place to watch a college football game, particularly for fans of Florida State University. The original Township opened two years ago near Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, and the Fort Lauderdale outpost has become a de facto Seminoles fan club, with pep rallies and watch parties for big games. I also imagine that Township, which opened in June, is a fine place to engage in youthful activities such as watching Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts, playing cornhole on the patio or downing $16 “shot skis,” which the menu describes as “four shots, one ski, tons of fun.”
When it came to a recent dinner, Township was about as much fun as a jackhammer to the brain. It was loud. REALLY LOUD!!! Forget normal conversation of any kind, either with the person across from you or someone who phones from a county away. “Where are you?” a friend in Miami-Dade asked when I answered her call at the table. “I can’t hear a word you are saying.” Township’s gimmicky and slightly incomprehensible motto is, “For the table, by the people.” More like, “Floors of terrazzo, split the eardrums.”
Some food was delicious (a salmon bowl with veggies, quinoa and yogurt dressing), some was careless (a good, crispy chicken sandwich was marred by a huge, inedible pepper stem in the middle), and the service on two visits was friendly and uneven. Our dinner server was helpful and understanding — she felt our pain as we could not help but shout our orders at her — and a server at lunch, which was much more mellow and bearable, was pleasant enough until he disappeared for a long stretch toward the end of the meal.
With its communal wood tables and handsome bar tucked toward the rear, I would describe Township as German beer hall meets millennial sports bar. It is a place that is more corporate clean than Munich grunge, like a high school cafeteria as seen on the Disney Channel, only with craft beer served in liter steins (and shot skis).
Given the high standards and generally good execution of the Restaurant People, the Fort Lauderdale-based outfit behind Township that also owns Yolo, S3 and Boatyard, the early scorecard is disappointing. Putting a fried egg on lackluster and overly tomato-sauced $15 shrimp and grits (shrimp-and-grits marinara?), or putting mac and cheese on a burger ($12.50, which I did not try) might be pleasing to the hipsters, but it did little for me. I enjoyed a pretzel with beer cheese ($7.50), even though I could hardly taste any alleged porter in the gooey dipping sauce, but I was disappointed in a limp kielbasa ($10) with sage onions and spicy beer mustard that was more sweet than sinus-clearing. It came in a pretzel bun that fell apart after being cut in half. I wanted a satisfying snap, but I got a soggy and sad sausage that seemed like it had been sitting in a steam pan.
I’m no killjoy or fuddy-duddy, and I know a certain amount of noise is to be expected on a Friday night in a lively bar where the drinking outpaces the eating. But the sound level was ridiculous. At one point, when “All Star” by Smash Mouth blared from the speaker system, it verged on torturous. I felt like a Guantanamo detainee. Thankfully, the surrounding din almost drowned out the music. A weekday lunch was better, with only occasional clatter bouncing off the industrial, exposed-duct ceilings and around the walls and alcoves fashioned from steel shipping containers, which say “Townshipping.”
Tim Petrillo, co-founder of the Restaurant People, knows that noise is an issue. He says insulation is being installed and other sound mitigation efforts are underway. That is a good thing. Decibel readings I took throughout my dinner on a noise-monitoring app measured consistently in the mid-80s and soared as high as the 90s (the range of hair dryers, belt sanders and power lawn mowers). According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the federal agency that created the free app, “Regular and prolonged exposures to noise at or above an 85-decibel average [averaged over 8 hours per day] are considered hazardous.”
Township has other challenges beyond acoustics. The parking situation is not ideal, with the adjacent lot offering $7 valet or $10 self-parking for two hours. That’s a big ask for a moderately priced eatery. Township replaced the shuttered Tilted Kilt on South Andrews Avenue, near the Broward Governmental Center. With the recent demolition of the failed Las Olas Riverfront complex and ongoing construction of surrounding high-rises, the area is in flux. The Restaurant People, which has its headquarters and test kitchen nearby, is betting on the block. In the past year, it has opened Rooftop @ 1WLO, a rooftop bar that is doing well, and Taste TRP, a chic, 25-seat dining room for special events and visiting chefs.
I have visited both those establishments and like them a lot, as I like the fast-casual Spatch Grilled Peri-Peri Chicken concept, which recently opened its second Fort Lauderdale location. Partnering with local developer Alan Hooper, Petrillo and co-founder/chef Peter Boulukos have created a local restaurant empire after starting more than two decades ago with the late, great Himmarshee Bar & Grille. After shuttering the more casual Tarpon Bend earlier this year, the Restaurant People launched its vision for the younger generation with Township.
Township brought some staff and favorite menu items from Tarpon Bend, including the fine tuna burger ($17). But the owners have also created a scattered global menu that veers from guacamole and tacos to Asian bulgogis, banh mis and tuna bowls. The nods to German beer hall are hit-and-miss, with a fine pretzel-crusted pork schnitzel ($15.75) but not-so-great potato salad ($5) that featured mandolin-sliced potatoes and pickled cucumbers instead of hearty potato chunks with bacon. There are also nods to vegans and the health-conscious with salads, bowls and a roasted corn side that was excellent.
“We wanted to offer something for everyone,” Petrillo says.
What I mostly got was a headache.
219 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale
Cuisine: American sports bar meets German beer hall
Cost: Moderate. Appetizers cost $4-$12, salads, sandwiches and mains $10-$21, sides $5, desserts $7
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full liquor with large beer selection
Noise level: Tolerable at lunch, painful at night (bring earplugs)
Wheelchair access: Ground level
Parking: $7 valet or $10 private lot, other garages nearby