I’ve spent a lot of days and nights the past couple of years on Las Olas Blvd., in Fort Lauderdale, meaning I’d driven or walked past Big City Tavern dozens of times. To be honest, I thought it was just another Las Olas hipster bar; to be honest, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Big City Tavern, part of the Big Time Restaurant Group portfolio, combines the best of a neighborhood restaurant and bar with the high energy South Florida lifestyle to create a terrific atmosphere for those seeking lunch, brunch, dinner, a late-night meal, or just a happy hour cocktail.
“People go to a lot of the new restaurants, but they always end up coming back here,’’ said Chef Steven Zobel. “It’s kind of like an old standby.’’
In other words, Big City Tavern is the quintessential Fort Lauderdale restaurant and bar, with outstanding craft cocktails (try the Craft Cocktail Sampler) and menu items that run the gamut from baked items such as the Walnut Banana Bread with Pecan Butter, to the best Asian Chicken Wings you might ever eat, to Butcher’s Meatballs and Cheese Ravioli to the Rigatoni Bolognese.
If you can’t find something that fits your taste buds on Big City Tavern’s menus, you’re not looking hard enough.
“We try to keep the dishes just as simple as possible,’’ Zobel said. “That’s what people expect. They’re not coming here for foie gras or whatever. So, we try to do what we do well and keep it simple.’’
To be sure, Zobel and Big City Tavern accomplish each objective to near perfection. There are a lot of items on each menu, but each is consistently well prepared and presented.
“Lisabet Summa (corporate chef at Big Time Restaurant Group) lets us explore with a lot of specials,’’ Zobel said. “Basically, once every quarter, we’ll look at what’s selling well as specials and we’ll refine the dish and add it to the service.’’
The Rigatoni Bolognese, Zobel said, is the restaurant’s most popular pasta; the Pan Roasted Salmon Filet the most popular fish entrée; and the Asian Chicken Wings the most popular appetizer.
Sporting just the right amount of tang and kick, the Asian Chicken Wings are Zobel’s way of paying homage to the fabled Korean Chicken Wings at Bonchon Chicken in his native New York City.
My favorites? The wings themselves are worth the visit to Big City Tavern. The Shrimp Pad Thai is a “must have,’’ as are the meatballs. You also can’t go wrong with the House Burger. And be sure to check out the Daily Burger Special, which could be simple or could be a bit off the wall. You just never know.
“I like to explore and cook and have some fun,’’ Zobel said.
You’ll have fun, too, at Big City Tavern.