Night Watch: The Ambry
The Ambry German and American Restaurant
3016 E Commercial Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Call 954-771-7342, or visit ambryrestaurant.com
I walked through the quaint, pocket-sized "beer garden,"
pulled open the brassy, cathedral-like door, and poked my head inside
the Ambry. It was dimly lit, with brick walls, wooden ceilings, arched
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windows, and the aroma of sauerkraut lingering in the air.
Despite its diminutive appearance, the Ambry has a maze of tables and
booths and a healthy-sized bar from which to consume the thickest,
frothiest brews in town. Beer steins adorned shelves, shadow boxes
contained trinkets, and numerous woodwind instruments dangled from the
ceiling. The crowded bar already boasted a row of topped-off steins, so
I grabbed the last empty spot and gazed at the soccer team flags, and
fake flowers that decorated the little alcohol-vending alcove. Photos of
unknown soccer players were layered beneath the surface of the bar.
"Who are these dudes?" I asked the bartender, Matthew. He had a thick Rhode Island brogue and wore a beautiful crystal around his neck. He also was a staunch Red Sox fan and informed my Yankees cap-wearing friend that , fortunately for him, the bar "doesn't discriminate."
"That's Gerd Muller," he answered. "He's a famous German football player and used to co-own this bar."
"What?" I asked.
"This place is 30 years old," Matthew said. "The owners were originally partners with Gerd, but he decided he didn't much like the restaurant business and left it up to them. And they're still here."
"What's your crystal mean?" I asked, leaning in to look at his necklace.
"I've had it for 18 years," he said. "Got it when I quit drinking."
"Congratulations," I said.
Then he gave us a tour of the beer selection: "We've got a lot of rice and wheat beers; Tucher, Weihenstephan," he said. "The Warsteiner is a light beer; favorite among ladies. We've got different flavors of Schnapps - cherry, raspberry. Oh, and Obstler - that's a peach brandy." He proceeded to rattle off a few other multisyllabic, gruff-sounding German beer names.
"What about Oktoberfest?" I asked.
He informed me of their Tucher Hefeweizen Oktoberfest beer, which my friend promptly ordered.
Meanwhile, I said "hello" to Honey, the bar's blonde German matriarch, and then walked around the bar to talk with Sam, a Fort Lauderdale-born Ambry regular who was consuming a big plate of prime rib.
Sam witnessed my holier-than-thou vegetarian grimace.
"Hey, I'm a member of PETA," he said between mouthfuls. "People for the Eating of Tasty Animals."
"Hardy har," I said.
"You missed Nina," he said. "She's the regular bartender - and has quite a following. I mean, Matt's OK too..." Matt walked by and arched an eyebrow. I had the slight feeling that Matt wasn't as pretty as this "Nina."
"Ever been to Germany?" I asked Sam.
"Yeah, I've been to Dusseldorf," he said, popping the little "hat" up on his ancient-looking beer
stein, which was decorated with painted lambs. He took a hearty swig.
"And?" I pressed.
Sam shrugged. "It's cold in Germany."
"That's all you can say about an entire country?" I scolded.
Marvin, a friendly gentleman in a tie and dress shirt, leaned over. He was also polishing off a mountain of prime rib.
"There are a lot of great countries, but United States is the best," he said. "You want to know why? It's a melting pot. We get the best of each culture." He smiled a blinding white smile and lifted his mug of beer. "It's all right here."
I moseyed back over to watch my pack of male cohorts feed hungrily upon curryworst (I restrained, though admittedly the flavored brat did look interesting).
I reached for a stein full of golden-colored Oktoberfest Tucher. "That will put hair on your chest," bartender Matthew warned. "It's a bit rich. It might be a rude awakening."
I rolled my eyes and flexed a bicep. No drink is too tough for me and my liver o' steel. I took a long sip of the fresh, fall beverage.
And ...the foam literally stuck in my throat, taking on the properties of a solid.
Well, just the foam of this beer kind of did this. Once I was able to find the taste, I realized I liked it, but the beer's surprising body caught me a little off-guard. I may have coughed and/or sputtered.
"Manly, eh?" Matthew laughed.
"Delicious," I said, examining my chest for newly sprouted hairs.
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