old-world-style pub around can bill itself as the "real deal," few places in South Florida actually deliver the sights, sounds -- and taste -- of the actual thing.
The Lion & Eagle English Pub, however, does it all. Forget that it's hidden from the masses in one of Boca Raton's many strip malls along Federal Highway. Once at the bar, you'll forget all about just how far from England you actually are.
You'll feel most English when you spot the flat screen television behind the bar, where a soccer match is never missed.
Stop by any day of the week, and you'll also be sure to find Simon Allen -- even his entire family, including brothers Jeremy and Rob -- behind the bar. Here, they aren't only the owners, but routine bartenders, as well.
Their quaint English pub, which has been in business for over two decades, wasn't always in the family, however. After taking over three years ago, the Allen's -- who hail from Cannock, England -- have certainly put their own brand of "British" into this bar.
Here, it's not all about being British. In fact, Simon stresses the Lion and Eagle is more about being the neighborhood-friendly pub -- equal parts good food, beer -- and, of course, football. This is a place where the patrons don't mind getting friendly with their fellow drinkers, and the atmosphere is always -- repeat, always -- welcoming.
Here's what Simon had to say about his family's British-American pub, the Lion and Eagle:
Clean Plate Charlie: So, what makes the Lion and Eagle so special, in your opinion?
Simon: Basically, it's everything a good English pub should be. It's good food, good drink, good atmosphere.
I've worked in a lot of places, and been to a lot of bars, and this pub just runs differently. I think what makes it different, the cool thing about it, we [my brother and I] bartended before, and it's really the only place I know that that's owned -- and run -- by bartenders. There's no drama. This isn't your stereotypical bar.
Would you say this is the type of bar that's a good spot to meet new people?
This is the place to start, or end, your night. It's a great meeting point, and a lot of people will come here for the cheap drinks before they head out somewhere else. Likewise, it's a good spot to end up. You can leave your car here, call a cab, and no one will tow you or hassle you. Ladies, listen up.
Sounds like you have a good crowd here.
We've got a great, local crowd. This is the kind of place you come to meet up with your friends. But you don't have to know anyone to have a good time. Just show up, and there's guaranteed to be someone to talk to and keep you company. It's such a small place, it's easy to meet new people.
Our regulars are a good, chill group of people. It seems like -- even if they move away -- they'll come back and stop in when they're in town. They just can't stay away.
That's as English as it gets: the camaraderie. Everyone's always buying rounds for each other, and are willing to help you out or talk to you about your problems.
You grew up in England...so what brought you to Florida?
My father always travelled for work, so we moved from England in 1989. I went to high school in Virginia Beach, and college in North Carolina, but eventually ended up here in Boca Raton.
The Lion and Eagle has been here for quite awhile -- what changes have you made?
If my brother could have it his way, we'd just have beer and whiskey. We like to let our bartenders have the freedom to do their own thing. If they want to do a "shot of the night," we let them. We like to keep it creative.
And we have a great happy hour: Noon to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. It's 2-4-1 drinks, and that includes domestic bottles, wine and well drinks.
What about food? I see you have a lot of standard English fare on the menu...
We put together our own "best of" -- the sort of stuff we'd want to see on a pub menu. We picked out our favorites, each of us, and went from there.
What are your most popular dishes?
The basket of chips is always a hit. They're made using fresh-cut potatoes, just simple bar food, you know?
Our fish and chips are really good, as well. For that authentic [British recipe and] taste, it's all about the fish and the batter. And we only use cod.
Our curry is also a popular dish. And the Scotch eggs, a personal favorite. They are unbelievable (hard-boiled eggs wrapped in sausage, rolled in bread crumbs, and deep-fried, served hot or cold). You can do breakfast all day, which is really good -- especially if we're opening early for one of the [football] games.
Early? How early?
We've been known to open the doors as early as 7 a.m., and we always have a good crowd. It's ridiculous, because you'll get people in here drinking that early. A lot of people come here to watch the games. It's not just your average English pub. Our soccer fans are German, Scandinavian, Irish, American -- you name it. It's a cool mix.
What do you like most about owning your own pub?
I love coming to work everyday. And, if I ever don't feel like coming to work, the people who work here feel the same way. No one ever calls in to take off. Even the times when it's slammed, and they're three-deep at the bar, it's always a good time. Always good people. And I guess that's what a good pub is all about.
This is the place you come to chill -- a place to spend the afternoon. Once you get in, it's hard to leave. And by the end of the night, you've made a few new friends.
We'll plan on spending a good game day at the Lion and Eagle, then -- and we'll be sure to give those Scotch eggs a go-around while we're there.