There once was a day in which downtown Fort Lauderdale's riverfront and Himmarshee area was full of a variety of different restaurants and bars. From Hooters and laid-back sports bars to high-end Italian restaurant and upscale martinis, there used to be divergent spots for everyone -- and every possible mood one could have.
Then came the real estate bubble, its subsequent collapse, and a bar migration to Las Olas. Somewhere along the lines the downtown area was left by the wayside.
Fortunately, it's coming back. Earlier this year restauranteurs Rodney Mayo and Scott Frielich brought the Dubliner to fill the void that was left by the vacant PL8, a new concept Public House is on its way -- more on that to come -- and now the area's newest beer and wine bar, Taps is coming to town.
We spoke with founder James Devito about the concept and its expected opening date.
The restaurant and bar will feature 350 beers -- 30 on tap -- 40 to 60 wines by the glass, full liqueur bar, and upscale American fare.
"We call it smart cooking," said Devito. "Everything is made in-house from scratch daily. We use mostly extra virgin olive oil, very little butter, and we don't use a fryer."
The menu ranges from tapas, such as tuna crudo ($16) with avocado, shaved fennel, red onion, sun-dried tomato, and chili oil served on crisp wontons and crab cake bites ($15) with lemon basil served over a fresh arugula salad to bruschettas ($8 to $11) and a bacon turkey salad ($11).
"The concept is new for Himmarshee," said Devito. "We're taking it up a notch. Taps is upscale, but still casual; it's been well received in all our markets."
Fort Lauderdale be the fourth location of Taps. The concept began in Tampa five years ago and has extended two locations since, the newest being Naples. According to Devito, they are currently looking at future locations with Jupiter as a possibility.
This specific location on Himmarshee Street appealed to him mostly because of its proximity to the Broward Center of the Performing Arts, but after living in Fort Lauderdale for a while he came to appreciate the street's local vibe.
"Compared to trendier, touristy Las Olas, a lot of those bars on Himmarshee have been there forever," said Devito. "It's busier throughout the year, there's plenty of parking, and when there are shows it packs out."
With the wide selection of beers, wines, and spirits, the spot aims to create a loungy, but lively environment. In addition to an extensive craft cocktail list with small batch spirits and even specialty ice cubes, many of the wines, beers, and spirits offered will be offered in one and half, two, and three ounce flights. Once the place is up and running at full force, he plans to bring in monthly dinners featuring pairings like tequila, scotch, beer versus wine, or whatever the market needs.
Devito is hoping to foster the same mature, professional atmosphere in Fort Lauderdale that he has with his other locations.
"I'm not after 21-year-olds," he said. "Our target audience is 28 and up. We're a hybrid between a restaurant and a bar. The type of place you go with 20 people on a birthday, it's fun and upbeat."
With an expected opening date in early November, Taps will begin service with lunch and dinner. Eventually, Devito hopes to start up a brunch program, possibly with jazz musicians or a DJ.
Taps will be located at 330 SW Second Street in Fort Lauderdale. Visit tapswineandbeer.com.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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