Downtown Fort Lauderdale has most certainly seen better days: years ago Himmarshee street was a vibrant dining and nightlife scene. After the recession hit, it went from diverse social spot to drunken bar scene.
That being said, over the last year or so, that's been starting to change.
Second Street got its latest eatery (finally!) recently. Taps is now up and running.
Open just a couple of weeks, the new bar and restaurant offers upscale American comfort food, a large selection of beer, cocktails, and wine.
Set just west of Fat Cat's the space is minimalist and clean. A long bar frames the back of the restaurant and the front portion is filled with communal and separate bar height tables. About a dozen tables sit on the patio out front.
On a recent lunchtime visit, a few tables were occupied out front, but the interior was nearly vacant. Starting with a soft opening, the restaurant has done little to advertise its up and running yet. Our server let us know, they are planning on hosting a grand opening in the near future.
The menu is comprised of interesting takes on the usual tapas and bar foods: spicy Asian lettuce wraps ($11), crab cake bites ($15), baked meatballs ($15), beer queso nachos with salsa fresca ($12), Italian sausage sliders ($10).
The specialty popcorn takes freshly popped blue kernel popcorn and mixes it with truffle oil and asiago cheese ($5). It's a nice bar snack, but a recent order tasted of olive oil more than anything.
Baked mac and cheese ($8) combines ziti with white cheddar, fontina, and asiago with crispy prosciutto and panko bread crumbs. The dish is on the small side and it's not as creamy as one would expect.
Slightly divergent, a section of bruschetta spans from simple basil pesto and mozzarella ($9) to gorgonzola, caramelized onion, crispy prosciutto, and aged balsamic ($10).
Salads and sandwiches make up the rest of the menu. Like the rest of the menu, options include creative takes on traditional pub grub. The rare roast beef sandwich features gorgonzola spread, arugula, and caramelized onion on a pressed baguette ($10). The turkey and brie comes with pear chutney and arugula on a pressed baguette ($11). A lemon roasted salmon salad is served over mixed greens with artichoke hearts, onions, asparagus, and tomato in a citrus herb vinaigrette ($14). The chicken paillard salad mixes flattened chicken breast with asparagus, portabello mushrooms, roasted red peppers, oven roasted tomato, artichoke hearts, arugula, and a goat cheese croquette ($14).
The Far East Coast combines fresh ahi tuna sashimi with mixed greens, carrots, red peppers, cucumber, onion, radish sprouts, and spiced cahsews in a wasabi mustard vinaigrette ($14). Refreshing and boldly flavored, it was the highlight of our recent trip.
A selection of specialty cocktails is quite diverse. In addition to several vodka drinks (one of which is a $14 hand crafted Bloody Mary with shrimp), it offers whiskey, gin, and tequila drinks.
The New Old Fashion ($11) incorporates High West Double Rye with Bittermen Orange, Bittermen Xocolate Mole, and a flamed orange wheel. The Blueberry Margarita ($11) combines muddles blueberries with Cuervo Silver Tequila with soda. Red sangria ($9) uses marinated fruit, brandy, triple sec, and cabernet sauvignon, topped with lime soda served in a glass with a cinnamon sugar rim.
The extensive beer list is one of the highlights. Spanning over multiple pages, it offers everything from classic Belgians to local and national craft brews. Over 350 are available, including 30 or so on tap; all of the drafts are available in flights.
While the space is quiet at the moment, it seems as though it has the right formula to succeed. This is the fourth location of the boutique Florida chain -- other locales are located in Tampa, Orlando, and Naples.
Taps is located at 330 Himmarshee St. in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-459-7770, or visit tapswineandbeer.com.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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