Set off the main road, among warehouses, auto repair shops, and cheap motels just south of State Road 84 and west of Federal Highway, the Keg on Sixth isn't a place most Fort Lauderdale residents would just happen to stumble across.
It is, however, part of a quickly growing trend among those in the craft beer set of restaurateurs opening their doors far away from the busy tourist strips like Las Olas Boulevard, Himmarshee Street, and the large commercial streets that run through town.
"We didn't want to be downtown," says Eddie McNerney, who opened the place in March with co-owner Richard Carmichael. "We like that you don't have to fight through the crowd to get a beer, and there's plenty of parking. We wanted a relaxed vibe with lots of different kinds of people."
Keg on Sixth is in good company. With spots like Riverside Market (situated way back in residential Sailboat Bend), Laser Wolf (located in the industrial part of town between Broward and Sunrise boulevards), and Tap 42 (which fully converted the old dive Brownies into one of the busiest places in Fort Lauderdale), these new, beercentric bars and eateries are creating fresh destinations for locals looking to sample an array of craft brew among like-minded people.
Although more urban, Keg on Sixth's interior suits the neighborhood. Edison bulbs hang over the corrugated steel and wood bar. Graffiti covers the wall. Cool concrete lines the floor. The aesthetic is almost industrial yet still warm and inviting.
But it's not just the concept; the menu follows some of the current restaurant fashions as well. The global comfort fare has a strong focus on preparing everything in-house, from scratch. Keg pickles are made on premises from fresh fruits and vegetables. Kettle chips "guasacaca" is an appetizer that pairs freshly fried potatoes and beets with an avocado dip. Based on a Venezuelan version of guacomole, guasacaca is thinner and more acidic than the Mexican version.
Burgers, one of the best-selling items, are ground daily and mixed together with a special blend of meat. The signature Keg Burger is finished with a sweet and savory stout glaze, mild Muenster cheese, roasted tomato, and a slightly spicy bacon jalapeño jam. The Turkey Juicy Lucy is stuffed with creamy Brie and topped with roasted tomato and sugary caramelized onion. Both are served with a side of hand-cut fries.
"[Other restaurants] just bring meat in ten-pound tubes and cut it up," says Carmichael. "We make our blend for our burgers. Our thought was to be a little bit different; we want to put out better quality."
The Fish N Chips follows the same idea. Cod is coated with a homemade Narragansett batter and served with house-made tartar.
"Fried Chicken and Biscuit" is a heaping pile of boneless tender chicken set atop a buttery homemade biscuit. It's topped with a viscous black-pepper gravy and a dash of orange hot sauce. It's filling and ideal for soaking up copious amounts of beer -- and you just might need a nap afterward.
Although much of the menu consists of new takes on typical bar food (with plenty of gut-busting options), healthier and vegetarian alternatives also exist. The flatbread salad is exactly as it sounds, a salad you can eat with your hands. A thin crust is topped with a layer of herbed cheese and piled high with delicate mixed greens, caramelized onions, mango, avocado, and oven-dried tomatoes in a bright-lemon vinaigrette. It's light yet bursting with flavor.
Curried cauliflower is tossed in a house mix of curry with pickled jalapeño and a sweet soy dressing.
If the menu sounds all over the board, that's because it is.
The Keg aims to cater to a wide range of customers, from local beer geeks to workers from nearby Port Everglades to airline and yacht crews. Carmichael and McNerney, both Irish expats, met about 15 years ago while working at 17th Street Causeway's Waxy O'Conners, a favorite hangout among the yachtie set.
The pair parted ways, moving on to different bars in the area. Carmichael spent time at the Dubliner Fort Lauderdale, while McNerney most recently managed American Social.
About nine months ago, the former coworkers randomly bumped into each other at Tap 42; both happened to be trying to find locations to open relaxed bars with good food and craft beers.
"We were discussing similar concepts between each other," says McNerney. "We've both been working in pubs since we were about 15, and we always wanted to do our own bars. We decided to do it together."
After bringing on investors in the form of longtime friends Peter Moran and Nick Lindell, both marine-industry professionals, they set to work. About four months later, they found their location, and a new craft beer eatery off the beaten path was born.
The Keg on Sixth is located at 3218 SE Sixth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-765-3473, or visit thekegon6th.com.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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