Bull Market and Chow: Dueling Gastropubs in Downtown Lauderdale

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Every seven minutes, the ticker moves up or down.

Lagunitas Little Sumpin, up 5 percent to $5.80, with a daily high of six bucks. Orange Blossom Draft, down 50 cents to $7.18. Silver Tequila, down 9 percent to $6.40, its lowest price of the evening.

Illuminated all around Bull Market, a gastropub in downtown Fort Lauderdale, are flat screens with an imitation news-channel logo, the place's emblem, and tickers highlighting rising and dropping prices on beer and spirits. It is based on supply and demand: The more a product is being sold, the more you pay. When demand decreases, so does the cost.

The goal is to offer guests a chance to sample craft beer, says John Todora, director of operations for the Creative Kitchen Group, owners of Bull Market and Whiskey Tango in Hollywood. "A lot of people are intimidated," says Todora. "Not everyone is going to shell out seven or eight bucks for a beer they're uncertain about."

See also: South Florida Brew Bus Delivers South Florida's Craft Beer Craze

This Wall Street theme doesn't stop with the tickers. It's symbolized by the bar's rendition of artist Arturo Di Moca's charging bull, which sits not far from the New York Stock Exchange. Di Moca created the oversized sculpture of the beast after the 1987 stock market crash. It was dropped off in the middle of the night, impounded, then moved to its current home in Bowling Green Park, two blocks from the exchange.

The image is plastered throughout the eatery: on wooden panels separating the tables and in booths lining the walls above the leather-bound bar.

Continuing the financial theme, the menu offers an interesting array of "share" plates in the gastropub vein. It's broken into sections according to financial terms: opening bell (appetizers), the soup and salad report, market square tacos, and the closing bell (desserts).

Start with an order of Captain Crunch chicken fingers. Tender chicken breast is coated in the peanut butter variety of the cereal and served with a side of house-made honey mustard. The dish, made from one of Todora's favorite recipes, was devised in an attempt to mimic corn-flake-encrusted chicken after a late night out. "I really wanted fried chicken," he says. "The only thing in the pantry was Captain Crunch. I figured it was cereal, so why not? It was actually great, so I wanted it on the menu here. People love it."

Angry Orchard sloppy joes are made from another of Todora's recipes. Ground Angus beef is cooked with a hint of cider and served on a dinner roll with fried shallots. The sloppy joes are enjoyable, but the Dr. Pepper pulled-pork sliders are even better. Tender pork is coated in a spicy maple barbecue sauce. Topped with crunchy potato crisps, they are stuffed in an onion bun.

For a uniquely South Florida dish, sample the alligator tacos. Fried and tossed in honey lemon pepper, the meat is succulent and sweet. Served in a soft-shell flour tortilla, it's finished with lettuce and tomatoes.

Although these dishes have been available since opening, the restaurant recently revamped its menu slightly. Curt Hicken, who most recently overhauled the culinary program at American Social, has recently taken the reins at the restaurant. Since coming aboard, he's added a mac and cheese bar, with customizable toppings like jalapeño and bacon, barbecued pulled pork, lobster, and shiitake.

A spicy lobster roll, with lump sea scallops and mango beurre blanc on a Hawaiian sweet roll, is now featured. Grilled pork belly tacos with kimchee and cilantro mayo are another addition.

But where Hicken will really make his mark is in the development of Chow, an Asian-style gastrobar on the east side of the restaurant. Slated to host a grand opening August 6, the eatery will feature street-food dishes from across the continent. Todora traveled extensively through Asia while working as a consultant. He fell in love with the bold flavors of the fare served from street vendors. "The best food you can find over there is served on the side of the road," he says.

Expect to see dishes like Korean chicken, twice-fried and coated in either hot or soy garlic sauce. "The recipe is the real deal," says Todora.

Asian-inspired burgers will be another feature. Flavors range from Vietnamese-influenced with hoisin, sriracha, and sesame oil to Japanese-flavored soy, garlic, ginger, and wasabi.

With corrugated steel walls, natural stone accents, and string lights hanging overhead, the space is intended to mimic the feel of a Southeast Asian village. "Everything we're doing is fun," says Todora. "We've done so well in Hollywood. This area has a better prospect of a local following. We're a little different from what the rest of Fort Lauderdale is doing."

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