Chef Shannon Weiberg of Bash American Bistro on the Early Craft Beer Scene, Southern-Influence, and More

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Broward's western suburbs aren't known for having a booming restaurant scene.

There are some great ethic restaurants, but the majority of the eateries west of I-95 are national chains serving the same old boring reincarnation of chicken wings and spinach/artichoke dip.

Bash American Bistro is one of the few spots worth the trip out west.

With a laid-back vibe, extensive and rare craft beer selection, and creative American eats, the restaurant draws crowds willing to trek from all over the tri-county area.

We spoke to executive chef/owner about the early craft beer scene, southern-influence, and more.

See Also: Bryan Ramos, New Executive Chef of The Office, "I Had my So-Called Dream Job, but I Realized it Wasn't What I Wanted in Life"

Clean Plate Charlie: First things first: where are you from?

Weiberg: I was born in the L.A.- area. My parents moved to Chicago when I was two or three years old. We moved to Orlando for middle school, and then Jacksonville for High School.

You call your cuisine classic American comfort food, but there's a strong Cajun influence. Is that from your time in northern Florida?

There's a huge Cajun influence in Jacksonville; it's not a far drive from New Orleans and there's a huge community. I used to go to crawfish festivals and blues festivals regularly. We had a huge influence of fresh seafood, right out of Mayport; it has a big shrimping industry. It gave me the ability to be really creative. There were fresh poultry farms too. Living in that area definitely influenced the flavors I like and the way I like to cook.

Speaking of which, you regularly change the menu based upon what's available. With a menu that is constantly evolving, what inspires you?

I draw inspiration basically from whatever the freshest ingredients around me, and the region it's from. I kind of go off the wall sometimes, though. In our beer versus wine events, I like to infuse both into the dishes. I like to think outside the box.

Where do you go when you're going out to eat?

I go to the Keys frequently. I like to go to local restaurants for seafood, like mom-and-pop shops, not big franchises or corporate restaurants.

What's your favorite style of cuisine?

I guess my favorite styles are Italian and Cajun, but I'm all over the map. I landed a job as an executive chef at an Italian restaurant in Georgia; I built it from the ground up, but they wanted me to really learn Italian food. They brought in Momma Giovanni from Sicily. I spent months learning everything you can teach, in broken English -- she was a firm believer in the wooden spoon if you're not paying attention. I always have a few pasta dishes on the menu and a pasta special or two.

You were big into the craft beer scene before it became a scene in Broward. What made you decide to get into it?

I was sitting at the bar with my bar manager Ollie (Oliver Robert) looking at all the taps. We had Guinness, Heineken, Miller Lite; everything was boring. I had been down in the Keys for a fishing trip, I saw bars that had different beer, and thought that's neat. We were a craft wine bar at the time, I was like, 'Why not beer, as well?' We were fortunate enough to meet up with Brown. Our rep Eric opened our palate and our eyes to craft beer from local producers and around the world. Because we got in so early, we now have good relationships with Cigar City and Funky Buddha.

What are your favorite craft beers?

I like a lot of what Funky Buddha does. My favorites are the Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, the Last Snow, and they did a phenomenal passion fruit Berliner weisse.

Bash American Bistro is located at 10053 Sunset Strip in Sunrise. Call 954-578-6700, or visit bashamericanbistro.com.

Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.

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