Jeff Vincent, a South Carolinian and veteran head chef who most recently brought acclaim to Beauty & the Feast inside the Atlantic Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach, is in charge of the Craft Food Counter & Kitchen, bringing his expertise to the table and providing us all with a selection of pub-like foods with a Funky Buddha spin.
What can you expect with this new service? Big flavors and moderate prices.
First, it's prudent to begin with the space. As many fans of the bocce court already know, the renovated space is situated in the former "extra" area at the back of the taproom. The open kitchen is built into a real shipping container and framed by an illuminated sheet-metal display and ten-foot-high windows that look right into the heart of the brewery. The games haven't gone away completely: cornhole, giant-sized Jenga, and a selection of classic coin-operated arcade games have taken up residence. Two separate, smaller special events spaces flank the main enclosed rustic wood-beamed area, with walls covered by barrel staves used in the creation of Funky Buddha’s beers. The beers went in, the beers came out, and now they're on the wall. Talk about recycling.
The food, though, is where most of the interest lies. Most breweries operate simply as a production facility, offering tastings and tours (which is great). With this kitchen, Funky Buddha has become a bona fide brewpub.
"The whole process was a lot different than just opening up the brewery... We only did this because we had people that were experts," Funky Buddha Brewery owner Ryan Sentz said. For a while, he had wanted to put food into the equation but wanted "to figure out how to open a brewery first, not open two separate businesses."
"It's different for sure. You have to put your faith in people, and it's definitely been made easier because we have really good people."
One of those "good people" is Vincent, who has developed a menu that draws on his eclectic style, fusing his Southern roots and European training. How about a Chicken N' Biscuit, with juicy fried chicken between a beer cheddar drop biscuit and some savory sawmill gravy? Or the Main Street Pork Sandwich, which melds a Hop Gun-marinated pork shoulder (shredded, naturally), tangy mustard BBQ sauce, and Creole-inspired slaw? Now that I have your attention...
Wings! Beer! The eternal combo is back. These grilled finger-licking food items pair perfectly with the citrus-forward hoppiness of Hop Gun, though Crusher works wonders to counteract the tanginess of the sauce. There's a bevy of food items that make it easy to hold a beer in one hand and food in the other: spent grain baked pretzels, sesame-oiled shishito peppers, yucca tots, spreads of pickles, cheese, and sliced meats. Still not next level enough for you? Looking for something that will take things up a notch?
That something is the Mighty Tatanka burger. Made from a blend of bison and pork belly, the patty is meaty and slightly smoky, topped with a sweet onion spread and smoked Buffalo mozzarella and contained in a locally made challah bun.
"An important thing for us was to not change the vibe of the place," Sentz said. "We don't want people to come in here and go, 'Oh my God, they have food, I have to eat, I have to be out of my seat in a half hour.' We didn't want it to be any different than 'We have the food.' If you want to eat, you can eat. We want it to be extremely casual."
The Funky Buddha Brewery's Craft Counter & Kitchen opens this Wednesday, November 11. Check out the brewery's website for a full menu.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.