One of the wackiest, and most anticipated, culinary experiences possible has officially arrived.
Last week, there was a preview event for select guests. And after months upon months of hearing about a bar gone VR, lounge gone post-apocalyptic restaurant thingamajig with vigilante characters en masse all under one roof (are you confused yet?), yours truly couldn’t resist attending to try to make sense of it all.
And now, having been through the entire experience, it's still hard to make sense of.
There is way, way, way too much to wrap your head around with Rex Baron. And, unfortunately, the elements just don’t come together in the survival-esque story line that's at the heart of the place – from the Louis Vuitton- and Steve McQueen-garbed, locally inspired “vigilantes” displayed along its walls, to the lava hot rocks that diners can cook meat on, to a random room for hitting golf balls, to the 32-station VRex Lounge that is visible to mall passersby through a big window.
When you stop trying to think about how the F everything at Rex Baron is supposed to come together, and instead pop a couple of Advil, you realize the place features fun elements that can be enjoyed without need of an overarching story.
To hell with the story. How about just serving up food we can cook on a rock and let us swim around with manatees in the VR lounge, okay?
Actually, the food is pretty solid. My faves from Rex Baron's preview included a salmon tartare (Farrow Island salmon, shallots, capers, citrus creme fraiche, extra virgin olive oil, and petite herbs) and a cilantro crema-infused tuna poke (with ahi tuna, pico de gallo, and young coriander). There are plenty of other options, too, using locally sourced ingredients and organic meats.
So, sure, you can have a good, weird time at Rex Baron and you can have some good grub.
Just don’t ask what everything means, or the entire experience will be its own form of an apocalypse.
And now on to the foodie finds in South Florida this week and some additional Taste Notes.
Mark your calendars. After a successful first edition, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Food & Wine Festival will return for a second spin. Organizers just announced the second annual fest will take place March 18-22, 2020, with more than 100 restaurants, wineries, and breweries taking part. Tickets for its massive Grand Tasting and other events are now available, starting at $50.
Tacos and more tacos. Two South Florida taco havens are expanding. Rocco’s Tacos opened its 10th location on Friday, December 13, in Terminal 1 (C Gates) at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Boasting many Rocco’s staples, including breakfast tacos, guacamole, and house tacos (and, duh, lots of tequila), you’ll never have to settle for that lame, pre-packaged airport wrap again. Tacocraft has a fourth location in the works, which is slated to open in mid- to late-2020. Known for its 150-plus tequila liquor bar, dazzling tacos and street art-heavy flair, its newest location will be at 510 N. Federal Hwy. on the border of Flagler Village and Victoria Park.
Beer and cookies. What could possibly make an ice-cold beer better? Pairing it with a cookie. All weekend long (Friday through Sunday), Bangin’ Banjo Brewing Company in Pompano Beach will hold a special Beer + Holiday Cookie Pairing event, with partners Bake My Day. Among mixed marriages are a Moodoo Voodoo Milk Stout with a pistachio pink salt chocolate chip cookie or the OJ Session Citrus IPA with a cranberry-orange iced oatmeal morsel.
Build your stash at Stache. Odds are someone on your Christmas list asked for booze. Well, on Wednesday at Stache Drinking Den + Coffee Bar, you can taste before you buy. Wine and whiskey tasting stations (tickets are $10 to $15) will be set up throughout the Fort Lauderdale spot for its Sip + Shop experience, spanning fine wines to bourbon and Scotch brands like Buffalo, Trace, Cincoro, Enroute, and more.
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So cheesy. All of us have scrolled through our Insta feeds and seen random food pics where dishes ooze ridiculously yummy-looking melted cheese. That cheese is called raclette, and Thursday night at Pistache French Bistro in West Palm Beach is Raclette Night. Among its uber cheesy offerings, there will be a “Savoyarde” for $18 (raclette with fingerling potatoes, cornichons, pickled pearl onions, and argula) and “Mediterranée” for $29 (raclette with grilled brocollini, zucchini, and roasted cherry tomatoes).
Sexy and succulent. Taking Gatsby’s Joint’s already sultry 1920s vibe to the next level, Miami’s Moon River Cabaret is visiting the Fort Lauderdale spot for two sexy shows on Friday night. Performances will be at 8 and 10 p.m. ($10 per ticket) and your grub specials include $10 caviar bumps and $55 Veuve Clicquot bottles.
News and notes. Helping you to fuel your day at the mall (because, after all, it’s a very big mall), Sawgrass Mills has added some new spots, including the first and only Melt Shop location in Florida, gourmet burger outfit BurgerIM and the Baked Bear, which offers totally photo-worthy handmade ice cream sandwiches. Also set to open at Sawgrass Mills is Shake Shack, the burger joint with a roadside vibe. Officials say the new location, which will also feature frozen custard concoctions and local beer from Wynwood Brewing Company, will open December 23 at 11 a.m. in The Oasis next to Regal Sawgrass. ... Now open in Sunrise, Huey Magoo’s Chicken Tenders is planning four more locations in South Florida. Andy Howard, president and CEO of the Orlando-based brand, said Huey Magoo's is in the final stages of signing a lease to open in Coral Springs next year. Huey Magoo's specializes in grilled, hand-breaded, or sauced premium chicken tenders, farm fresh salads, sandwiches, and wraps. The Sunrise store is located at 9440 W. Commercial Blvd. For hours, visit hueymagoos.com. ... Wine restaurant Cooper's Hawk continues its expansion in South Florida with a new Dania Beach location, set to open January 27. Offering casual dining with wine tasting rooms, the Dania Pointe restaurant will be the Woodridge, Illinois-based winery's fourth in Broward County and 11th in Florida. ... Tap 42 is counting down to Christmas with social media-only deals that range from free cocktails to BOGO meals to a $100 credit for happy hours. To get the scoop, follow @tap42bar on Instagram. ... Amid holiday cocktails galore in our region, a special shout out to the Parched Pig in Palm Beach Gardens for its hilariously named “D’s Nutz & Potatoes” concoction, loaded with Boyd and Blair potato vodka, herb and walnut liqueurs, lemon juice, cinnamon syrup, sweet potato puree, and more for $14.