Openings and Closings

The Royal Pig Pub & Kitchen: A Sneak Peek (Photos)

In just a few days all eyes will be watching as hundreds of Americans compete... to find parking spot on Las Olas. It's hard to deny that over the past few months, there has a considerable amount of intrigue and buzz surrounding the

opening of The Royal Pig Pub & Kitchen.

If everything goes according to plan, the restaurant will open its doors to the public next Tuesday, July 31. This week, during its

mock opening, we were able to check out restaurant's digs, try the food, and

get a little face time with the restaurant's executive chef, Stanton Bundy.

Despite its prime location on Fort Lauderdale's posh main strip, The Royal Pig feels inclusive, unlike some of its neighbors whose reputations rely on their unspoken exclusivity. No matter whether you are wearing jeans and a t-shirt or a tailored suit with Prada wingtips, it seems all are welcome to play in this new sandbox -- at least for now.

The restaurant's dark interior with its heavy, espresso-colored tables and dim lighting is reminiscent of a dark tavern or pub that you would expect to find in Chicago or Boston. The restaurant has a variety of different levels which creates numerous, intimate alcoves despite being an open space. The left side of the restaurant is flanked with a series of small, raised booths that are designed for tables of two.

Lighting is provided by small lamps, which are a modern take on old oil lanterns. Wrought iron coat racks, brass foot rails in the booths, and leather chairs with brass tacks lend a 1930s air to the space. Americana in the form of sepia tone and black & white photographs, some of which are actual personal photos of the one of the pub's owners and general manager, Joe Upchurch, deck the caramel-colored walls.

The opposite side of the restaurant has several larger booths, outfitted with their own, smaller flat screen televisions and a number of tables which also have flat screens in view, even though there are several flat screens inside the restaurant as well as five at their outdoor bar. All of them are flush with the wall, and many are tastefully framed so as to be unobtrusive.

A large, vaulted brick ceiling structure hovers over the large bar area that occupies the majority of the pub's space. Recessed within the structure are several flat screen televisions.

Admittedly at this point, you may be asking yourself, " What's with all of the references to flat screens? Is this place is a sports bar?". The simple answer is, no. That said, if you wanted to stop in to watch a sports game without being subjected to foam fingers, awful his-and-hers jerseys, or loudly shouted (but cleverly laced) expletives, this place would probably be a satisfying option.

The large open bar is lined with dozens of small, brass-colored librarian lamps that cast an inviting, amber glow. The restaurant's extensive collection of unique liquors and liqueurs are neatly housed in a oddly-shaped glass and metal structure. The Royal Pig's expansive wine list is heavy on California wine and there are several international options as well. Upchurch told us that he will be adding new wines to the list in the coming weeks.

Dozens of domestic and imported beers are on tap, as well as an impressive number of craft beers including Stone Brewing IPA, Tequesta Der Chancellor, and local brewer, Holy Mackerel's Panic Attack. Draft beer prices range from $4.50 to $9 and are served in either a pint glass or a schooner. The heavy,

schooner glass keeps beer cold longer and has two more ounces

than a pint glass. The difference in price is minimal; most drafts are about $.50 to upgrade to the schooner -- it's a no-brainer.

Commitment-phobes can create a flight of four beers for $10. Bottled beers include your standard Budweiser and Heineken, but they also offer Omission, Widmer Brother's new gluten-free beer. Signature cocktails like their Dragon fruit Cosmo or the Filthy Pig -- a dirty martini with a bacon wrapped bleu cheese stuffed olive, are reinterpreted versions of the classics. Cocktail prices start at $9 and top out at $12.

While many of the items on the menu are on the

trendy-side -- sliders, gourmet burgers and ubiquitous truffle fries, it

seems that the restaurant is banking on top-notch ingredients and unique twists on common dishes to help set them apart. Prices at The Royal Pig range from $7 to $28, however, they are still in

the process of adjusting the prices before they officially open next

week. Their massive gourmet burgers are creative, like the Cactus Jack Burger that is topped with poblano peppers, smoked Gouda, Oaxaca cheese (a semi-hard Mexican cheese), fried shallots, and guacamole.

The Royal Pig's executive chef, Stanton Bundy, hails from Texas but has roots in New Orleans, having worked as a saucier at chef Emeril Lagasse's flagship restaurant. More recently, the fresh-faced 26-year-old worked as a sous chef at the Canyon Ranch Grill in Miami. Despite his recent stint at the chichi fine dining restaurant, many of the dishes at The Royal Pig reflect Bundy's love for The Big Easy.

The New Orleans BBQ Shrimp, served as either an appetizer or an entreé, is more of a creole-style dish than traditional barbecue. The fresh gulf shrimp is braised in Abita, a Louisiana craft beer. Mussels Etouffée is part of the Fish of the Moment dish and Andouille sausage, a gumbo staple, are incorporated into two of their dishes. Grits and fried green tomatoes, though not exclusively a New Orleans side, are another nod to Southern cuisine.

With a name like The Royal Pig, you've got to bring the goods when it comes to meat and poultry. It should come as no surprise that many of the dishes have bacon or pork in some form, yet there are many seafood plates on the menu as well, like the Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna appetizer that is also available as a salad.

The free-range poultry items, chicken and turkey, are highlighted on the menu and the restaurant also offers rotisserie duck as an additional options for everything from chopped salad to nachos. Its open kitchen is outfitted with a rotisserie that is used for roasting duck, chicken, and pork, including ribs and chicken wings. The restaurant also makes its own sausage and foie gras.

Bundy's experience as a saucier is evident. Many dishes have a

variety of unique or seldom seen sauces, brines, jellies, and glazes.  Among other things, a root beer pork belly glaze is used for their 8oz. Prime Filet and a tomato marmalade is slathered on their Mama's Meatloaf Burger.

The restaurant's

signature RPP mayo and cranberry compote add bright flavors to their Rotisserie Free Range Turkey Club. With the exception of their cheese and bread, all of the restaurants items, down to the

pickles and ketchup, are made from scratch.

Surprisingly, many of the dishes are on the healthy side -- like the Cedar Plank Salmon and Hawaiian Free Range Turkey Burger. Bundy said that he took into account the caloric content of each dish when creating the menu.

There are gluten-free options and the restaurant is happy to accommodate diners with other food allergies as well. Vegetarians, let's face it--you're not going to get much love here, but there are a few options available. One option that shows promise is the Organic Kale Salad with currants, Parmesan Reggiano, pine nuts, and lemon vinaigrette; a dish that was sold out when we visited.

"Uncommon" sides, as the restaurant calls them, include parsnip mashed potatoes,

Kentucky sweet potato casserole that is topped with a giant homemade

marshmallow, and the somewhat pervasive macaroni and cheese, theirs is served with, you guessed it -- bacon. Diners

have a choice of having their gourmet burgers and sandwiches with homemade chips or a side of watermelon salad, a refreshing

option that includes rum, lemon juice, and mint.

Currently the restaurant offers three desserts -- Warm Raisin Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cake with cherry compote and Chantilly ice cream, and their Almond Lace Cookie Basket with raspberry gelato, crushed almonds, and berries. More dessert items will be added in the coming weeks.

So-- will you be visiting The Royal Pub when it opens next week?  Tweet us and add to our collection of photos by uploading your Instagrams to @CleanPlateBPB and tell us how you'd rate the food, drinks, and atmosphere. Cheers!

The Royal Pig Pub, 350 E Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale

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Misha Grosvenor