By: Stevette Ballog – Food Critic
It takes special kind of sorcery to lift a curse, especially one held over a restaurant site. The previous times I have dined at this location, the cooking and concepts may have been great, but after a short-run, things ultimately went kaput. For opposite reasons each time, this spot has been doomed. It would, I thought, take Gandalf-like magic to turn this sow’s ear locale into a silk purse. But, Bottoms Up Gastropub and Tap founder Mike Moniz may have reversed this hex in his newly opened restaurant.
Tucked away in the corner of the Turtle Crossing shopping plaza, a wall of black glass and a lighted sign begs for your attention. Open the door and descend into a cozily masculine-meets-industrial room. Moniz transformed this location’s ever-changing décor with the warmth of natural woods, dark colors, dim lighting and a wrap-around bar lined with a “bottoms up” beer tap system. Don’t know what that is? Well, the name really does it justice since the beer fills from underneath producing less waste, or as I would call it: alcohol abuse. It works with a custom cup with a metal-rimmed hole in the bottom that gets sealed with a magnet. Try to control yourselves when you get one of these. If you get inquisitive and push up on that magnet, you’re bound to smell like you just left a frat house party for the rest of the night. (Yes, curiosity soaked this cat.)
Once seated by a smiling from ear-to-ear hostess, I began to plan my method of attack. At first glance of the compact menu, I noticed a theme and later learned that Moniz, like many South Floridians, grew up eating guava and cream cheese on saltines, so it kind of made sense. That sweet/salty/rich flavor profile is painted throughout a large percent of the Bottoms Up offerings. The growing craft-brew list offers a selection of ales and lagers, IPAs, stouts, porters, triples and more. They also have a pretty decent wine list for those of you who prefer to drink pinky-up.
I decided to start off with the El Jefe, a coconut hefeweizen from J. Wakefield. This interesting cloudy beer has the typical hefe flavors of banana and clove but adds an exciting spin with the aroma of coconuts. Keeping the Florida vibe going, I next ordered the Surf & Turf Tostadas. A squashed and fried plantain that gets topped with a sweet plantain puree, butter poached lobster, smoked pork belly and a drizzle of honey mustard hollandaise. The citrusy-tropical brew paired well with the dish, yet I would’ve liked the slab of pork to be a lot crispier. Not sure that I would order this app again, but I am not a huge fan of sweet flavors with my favorite crustacean.
Next, I tried the Pear Bacon Crostini. Slices of toasted bread covered in grilled brie, orange goat cheese, candied walnuts, and grilled poached pears get topped with bacon jam and honey. If you’re wondering where to start, get this. The sweet, smoky yet earthy flavors left me craving a hefty glass of red wine and with six pieces per order, they are perfect to whet your fellow diner’s appetites.
Moving on to the main course (or courses), I ordered the Bloody Mary Lobster Linguini, Brie Mignon and the popular Bottoms Up Burger. The lobster pasta reminded me of a take on a Gordon Ramsey creation and even though the menu warns you of its heat, I felt it wasn’t spicy at all. What shocked me was the presentation – a bowl full of noodles tossed in marinara containing strands of carrot, celery and onions (hence the Bloody Mary, I presume) gets capped off with a large, whole, shell on lobster tail. The pasta’s sauce was tasty, but I couldn’t keep my hands off that tail. There was a dollop of sweet chili butter that made me feel like the lobster was a separate dish-one that I didn’t want to share.
The Brie Mignon is a house favorite. A tender filet gets sous vide with herbs and butter, then blasted on the grill before wearing brie cheese, chopped prosciutto and a sweet red wine fig sauce. (There’s that sweet/savory combo again.) The dish is served with two sides. I ordered the parmesan roasted cauliflower and cheesy garlic mashed potatoes-both were delicious.
Next, I delved into the very adult version of Moniz’s childhood snack. The Bottoms Up Burger is not much to look at, kind of the ugly duckling burger here, but I kid you not, you too will be singing its praises after your first bite. There is something special about the burgers here…something uncommon in our neck-of-the-woods, something I toyed with in culinary school; sous vide. Before you cock and eyebrow and go crazy in the comments, lets revisit the idea of sous vide. When executed properly, sous vide provides unparalleled control over cooking temperature which gives you the ability to get the exact the result you want. After giving the ½ pound Angus patty a bath in butter and herbs, they flash grill it to obtain a beautiful crust. It then gets a slab of sweet-sticky guava paste and a schmear of cream cheese. Wait, it gets better…next comes the smoky bacon and much-needed crunchy texture of fried onions. This fun between buns is a two-handed roll-up-your-sleeves kind of deal, so prepare to get messy.
As if I hadn’t consumed enough calories, I then ordered the Caramel Cream Ale from Due South while reluctantly glancing at the dessert menu. This malt bomb of a brew looked like a glass of opaque honey and tasted like the endless supply of Werther’s chews my grandma hid in her purse. Even though the skillet peanut butter s’mores dip and pistachio cheesecake sounded delicious, I had to choose something that would complement and not overpower this fantastic ale. House-made Guinness Apple Cider Mini Donuts get flash fried, plunged into a bed of cinnamon sugar and served with a finger-lickin’ worthy salted caramel sauce.
To wrap things up, my visit did have a few blemishes. The food took a while to come out and a few things weren’t served as hot as I would have liked, but honestly, with the place being open for a day and a half, I would have expected far worse. Giving them a chance to work out the usual kinks, I will revisit in a few weeks. They are also now serving brunch on Sundays with bottom-less fresh watermelon mimosas, delicious empanadas, berry-stuffed French toast, Cuban-style Eggs Benedict and so much more. Their sous vide cooking methods, sweet-savory-pork-centric recipes, attentive staff and Moniz’s desire to “bring and upscale yet casual experience” to the neighborhood makes this place anything but average.
I say, give it a try. Make sure you let them know that Stevette from Coral Springs Talk sent you and let us know what you think.
Bottoms Up Gastropub and Tap
4320 SR 7
Coral Springs, FL
Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 1a.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Stevette Balllog, formally from Chicago has been living in Broward County for 15 years. She has a B.S. in Culinary Management from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and is owner of the Fork Notes Blog. She loves to travel all over the US in search of the best food, wine and craft beer, and she loves to cook. If you have an idea for a restaurant for her to review, please contact her at email@example.com follow her on Twitter at @Forknotes