“Pub grub” gets a refined revamp under new Exec Chef Curt Hicken
If you’re familiar with the Las Olas scene, then you know about American Social. Since the day co-owners Paul Greenberg and Richard Mijares first introduced their innovative new gastropub in 2012, “AmSo” has remained a mandatory stop along the Las Olas tour. The laid back-yet-sophisticated setting is comfortable and inviting, but with a lively vibe -- straddling a friendly balance between trendy urban bistro and old school neighborhood pub. A gregarious old-fashioned wood bar, gas lights, and old-Chicago brick walls adorned with vintage Life Magazine covers (see how many you can identify!) highlight the Americana-themed setting.
American Social is a veritable beer lover’s haven, with nearly 50 craft beers on tap (and more bottles), plus very cool “tap booths” with built-in pour-it-yourself brews on tap, right at your own table! But AmSo offers a lot more than just a great beer. No question, American Social always had good food -- but now, it has GREAT food, thanks to new Executive Chef Curt Hicken. The talented chef boasts some impressive culinary cred, including a culinary degree from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, and cheffing at some of the top restaurants from San Fran to NoLa to NYC. The young gun seems to have found his niche at American South, especially with his kicked-up renditions of classic comfort food, which he modestly dubs “upscale pub grub.”
Case in point, his inspired take on a southern staple, Chicken & Waffles. Although not nearly as popular in south Florida, Chicken & Waffles can be found at any diner south of the Mason-Dixon worth its grits, usually with whole pieces of cayenne-spiced fried chicken atop a large waffle or two. But the heavy meal takes on takes on a whole new dimension with Chef Curt’s Ol’ Fashioned Chicken and Waffles appetizer. Rather than deep frying entire pieces of chicken, he takes all white chicken breast strips, treats them to a light vanilla bean waffle batter, then flash-fries them to a golden crunch, then serves with sweetened mascarpone cheese and fresh strawberry. So the chicken becomes one with the waffle - Brilliant! Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps (with organic, free range chicken breast), a particularly outstanding Hawaiian Tuna Poke Tower, and Mac N Cheese Skillets (three versions) are just some of the many new lighter bites ($5-$15).
Of course any decent beer pub should have good burgers; but AmSo boldly goes where no burger has gone before. Take for instance, the Baja Burger, a custom blend of chorizo, chuck, brisket, short ribs, and Chihuahua cheese (I’m sold already!), topped with fresh guacamole and house-made salsa; or the Surf & Turf Burger crowned with a whole Maine lobster tail, steamed asparagus, sprouts, and béarnaise sauce! Turkey Burger on a toasted pumpernickel bun, Ahi Tuna Burger, and the Miami “Heater” Burger (chuck, brisket & short ribs stuffed with Boursin cheese, wrapped with jalapeno bacon, and stacked with onions and shitake mushrooms) are some other new burgerlicious creations.
Flatbreads are perfect for sharing, and worth the visit on their own. My favorite? That’s a tough call. Perhaps the Braised BBQ Short Ribs version, accentuated with oven-roasted red peppers, shaved red onions, mozzarella, Boursin cheese, and house-made barbecue sauce. Or, the Seared Filet Mignon (grass-fed Grade-A Nebraska beef), with earthy shitake mushrooms, oven roasted red pepper pesto, herbed goat cheese, fire-roasted artichoke hearts, mozzarella, and fresh tomatoes (Wow!). Guess more research is needed. . .
On a lighter note, gently blanched fresh kale shares the plate with Mandarin orange, golden raisins, cranberries, red onion, almonds, Boursin cheese, and a light peanut sherry vinaigrette to form the Kale Salad. I generally don’t like kale, so I’ve never ordered kale salad before – but after tasting AmSo’s refreshing and healthful-as-hell version, I’m hooked!
Even more impressive are the new Entrees. A spectacular Miso Sea Bass ($22) was simply delicious and textbook perfect. A generous (8 oz.) Chilean Sea Bass filet came deftly marinated in a miso sake blend and seared in sesame oil to a precise tender-yet-firm consistency. Plated atop a cloud of wasabi mashed potatoes and baby bok choy, then crowned with slivered red onions, and fresh cucumber & ginger relish, it’s as appealing to the eye as it is to palate. Other new entrees include Stir Fry (veggie, steak, chicken or shrimp) with assorted Asian veggies, St. Louis style Ribs, a tasting trio of Filet Mignon, and Catch of The Day specials. Sizeable sides (most $4) include Roasted Chili Peanut Brussels Sprouts and Wasabi Mashed Potatoes. And don’t forget the housemade Desserts ($6), like a decadent Double Chocolate Chip Brownie Ala Mode, and an insane White Chocolate Bread Pudding.
American Social is more than just a great beer pub – it’s also great restaurant. So put AmSo on your “Must Try” list -- I know it’s already on my own “Must Return” list. As Managing Partner Rick Mijares notes, the new menu “is rich in flavor and creativity. Guests savor the unique opportunity to eat, drink and get social in a fun, laid-back atmosphere.” Well said indeed, Mr. Rick, well said. . .
American Social is located at 721 E. Las Olas Boulevard, in the heart of downtown Ft. Lauderdale.
Open every day for lunch, dinner, and late night fun, and weekend brunch, with Happy Hour specials and an outside patio. Call 954-764-7005, or visit http://americansocialbar.com/