Taps Offers Craft Beers and "Smart" Homestyle Cooking

TAPS General Manager Lee Evans with baked meatballs.
At the west end of Himmarshee Street, just across from Old Fort Lauderdale Breakfast House, the interior of Taps is worlds apart from the rest of downtown Fort Lauderdale.

To the left, a tufted charcoal bench runs the length of the room beneath a solid wood wall of crisscrossing panels. A modern steel-orb light fixture hangs across from it, and a larger-than-life Picasso print hangs on the exterior wall. While stark, the masculine space has more modern steak-house vibe than downtown pub.

The other half of the space has more of a contemporary-sports-bar feel. Both walls are lined with long benches that sit behind pub high wooden tables. High-def TVs hang above. Although it offers guests more of a bar scene, the décor is still minimalist, more Las Olas chic than Himmarshee casual.

It feels like a mix of high-end eatery and neighborhood bar, and that's exactly what founder James DeVito was going for when he opened the first location in Tampa six years ago.

"At that time, I was 37, married, and had a kid at home," says DeVito. "My wife and I eat out a lot; the only place to go were steak houses or Blue Martini. I wanted a place I could walk in with my wife or a buddy and relax."

Dubbed as "smart food," the mostly tapas-style menu (aside from some sandwiches and salads) eschews the typical fried food and fats found at most downtown bars.

The tuna crudo incorporates avocado, shaved fennel, red onion, sun-dried tomato, and chili oil with a side of crispy wontons. Rather than fry the wontons, Taps brushes them with olive oil and bakes them in the oven.

Butter is present only in the buffalo chicken lettuce wraps. Grilled chicken is coated in the spicy sauce and served on crisp romaine with Gorgonzola and celery.

Even with the lack of fryer foods and saturated fats, DeVito asserts, "it's not 'diet'; it's just smart."

Plenty of gluten, meats, and other specialty-diet no-nos are present.

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