Night Watch: Rok:Brgr Burger Bar & Gastropub
208 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale.
Call 954-525-7656, or visit here.
Rok:Brgr is revitalizing the stretch of Himmarshee Village that's home to otherwise boring boozeholes and tired dives. This gastropub vends excellence in the form of sundry beers, potions, bacon-flavored bourbon, and of course, the highly moonshine-shot-soaked cherries. (Backwoods drinking never felt so classy.)
Rok:Brgr: We -- that is, your illustrious nightlife columnist and a group of her drinkingest friends -- pushed three tables together right next to the bar, effectively claiming our spot in Rok:Brgr, SW Second Street's newest indoor/outdoor gastropub, which opened last year. My friends wasted no time in imploring our rocker-chick waitress to bring us booze, and lots of it, stat, while I carefully studied the leather- bound menu.
Rok:Brgr, like any respectable gastropub, has a sweeping list of wines, a healthy-sized set of fruity martinis and mojitos, and more craft beers than you can shake a hipster at -- everything from Key West Southernmost Wheat to Boulder Hazed and Confused. (Night Watch official tip: Dog Fish Head 90 Minute IPA, at 9 percent alcohol, is the menu's strongest brew.) A long list of burgers, with SoFla- inspired names like "D-Wade" and "Las Olas," plus shakes, fries, and salads, comprised the dining options. However, amid the Texas lemonade, chocolate martini, and various fruit-infused girlie drinks, one thing really caught my attention: The Rok:Brgr "Old Fashion" martini. Made with bacon-infused bourbon. Yes, really.
The bar was crowded, but I grabbed a narrow spot beside a couple talking intimately and proceeded to be obnoxious. Mark, a partner of the pub, broke the ice with me by wryly correcting my pronunciation of "lychee" (evidently it's lee-chee, OK?). But I wasn't there to discuss that alien fruit.
"Why bacon?" I asked.
"Who doesn't love bacon?" he fired back.
"I'm a vegetarian."
"But I still think it's novel. How do you make it?" I asked sweetly. Mark was handsome, slender with a chiseled face. He relayed an intricate process that involved soaking bacon in bourbon, freezing it, and scraping all the fat off the top of the congealed mass. Sounded pretty damned nasty to me, but he swore it was awesome.
"Soon, we'll have a drink called 'Spot Treatment'," he promised. "Made from a friend's rosemary- and lavender-infused vodka." Mmm -- body lotion-inspired drinks. What's next?!
"So -- you're the owner of a busy, fun new bar that vends bacon- flavored booze," I said. "What's that like?"
"I'm living the dream," Mark said. "What else can I say?"
Rok:Brgr resembles a Chicago speakeasy with its brick walls, close seating, and low lighting. Bottles of beer line shelves over the windows. Some low-key Lenny Kravitz played quietly in the background. Just outside, the bar and small tables were swarmed with leggy blondes, pretty young thangs in cocktail dresses, and groups of guys in buttoned-down shirts. White fairy lights clung to nearby palm trees. Young, slick-looking professionals were practically spilling in the door.
Because their own plentiful and various cocktails weren't enough for them, my friends discovered that Rok:Brgr has moonshine shots and quickly latched their livers onto the idea.
"They're actually cherries," the waitress explained. "Cherries soaked in moonshine -- and all I know is, they get you bombed."
"Isn't moonshine illegal?" I asked. "I think my brother makes it in his bathtub."
"It makes you go blind," Beard said gravely.
"They tell you that anything fun will make you go blind," I said, rolling my eyes.
Seven moonshine cherries, coming right up.
My friends were deeply engrossed in a conversation on the appropriate pronunciation of maraschino, so I walked over to the neighboring table to visit Kat, an exotic brunet, and Jeff, blond and broad-chested. He was wearing a buttoned-down shirt that was rather ugly, if I may be perfectly honest. But together, they were a pair of wonderfully attractive young folks, and I decided to let slide the fact that they were at a gastropub -- which boasts a wonderful, carefully picked selection of brews and potions -- drinking boring old Bud Light.
"This is my first time here." Kat said. "So far -- it's fun."
"I love this place," said Jeff. "We're here meeting a friend of mine from college -- we went to business school at UCF together."
"Ooh!" I said. "Business! What do you do?"
He shrugged. "Construction. So, what's that tell you?"
"That you're better at manual labor than screwing people out of money?"
He laughed. "I'm actually a manager, so I don't even do labor; I just order people around."
I saluted the lovely pair before making a mad dash back to my own table. A plastic cup full of a blood-red cordial and seven poisoned cherries had just arrived.
My friends' conversation on how to pronounce maraschino had denigrated. They were now referring to the cherries by any multisyllabic word that began with m and quickly passing around the moonshine-filled cup. I took it from Beard, popped a cherry in my mouth, and dutifully passed the cup on. It was sweet at first, with a sudden rush of strong, unpleasant flavor, which was followed by a lingering aftertaste of burn.
Too quickly, the cherries were gone. But the red liquid -- the cherry serum, plus some diluted moonshine -- remained in excess. Since most of us entertain religious beliefs that directly prohibit the leaving of alcohol unswigged, we began passing around the red cup.
"It looks like the Devil's Robitussin," observed Lincoln. I nickname him this because he seems honest and upstanding when compared with the rest of us shifty motherfuckers.
"It tastes like fish," said someone else, who was probably drunk, because it certainly didn't.
"It burns!" I said, after my own short-lived swig.
"Is the Macedonia cherry juice making you go blind?" Lincoln asked innocently.
"No -- just really drunk," I said.
Just the way I like it.
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