The Royal Pig sounds like an English pub, and it sure looks like one with its paneled walls, enormous center bar with 30 varieties of draft beer and 34 flat-screen televisions blaring sports.
But the new downtown Fort Lauderdale eatery, which opened on Las Olas Boulevard in July, is much more than a pub. It’s quickly been adopted by the power lunch crowd as its go-to place for dealmaking, networking and lunching.
On a recent weekday, every table was filled with professionals, some passing each other paperwork and jotting down numbers, others stopping by the elevated tables to greet acquaintances, and a few others checking out the football on TVs mounted on booth walls. After we were seated, people I know passed by, including a developer, a banker and GrayRobinson partner Ivan Reich.
Then came John Offerdahl, the retired Miami Dolphins star linebacker and former owner of a chain of bagel joints.
“I love the place,” Reich said. “We go there fairly regularly, for lunch, for happy hour. It’s kind of a misleading place because they sell themselves as an English pub, but the food is actually quite healthy.”
The Royal Pig was opened by a group of owners who operate the South Florida Hooters restaurants. With the exception of the sports emphasis, the new eatery is nothing like Hooters. The Royal Pig wait staff is not scantily clad, and the food is organic, locally grown and prepared by a gourmet chef who cut his teeth at Canyon Ranch in Miami Beach and Emeril’s in New Orleans.
“I adapted the menu to my lifestyle,” executive chef Stanton Bundy said. “I work with 12 farms to get the best produce and only use free-range meat. We are attracting the foodies.”
That means grilled free range turkey meatballs, organic cedar plank salmon, Kobe pan-fried chicken plank steak and ribs made from Duroc pigs, an American domestic breed that Bundy insists makes for the best pork and is rarely sold in South Florida. The restaurant also makes its own sausage and foie gras.
Bundy boasts the eatery serves the best turkey club in town and grills a great deal of burgers at lunchtime. At dinner, the barbecue shrimp and grits are a popular choice as is the chef’s seafood stew with mussels, Gulf fish, shrimp, crab, andouille sausage and kale.
The restaurant also is gaining a following for its organic sweet potato fries, drizzled with Tupelo honey cider and served in a white ramekin.
On my visit, I had the turkey burger with the sweet potato fries. I don’t know what they do to it, but I’ve never had such a tasty and fresh turkey burger. It’s so big you have trouble finishing it. And those fries …
My dining companion, Kara MacCullough, a senior corporate partner at Greenberg Traurig, ordered the rotisserie chopped salad with chicken, served with a basil lime vinaigrette and pronounced it “nothing unique but well done. The chicken was well-cooked and flavorful, and there was a nice amount of it.”
We were not as sanguine about the service. It took us a half-hour to get a table and another 15 minutes to place our food order. “It makes me nervous to go there for lunch until the service improves,” MacCullough commented.
Other patrons report the same experience.
Reich has been to The Royal Pig six or seven times, including for happy hour, lunch, a celebration when an associate was named partner and once solo to catch a Monday night football game at the bar. He said he prefers it to YOLO, arguably the reigning power lunch spot on Las Olas but many say overly crowded.
Reich — a fan of The Royal Pig’s burgers — frequently bumps into Fort Lauderdale’s power elite there, including Don Lunny and Mark Levy of Brinkley Morgan as well as hordes of SunTrust bankers, whose office is up the street at 501 E. Las Olas.
Service appears not to be an issue outside of lunch. MacCullough met a client, Neil Seidman, vice president of mergers and acquisitions for Boca Raton-based SBA Communications Corp. for drinks at The Royal Pig, along with her Greenberg associate, Alex Lumpkin.
“He said he had 20 minutes in between meetings so we popped in at 6 o’clock,” she said. “We sat at a table and had drinks, meatballs and sliders. Everything was great.”
The ambience with the abundant TVs big and small seems to invite long stays. But there’s a catch — no remotes and no audio.
Booths lining the bar on each side are elevated, which makes people-watching easier.
“It’s nice that people can see you when they are walking by because one of the reasons you go out to lunch is to see people you haven’t seen and chat,” MacCullough remarked.
Prices are reasonable — $12 for the turkey burger with choice of fries, cole slaw or watermelon; $12 for the turkey club with sides; $9 for barbecue pulled pork sliders; and $15 for the rotisserie chop salad with duck, chicken or pork. Desserts include an almond lace basket with raspberry sorbet, crushed almond and organic berries for $12; and broken warm chocolate cake with bing cherry compote topped with Chantilly and vanilla bean ice cream for $8.