Sunday, February 18, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: Ford's Garage in Brandon goes all the way with its car theme, beer list

Of the various bar themes I expect to run into in the wild, "old-timey service station" is not one of them. But it seems to be working quite well for the Ford's Garage chain, which has just opened in Brandon, its fourth Florida location.

If you didn't know otherwise, you'd think the place had been open for years, at least in terms of turnout. On a recent Tuesday night, my group of four couldn't get a table or a spot at the bar, which was just fine, as the large outdoor patio deck was more than pleasant enough.

If you're having trouble imagining a service station-themed bar and restaurant, just think about all the things you might find in such a station hailing from the early part of the last century: Classic Model A's and Model T's (Ford's Garage is actually licensed by Ford Motor Co.), tires, gas pumps, and even a road sensor connected to a bell near the entrance. During the day, you might even confuse it with an actual mechanic's garage.

The interior is composed of old brick, two-toned wooden tables and a hammered copper bar. The bar is decorated with another antique Ford, this one right above the center island of bottles, wheels slowly spinning. The kitchen is labeled "assembly line," and the sink basins in the bathrooms are embedded in car tires, with gas pump nozzles in place of traditional water faucets, controlled by three-way ball valves. There are even old car engines (presumably Fords) as sculptures near the entrance. The attention to detail is commendable.

Why Ford? It's part unexplored niche, part nod to Henry Ford's old winter residence in Fort Myers, where the Florida chain started. As such, the drink menu has been constructed around Florida flavors, while keeping the classic Ford theme close.

One sly reference to Ford's history is the Bootlegger cocktail, a classic bourbon-sweet tea concoction, spiced with a touch of fresh basil. During Prohibition, moonshine runners modified their cars for speed as well as for the capacity to carry mason jars and jugs of good ol' white lightning.

What kind of cars did these bootleggers use? Fords, of course! The Model T was the classic Prohibition-era booze carrier, while post-Prohibition versions — used to evade liquor taxes — included the iconic Ford V-8 and the 1951 Ford Pickup. These tricked-out Fords regularly sped through winding mountain roads to avoid police interference, which produced scores of highly skilled drivers. The result? NASCAR.

Ford's Garage has a great cocktail list, but the brightly lit sign out front says "CRAFT BEER," and that's no joke. The regularly rotating draft list features a variety of Florida and other domestic craft beers, including frequent tap takeovers, such as a recent one by Georgia's Terrapin Beer Co. The bottle list is voluminous, with selections broken down by style, and covers an impressively wide variety. Education is included, too: there's a six-page (!) glossary of beer styles in the back of the bottle list, so you know exactly what you're ordering.

I'm no car guy, but I really got a kick out of Ford's Garage. It's nice to see a bar go all the way with its theme, and even better when the theme is as seemingly inexplicable as this one. Add to that quality cocktails and a nearly comprehensive beer list, and I can see why Brandon has taken such a liking to Ford's Garage in the short time it has been open. [email protected]

     
 
Comments
The Reading Room’s Lauren Macellaro and Columbia’s Richard Gonzmart are James Beard semifinalists

The Reading Room’s Lauren Macellaro and Columbia’s Richard Gonzmart are James Beard semifinalists

It’s almost a sick joke. On the morning after Valentine’s Day, the second-busiest restaurant day of the year, chefs all over the country are hauling themselves out of bed early to find out: Did I make it onto this year’s James Beard Foundation list o...
Published: 02/15/18
Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Nothing says indulgence like noshing on some seriously giant Alaskan king crab legs. They’re not just tasty, they’re a low-fat source of protein: One leg has about 25 grams of protein and a host of vitamins and minerals (including sodium, incidentall...
Published: 02/15/18
Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

You’ve likely seen persimmon in the grocery store and then shied away from it, not quite sure what to do with it. The most common variety in the United States is the fuyu persimmon, also called Japanese persimmon, and it looks similar to a slightly f...
Published: 02/15/18
Bar review: Valenty’s Lounge, part of Pasadena Liquors in St. Pete — who knew?

Bar review: Valenty’s Lounge, part of Pasadena Liquors in St. Pete — who knew?

Once, if I’d received a recommendation to check out a lounge attached to a liquor store near the beach, I wouldn’t have been in much of a hurry to check it out. But I’ve learned that there’s frequently magic in these places. ...
Published: 02/15/18
Local craft beer of the week: Process IPA, Calusa Brewing

Local craft beer of the week: Process IPA, Calusa Brewing

Not long ago, it was all about the West Coast IPA. California breweries like Stone, Russian River and Bear Republic built empires on the style, favoring a dry IPA base and mountains of resiny, intensely bitter hops to craft aggressive brews that laug...
Published: 02/15/18
New CoffeeHouse and Eatery comes to South Tampa

New CoffeeHouse and Eatery comes to South Tampa

Daily Dose Coffeehouse & Eatery opened earlier this month and offers South Tampa unique smoked coffee and a number of fresh, homemade breakfast items.Located in Fair Oaks Plaza at 3324 W Gandy Blvd., Daily Dose serves a different chef special everyda...
Published: 02/15/18
Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar has opened at International Plaza

Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar has opened at International Plaza

INTERNATIONAL PLAZA—After a long wait, the highly anticipated Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila bar is finally open for business at International Plaza’s Bay Street on Monday (Feb 12).Originally expected to open last September, owner Rocco Mangel said they g...
Published: 02/15/18
Blind Tiger Coffee Roasters opens in South Tampa, plus learn how to roll sushi at Kelp

Blind Tiger Coffee Roasters opens in South Tampa, plus learn how to roll sushi at Kelp

LOVE STUNT: SUSHI ROLLSIf you dropped the ball Wednesday and did bubkes for your sweetie, here’s a tip: Through Sunday at Kelp in South Tampa, couples can dive into a reservations-only chef-led art of sushi rolling class that comes with bottomless sa...
Published: 02/14/18
Global flavors: Celebrate the Olympics with creative nacho recipes

Global flavors: Celebrate the Olympics with creative nacho recipes

The global experience that is the Olympics has returned, and that gives us a fun opportunity to learn about different countries and parts of the world while watching the triple axels and halfpipes.Food is one way to bring far-off places a little clos...
Published: 02/14/18
Sheet-Pan Chicken With Sweet Potatoes and Peppers recipe

Sheet-Pan Chicken With Sweet Potatoes and Peppers recipe

For most of the year, I hold to the notion that what grows together goes together, especially when it comes to mingling things on a sheet pan.Spring’s tender greens and shoots; summer’s juicy zucchini and tomatoes; fall’s pumpkins and Brussels sprout...
Published: 02/14/18