As a former Chicagoan, I can tell you that Chicago is known for many things: great architecture, die-hard sports fans, corruption, and great food.
The one thing it is not known for is subtlety. Broad Shoulders Sandwiches, named after one of Chicago’s nicknames (City of Broad Shoulders, in addition to Windy City, Second City, and a slew of others) recently opened by Chicagoan Tom Azar is no exception. Azar came a long way since he received a degree in culinary arts from Chicago’s noted Washburn Trade School. He was employed by the legendary chef Emeril Lagasse where he worked his way up from cook to Chef de Cuisine (at Emeril’s Miami Beach location).
He has now embarked upon a new chapter in his career. His gourmet sandwich shop specializes in scratch-made condiments, sides, and desserts, all of which are packed with a punch of flavor. Let’s start with the soups, there are only two options: chicken and andouille gumbo (served with potato salad or steamed white rice) or shrimp and sweet corn chowder. On the night of our visit we tried the chowder. Plentiful corn and potatoes swimming in a deep, dark, thick, seafood stock base had a stick to the rib's quality. At $8, the large bowl provided a satisfying meal or could be split as an appetizer.
Sandwiches are the stars of the menu though, with eye-popping (and possibly jaw-dislocating) favorites from Chicago and around the world. Of course, I had to check out the Chicago standards, a hot dog and Italian beef. The Chicago-style hot dog checks almost all the marks, with its combination of an oversized Vienna all-beef hot dog, yellow mustard, chopped white onions, green sweet pickle relish, dill pickle, tomatoes, homemade sport peppers, and celery salt served on a poppy seed bun. The only thing missing was paper-thin tomato slices. The bun wasn’t steamed, as is traditional, but that was actually a better choice as it made it able to contain all the condiments.
The Italian beef is a Chicago classic. For those unfamiliar with the sandwich, it is similar to a French dip, with thinly shaved roast beef dipped in an Italian seasoned au jus. It is traditionally served with roasted sweet green peppers or spicy giardiniera (spicy pickled veggies) on an Italian roll. Big Shoulders serves an up-scale version, smothered with plentiful roasted sweet peppers and a side of house-made giardiniera, which packs a nice vinegary punch. The roll is a little softer than up north and the jus is served on the side. I poured a little over my sandwich, and also dipped it into it. I managed to finish half of it. At $16, it’s a little more than you’d pay at a beef stand, but a much larger portion. For an additional $3 you can make it a combo with Italian sausage thrown on top (very Chicago, where more is more).
There are other delights as well. My hubby was delighted to find three fish dishes on the menu. He was pleased with the perfectly grilled mahi-mahi, topped with shredded lettuce, tomato, red onion, homemade pickles, and tartar sauce, on a brioche roll. His other options were a fried fish sandwich or a shrimp po’boy. A Reuben with house-made corned beef, spicy fried chicken, the Broad Shoulders burger featuring a half pound special blend beef burger, brie cheese, caramelized onions, and apple-wood bacon, a Cuban and BBQ rib sandwiches round out the menu.
For those seeking something lighter, there are Caesar and Italian chopped salads. Sides include creamy coleslaw (which also accompanies some sandwiches), potato salad, macaroni and cheese and BBQ baked beans. Desserts are worth a look. The New Orleans-style bread pudding with whisky sauce is a house specialty. Other southern staples include chocolate pecan pie and a deep dish take on Key Lime pie. On a side note, everything is served on real plates. Better for the environment and a lot classier.
2822 E Commercial, Fort Lauderdale
Other New or About to Open Dining Spots
Fort Lauderdale’s Flagler Village is quickly becoming a dining destination. The most recent place to open is Santiago’s Bodega, the fourth outpost of the Key West-based mini-chain.
An Argentine craft beer taproom, Prison Pals, has opened in Oakland Park’s Culinary Arts District. It’s an offshoot of owner Juan Pipkin’s Doral-based brewery and features both blonde and American Pale ales.
Kava Jive in the Shoppes of Wilton Manors will offer a variety of specialty botanically infused teas in addition to kava when it opens next month. It will also highlight local art and live entertainment.
The latest place to take over the spot formerly occupied by Wolsen Café and Via Vie is Mamma Mia Italian Bistro. Expected to open this month, it is the first U.S. eatery from Federica Priolo, who comes from a family of restaurateurs in Italy who says, “Mamma Mia is gonna be an Italian bistro, not a gourmet restaurant.”