Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Fuel Up Here

Whether you need a shopping break, a happy hour meeting spot or just want a memorable meal, Matchbox at Sawgrass Mills is the place to make your next pit stop.

Shopping can work up an appetite. Ask anyone who’s embarked on the ultimate quest for fashion’s Holy Grail at Sawgrass Mills’ tony Colonnade Shops, which resembles a mini Rodeo Drive and is a place where many have been lost for hours, only to emerge depleted in every sense of the word. Overlooking Barneys NY, Helmut Lang, Ted Baker London, Tory Burch and Furla, those in need of sustenance can now stroll into Matchbox American Kitchen + Spirit, the company’s first foray into the Florida market.

Though this Matchbox still sports the industrial-chic decor for which the chain is known, its indoor-outdoor setting takes advantage of South Florida’s toasty climate and unrivaled people-watching. The rectangular Birchwood bar seats 58, with the bar top resembling a shuffleboard table, a nod to Matchbox’s Capitol Hill restaurant that yielded a 1920s era shuffleboard in the original building and is a design element now incorporated into every location. Warm evenings lure guests outdoors to dine on a patio that seats 89 beneath pro­peller fans, or around a cozy corner fire pit that seems more luxury-hunting-lodge than mall locale.

The bar is where Matchbox hosts a popular happy hour Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., with more than 10 small wood-fired pizzas on the menu priced at $9 each, including the Matchbox Meat with spicy Italian sausage, pepperoni, crispy bacon and mozzarella, Pig + Peppers with capicola, mozzarella and marinated Fresno peppers, and Mushroom White, with cremini mushrooms, ricotta cheese, caramelized onions and mozzarella. Appetizer “Share” specials range from $5 to $9 and include not-to-miss spicy tuna tartare tacos, spicy mini meatballs and CAB mini burgers. Happy hour cocktails are all $7 and include wines and a selection of four cocktails, with the refreshing Patio Pounder Lemonade on the list. Made from house-infused watermelon vodka, lemonade and fresh watermelon, it could very well be habit-forming.

Inside the two-story restaurant are exposed pipes, brick walls and pine wood ceilings, and upstairs, touchable walls made from wood reclaimed from a Cincinnati, Ohio, cattle stockyard dating back to the 1800s. A private chef ’s table on the second floor seats eight to ten guests, while around it is a collection of booths overlooking the action below at the bar and pizza exhibition kitchen.

An expansive menu offers something for nearly every mood, from light starters and entrée salads to pizzas, grinders, sandwiches and main favorites including Italian Sausage Rigatoni ($15), Braised Short Ribs with smashed Yukon potatoes, cornbread and honey butter ($25) and Mustard-Crusted Salmon with leeks, Yukon potatoes, kale and lemon ($21). Its popular Sunday Brunch sees standard favorites like crab benedict and huevos rancheros served alongside cheeky items like “The Walk of Shame Burrito.” Be sure to try the “Table Bubbly Bar” with bottomless Simonet Spanish Cava, paired with juices and nectars for just $18. Did we mention it’s bottomless?

Founded in 2003 with its first restaurant in Washington, D.C., Matchbox now has 10 restaurants in four states, generating a following for its brick-oven pizzas, mini-burgers and comfort food, served at tables with matchboxes embedded beneath the glass top, a nod to the owners’ first collections. According to lore, the original shape of the first restaurant, inside an old grocery store, was designed like a matchbox, thus the name was born. If everything inside Matchbox, including the service, appears warm, inviting and convivial, it is—shopping respite not required.