High Bar for Food
When you play in bar bands, as I have my entire adult life, the possibility always exists that the club's patrons will dislike your music so much they will throw tomatoes. But this is not an entirely unwelcome experience; at least it means we get something decent to eat for a change. Bar food generally is a nutritionally empty invitation to indigestion at best -- and sometimes downright dangerous. I'll never forget foolishly requesting a green salad at one biker bar and being told by the alleged chef: "Babe, anything green that comes outta this kitchen ya don't wanna put in yer mouth."
That's what's so different about Scully's Tavern, which bills itself as "Best-kept dining secret in Kendall." It's with reluctance that I blow the secret, since it'll now probably be impossible to snag one of the booths in the back billiards room. But the main room's polished wood tabletops are terrific, too. So is the no-cover live music on weekends. Still, what's really kept customers coming back since the bar opened in 1989 is the bar food.
That includes a green item that should be a staple this far south but isn't: fried green tomatoes. Though owner/kitchenmeister Chris has some fancy French-food credentials, what makes Scully's fried tomatoes so authentically scrumptious is his Southern-boy roots. Well, roots and the rest of the plants, actually. Co-owner Cass plucks the tomatoes herself, from the Redland's U-Pick farms, so that instead of the mushy factory-processed texture that all too often disappoints, firm freshness shines through the crisp breading. An accompanying beautifully balanced tart but not palate-puckering vinegar sauce makes a simple yet perfect grease-cutter.
While bar barbecue often is an oven-roasted imitation whose smoky taste comes completely from chemicals in its sauce, Scully's barbecue (ribs, sliced pork, or dolphin) is slow-cooked weekly in Chris's four-by-ten-foot smoker. The fairly one-dimensional sauce, however, adds little except heat and moisture. Although a more complex sauce would be a plus, it isn't really necessary: The mahi-mahi, especially effective in a smooth smoked-fish dip, is full-flavored enough alone; and the more subtly smoky sliced pork -- whose dryness, in my experience, usually makes it inferior to pulled pork -- is juicy enough on its own to make a most moist sandwich.
On request the superfriendly waitstaff will add slaw, for Carolinas-style crunch. As well as magnificent munchies, Scully's serves full meals, including seasonal specials like stuffed Florida lobster tail and regular weekly dinner specials that are not just great food but a great deal, like Wednesday's $9.95 prime rib. Can you get it rare -- really red-rare, not pink? "You bet! Because that's how I like it myself," Cass guarantees. But come early, around 6:00. Or give Cass a call to say when you're coming in -- she'll save you a rare slice.
And if you're in the mood for a green salad, don't worry. At this bar, where the salad is a generous heap of hearts of palm atop meticulously fresh mixed greens, the only mold is in the salad dressing's aged Gorgonzola cheese.
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