I haven't written anything up on the Royal Pig in a long time, mainly because there hasn't been anything good to write about the food. The bar scene here is about the same, except that the crowds are smaller and you can usually get a seat at the bar without much of a wait on a Saturday night. It's a great place to watch a game and most of the servers are pleasant and competent.
When they first opened, I was pretty excited about their menu. They had a bunch of things I liked and their pricing was fair. Unfortunately, the menu is a moving target; they're constantly changing recipes and for the most part they've ruined what used to be some pretty good dishes. I'm not quite sure what the strategy is; I'm not sure if they're trying to lower the cost of the food or if they just have a chef with too much time on his hands, but changing recipes is something that I think is a no-no for a restaurant. I don't want to go to Timpano and order the mussels and find that they're now serving them in a garlic wine sauce. I'm ordering them because I know I like them. If I'm going to pay $13 for an appetizer I don't want there to be a 50% chance I won't like it. Also, if you're going to change a recipe, make the dish taste BETTER. That isn't the case here.
The big thing about the menu is that some of the stuff is downright weird, which some people may consider the point. They've started piling watercress on everything (weeds as I call it). I would have liked to catch the look on the girl's face when she was delivered the Royal Pig BLT:
Royal Pig Pub BLT
Another peeve is the lack of vegetables. No side salads and no normal veggies. I tried the "summer succotash" and decided that it wasn't for me.
One thing very sad to me is the duck nachos, which were great when they first opened; served with cheese and jalapeños.
Royal Pig Duck Nachos
They're now made with mango; maybe mango is cheaper than jalapeños? I'm not ordering them.
Recent Food Experiences
Case and point, we have my last 3 tries at the Royal Pig food. Last night I ordered the Spinach Dip, something I've had a few times before.
Royal Pig Pub Spinach Dip 05/15
At first glance, it looked pretty good. They certainly don't cheat you on the chips or the cheese.
They have substantially shrunk the "extras"; no more onions and a lot less of the pork rinds. A smidgeon of salsa.
Royal Pig Pub Thimble of Bacon and Salsa
While I'm glad they don't put artichokes in it, which I've never understood, there's really no concept of flavor here. You can't really taste the spinach; it just tastes like cheese, and not really good cheese. The chips also aren't very salty.
Royal Pig Pub Spinach Dip 05/15
Another annoyance was that half of the chips where stale. It seemed like every other one. By the time I was half done, the cheese was too hard to scoop with the chips. I tried this with the bacon/pork rinds, the salsa. There was just nothing I could do that really made me raise my eyebrows.
I still can't believe that they took the Spinach Formaggio off of the menu at Timpano; easily the best spinach dip I ever had; and exactly the same every time.
A few months ago I tried their "new" meatballs; they used to have Turkey Balls that were OK, but these are made with "Duroc" Pork, which is supposedly better. Two meatballs are $14.
Royal Pig Pub Pork Meatballs ($14)
The balls themselves are very dense, but not very well seasoned or interesting. You need stuff in meatballs; cheese, onions, something. These just tasted like balls of pork.
Royal Pig Pub Pork Meatball
They're served with a "charred tomato sauce"; to me when you char tomato sauce it's because you forgot about it and it cooked way too long. I didn't like anything about the meatballs. Restaurants attempt to convince us that brand name meat products are better, but if it doesn't taste better, it's just more expensive.
When they opened they had terrific wings that were a little bit jerk and a little bit buffalo. They were small and they didn't give you enough, but they were good for $11. The wings have changed a few times; none for the better, and are now described as "Mesquite smoked in a Texas BBQ sauce". I just felt like wings one day, and I ordered them.
The first impression is the battered onions; a stack of unwanted stuff to fill the plate.
Royal Pig Pub Wings (1/2015)
They're served with some sort of fancy mayo; I asked for some blue cheese. The wings are saucy, messy and the weeds stick to them and there's no way to get them off.
Royal Pig BBQ Wings
Additionally, the wings were undercooked; pink isn't a good color for poultry.
Royal Pig Wings. A bit Pink.
I've queried a number of long time regulars and we all pretty much agree that the wings were much better when they first opened. Change for the sake of change isn't a good thing for a restaurant. I go to Martorano's for their $20 meatball and it had better be what I had the last time.
Given the widespread incompetence on Las Olas, the Royal Pig remains one of the coolest, most comfortable spots on the street. It's a good place to drink and have some potato chips; and the best place to watch multiple games at once. But I think that their menu has gone off the rails. When they opened the filet was $28; now it's $36. Everything on the menu has a buzzword in front of it; Prime, organic, free range. Higher prices are one thing, but the food isn't as good, and I'm not the only one who thinks so.
Why can't rich people be happy making a lot of money running a really good restaurant? Why must they always have to squeeze out more and more until they become just another place with a mediocre, overpriced menu? Does the ownership group really think that the food is 20% better now to justify the pricing? I find that difficult to believe.
If you haven't figured it out yet; The Royal PIg Pub is the new "it" on Las Olas. Teaming with ex-YOLO regulars, there's a new place in town for the grown ups to hang out, and it's taking Las Olas by a storm. Previously the Samba Room; The Royal Pig is a complete remake of the space, from a dark, clubby space with a smallish bar to a mega bar that runs from the rear kitchen to 20 feet from the front door.
The Royal Pig is the first place since YOLO opened to quality as a suitable hangout; it's as close to a sports bar as you can get without being called a Sports Bar. They have lots of TVs, comfortable bar seating and lots of booths. The bar scene is the big thing here; everything revolves around the huge central bar.
Royal Pig Pub Bar Scene
The Royal Pig is owned by the restaurant group that owns most of the Hooters in South Florida, as well as Lulu's Bait Shack; this concept is intended to be a more sophisticated approach. While they have some cuties working here that I wouldn't mind seeing in tight, orange shorts, the bartender's attire is more refined with vests and purple ties.
One thing I can say without hesitation is that they have the best free bar food in the city; house-made potato chips are served up during the week.
Royal Pig Free Potato Chips
Sometimes they're a bit soggy, but when they're crispy and well-done I have to stop them from giving me refills on these. They usually run out by 10pm.
Talking with a friend the other day, he mentioned that he really liked the burgers; of course I was skeptical. It's a burger. But I decided to try one, as I've been here many times without ever having tried it. I ordered it on a brioche bun, medium rare with cheddar cheese and cole slaw; it comes with a choice of side for 12.> It came out without the cheese (it was ordered correctly), but soon made an appearance properly done.
I cut it in half to check how it was done; perfect, pink without being raw.
The cole slaw was very good; more like a cabbage salad, made without mayo. I tried the burger plain, with pickles, with and without ketchup. It was a terrific burger. I didn't need seasoning, and I liked the pickles, which weren't the usual out of the big jar standards.
I'm not one to rant about burgers, but this was great. I'm not sure if it was really 10oz; because I could have eaten more.
The Royal Pig has become the new Bar Scene place in Fort Lauderdale; if you remember what Big City Tavern was like 5 years ago you'll know what's going on here. While Big City reigned before there was competition for the "Look at Me" crowd from YOLO, the Pig is the younger, yuppier, rock-and-roll crowd that prefers Tom Petty to the disco beat where they hang out. On Fridays the crowd is decidedly younger, and the place has become the de-facto place to watch Heat games and college sports. Recent grads screaming for their alma-maters; I've never taken to college sports myself. Saturdays are a bit older; with a spattering of YOLO defectors easily identified by the sequins and clutches.
During the week, you can usually get a seat at the bar, although the place is never dead empty. The Big TVs make hanging out and having a drink a comfortable experience.
They push the "schooners", which seem curiously popular considering that they're only 2 ounces bigger than the much more manageable "pub" glasses, which are a pint.
They have a wide selection of beers on tap; drink prices here are fair.
Their outdoor space is much more appealing than previously at the Samba room. There are TVs at the bar and an eclectic array of seating choices, although big fans by the bar will mess up your hairdo.
Royal Pig Pub Patio
Outdoor spaces have become mostly for smokers in modern times, unfortunately, so it's difficult for me to enjoy it with any sort of crowd.>
Service here highly depends on who is working; some of the servers are routinely excellent, and others simply lack a second gear needed to handle the big crowds they get here on weekends. On Fridays and Saturdays the bar is 3 deep and getting a drink can be a challenge.
Eating here on weekends can be 'hectic". There's really no where to hide from the scene. It's part of the charm of the place, but don't expect to have a quiet dinner on a Friday night as there's no escaping the action, except perhaps on the sidewalk tables. During the week it's more tranquil and service ranges from good to top notch.
I had high hopes for the menu here, with wings, ribs and rotisserie fowl creating some interesting possibilities. But overall, I have to say that I'm underwhelmed. While many of the items can be quite good, inconsistency is a problem. Dishes tend to be too saucy with too much bread. They favor fancy ingredients over portions; 6 wings and 4 ribs just isn't enough. The first time I had the wings they were moist, rotisserie wings; the next time they were finished on the grill and not as good.
Royal Pig Chicken Wings
The same goes for the Spinach Dip, I've seen it 10 times and it never looked the same twice.
The ribs are excellent; easily the best restaurant ribs in the area. The brussels sprouts are good also, but the dish leaves me wanting another rib or 2.
Royal Pig Pub Rib Appetizer
By far my favorite menu item is, surprisingly, the Buffalo Chicken Sliders. With mild buffalo sauce and blue cheese, they're just want I want in a snack. I've gotten these piled high with chicken and with much more modest portions; sometimes they come on onion rolls and sometimes they're plain.
I also like the nachos, individual "tostada" style nachos with your choice of pulled pork, chicken or duck. I order them with extra jalepenos. IMO the weeds on top are wholly unnecessary. You gotta love the tiny tabasco, even though I have no use for the stuff.
Specifically not recommended are the Salmon entree and the "Prime" beef sliders. The other sliders are better.
The Royal Pig Pub is the best addition to Las Olas in years. Whether you're having a meal, grabbing some apps at the bar or watching a big game, the Pig provides a fun, comfortable atmosphere at reasonable prices.
Disclosure: Some photos were from a mock service where food was provided free of charge.