Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Cheese- Steak Worth a Chef's Nod

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Cheese- Steak Worth a Chef's Nod

Article excerpt

If Derek Barnes says a place is good, I tend to believe him.

Late last year, while working on a feature story about the talented chef and his transition from Sarasota's fine dining scene to his new, more approachable digs in Bradenton, I met with Barnes at the future home of his new restaurant. We talked about his career and his new food philosophy, but I also couldn't help but ask him about his new neighbor: the Boiler Room Bar & Grill. The restaurant sits directly to the west of the new Derek's and while it looks like nothing special from the outside -- just a plain white hut with a green roof -- its sign was tantalizing: "Home of the... Famous Steak Sandwiches." How are they, really? I asked. Barnes' answer: tasty. I was sold.

On a Friday night months later, the family and I hit up the Boiler during happy hour. The place is a dive, no doubt about it, but it's not lacking in charm. A Golden Tee Complete machine shows replays of spectacular putts next to a neon red "Bud on Tap" sign, while a TouchTunes digital jukebox nearby flashes with Mary J Blige and Blues Traveler album covers. Inflatable footballs and NASCAR and Formula 1 racers hang from browning ceiling tiles, jostling for space with Kevin Harvick flag bunting. A Sharp TV is running a "Pardon the Interruption" segment on LeBron.

Over at the bar a half-dozen folks who look relieved to be done with work for the week shoot the breeze and sip $1 drafts. On the other side of the Bud and Coors handles, a deep-fryer and a flattop sizzle away. Foosball and pool tables dominate the middle of the room, while red-glass lamps, reminiscent of pizzerias, dangle over the booths on the opposite side.

Based on all that, I bet you can guess the contents of the menu. There's that steak sandwich, of course, but also burgers, wings, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs and subs, with a variety of "munchies" to boot. …

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