Chuck Lager

Once word got out last year that Chuck Lager was taking over the vacant Applebee’s location in the Oldsmar Town Center, social media was buzzing with anticipation. But after each passing month that was met with delays, frustrations mounted, and nobody thought the restaurant would ever open. Finally, in early March, a Chuck Lager social media post announced the soft opening.

Like everyone else, I was eager to try this new restaurant concept from celebrity chef and “Top Chef” alum Fabio Viviani. With an engaging personality and passion for cooking, he earned the show’s title of “Fan Favorite,” and I count myself as one of his fans. With Chuck Lager locations in Delaware, New Jersey and Illinois, the only Florida location is in Wesley Chapel, which recently opened. When a friend told me how much she enjoyed dining there, I was even more excited to try it.

We went to Chuck Lager on a Saturday evening a week after it opened. I was concerned that it would be extremely busy, but we were able to get a high-top table in the large bar area. Our server came over right away, welcomed us and presented us with the menu. There is a lot to choose from on the large menu, so I asked her for suggestions. She said the Giant Pretzel ($14) is one of their bestsellers, so we ordered that for an appetizer. It’s served with beer cheese and honey mustard for dipping and definitely lives up to its name size wise. Sprinkled with parmesan cheese, the pretzel had a unique texture because it’s lightly fried. We all really enjoyed it and it was a good first impression of Chuck Lager’s food.

The menu has a large variety of dishes such as burgers, flatbreads, pasta, salads, handhelds and tacos. We opted for The Philly Flatbread ($17), Spaghetti & Meatballs ($19) and Italian Cubano ($17) with a side of Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Pork Belly ($10). All of our food came out quickly and was nicely presented.

The Philly Flatbread was topped with shredded white cheese, shaved rib eye, caramelized onions and green peppers. The crust was a nice consistency because it wasn’t too thick or too thin, but hearty enough to hold all of the toppings. As the name suggested, this flatbread tastes exactly like a Philly Cheesesteak and was gooey and delicious without the heaviness of the bread. For those who want the real thing, Chuck Lager has a Philly Cheesesteak on the menu and I plan on trying that next time.

From the Handhelds portion of the menu, the Italian Cubano had roasted Italian pulled pork, ham, spicy giardiniera, provolone, pickles and mustard. As a true Cuban sandwich should be, the bread was nicely toasted with all of the ingredients perfectly melded together. This sandwich was definitely a winner and we’d order it again.

Listed on the menu as “Fabio’s Meatballs,” they were served over pasta with pomodoro sauce and parmesan cheese. When you order meatballs from a Fabio Viviani restaurant, you expect them to taste authentic Italian and they definitely did. They were hearty and flavorful with a strong taste of fresh basil. Fabio’s Meatballs are also served with creamy polenta as an appetizer portion or as a sub.

In addition to their dinner menu, Chuck Lager also offers a Brunch and Happy Hour menu with specials. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and while the menu isn’t large, it sounds delicious. Brunch offerings include Southwest Breakfast Tacos, Chicken & Waffles Sandwich, Breakfast Sandwich, Avocado Toast and Smoked Benedict. Drinks include Chuck’s Bloody Mary, Bottomless Mimosa, Watermelon Mojito and more. Happy Hour is Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and is a great way to enjoy many menu items at reduced prices. If you’re a craft beer lover, I highly recommend trying one of Chuck Lager’s three private drafts. You can choose from Rocky Descent IPA, Red Rider Amber Lager and Heavy Lifter Scotch Ale. We enjoyed the Rocky Descent IPA ($8) with our dinner, which was a lighter tasting IPA that was delicious.

Not only were we impressed with the quality of the food, but the atmosphere was welcoming and the service was great. Our first dining experience at Chuck Lager was wonderful and we’ll definitely be going back to try some different menu items and brunch.

Chuck Lager America’s Tavern: 5 stars

Location: 4016 Tampa Rd., Oldsmar, FL 34677

Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

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