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At the crossroads of pub food and car culture sits Ford’s Garage.
The burger-and-craft-beer franchise out of Tampa has a licensing agreement with the Ford Motor Company, so if you check out the restaurant that opened back in 2019 at the Mall at Wellington Green, you’ll see a vintage car hoisted above the bar and automobile memorabilia festooning the walls (or reimagined as everything from tableware to bathroom sinks).
But if that’s too much of a drive for you, just wait. A Ford’s Garage may soon be parking at a location closer to you. In addition to the next local spot at Plantation Walk — slated to open sometime in this year — there are ambitious plans for 14 more to open throughout South Florida.
“We think we’ll open two restaurants a year over the next seven years,” says Steve Shlemon, president of Ford’s Garage. “We are actively looking at a bunch of properties. Every six weeks we tour the market down there, from Coral Gables all the way up to Stuart.”
Already Ford’s Garage has signed an agreement for the development of seven new restaurants in Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Martin counties.
In the meantime, Shlemon says all eyes will be on the Plantation Walk location.
“It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s going to get a lot of foot traffic, especially in the square where they want to do a lot of events,” he explains. “That will be a gateway to all the other ones we want to do in South Florida.”
Ford’s Garage first opened in 2012 in Fort Myers, where Henry Ford had a winter home. By the time a second location opened in Cape Coral, the Ford Motor Company became aware and, in 2015, asked if the eatery wanted to enter into a licensing agreement.
“They were impressed with the design and the quality of the food,” Shlemon adds. “They signed an agreement where [Ford’s Garage] could use the Ford name and a lot of the artifacts for a monthly royalty fee [from] our sales.”
So now, with Ford’s blessing and museum-quality vehicles (Model As and Ts), fixtures and photographs, the 16 locations — all but two in Florida — have decor that evokes a 1920s gas station or speakeasy with Prohibition-chic elements such as hammered-by-hand copper bar tops. The servers wear blue mechanic shirts.
Shlemon says that another part of the attraction is the “casualness of the brand. It’s kind of come-as-you-are. We cover all demographics. We have a great happy hour, a fantastic brunch. And the food is fantastic, everything made from scratch. You can get a good meal for about $21 per person, which is extremely reasonable.”