By Callie Sharkey
If you’re looking for that comfortable hometown feeling merged with great food and entertainment, Kickback Neighborhood Tavern is the place to be, with its mantra, “Eat Local. Drink Local. Stay Local.”
Dan Hooker, general manager and managing partner at Kickback, brings decades of experience in the food and hospitality industry. He was there when Kickback opened last year and has never been happier.
“It’s great working here because I never have to apologize for the food. I’ve worked in a lot of restaurants all my life. The food here is great, and we get compliments all the time,” he said. “The staff here is loyal. It’s a small staff, but it is a bunch of great people. It’s a family, and we all work together toward the same goal.”
The menu offers elevated tavern fare with a variety of options and delightful new versions on classic comfort foods. Every week, the chalkboard shines with new specials and fun dishes not on the regular menu.
“We have something for everyone,” Hooker said. “As far as high end, we have some handcrafted tavern bowls that are really good, like the Korean Sesame Salmon Bowl. Our hamburgers are outstanding, and people love our mahi sandwiches and buffalo mahi fingers.”
He said that Kickback is essentially a scratch kitchen, with all the sauces made in house. From mango sweet chili to the Kickback remoulade, homemade flavors are a highlight with each plate.
Kickback welcomes all visitors to take it easy and also has a spacious covered patio that is dog friendly. In fact, every pup that comes to visit receives a “doggie cocktail” (a bowl of water).
“This place is all about kicking back and relaxing… We love being local. We support local, we are supported by locals,” said Hooker, who is proud of the restaurant’s connection to local organizations. “We’ve co-sponsored events with many nonprofit groups and even had large events where they bring out tents.”
Working with professionals is also part of being a local hotspot. Almost once a month, a special Realtor Happy Hour takes place with special guest bartenders and live music. Every day, patrons can take advantage of discounted drinks during a standard happy hour that runs from noon until 6 p.m., and food specials are available between 3 and 6 p.m.
Since getting through the week is tough enough, Kickback has a Wednesday routine for everyone. Kids eat free off the Little Farmers menu with a purchase of one adult entrée per child, and right around dusk, the locals start rolling in to battle it out during the weekly trivia night. “We have Think and Drink Trivia every Wednesday, and it’s a big event. Come as you are and play from 7 to 9 p.m.,” Hooker said. “People love trivia.”
It is important to the culture at Kickback to provide quality, diverse live entertainment every Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 7 to 10 p.m. “We wanted to make sure to incorporate great dining with good music,” Hooker said. “I bring in new people all the time, so we are not stagnant. There is a variety — reggae, country, rock, contemporary. It’s not just background music, it’s entertainment. This is a great place to see local talent.”
The hard work has already paid off, with acts booked through next May.
Hosting special events where locals can gather and have fun includes a car show on the fourth Friday of every month. Recently, a popular 1980s-themed Let’s Get Physical party was held. Plans are already in the works for a Halloween party on Friday, Oct. 29 with live entertainment.
“Kickback Neighborhood Tavern and Mad Hospitality Group are currently in talks to expand the brand locally,” Hooker said. “We also have a new and exciting concept coming soon right here in Wellington.”
Kickback is open seven days a week, with service offered Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the kitchen closing at 9 p.m. On Fridays, visit anytime between 11:30 a.m. and midnight, or Saturday from noon to midnight, with the kitchen closing at 10 p.m. It’s open Sundays from noon to midnight, with the kitchen closing at 9 p.m. Take out is also available, along with delivery via Uber Eats and Delivery Dudes.
Kickback Neighborhood Tavern is located in the Wellington Plaza at 12771 W. Forest Hill Blvd. For more info., call (561) 795-0100 or visit www.kickbacktavern.com.