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Flip-flopping away
A sweet and succulent Puerto Rican–style pulled pork barbecue sandwich, served with black beans and rice

With a name like Flip Flop Tiki Bar & Grill, you would expect a warm ocean breeze blowing across your table while pelicans soar overhead. But that’s not the case for this new addition to the historic district dining scene.

The beach theme is unmistakeable, the menu definitely influenced by island culture — but high top tables overlook busy Whitaker Street, not splashing Atlantic surf.

The former Larry’s Giant Subs at the corner or Whitaker and State streets has undergone a total transformation. The menu is definitely not subs, but features a pleasing selection for diners who want fast, affordable and tasty lunch.

On my visit, I passed on the recommended fish taco, steered clear of the tempting special — a Reuben sandwich topped with bacon — and went for the Puerto Rican–style pulled pork barbecue sandwich served with black beans and rice.

In no time, my server dropped off a massive sandwich — about 8 ounces of pulled pork, stacked high on a big, soft bun. The flavor came from the meat, a splash of sauce added interest, but did not mask the sweet, succulent pork. About halfway through the sandwich, I sprinkled on a little hot sauce — and settled into a second-half sandwich that was even livelier.

The thick roux of the black beans was perfect to hold seasonings that transformed these simple beans into a hearty side dish. Stirred with the rice, doused with another shot or two of hot sauce — and I found myself all too quickly at the bottom of the bowl.

Ben Melton, former chef at Bonna Bella Yacht Club, created the menu and rides herd over its production. There are a variety of salads, soups and tacos from which to choose — and a nice little appetizer menu. Plenty of big screens have the sports scene covered and Ben has put together live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

I’m anxious to return for a cold beer and CLB chicken, the eatery’s boneless alternative to the ubiquitous chicken wings. This all white chicken strip is skewered and sauced with a Chipotle–lime BBQ sauce.

117 Whitaker St./233–5600/

Legendary wines

Freemark Abbey was at the center of the famed 1976 taste off between California and French wines — in which the Americans won. You can taste the wines with a beautifully paired dinner on Dec. 12  when Circa 1875 hosts a dinner with the Napa Valley wines. Details have not been finalized, but you may call the restaurant for details, 443–1875.

Cook’s tools

You can catch me on WTOC’s Mid–Morning Live at 10 a.m., Dec. 13, when I present my 2011 “Cook’s Tools” holiday gift guide. Hardware, software and foods are in the line–up, which will be online that day at