Monday, April 22, 2024

Inside the New Funky Buddha

(Ryan Sentz and Giani Rocha, owners of the Funky Buddha Brewery)

Having visited Thailand’s historic Buddhist monuments this year, I can tell you that some of the area’s most impressive Buddhas are also some of the biggest. And locally, one venerable Buddha franchise is about to get a whole lot bigger.

The Funky Buddha Lounge and Brewery, which opened in Boca Raton in 2010, has become one of the best lounges for nightlife in the South County. It’s a hipster hookah bar, a respected venue for local bands and comedians, and a beer lover’s destination, with more than 100 craft beers on tap – including such culinary concoctions as No Crusts Peanut Butter and Maple Bacon Coffee Porter – made in its on-site brewery.

It’s this last aspect of the Funky Buddha’s success – its craft beer mini-empire – that the lounge’s owners are taking to their newest venture: the Funky Buddha Brewery, a full-scale brewery and taproom slated to open next Saturday, June 1, in Oakland Park. Whereas the Boca location spans 2,000 square feet, the new location in Broward County is a sprawling 19,000 square feet, much of it occupied by the massive metal brew houses, fermenters and holding tanks working their magic in the back. “What we can do in Boca in a year, we can do here in a day,” co-owner Giani Rocha told me during a tour of the 30-barrel facility this week.

Located at the intersection of Northeast 38th Street and North Dixie Highway, the Funky Buddha Brewery has been a dream that is almost two years in the making. It is expected to anchor what will become the Oakland Park Culinary District, an initiative that will eventually include restaurants, markets, a culinary school and even a hydroponic farm. “Oakland Park had this idea, and it was perfect for us,” Rocha says. “We’re so proud to be a part of our project, just as they are proud to be a part of ours; it was a perfect marriage – the right time, the right people.”

The taproom’s interior design is industrial-chic, a bit like a designer flat in Manhattan, albeit one that hugs that railroad tracks, resounding with the frequent rumble of trucks and trains outside. Tables, chairs and sofas will be added before June 1. “We want to bring that lounge-y feel, like you’re in your living room, having fun, talking to your friends,” Rocha says. “It’s not a sports bar, but we’ll have a couple of TVs too.”

The expanded space will allow for some adventurous aspects, such as a pair of bocce ball courts in the back and three boards laid out for cornhole, a popular bag-toss game.

As far as the live entertainment, co-owner Ryan Sentz is avoiding comedy and open-mic nights for now, which have become a main attraction at the Boca Raton location. But you can still expect to hear original live music, starting with next Saturday’s Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting. Way of the Groove, the musical project of Julius and Felix Pastorius, will be among a handful of bands performing outside.

Sentz is expecting some 2,000 attendees for next Saturday’s event, which runs from 4 p.m. to midnight at 1201 N.E. 38th St. in Oakland Park. For information, call 561/755-7456 or visit

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