Kevin McCarthy and Eve Montella-Smith,

Chef-proprietors, Armadillo Café

From the outset, these two chefs knew where their combined destinies lay. "On our first date, we talked about opening a restaurant," Montella-Smith remembers. More than 20 years later, the inspired Southwestern cuisine of their Armadillo Café continues to please the palates of South Florida diners. With their long-awaited new location on University Drive in Davie up and running, they need look no further than each other for the reasons they were able to succeed.

"I'm gonna brag on him for a while now," Montella-Smith announces, referring to McCarthy. "He's a fantastically talented technical chef. I was kinda mad about this at first -- technically, I'm not even in his league, but I have my talents too -- and there was a lot of friction."

Of course, combining a romantic relationship and a business partnership brought challenges. "I wouldn't recommend that," Montella-Smith notes dryly, pointing out that they broke up for good in 1993 and are now married to different people. (McCarthy has four children; Montella-Smith has one.) Still, she says, "Kevin and I have a bond that can't be broken. We really watch out for each other, because this business is tough -- physically, emotionally, and financially. But when you're a force of two against the world, that makes a huge difference."

Colby Katz

Though he looks back with a mixture of fondness and resentment on the old days (the resentment being reserved mostly for the incessant road construction that plagued the now-closed Griffin Road location), McCarthy is gratified that he and Montella-Smith have remained business partners even after they split up. "It's easy to start in a small place, where we just threw everything we had into it," McCarthy remembers. "We didn't have any money; there was no place to go. It was a nothing-to-lose kind of thing: You take the rear-view mirror off the car and go forward and get better."

Now that they're in a bigger location, with a regular Sunday brunch and lunch service in the planning stages, McCarthy declares, "We've been through the rough years, and now we're seeing the light."

 
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