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The Nine Most Surprising Restaurant Closings of 2016
Photo by Nick Papakyriazis/Flickr

The Nine Most Surprising Restaurant Closings of 2016

This year, restaurant openings were at an all-time high, with dozens of new eateries — both large and small — debuting across Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

But some of the closings got our attention for this piece. South Florida lost some old favorites, as well as a few newcomers that won our hearts as quickly as they faded into that sad place where restaurants go to die.

Fortunately, some you might miss the most have already announced plans to reopen or rebrand, while others — and the food comas they so lovingly induced — will be forever lost.

Here is a look back at the nine most surprising restaurant closings over the last 12 months:

Kapow! partners Vaughan Dugan (left), Rodney Mayo (center), and Scott Frielich (right) have announced they'll be opening a second location in West Palm Beach after Mayo closed Longboards in October.
Kapow! partners Vaughan Dugan (left), Rodney Mayo (center), and Scott Frielich (right) have announced they'll be opening a second location in West Palm Beach after Mayo closed Longboards in October.
Photo courtesy of Subculture Restaurant Group

9. Wipeout: Longboards Closes to Make Way for Kapow!
When Longboards first debuted in July 2011, it rocked the 500 block of Clematis Street with a grand opening block party. Hundreds turned out for free food, drinks, and entertainment in support of local charities Grind for Life and Surfers for Autism. It seemed like a promising endeavor for this beach-easy, Polynesian-themed eatery from Subculture Restaurant group founder Rodney Mayo. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the restaurant closed its doors this August, just a few weeks after whispers that they would launch a revamped menu. The good news? It was a strategic move to make way for a second Kapow! location, Subculture's wildly popular Asian-themed eatery that opened the same year as Longboards in Boca Raton's Mizner Park. Currently under construction, it's slated to open in mid-2017.

Johnny V's chef-owner Johnny Vinczencz closed his Fort Lauderdale establishment in July after 15 years in business.
Johnny V's chef-owner Johnny Vinczencz closed his Fort Lauderdale establishment in July after 15 years in business.
Photo by Michlee Eve Sandberg

8. The Caribbean Cowboy Hits His Final Trail
After a decade-long run (and then some) as one of South Florida's most praised practitioners of New American cuisine, Johnny V's chef-owner Johnny Vinczencz was nicknamed everything from "The Caribbean Cowboy" to "The Guava Gaucho." The food at this beloved Las Olas eatery was always recognizable by familiar flavors rooted in our nation's regional cuisines, dressed up with a touch of worldly wise additions and daring dashes of gastronomic ingenuity. In July, all that came to an end when Vinczencz abruptly closed the doors to his Fort Lauderdale restaurant of 15 years, citing rising rent as the main factor. The closure came just two months after another longstanding Las Olas establishment shuttered its doors permanently, with Cafe de Paris owner Louis Flematti retiring after 50 years of business in May.

The Filling Station chef-owner Adam Feigeles.
The Filling Station chef-owner Adam Feigeles.
Photo by Candace West

7. The Filling Station Ran Low on Fuel
In September 2015, the Filling Station — a former Miami-based burger-centric restaurant — relocated to Oakland Park. In our weekly restaurant feature, chef-owner Adam Feigeles said, "Basically, this is like my 12th restaurant. But I've sold them all. I've never had to close them." In February, the restaurateur closed his 12th restaurant (most likely without selling it). Well, guess this is where we say: Never say never.

Havana Hideout closed after eight years in business.
Havana Hideout closed after eight years in business.
Photo courtesy of Havana Hideout

6. Even Guy Fieri's Seal of Approval Couldn't Save the Sangria and Tacos at Havana Hideout
During the eight years it was in business, this downtown Lake Worth eatery went from a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives favorite to what seemed like nothing more than a glorified snack shack with a serious LDub locals-only vibe. Havana Hideout in Lake Worth — beloved for its amazing sangria and generous Taco Tuesday special — closed up shop a few months ago when its new owners, who took over for concept-founder Chrissy Benoit in 2012, weren't able to keep the Guy Fieri-fueled fever going.

Max's Social House closed in June 2016.
Max's Social House closed in June 2016.
Photo courtesy of Max's Social House

5. Max's Social House Wasn't Such a Hotspot to Socialize After All
When Max's Social House announced plans to open in the former Ceviche space (and before that, Falcon House) in Delray Beach, the highly anticipated eatery was dubbed the "next wave of California cuisine" by restaurateur/creator Dennis Max. Maybe it was the less-trafficked location just north of Atlantic Avenue on a one-way Federal Avenue, but SoHo never became the hit spot to socialize for Delray Beach residents or visitors. To drum up business, the establishment launched Bar Brawls, a local bartender competition, on the heels of sister establishment Max's Harvest's popular Chef vs. Chef local chef showdown. The last-ditch effort drew huge crowds in its four months, but the momentum slowed in the summer months, ending with a final farewell in June.

Hudson at Waterway East closed after one year in business.
Hudson at Waterway East closed after one year in business.
Photo courtesy of Hudson at Waterway East

4. Hudson at Waterway East Makes a Quiet Exit Out to Sea in Delray Beach
When it opened in December 2014, Hudson at Waterway East seemed like the perfect fit for the former longtime Delray Beach Calypso space in downtown Delray Beach. Just over one year later, however, the owners quietly closed the doors, and the massive waterfront space with prime Intracoastal views was on the market, available to the highest bidder. In August, a family-run operation looking to expand its reach stateside took over the Hudson lease and declared the space its US flagship location for Che!, a European-Argentinian eatery.

Tryst executive chef John Thomas left the restaurant in November to take over the kitchen at 32 East.EXPAND
Tryst executive chef John Thomas left the restaurant in November to take over the kitchen at 32 East.
Photo by Kelly Coulson Photography

3. Tryst, South Florida's First Gastropub, Closes After Eight Years (and Right When the Term Gastropub Becomes Annoyingly Redundant)
In 2007, Tryst opened its doors in downtown Delray Beach, a hip new gastropub offering chef-driven dishes best paired with craft beer and cocktails. When neighboring 32 East chef-partner Nick Morfingen announced his departure as executive chef in August, it was assumed Tryst executive chef John Thomas would take the reigns (and he did). Sadly, it was a harbinger for Tryst co-owner Butch Johnson's other Delray fixture, which closed its doors in early November for the final time. But, hey, it's not all bad news: Despite the slow end to a near decade-long run, there's a light at the end of this tunnel. The space will now become the first Palm Beach County location for JEY Hospitality's Rok:Brgr brand, and whispers of a new venture by the Tryst team in a nearby space are underway for something bigger and better in 2017.

The Restaurant People CEO Tim Petrillo (left) and the group's cofounder and corporate chef Peter Boulukos.
The Restaurant People CEO Tim Petrillo (left) and the group's cofounder and corporate chef Peter Boulukos.
Photo by Candace West

2. Stick a Fork in Fort Lauderdale's Fork & Balls
In July 2014, the Restaurant People (TRP) opened the doors to its eighth Broward County concept — no small feat in a fickle South Florida marketplace. Las Olas' Fork & Balls, the meatball-centric establishment offering a wide range of menu items from homey comfort food to diet-appropriate fare (and, yes, lots of balls) was an instant hit. At the time, New Times called it "another victory" for the team behind popular S3, Tarpon Bend, and YOLO, and Boatyard. For now, there's no explanation for the sudden closure of Fork & Balls, but TRP cofounder Tim Petrillo has assured us he's already planning to bring an all-new concept to the space in 2017.

Blue Willy's BBQ impersonator Texas Blue BBQ closed just a few months after opening in the former Blue Willy's BBQ space in Pompano Beach.
Blue Willy's BBQ impersonator Texas Blue BBQ closed just a few months after opening in the former Blue Willy's BBQ space in Pompano Beach.
Photo by Nicole Danna

1. Karma's a Bitch, Texas Blue BBQ
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. But, in the restaurant world, trying to pawn your business off as something bigger and better than it really is won't get you far. That was certainly the case for Texas Blue BBQ in Pompano Beach, which tried a brief — but hugely unsuccessful — run posing as its former tenant Blue Willy's BBQ. Just a few months after opening the door in the wake of Blue Willy's move to a new location further south, Texas Blue officially closed its doors (for good, it would appear). Luckily, the real deal barbecue restaurant — owned and operated by pit master Will Banks and beloved for its smoked pastrami Thursday, among other barbecue delicacies — is still operating in its new Oakland Park location a few miles south.

Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram

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