Five Restaurants or Bars That Fluffed a Neighborhood

Last week, several commenters questioned the opening of Kapow! Noodle Bar in Boca, an area that's dominated by older folks, so I asked around about it.

Will Boca embrace Kapow once it's open in November? "The Dubliner is the only place in Boca for young people to go," said a colleague. "And it's packed." How well it's received, of course, is to be determined.

The comment and follow up has me wondering to what degree restaurateurs lead transitions in these parts. Do deep pockets (developers), creative concepts, chefs, or visionary restaurateurs/nightlife mavens with a following inspire neighborhood shifts?

In cities where gentrification creeps like moss, gamechangers serve as the creative spark that draws investment which turns a neighborhood around (though sometimes ideas and investments are symbiotic, depending on the economy and circumstance.) 

Over the last few years here in Florida, it seems gamechanging has been glacial affair: Real estate so close to the ocean is also so pricey. The year-round population is lean. There aren't as many universities or jobs, and the economy is significantly less robust than magnet cities. There is little in the way of public transportation.

That said, it seems that there's movement in these parts nevertheless. After the jump, let's look at some restaurants and bars that have signaled a neighborhood turnaround: Whether they're the spark is up for debate in the comments.

5. Himmarshee Bar & Grille.

Now renamed PL8, the anchor restaurant and bar opened fourteen years ago. At its ten year anniversary, critic Gail Shepherd wrote, "When Himmarshee opened in 1997, as we know, that stretch of dirt on SW

Second had been asleep longer than Briar Rose."

4. Respectable Street

Rodney Mayo's 24-year old nightclub was one of the pioneers of Clematis that led to its turnaround from a drug-addled 'hood to a shopper's delight, if you're into that kind of thing.

3. Laser Wolf.

The rise of the artsy beer bar draws a more diverse population to a soulless corner of Lauderdale decorated with Golden Arches and railroad tracks. Its success -coupled with FAT Village's nascent art scene that includes The Bubble- points to a neighborhood in transition. Perhaps we can look to Andrews Ave. from Factory Salon and on in the coming months.

2. Elwood's Dixie Barbecue.

The quirky music venue and barbecue joint that Elwood Gochenour had opened in 1993- in a former gas station near the tracks- sparked the neighborhood's rebirth, according to residents. Reed Fischer's post illuminates how much Delray misses the spirit of Ellwood's and Gochenour, who died in June.

1. Georgie's Alibi.

George Kessinger's move from Sunrise Blvd. to its current location in the late 90's inspired the Wilton Manor renaissance, prompting an influx of residents followed by restaurants and bars that anchored the area as a south Florida gay Mecca.

What says you? Have at it.

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Food Critic
Contact: Melissa McCart