When Hot & Soul's husband-and-wife owners, Mike Hampton and Christy Samoy, moved to South Florida, "I didn't know anything about Fort Lauderdale," Hampton says. "I'd never heard of Las Olas, and we'd been to Miami once on vacation."
The expense of living and running a restaurant in San Diego had become too much. Samoy had grown up in Central Florida, and the two had met at Florida State University. In 2011, they packed up their car and cats and hit the road. "We just sort of sat down and said, 'Lets go for it,' " Hampton remembers. They considered Miami but decided there was more opportunity to break in farther north.
Be glad it worked out that way. Crowds have already started making their way to the 50-seat restaurant in a strip mall at North Federal Highway and Oakland Park Boulevard near Culture Room, and the couple's beer-pairing dinners have sold out. They serve dinner five nights a week and brunch on Sunday in a simple space with a communal table and local art on the walls. The one-page menu is as much the story of their lives as it is the bill of fare.
"A lot of these items are things we've been doing for years," Samoy says. "It's kind of like our 'best of' menu."
The spicy, salty, meaty Gumbo Yumbo is a flashback to days spent in New Orleans at culinary school. The stew is brimming with chunks of andouille sausage and bits of ham hock. As The Daily Show With Jon Stewart plays on the television, the stew's spicy red-brown broth builds to pleasant burn but never slows you down.
Chicken adobo comes from Samoy, a full-blooded Filipino. A moist chicken thigh is coated with an intensely flavored sauce that mixes soy, vinegar, garlic, and brown sugar and is served over jasmine rice. Logic may tell you a classic Filipino dish might fare better on the West Coast, but after three years in South Florida, Samoy and Hampton are convinced this is the place they belong.
"When we first moved here, I thought we made a mistake," Hampton says. It wasn't until he found his way to Laser Wolf, a popular craft beer bar, that he started feeling at home. "It was one of those places where I walked in and I felt like I'd been going there for years."