Kapow! replacing Longboards in downtown West Palm Beach

Updated Sept. 1
Longboards, the surf-themed restaurant and bar in downtown West Palm Beach, closed unexpectedly this week after five years of serving up fresh seafood and good vibes to the 500 block of Clematis Street. In its place, according to reliable sources, the veteran restaurateurs who own the building and neighboring Hullabaloo restaurant plan to open a second location of their successful Asian street-food concept, Kapow!

The Longboards closing announcement posted on Facebook.
The Longboards closing announcement posted on Facebook.

A message posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page by the Sub-Culture Group says the owners “decided to close this chapter with Longboards and bring you another new, exciting concept to be unveiled soon.” According to reliable sources, however, the restaurant going into 519 Clematis St. won’t be entirely unique. Look for a new, expanded outpost of Kapow! Noodle Bar, a mainstay in Boca Raton’s Mizner Park since late 2011.
* Official sites: Longboards on Facebook | Sub-Culture.org
* Related: Goodbye Grub: Longboards closes on Clematis Street (The Palm Beach Post)
Aug. 9 update: Longboards closes to become second Kapow! location (New Times)
Sept. 1 update: Follow the progress on the Kapow WPB Facebook page

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Sub-Culture Group honcho Rodney Mayo has been considering bringing Kapow! to Clematis Street since at least May 2012, when he was planning the opening of Hullabaloo (see story). The cozy artisan food and craft cocktail den, which launched just to the east of Longboards at 517 Clematis St. in January 2013, has been a smash success for the owners and chef Fritz Cassel. Hullabaloo has won numerous awards, acclaim, and high-profile exposure thanks to cheerleaders such as Emeril Lagasse, who featured the cutting-edge eatery on Emeril’s Florida on the Cooking Channel.
Atomic Grog past coverage
* Hullabaloo brings inventive craft cocktails to Clematis Street

 Longboards operated as a surf-themed restaurant and bar in downtown West Palm Beach from July 2011 through July 2016. (Facebook photo)
Longboards operated as a surf-themed restaurant and bar in downtown West Palm Beach from July 2011 through July 2016. (Facebook photo)

Longboards, by comparison, was a disappointment. While it was immaculately themed to surf culture and featured fresh seafood and an inviting atmosphere, the restaurant never caught on in a big way. When we visited last Thursday evening, less than a week before it closed its doors, it was nearly empty while Hullabaloo was bustling with diners and Clematis club crawlers happily consuming the creative food and high-end spirits. We sampled some impressive Tiki cocktails recently added to the Longboards menu, but the writing was apparently already on the wall.

With a much larger footprint (nearly 4,000 square feet, compared to Hullabaloo’s 1,700), Longboards had an uphill struggle with a lower-priced menu and a niche (seafood and a beachy theme) that could be attached to many other area eateries. Not that Mayo and his team didn’t find much success and high points over the past five years. Opening on July Fourth weekend in 2011, Longboards took over the long-vacant room that many old-timers and local music fans will remember as the site of Ray’s Downtown Blues bar from 1995 to 2007.
Atomic Grog past coverage
* Clematis Street rides a new wave with the opening of LongBoards
* Surf’s up: The story behind LongBoards

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Summer of rum: South Florida hotspots give cool spirit a chance to shine

Updated Aug. 16, 2014

Several of the area’s most respected cocktail bars are embracing rum this summer, giving the sometimes maligned spirit its moment in the sun and providing guests with a jolt of bold and sweet flavors to match the season’s sizzling intensity.

Perhaps spurred by the success of the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and a growing respect by mixologoists and serious drinkers, rum is poised to break away from its stereotypical niche and reach a broader audience. It’s the prefect fun summer spirit, and it offers many ways to enjoy its versatility.

See below: Kapow UPDATE | Dada | The Mai-Kai | Miami

Bar Stache welcomes an array of rums, brand mixologists for special events

Don Q rum event at Bar Stache

Bar Stache in Fort Lauderdale is offing the most ambitious summer events, dubbed Rum Takeovers. They kicked off July 9 with a Rhum Clément tasting and drink demo by Nick Nistico. Then on July 23, Ron Zacapa from Guatemala was featured along with artesian cocktails by Brijette De Berardinis. Aug. 6: brought Brugal from the Dominican Republic, presented by Bar Stache mixologist Brian Sassen. On Aug. 13, Freddy Diaz of AlambiQ Mixology in Miami brought some of his signature cocktails featuring Mount Gay Rum, joining brand ambassador Karlene Palmer-McLeod.

These Wednesday night tastings (from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.) feature not only some of the top rum brands in the world, but also include cocktails created by special guest mixologists who will also answer questions about each brand. RSVP to vip@stacheftl.com.

Here’s the current schedule (as of Aug. 16):

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Innovative watering holes fuel rise of craft cocktails in Palm Beach County

The craft cocktail scene in Palm Beach County has come a long way in a very short time. No longer must residents trek south to Fort Lauderdale or Miami to get a wildly creative adult beverage skillfully made by talented mixologists.

Nowhere is this recent explosion more evident than in a list of the Ten Best Bars for Cocktails in Palm Beach County published this week on the food blog Clean Plate Charlie on the Broward/Palm Beach New Times website. Only one of the 10 existed before 2009, a testament to the impact these establishments have had on the local food and drink scene.

The Dead Ringer cocktail (Cruzan Black Strap Rum, Velvet Falernum, fresh lime, Dandelion & Burdock Bitters, plum bitters) at Sweetwater Bar & Grill in Boynton Beach
The Dead Ringer cocktail (Cruzan Black Strap Rum, Velvet Falernum, fresh lime, Dandelion & Burdock Bitters, plum bitters) at Sweetwater Bar & Grill in Boynton Beach. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, June 2013)

While such lists are always subjective, I find myself wholeheartedly agreeing with writer Nicole Danna’s top picks. I’ve been singing the praises of Sweetwater Bar & Grill (No. 1), Kapow! Noodle Bar (No. 2), and Hullabaloo (No. 4) for the past several years.

And I’m eager to check out No. 3 on the list, HMF, which is technically a new venue (est. in late 2012) but is housed in The Breakers, Palm Beach’s historic hotel originally built by railroad pioneer Henry Morrison Flagler (aka “HMF”) in 1896. The grand hotel’s main bar was re-imagined as a swank cocktail den inspired by mid-century style, classic cocktails and delicious small bites (it was featured in an episode of Emeril’s Florida on the Cooking Channel).

The other three joints are a bit more accessible to the Average Joe, but they all offer spectacular food and drinks that are far from pedestrian. Sweetwater, which opened in 2009, remains my second favorite spot in all of South Florida to indulge in those pleasures (trailing only a certain 57-year-old Polynesian palace in Fort Lauderdale). The food menu may be small, but ingredients are always fresh and the dishes decadent and delicious. I can’t get enough of the tacos (pork or fish), sliders (beef or bison) and flatbreads.

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Old and new favorites take home South Florida “Best of” awards

Last week’s special “Best of 2012” issue of Broward / Palm Beach New Times recognized many of the area’s coolest places to eat, drink and hang out after dark. Among the winners are several Atomic Grog favorites worth noting:

Kapow! Noodle Bar in Boca Raton
Kapow! Noodle Bar in Boca Raton. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, December 2011)

“Best New Restaurant” and “Best Happy Hour” in Palm Beach County both went to Kapow! Noodle Bar in Boca Raton, which we reviewed in depth back in December. We loved the craft cocktails and small bites on the inventive menu and have been eager to return ever since. The latest recognition just gives us more reason to move it up on our bucket list.

New Times says the restaurant’s Mizner Park location “is flourishing, thanks in no small part to the challenging but accessible dishes streaming out of the kitchen during a slamming dinner hour and an aesthetic that is simultaneously trendy and unpretentious.” In Kapow’s second award, the alternative weekly praised the menu’s $3 bar bites menu: “These are treats — steamed buns, shishitou peppers, roasted cauliflower — that are well worth full price, drunk or sober. Add to that the cool tunes, hip décor, and energetic crowd and you’ve got a solution to the mystery of how to build a happy hour that doesn’t compromise standards.”

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New downtown West Palm Beach gastropub to feature small bites, craft cocktails

UPDATES
* Hullabaloo brings inventive craft cocktails to Clematis Street
* Hullabaloo to raise a ruckus in downtown West Palm with gastropub food, craft beverages

A new dining and drinking option will soon be emerging on Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach, featuring both delicious, gourmet small plates and high-quality adult beverages.

Next to Longboards (left), the space formerly occupied by The Lounge will soon become Hullabaloo
Next to Longboards (left), the space formerly occupied by The Lounge will soon become Hullabaloo. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Hullabaloo promises “wood-fired grub,” a charcuterie, craft cocktails, and artesian beer. The “coming soon” sign at 517 Clematis beckons you to “drink, eat, raise some ruckus.” When it opens this summer, it will take over the small space adjoining Longboards, formerly occupied by The Lounge.

And there are other exciting plans for the 500 block of Clematis, as we found out last night after touring the future Hullabaloo and talking to owner Rodney Mayo. He and partner Scott Frielich have assembled an impressive portfolio of cutting-edge dining spots (Longboards, Kapow! Noodle Bar, Dada, Tryst, The Dubliner, Howley’s), and Hullabaloo looks to be yet another distinctly original concept. (Mayo’s brother, Michael, will also be on board as a part-owner and manager.)

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Kapow! explodes onto South Florida dining and cocktail scene

Photos: Jump to the gallery
Previous posts: Kapow! in Boca cooks up noodles, cocktails, edgy artwork
Take 5: Artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli

Review by Jim “Hurricane” Hayward

Like the restaurant’s colorful logo inspired by Japanese animation, everything about the new Boca Raton hotspot Kapow! leaps out and grabs your attention. Creativity is running amok at Kapow! in the cocktails and, especially, the food.

Kapow!

It starts with the cutting-edge concept and design of the warm yet elegantly cool space in the trendy Mizner Park dining and shopping district near downtown Boca. This is to be expected considering the ownership dream team of restaurant/nightlife moguls Rodney Mayo and Scott Frielich (The Dubliner, Tryst, Dada, Howley’s, Longboards, et al.) plus eco-conscious trendsetter Vaughan Lazar (Pizza Fusion).

But a cool concept is nothing without execution in the kitchen and behind the bar. Kapow! delivers on both counts, thanks in no small part to the fourth member of the ownership team, executive chef Roy Villacrusis – reigning two-time champion of the Grand Chef Throwdown at the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival.

Pooch poses with his handiwork at Kapow!
Pooch poses with his handiwork at Kapow!

Kapow! noodle bar launched with a VIP tasting on Nov. 22 and a public opening the following day. The menu features a blend of unique “Asiatic” cuisine with a French Vietnamese flair, leaning heavily on fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. Add to this an eclectic selection of hand-crafted cocktails, and it’s a recipe for an exotic dining experience right up The Atomic Grog’s alley.

My wife and I finally got a chance to visit last Sunday, joined by artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli and “Mrs. Pooch.” The dominant feature of the intimate 1,600-square-foot room is the 9-by-28-foot mural made from a Pooch painting that hangs in the back of the restaurant. The Pucciarellis had attended the VIP tasting, but this was their first visit for a sit-down dinner.

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Kapow! in Boca cooks up noodles, cocktails, edgy artwork

Review: Kapow! explodes onto South Florida dining and cocktail scene
Related: Take 5: Artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli

Boca Raton’s trendy Mizner Park may never be the same. Restaurant/nightclub impresarios Rodney Mayo and Scott Frielich have joined forces with Pizza Fusion founder Vaughan Lazar for a fresh concept that combines tasty Asian street food with hand-crafted drinks and a social conscience.

Mayo and Frielich are known for such cutting-edge eateries as Dada, Tryst, The Dubliner, Howley’s, and Longboards. Lazar pioneered the concept of organic and eco-conscious pizza with Pizza Fusion.

Kapow! is inspired by New York City noodle bars featuring communal Asian comfort food with a gastro-style influence.
The menu will feature “fresh and sustainable” pan-Asian noodles and dim sum items plus craft cocktails in a edgy atmosphere. Much of that edge has been provided by South Florida artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli, who painted an incredible mural that spans one entire wall.

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