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A decade after first dazzling critics and bringing a youthful buzz to Boca Raton’s Mizner Park, Kapow Noodle Bar is taking its escalating ambitions across the street to a space more than three-times larger.
With a little over 5,000 square feet, a wrap-around indoor-outdoor bar and double the seating capacity, the new Kapow should be open by the end of the year, according to co-founder Vaughan Dugan.
The space, located at 402 Plaza Real, was most recently home to the Japanese bistro Blue Fish, which opened a month before pandemic closures in 2020. Prior to that it was Rack’s Downtown Eatery and Tavern.
“We’ve been sort of busting at the seams for the past few years,” Dugan says of the current location, at 431 Plaza Real. “I think we figured out that we can fit our entire restaurant in the kitchen of the new space.”
Guests at the expanded Kapow will find a menu refreshed with new offerings, among them a selection of sushi and items from a Peking duck oven.
The back of the restaurant will be where the action is — including three private, sound-proof, fully automated karaoke rooms with waitstaff service, and a 10-seat, off-menu omakase bar.
“We’re going to be doing really cool, chef-led dining experiences for our guests, which is new for us and we’re really excited to do,” says Dugan, who is still negotiating with a couple of chefs for the omakase role.
Dugan says he and Sub-Culture Group partners Rodney Mayo and Scott Frielich are bullish on Mizner Park and the post-pandemic South Florida hospitality industry, signing a 10-year lease for the Kapow property, with two five-year extensions.
“So we’re betting on what’s going to happen next year, not next week,” Dugan says. “I do think we’ve turned a corner. We’re obviously very cautious, and optimistic, that hopefully things are gonna turn around for us in the industry.”
Sub-Culture Group still holds its lease on the current Kapow space and is planning another restaurant in its place.
Kapow opened on Nov. 22, 2011, and with next-door sister property the Dubliner created a destination for a certain kind of energetic nightlife atmosphere that has continued to spread along the west side of Plaza Real.
The Mexican eatery Calaveras Cantina recently brought a sexy style, wait lists and patio DJs to the boulevard, and expanding South Florida hot spot American Social is getting ready to open a few steps away. Up the block, sports lounge Strike 10 Bowling is under construction and Subculture Coffee is weeks away from keeping everyone up all night.
As all this going on, Kapow is crossing to the east side of Plaza Real, home to Sur La Table and white-linen restaurants such as Max’s Grille and Villagio, known colloquially as the “old side of the street.”
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Dugan is anxious to blur that line.
“We talk about it all the time. To be quite frank, we made the [west] side of the street what it was. There was literally nothing on [that] side of the street. People thought we were crazy when we opened Dubliner. People thought we were even crazier to open Kapow,” Dugan says. “We’ve got such a phenomenal local following, as long as we do what we do and stay true to what we do, people will walk 100 yards across the park to visit us.”
Dugan also is hopeful the move will encourage visits from older guests who didn’t see a reason to cross the street. In a review of Kapow shortly after it opened, Sun Sentinel dining critic John Tanasychuk hailed it as a restaurant worth seeking out, describing “big-flavored, convivial food you’ll want to share with friends.”
“I think we have been kind of limited and pigeonholed,” Dugan says. “But I often point out what our bar looks like at happy hour on a Friday. Everyone from my 70-year-old mother to the … kid who walks across the street and just got off work waiting tables at Max’s Grille. It’s kind of the best of every demographic, which is hard to find.”
Kapow Noodle Bar is currently located at 431 Plaza Real, Boca Raton. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday. Call 561-347-7322 or visit KapowNoodleBar.com.