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Set to open in February in the space currently occupied by Kapow Noodle Bar, the restaurant from Sub-Culture Group partners Rodney Mayo, Scott Frielich and Vaughan Dugan will be known simply, gracefully as Penelope.
A decade after blazing a trail as a hip dining destination on the west side of Mizner Park’s Plaza Real, Kapow is moving to a larger space across the street that was once home to Blue Fish and, before that, Rack’s Downtown Eatery and Tavern.
The new Kapow, at 402 Plaza Real, will be more than 5,000 square feet, three times the size of the current restaurant, with a wrap-around indoor-outdoor bar and double the seating capacity.
In slipping into the more intimate space at 431 Plaza Real, Penelope will embrace the diverse influences and mystery of New Orleans.
“It’s definitely not Bourbon Street. We’re trying to bring the sophistication of a Parisian brasserie with the playfulness of and, I guess, the debauchery of the French Quarter,” Dugan says.
Here’s a look at some of the things to look forward to at Penelope.
The debut of Penelope is contingent on opening Kapow in its new location, and Dugan says the original New Year’s Eve target for Kapow 2.0 is looking iffy. Dugan blames familiar villains: Global supply-chain logistics and local permitting procedures, though he credits the city of Boca Raton for innovations that have helped the process.
The Sub-Culture team plans to close the current Kapow on a Friday and open the new restaurant the next day.
“That way we keep generating income for our team right up until the day we close and then open up across the street in the new, fancy digs,” Dugan says. “For Penelope, we’re anticipating that it’s about 45 days of build-out. It’s really just an interior remodel. We should be able to get up and running in about six weeks after we open Kapow.”
Dugan says they haven’t hired a chef yet, but plan to explore “everything New Orleans is famous for.”
“I just got my education and realized it wasn’t just French and Cajun and Creole. There’s a lot of Italian influences, Irish influences, as well. We certainly don’t want to go too far down those roads, but we’ll have everything from shrimp-andouille gumbo, grilled oysters, mussels and escargot, even rabbit and dumplings. Those higher-brow dishes, but also muffuletta, po’ boys, bread pudding …”
Dugan’s wife, Angela, is a well-known craft cocktail creative who runs the bar program at Kapow and other Sub-Culture properties.
Vaughan Dugan says: “Obviously we’re really going to focus on the cocktail menu, incorporate a lot of the French cordials. We’re going to have a wine list that’s specific to that café-style drinking culture of Paris, and that’s where my wife will come in. She does most of the cocktail programs for a lot of our concepts. And her maiden name is Vieux, so she’s got a little French in her as well.”
Sub-Culture Group is working with a local interior-design agency on turning the distinctive look of Kapow into a totally new environment. Dugan calls Rodney Mayo a “creative genius” in such transformations.
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“We want people to walk into this space and not recognize it,” Dugan says, describing the plans as “very vibrant, lots of colors, a lot of fun.”
Like other Sub-Culture properties, sound will be as important as the visual, Dugan says.
“Music is such a big part of all the things we do in this industry. I’m not a chef. We all love food, we all claim that we’re food people, but when we’re conceptualizing these [properties], I think the playlist was almost a start for us,” he says.
“In 10 years of being in the Kapow location, we have kind of a hipster-y music vibe, and the playlist has a lot of songs on it that have been playing for years. The staff hates it because they hear it three times a night, but the interesting part is we have friends that hear a song and say, ‘Aw, this reminds me of Kapow.’ It’s really cool when people make a connection with a song that creates this memory — and it’s your restaurant. We want to do the same thing with Penelope. We want to create something that’s special, that no one’s really done in our area.”