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The Eat Beat Dining around South Florida
with Mike Mayo

Fort Lauderdale restaurant closings: Hot & Soul, Market 17

Hot & Soul will serve its last beloved manchego toast on March 15, and Market 17, known for its offbeat dining-in-the-dark program, turned out the lights for good in February. The shuttering of two well-regarded Fort Lauderdale restaurants has left legions of fans reeling as the restaurants’ owners sort out their plans.

“Damn it! Market 17 and now Hot & Soul?!,” Arthur Spooner wrote on Hot & Soul’s Instagram page after the restaurant announced it will be closing this week. “Such a culinary loss to Broward.”

Hot & Soul, an eclectic eatery with a global menu from the well-traveled husband-and-wife team of Mike Hampton and Christy Samoy, opened in spring 2013 to enthusiastic reviews and still had strong business. After losing their longtime sous chef 18 months ago, Samoy said the grind of the restaurant business became increasingly difficult.

“We just need a break,” Samoy says. “We aged more in the last year and a half than the previous 10 years.”

With the restaurant’s lease set to expire at year’s end, she said the couple decided to sell the business, at 3045 N. Federal Highway, and accepted an offer sooner than expected.

“It’s definitely bittersweet,” Samoy says. “We would have liked to have gone a little longer, but the deal came through early.” She says the new owner plans to convert the space to an Italian restaurant and pizzeria.

Market 17 opened in autumn 2010 at Portside Center near Port Everglades, and closed Feb. 25. Sibling restaurateurs Aaron and Kirsta Grauberger touted “farm-to-table” fare before the phrase became clichéd, showcasing seasonal dishes from local farms and purveyors along with an innovative wine list. The restaurant also promoted its “dining in the dark” room, where lights were turned off and customers had to use senses besides sight to figure out what they ate.

A February post on the Market 17 Facebook page reads, “Thank you to everyone for the kindness and support over the last eight years! Our building is being torn down. While we are very sad we have to close, we are also excited for new adventures … We will keep you posted.” The Market 17 website has a banner that reads, “New concept coming early 2019.” I left a phone message for the Graubergers, but did not hear back.

One worker affected by both closings is Nicole Romeo, recently named executive chef at Market 17 after the departure of Lauren DeShields. Romeo also helped out the past 18 months at Hot & Soul, Samoy says, where Romeo worked in the restaurant’s early years.

“I know for most people it’s a shock,” Samoy says.

She says Hot & Soul customers will have a chance over the next three days to say goodbye and eat dishes that have become mainstays at the New Orleans-influenced restaurant, such as gumbo, barbecue shrimp and “gnaughty gnocchi.” The eatery also featured chicken adobo, a nod to Samoy’s Filipino heritage.

Hampton and Samoy met at Florida State University and the couple worked in Boston, New Orleans and San Diego before moving to Fort Lauderdale earlier this decade. Samoy says the couple will travel and rest for a few months before figuring out their next venture. “We don’t have a plan,” she says.

Market 17 and Hot & Soul opened to good reviews and built loyal followings. Hot & Soul was featured on the popular local PBS-Ch. 2 show “Check Please, South Florida” a year ago, but I gave it a lukewarm review last May after being served some suspect shrimp.

Samoy says business remained strong, but the couple felt they had “outgrown” the funky, 55-seat restaurant in the same strip shopping center as the Culture Room music club. “We feel so embedded in the community, it’s not easy to let go,” Hampton and Samoy wrote Monday on the Hot & Soul Facebook page. “Please join us for one last meal in our little, dingy, loud uncomfortable space with the ‘so-called art’ on the walls, the sign on the door charging $3 to use the restroom and no substitutions.”

mmayo@southflorida.com, 954-356-4508. Follow my food adventures on Instagram: @mikemayoeats. Sign up for my weekly dining newsletter at SouthFlorida.com/EatBeatMail.

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