Mark Falsetto can recite the now-familiar numbers, the breakdown on the 2,000 new residential units that are on the books for downtown Fort Lauderdale, and their potential to invigorate the area’s cultural and commercial future.
But the owner of downtown’s newest restaurant and nightspot is just as interested in looking backward as he opens Himmarshee Public House this weekend.
Falsetto has used a new coat of paint to highlight the nostalgic lines of the old building that takes up the north side of the 200 block of historic Southwest Second Street, and he found an evocative Fort Lauderdale Historical Society photograph of the structure, which he’ll give prominent display in a room that also features a 300-inch LED TV. And, of course, his nod to the past is right there in the name.
In the tug of war between downtown’s new upscale pubs, Falsetto's bid to bring a classier crowd back to Himmarshee has history on its side.
“We’re sitting in the historic Himmarshee Village, the entertainment district of downtown, so we wanted to use the Himmarshee name. It means a lot to me,” says Falsetto, 34, a South Florida resident for nearly two decades. “And we’re in the heart of it all.”
No one is naming the other names, but Himmarshee Public House, which Falsetto calls “a sporting lounge,” will jump into a competition among other recently opened downtown spots that also tout curated craft beer, an upscale pub menu and a stylish vibe. They include American Social and the Royal Pig on Las Olas Boulevard and Tap 42 on Andrews Avenue. All fine places, but none (including Tap 42, which silenced any echoes of Ella Fitzgerald when it remodeled the historic Brownie’s nightclub) has the nostalgic pedigree of the Himmarshee District.
Recent history has not been kind to the space at 201 SW Second St., which has been home to a motley parade of gloomy restaurants, dance clubs and bars (including Porterhouse, Bourbon on Second and The Office Pub), all seemingly cursed despite the prime location.
None of that is news to Falsetto, who owns the popular, foodie-oriented burger joint Rok Brgr across the street. But Himmarshee Public House looks like a winner.
Ditching the lacquered-mahogany pub cliches, Falsetto's team has created a bright, open and sophisticated space, with ash-gray walls punctuated by plenty of new windows, and white-washed wood floors. It is a pristine setting for the “global comfort food” that Falsetto will offer, including tapas ($9 candied bacon to $14 lobster nachos), salads, sandwiches ($13 burger to $12.50 turkey and brie panini) and “street tacos,” as well as after-5 p.m. main plates (such as a 16-ounce Suwannee Farms ribeye, $34).
The large bar in the center of the room is bricked with plasma TVs overhead, and the 300-inch LED is visible in the back (a VIP area), but there are plenty of tables available where screens do not distract, many of them offering seating on the luxurious butterscotch leather banquettes that line some walls.
Falsetto hopes to appeal to business lunchers, sports fans, the young cocktail crowd (a DJ begins at 11 p.m. and a late menu will be offered until 2 a.m.) as well as the pre- and post-event Broward Center audience.
“Public House has something for … all demographics. I even put root beer on tap for the children,” he says.
Himmarshee Public House is scheduled to debut at 5 p.m. Friday, but will be open to the public at 10 p.m. Thursday, after a private event ends. Just about the time that crowds will be leaving Florida’s Grand Opera’s buzzed-about production of “Mourning Becomes Electra” down the street at the Broward Center.
For more information, call 954-616-5275 or go to Facebook.com/PublicHouseFTL.