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Tap 42 Craft Kitchen & Bar is making a leap to Florida’s Gulf Coast to replace AZN Azian Cuizine, which closed Saturday night after operating for nearly 15 years at Mercato in North Naples.  

Expect Tap 42, a popular restaurant and bar concept in the Fort Lauderdale and Miami area, to open next spring in the 9118 Strada Place space beneath Mercato’s movie cinema, which is transitioning from Silverspot to Alamo Drafthouse. Tap 42, privately owned and operated by Tapco Restaurant Group, based in Bal Harbour, closed the deal Monday morning to assume the vacated 6,600-square-foot space from North American Properties, responsible for leasing and property management at Mercato.  

Tapco’s goal is to open Tap 42 at Mercato in April or May. The North Naples address will be the 11th location of Tap 42, following its 10th set to open next month in Palm Beach Gardens. The Mercato venue will be the first Tap 42 location that’s not on the east coast of Florida.  

“This is our first kind of leap into these waters, so we’re very excited about it,” said Alex Rudolph, partner and executive vice president of Tapco Restaurant Group. “I think it makes a lot of sense for us. I think it’s encouraging. We’ve watched Naples grow throughout the last couple of years, specifically. And I think it’s kind of the perfect market for us.”  

Similar to how Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila Bar expanded its east coast brand to Mercato and the west coast of Florida in 2019, Tapco plans to eventually open other Tap 42 locations along the Gulf Coast, Rudolph said.  

“For now, we’re going to just try to make Naples the best store it can be,” he said. “We’ve always had our eyes on Mercato, specifically. We always kind of felt like it was the best center in Naples, and we think we also got one of the best sites in Mercato. So, we’ve been holding out for this one and we’re excited about it.”  

The Naples market has been on Tapco’s radar for about five years. It has been patiently waiting for the right space and opportunity, Rudolph said.   

“We’re a privately owned company, so we kind of do things on our terms. We’re not trying to meet like a development quota. We’re really trying to sit back and think what we think is the best for our brand. So, we were able to just kind of take our time,” he said.  

So, they were ready when they found out AZN founders Raymond and Anna Hsu were going to retire.   

“I had been to Mercato a couple of times, and I knew the space and obviously, you know, the location of it in Mercato, and then Mercato, specifically, made a lot of sense,” Rudolph said. “We were really excited about it and felt like we had to jump at the opportunity.”  

The timing seems right for the maturing hospitality brand to expand to the Naples area.  

“I think the good thing about Tap 42 is that we’ve continued to kind of evolve,” Rudolph said. “We’ve been in business since 2011, and I think we’ve changed from our original Fort Lauderdale exclusive days from being more of a craft beer bar, and now we’re much more of a casual, upscale American restaurant. We obviously still have beer, but it’s certainly not necessarily the focal point of our business anymore.”  

The design of the concept’s space has graduated over time as well, Rudolph said.  

“We’re, obviously, still going to have a huge bar,” he said. “We’re going to be gutting the whole space. We’re going to be putting in a really big, expansive bar. We want to make sure that we’re still going to have kind of the lively atmosphere that we’re known for.”  

Lively may be an understatement on the weekends. Tap 42 has especially become popular for its big bottomless brunches, which feature $30 all-you-can-drink Bloody Marys, mimosas and Funky Buddha beer from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. A live disc jockey for Sunday brunches helps create a weekend party atmosphere, Rudolph said.  

“We’ve kind of established ourselves as the brunch kings of South Florida over the years. It’s just something that’s kind of evolved into a huge part of our business,” he said. “It’s funny because there are certain people who kind of know us exclusively for our brunch, which can definitely be a little bit more of a party-type atmosphere. But I would say outside of brunch, it’s not necessarily a party-type atmosphere, so we kind of have two different clienteles and actually probably more than that in terms of people who come for our business lunches, and we have an unbelievable salad program.”  

Another menu standout is Tap 42’s barbecue baby back ribs. “One of our most underrated items is our ribs. I think we have the best ribs in South Florida, so I hope we’ll have the best ribs in Naples, as well,” Rudolph said.  

Tap 42’s menu is designed to have something for everybody, Rudolph said.  

“We have a very diverse menu,” he said. “Our Crispy Asian Calamari Tower is one of our best sellers; Truffle Street Corn Guacamole, Spicy Salmon Crispy Rice—those are some of our most popular appetizers. Our Truffle Filet Steak Sandwich is one of my favorites. The Grilled Salmon Zen Bowl, which is a grilled salmon over pan-fried rice with truffle miso glaze—that was kind of the dish that put us on the culinary map originally.”  

The clientele attracted to Tap 42 also is diverse as far as generations go.  

“I think what’s great about Tap is that the demographic really ranges from 19 to 99. I truly mean that because, obviously for brunch and for our weekend brunches, that’s going to be certainly more of a younger clientele. But for lunches, dinners, we get everybody across the board,” Rudolph said. “We like to consider ourselves a category killer, because we’re more upscale than a sports bar, like a Flanagan’s, for example, but we’re not at the fine-dining levels of like a Hillstone, for example. But our price point’s obviously not there either. We’re different things for different people. I think for a large segment of the population, we’re their big night out, and they’re getting dressed up for a night out. And then for a large segment of population, we’re their chill kind of hangout—have a burger and a beer and watch a sports game.” 

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