When asked about the unique bond that connects the communities located south of the Seven Mile Bridge, Chef Paul Kapsalis answers immediately: “We’re bonded by the water.” As soon as you cross the iconic bridge, “you feel like you’re home,” he says.
This connection to the local fishermen and provision providers allows Kapsalis to build a fresh and highly curated menu at South of the Seven that includes coconuts, mangos, papayas and other delectables, supporting main dishes like blue crab-stuffed black grouper, spicy duck wings, swordfish, conch, and Kapsalis’ signature dish: a surf and turf masterpiece with a whole fried fish atop a bed of rice alongside a perfectly cooked, 40-oz. Tomahawk steak.
For Kapsalis, cooking is in the blood. His childhood was spent harvesting vegetables from the family garden and riding with his mother and grandmother to local butcher and produce markets to find ingredients for the Mediterranean feasts they would concoct at home.
His restaurant partner, Kris Kubik, has a similar story. Life in her large Polish family was centered around boisterous gatherings at her mother’s kitchen table, and her father’s love of sweets—and his keen awareness of his daughter’s interest in creating them in the kitchen—encouraged him to shower her with all the tools necessary for her culinary self-education.
But it’s the origin story of South of the Seven itself that’s the sweetest dish. After the Keys were ravaged by Hurricane Irma in the fall of 2017, Paul and Kris spent their weekends driving down from their home in Tampa to help feed families in Sugarloaf Key. They had a thriving restaurant, Green Springs Bistro, back home, but after forming an unbreakable bond with their neighbors to the south, they packed up and made the service permanent, opening South of the Seven in 2019. Today, they and their restaurant are staples in the Sugarloaf community.