Food Network Star To Open New Fort Lauderdale Restaurant

Native Realty, led by Jaime Sturgis, brokered a lease that brings an exciting new concept from acclaimed chef and restaurateur Nikol Zarbalas to the city’s Gateway Shopping District. The Food Network star is opening a brand-new restaurant at the property, named The Food Republic – Chef Zarbalas’ elevated take on a northeast style diner with an evolving menu and “blue plate” specials.

Sturgis represented the landlord, while Jeremiah and Sarah Adler of Native represented the tenant.

Zarbalas, owner of Hellenic Republic in Coral Springs, leased 1,500 square feet at 1910 E. Sunrise Blvd. The 50-seat restaurant with outdoor seating at Gateway Shopping District will feature the cuisine that Guy Fieri lauded as “the best Greek food” he’s ever tasted in a 2023 “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” episode. In April 2024, Zarbalas competed in an episode of Fieri’s “Guy’s Grocery Games” show.

A Coral Springs resident and mother of five, Zarbalas has operated Hellenic Republic since 2019. The restaurant is perhaps best known for its signature lamb burger and kataifi fried shrimp served over traxana (Greek grits).

For Native, attracting a prominent chef like Zarbalas underscores its long-term efforts overseeing the adaptive re-use and curation of Gateway Shopping District.

“Our vision to transform a property that had languished for several decades into a bustling shopping and dining destination is coming to fruition,” Sturgis said. “Gateway Shopping District now boasts a compelling line-up of cool experiential retailers and diverse food-and-beverage operators that draw area residents, visitors and professionals. Chef Nikol’s arrival is a shining endorsement of our successful placemaking campaign for this unique property.”

Located in the Victoria Park neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale, Gateway Shopping District was originally Jungle Zoo in 1940 and later went through redevelopments into a supermarket, big-box retail center and boutique neighborhood plaza. It had accumulated significant deferred maintenance by early 2020, when Native was retained to breathe life back into the property through extensive improvements and tenant curation.

The rehab program included the addition of new roofs, windows, doors, fixtures, flooring, painting, facades and much more. Native enlisted commissioned several different artists to create exterior murals with the shared theme of “urban oasis/concrete jungle” in a nod to the property’s past life as Jungle Zoo. Outdoor courtyards were added for restaurant tenants to encourage al fresco dining.

Native’s campaign boosted occupancy from 50% to over 95%. The firm is set to announce several additional exciting leases at the property in the coming weeks.




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