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Matchbook Memories: Samba Room

Written By Scott Joseph On November 29, 2021

Samba Room matches

Samba Room was one of the earlier tenants of Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row. It occupied the space where Rocco’s Tacos currently resides and was next door to Timpano, which was an Italian steakhouse of sorts. (Eddie V’s is where Timpano’s building stood.)

Both Samba Room and Timpano were brands of TGI Friday’s parent company, Carlson Worldwide, which eventually sold them to Orlando based E-Brands. E-Brands was eventually acquired by Tavistock Group. Although both chains had several locations, none seem to have survived. (Correction: A Timpano still exists in Tampa’s Hyde Park; h/t Matthew Mervis.) (The Fort Laurderdal Samba Room, which existed for several years after Orlando’s, closed in 2010.)

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Samba Room had a cool “Havana in its heydays” vibe. In my review of 2005, after the sale and a menu tweak, I wrote: “ In my imagination, it’s what the swank clubs of Havana in the ‘40s must have been like. Lighting, décor and music come together in a moody meld that is not so much romantic as it is seductive. The coffered ceiling undulates throughout the large space, sheer drapes may be pulled back to provide a more secluded rendezvous, and throughout the meal the rhythmic beat of Latin music pulses and begs to be danced to.”

I also wondered, in the same review, why the new menu had an appetizer of Thai satay and an entree of Japanese soba noodles.

That sort of menu drift may have led to Samba Room’s eventual demise.

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