Gossip, gauchos, guacamole: The Tampa restaurant scene heats up
Bar Asia Tampa
A chic new Asian fusion spot in SoHo serving variations on the cuisines of Vietnam, Korea, and China, including sushi, banh mi and tacos (that’s where the fusion comes in). Tasty frozen cocktails, too. 122 S. Howard Ave., Tampa, barasiatampa.com.
Chismis & Co at Armature Works
Is Filipino food the next big thing? Anthony Bourdain (R.I.P.) predicted as much, and now Tampa Bay gets its first mainstream Filipino restaurant with Chismis & Co, a new stall inside the buzzy Armature Works complex in Tampa Heights. Chismis means “gossip,” we hear — so the owners no doubt expect to hear some enthusiastic gossip about their menu, which features Filipino favorites like lumpia, arroz caldo, chicken adobo, longganisa, turon and ensaymada. 1910 N. Ola Ave, Tampa, Instagram @chismisandco.
Hooch and Hive
Billed as the University of Tampa area’s first “hive bar” (as opposed to dive bar, get it?), it’s a honey of a concept, with a menu featuring dishes and drinks infused with honey, plus heavyweight advisors like cocktail guru Kamran Mir. Live music, too. 1001 Cass St., Tampa. Look for Hooch and Hive on Facebook.
Main Course Tampa
Their July 4 opening celebration reputedly sold out, maybe because the food looks so tasty on Instagram: burgers, wings, fries, shakes, seafood, and what the restaurant calls “the best shrimp and grits in town.” Plus, brunch favorites like chicken and waffles every Saturday/Sunday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. 2139 W Main St., Tampa. Instagram @maincoursetampa.
Prost Kitchen + Bar
“Prost” is a traditional German toast, but Prost is not a traditional German restaurant, what with dishes like Italian arancini and Hungarian goulash on the menu. But there’s also potato pancakes, sausage platters and Jagerschnitzel, plus lots of beer, German and otherwise. 2802 E. Bearss Ave., Tampa, prostkitchen.com.
Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar
Rocco’s opened with a bang earlier this year in the former home of Blue Martini on International Plaza’s Bay Street, bringing Tampa a lively outpost of the popular West Palm Beach-based chain. Claims to fame include more than 300 varieties of tequila, house-made tortillas, tableside guac and good, fresh Mexican food. 2223 N. Westshore Blvd., Tampa. roccostacos.com.
Creative Loafing’s restaurant critic called Steelbach “easily the crown jewel of Armature Works,” and we can’t disagree. The steak alone is worth a visit, up there with the best in town, but there’s also the popovers, and the sausages, and the cocktails, and the hummingbird cake — we could go on and on. But we won’t. Just go. 1902 N. Ola Ave., Tampa, steelbach.com.
Carnivores, rejoice! Terra Gaucha is a churrascaria-style Brazilian steakhouse, where “Gaucho chefs” select, butcher, season and cook skewers of beef, lamb, pork, chicken and seafood (yes, pescatarians have a home here, too), then personally carve and present their handiwork tableside. There’s a serve-yourself salad bar, too, and Caipirinhas made from scratch. 1108 S. Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, terragaucha.net.
WTR Pool & Grill
The Courtney Campbell gets a touch of South Beach with this addition to the Godfrey Hotel & Cabanas, with a new menu featuring fresh seafood and American fusion plus a “poolside menu.” Guests are welcome to patronize the outdoor bars or lounge in the 20-foot hot tub or 16 private cabanas. 7700 W. Courtney Campbell Causeway, Tampa, godfreyhoteltampa.com.
And there’s this: The St. Pete/Seminole Heights Exchange
The Heights’ much-beloved Ichicoro Ramen opened an outpost last year in St. Pete that had ‘Burgers slurping with joy. Now St. Pete returns the favor. Two of the town’s most iconic spots, Bodega (home of the best Cuban sandwich in Tampa Bay, sorry no arguments) and Mandarin Hide (the craft cocktail pioneers — see our A to Z list) are partnering to bring their deliciousness to Seminole Heights. The site is the atmospheric indoor-outdoor complex that once housed the restaurant staple Viva La Frida, across the street from the new home of The Refinery (in the former Fodder & Shine). Mandarin Heights and Bodega Seminole Heights are looking at a summer opening; stay tuned. 901 N Florida Ave., Tampa.
Mighty Oaks, Fresh Fish: Cool culinary ideas in Pinellas
Baytenders Oyster Bar & Steamer
Oysters — raw, fried, Rockefeller — are the stars in a casual seafood restaurant opened by the folks behind I.C. Sharks. Fresh-caught local fish, a smoky mahi spread and plenty of indoor/outdoor seating are among the other lures. 4400 Fourth St. N., St. Petersburg, baytenders.com.
Daydreamers Cafe & Grill
A breakfast/brunch/lunch destination in the former home of Cello’s Charhouse in Safety Harbor, Daydreamers delivers creative (and tasty) variations on brunch favorites, like womelettes (an omelette crossed with a waffle) and mini pancake/cupcakes. Good lunch options, too. 143 Seventh Ave. N., Safety Harbor, daydreamerscafeandgrill.com.
Ford’s Garage/Yeoman’s Cask & Lion
“The special relationship” between the U.S. and the UK is in full effect in the former home of the Rowdies Den. Ford’s is all about 1920s automotive nostalgia, with big burgers and towers of onion rings; neighboring Yeoman’s is a celebration of all things Brit, from bangers and mash to Queen Liz. Thanks to synergy (and World Cup aficionados), the corner of 1st & 2nd has become St. Pete’s newest party spot. 200 1st Ave. S., St. Petersburg. @fordsgaragestpete @yeomansstpete.
Grand Hacienda Mexican Cuisine
The second location of the popular St. Pete Beach restaurant makes for a busy new addition to the city’s burgeoning Mexican restaurant scene. Located in upscale environs at the corner of 4th St. and 11th Ave., GH serves all your favorites, from tacos to burritos, carnitas to chimichangas. 399 11th Ave. N., St. Petersburg, hmexrestaurant.com.
Iron Oak New American BBQ
The talented team that has made such a success of The Black Pearl and The Living Room on Main in Dunedin have brought their skills to Palm Harbor, opening a new BBQ spot in the former home of Catcher and the Rye. Chef Christopher Artrip will likely cook up some inspired ’cue; we already hear tempting things about his brisket sandwich. 917 11th St., Palm Harbor, facebook.com/ironoakbbq.
Oak & Stone
The St. Pete outpost of a Sarasota favorite had its grand opening on July 9 on a newly enlivened corner — opposite The James Museum (and the future site of Datz, St. Pete) and part of the same block as the new Hyatt Place hotel and the ONE St. Petersburg condos. Expect artisan pizzas, craft beers on tap, 20 large flat-screen TVs, and hearty bar foods like Philly cheesesteak eggrolls and crispy Gulf grouper BLT. 199 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, oakandstone.com.
The Vinoy opened up what is arguably the best restaurant vista in downtown St. Pete when it built this casual-dining delight just beyond the hotel’s pool. A short flight of steps up from Fifth Ave NE, it faces the marina across the street and the St. Pete skyline beyond, and the food is just as stellar as the view, including a fantastic shrimp toast with avocado, delicious brisket and biscuits, a seafood roast and finely rendered cocktails. Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, 501 Fifth Ave. NE, St. Petersburg, marriott.com.
Those busy folks from Mandarin Hide went fishing for a new restaurant idea and came up with… fish! As in a menu that changes daily according to the local catch and Thursday-Sunday opening hours so there’s time to reel in dinner specials the rest of the week. And as it’s from the Mandarin crew, expect interesting cocktails, too — so-called “boat drinks” with names like Fin & Tonic and Gone Fishin’. This fresh new addition to the Grand Central District opened June 1. 2060 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, trophyfishstpete.com.