The Bone-In Ribeye at Donovan's meatery.

Restaurants ’21: What’s New, What’s On the Way

While the pandemic has proven to be devastating to many in the local restaurant scene, others have pushed forward. Here are some of the intrepid chefs and restaurateurs whose readiness to open new places is acting as a guiding light back to normalcy. 


Donovan’s Dirty Martini w. Blue Cheese & Prime Rib-Stuffed Olives.

The Datz Restaurant Group has opened two new restaurants in Riverview: donovan’s Meatery (11206 Sullivan St.) as well as another Datz location at 6264 Winthrop Town Centre Avenue.

Datz Group founders Roger and Suzanne Perry decorated their latest project with repurposed woods, polished concrete, antique accents and upcycled furniture to create a laid-back, sustainable vibe. Named after Roger’s father, donovan’s is inspired by his childhood on the family farm in rural Ohio. 

“Folks will find meat and potatoes in every way imaginable,” Suzanne said — from certified Angus beef to American Wagyu to bacon steaks. She also recommends the edible tallow candle from the starter menu; side dishes like the cauliflower alfredo and lobster mac and cheese; and for dessert, the bourbon chocolate cake.

The edible candle made from beef tallow melts as it burns.

Wash it all down with your choice of beer or wine, or try something a little more adventurous from the cocktail menu designed by Dean Hurst, like the Steakhouse Martini garnished with an olive stuffed with blue cheese and smoked prime rib. 


Classic guac at JoToro.

Over at Channelside’s Sparkman Wharf, Michelin star chef Joe Isidori has debuted his Mexican restaurant, JoToro. The full-service, 220-seat establishment is dressed with rustic, industrial-chic decor, offering both indoor and covered outdoor seating options.

A major draw is the drink menu, comprised of hand-shaken cocktails, craft-batched margaritas, and tequila flights. Chef Isidori describes JoToro as a casual upscale restaurant with a hip-hop-meets-mariachi soundtrack. 

A JoToro margarita with a Mexican sugar skull mural in the background.

“From my first visit to Tampa, I could feel a vibe all around the city,” says Idisori. “From the ethnic eateries and shops to the fresh seafood markets, from its culinary history to its present-day dining trends, Tampa’s food scene is on the verge of exploding. I knew I wanted to be part of it. This city pulses with life and that fits this kid from New York City like glove,” shared the decorated chef. 


Chef Jeffrey Jew of Lingr.

On the horizon, we look forward to a number of new restaurants in 2021, including celebrity chef Jeffrey Jew’s first solo venture, Lingr on 6th St, located at 400 6th St. S. in St. Petersburg. Lingr’s menu consists of Nordic and Asian-inspired dishes with an emphasis on utilizing locally sourced ingredients for breakfast, lunch and dinner service. The Bravo Top Chef competitor has designed Lingr to be a casual fine dining neighborhood experience for all. Initially targeting a 2020 opening, Jew has used his time during the pandemic to revise his original plans for the restaurant with health and safety in mind. 

Plated and ready at Lingr.

“This is a new day for restaurants. I stay up at night knowing how lucky I am because I wasn’t open when the pandemic hit our country, but I took advantage of that time by researching and exploring everything I could on how to be a safe, inviting, and healthy place to dine and work,” explained Jew.  

That means installing HVAC system equipped with UV lights and HEPA filters. Upon opening, Lingr will utilize contactless payments, tableside ordering, and new sanitation methods for added safety measures for both staff and guests. Jew also made the decision to move most of the seating outside, for diners who aren’t yet comfortable dining indoors or those just looking to get a side of sunshine with their meal. 


The garden at Two Graces.

Speaking of outdoor dining, the forthcoming Two Graces is revolutionizing the concept by building three transparent pergolas for groups of all sizes, alongside indoor seating options for guests.

Chef Marlin Kaplan and Lisa Masterson of Grace Restaurant in St. Pete Beach are taking over the former Reading Room space at 6001 Central Ave. in St. Pete. The enclosed pergolas will be laced with misters and heaters to allow for dining in all four seasons.

Bright colors animate the Two Graces interior.

The Two Graces kitchen is home to a wood-burning pizza oven, churning out a variety of pies as well as pasta dishes with ingredients sourced from its on-site garden. The upscale restaurant can be a date-night destination or a nightcap layover thanks to a full bar of wine, beer and spirits.


Whether you’re ready to make a reservation or would rather opt for to-go, these new restaurants and bars — some of them already open, some slated for next year — will be ready to take your order.


The Ember Lounge rooftop bar at the Cambria Hotel in Madeira Beach.

Bar Chica. This “hidden” bar is a little tricky to find, being that it’s tucked inside of Bodega. The cocktail menu is heavy with rum-based drinks, while the food menu offers a variety of shareable options like wings, sliders, and hummus. The dimly lit digs offer up an intimate setting for couples as well as adventurous foodies. 1180 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, @thebarchica on Instagram.

Chuck Lager American Tavern. Celebrity chef Fabio Viviani is bringing his Chuck Lager brand to The Shops at Wiregrass. The kitchen churns out from-scratch dishes like salmon risotto and the Top Chef competitor’s signature meatloaf. 2001 Piazza Ave. Suite 175, Wesley Chapel,

Ember Lounge. The rooftop bar sits at the tip of the five-story Cambria Hotel. Ember offers panoramic Gulf coast views as well an infinity pool with cabanas. Drinks range from wine and beer to tropical cocktails. The food menu accommodates any appetite with options like scallops, boneless wings, flatbreads and sandwiches. 15015 Madeira Way, Madeira Beach,

Hotel Haya. The new hotel hosts three food concepts: Café Quiquiriqui, upscale restaurant Flor Fina and the Haya Pool Bar. Hotel Haya describes its vibe as “Old Ybor City charm meets modern flair.” 1412 E. 7th Ave, Ybor City,

Social Roost Kitchen and Bar. Initially scheduled to open in fall 2019, the upscale restaurant’s menu focuses on globally inspired chicken dishes. Social Roost gives off posh vibes near Beach Drive, and is a good bet for a drink and a bite on a cool night in downtown St. Pete. 150 1st Ave. N., St. Petersburg,

Sweet corn fritters and roasted Shishito peppers at Hotel Haya. Photo: Amy Pezzicara.


Central Park. The three-story food mecca in the former home of the Dome Grill is set to offer a variety of cuisines throughout its 24,000-square-foot space. The first floor hosts a food hall, the second will be home to award-winning Speaks Clam Bar, and the third level will consist of a rooftop dining concept by chef and restaurateur Natalia Levey. 561 Central Ave. N., St. Petersburg. 

LALA. With plans to open this month, the karaoke bar and restaurant is connected to Grand Central Brewhouse in St. Pete. LALA hosts seven private karaoke rooms to give your crew an intimate night out while sharing small plates and sipping craft cocktails. You can also escape to the outdoor patio or rooftop bar for fresh air after belting out your favorite tunes. 2324 Central Ave., St. Petersburg,

Sal Y Mar. Scheduled to debut in February, the rooftop bar is set to host 360-degree views of the Bay area. The full bar serves wine, beer and a lineup of cocktails to complement a menu of tapas from the kitchen. You can get your sips with a view from floor-to-ceiling windows inside the bar dressed with Mayan-inspired decor or opt for outdoor seating as weather permits. 3650 Midtown Dr., Tampa.