The sizzle of Summer not only pairs well with a dip in the pool – it also sets the perfect scene for adventuring to new Tampa Bay area eateries! Dive into these new spots and you could be refreshing your list of favorite local bites.
4945 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach
Chef Nicola Karvelas brings his Greek and New York experience to St. Pete Beach, in a coastal modern way. The restaurant’s artful interior pairs well with perfectly plated land and sea menu options. A seamless starter is the super simple, yet scrumptious, grilled octopus—made with olive oil, onions, red wine vinegar, capers and oregano. As for entrées, Selene offers delicious plates including their fettuccini with shrimp, made with a unique creamy curry sauce with garlic, cherry tomatoes and parsley. For dessert, try their poached pears or chilled mixed berries soup. Selene offers beautiful brunch options outside of their regular menu, served from 11am to 3pm on weekends. Perhaps you’ll want to give the pistachio pancakes a taste?
Bel Mar Saloon
3501 S Manhattan Ave., Tampa
Located in South Tampa, Bel Mar Saloon is the perfect spot to relax and watch a game. This is one of the more social and low-key restaurants on the list, but don’t let it fool you; the food and service are exceptional! The menu feels very “American casual” with options like their pressed grilled cheese with bacon—containing a perfectly gooey mix of gouda, cheddar, parmesan and American cheeses. Bel Mar Saloon offers both indoor and outdoor seating, with heaters for those cooler nights. They also have a great selection of draft and bottled beers, in addition to wines by the glass.
O Cocina & Flights
4110 Henderson Blvd., Tampa
Owner Andrew “Bear” Galavas opened the well-received O Cocina & Flights (or what he’d like to be known as “O”), with no attention to detail lost. Architects Cooper, Johnson and Smith alongside interior designer Rob Bowen created a modern, yet warm, atmosphere. Encapsulating the bar area is a handsome wall of succulents that reaches up the ceiling into the dining area. The fresh, vibrant and clean interior pairs well with the non-thematic upscale Mexican fusion menu. Try the ahi tuna ceviche—fresh ahi tuna with coconut, charred pineapple, Serrano chiles, mint and lime. For entrees, a house favorite is the carne asada, a beautiful plated marinated sirloin sliced thinly and paired with a vibrant chimichurri and warm watercress salad. Also be sure to try bartender Sean O’Donnell’s truly spectacular custom cocktails. Looking to host a special event? They also have a private dining room that accommodates you and 22 of your closest friends comfortably.
Miguelitos Taqueria Y Tequilas
2702 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa
Tampa welcomes Miguelitos Taqueria Y Tequila to the neighborhood. Its contemporary design is eye-catching and makes for an enjoyable place to eat. The upscale Tex-Mex restaurant’s ambiance makes casual to dressier attire acceptable, with indoor/outdoor choices and bar area seating with a warm glowing backlit counter. The menu is equally as flexible, with full meal selections or smaller plates for sharing. For those who like a little kick to their food (or if you’re just looking for adventure) there are several heat-packed choices such as the fried chicken taco or the “Surf Y Turf” burrito—both come with house habanero ranch. Other notable (and not so spicy) selections include their pork belly torta, BLT taco, and goat cheese deviled eggs. For those who wish to imbibe, not only do they have marvelous margaritas—they also have ice cold tequila on draft!
923 Central Ave., St. Petersburg
Located on hip and bustling Central Avenue, Pizza Box is a welcome new addition as they have mastered the art of the wood-fired pizza. Don’t expect a vast menu with major options—instead you’ll find a tailored and simple menu where any choice is a winner. Their advantage lies in their massive French oven, which contains a natural clay cooking surface. We recommend that you start with their Margherita pizza—it highlights their brilliant tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and soft (but perfectly chewy) crust. Be sure to eat your pizza immediately, as owner Kelley Duff says it always tastes best right out of the oven. If you still have room, you MUST try the desert pizza. The marriage of honey whipped mascarpone cheese, fresh fruit and a warm caramel drizzle is the perfect culmination of a great dinner.
Hawkers Asian Street Fare
1235 Central Ave., St. Petersburg
Many have eagerly watched the massive construction progress along Central Avenue’s “Edge District” and were thrilled to see Hawkers’ doors open on March 15th. Co-owner Kaleb Harrell is thrilled to have opened their third location in the Tampa Bay area (with two others in Orlando and Jacksonville) and to be part of the local community’s continued revitalization. The restaurant’s hip and open concept perfectly complements its Asian street food fare, where it is encouraged to share small plates with your table. Pulling inspiration (and family recipes) from visits to countries like Malaysia, Vietnam and China, Hawkers’ menu ranges from familiar dishes like Pad Thai to the less familiar ones like delicious black bean cod. The St. Petersburg location is also the first to offer a specialty cocktail menu, with specialties like turmeric infused syrups. Give the Malaysian Mule and 5 Spiced Old Fashioned a try for a twist on a classic—or sip on the refreshing summer option, the Gin Rickshaw.
104 2nd Ave. NE, St. Petersburg
Just half a block away from downtown St. Petersburg’s Sundial, this seemingly tucked-in creperie has become a popular brunch and lunchtime destination. Chef Jeremy Duclut (Executive Chef of nearby restaurant Cassis American Brasserie) and his wife, Liset, have created a warm and charming, yet casual, dining experience. Walking in Wooden Rooster, first impressions are that of a thoughtful family-style dining space. The menu offers both sweet and savory crepe options, highly customizable “build your own” choices, and other salads and light fares. A crowd favorite is the apple melt, a sweet and savory crepe with turkey, bacon or ham paired with brie and caramelized apple. They are also open later for dinner, offering both wines by the glass and local beer options.
Fish Bar and Grille
3038 Beach Blvd. S., Gulfport
Located on Gulfport’s Beach Blvd., Fish Bar and Grille is a prime spot to visit while in the neighborhood. Owners Mike and Cathy Burke have taken the space formerly occupied by Pegs Cantina and Brewhouse (also the birthplace of Cycle Brewing) and refreshed it into a local and quaint fish house. When asked about the inspiration behind the menu, Executive Chef Scott Bassow said, “It’s all about locally sourced, and Gulf sourced, fish.” Open since the second week of March, the menu has a Florida fish house meets Pacific Rim feel. The must-try appetizer is the ahi tuna nachos: crunchy wonton nacho chips covered in seared sesame ahi tuna, mango salsa and Sriracha aioli. If you feel like mixing things up, order a po-boy and ask for half shrimp and half oysters, also served with classic crinkle-cut fries. If you’re in a Hawaiian state of mind, try the “Loco Moto”—jasmine rice topped with a hamburger patty, fried egg, mushrooms and brown gravy. For desert, they recommended their key lime pie with homemade chocolate graham cracker crust.
1501 W Swann Ave., Tampa
The contemporary American bistro On Swann is the newest addition to Hyde Park Village and is located, you guessed it, on Swann Ave. Interior designer Patrick Dunn was sure to impress by seamlessly melding classic Ybor Hispanic flavor, light urban trend, and a dash of French New Orleans history. The bar-forward and open kitchen environment gives diners the feel of an upscale yet casual experience. Owners John and Trudy Cooper, Chef Chris and Michelle Ponte (of Café Ponte in Clearwater), and Chris Arreola bring a menu that is less serious, more casual, with the same flavor quality as Café Ponte. The menu is conscious of locally and seasonally available ingredients, containing a mix of both seasonal items and daily staples. Stop by for a glass of wine on tap and a huge charcuterie board; or if you have more of an appetite, perhaps try tackling the ribeye for two. We loved the off-the-bone short-rib with tender gemelli pasta and citrus pine-nut crumbs. The beet salad was a delight to the eye as well as the palate, and the whipped ricotta-corn dip with sweet parmesan zeppole puff pastries (one of the “Nibbles” appetizers on the menu) was light and addictive enough to be ordered again for dessert. Oh, and the service was superb!
Salty’s Island Bar and Grille
437 S Gulfview Blvd., Clearwater Beach
Nestled in the heart of Clearwater Beach, Salty’s Island Bar and Grille offers distant views of the Gulf and a casual open-air environment perfect for dining at the beach. The dual level restaurant largely offers traditional and island style seafood, with a touch of southern inventiveness. The avocado egg rolls are cheesy sublimity, with bits of avocado to take away most of the guilt. When you’re looking for an exceptional po-boy, you must give theirs a taste— they combine red shrimp, andouille sausage, fried green tomato slices, cabbage and a creamy remoulade into an amoroso roll. When you really want to diversify your plate, they have notable side options like sweet mashed potato, plantains and grits. The beauty of this location is that you can allow yourself to overindulge with a piece of key lime pie, as it is the perfect reason to finish with a long stroll down the beach.