Dining in Florida
Unchained: New concepts in local dining
Florida restaurateurs create whole new dining experiences by starting small and trying new concepts.
Ben and Liza Groshell (Jacksonville)
In Jacksonville, Ben and Liza Groshell, proprietors of the high-end Marker 32, have diversified into only one concept, but operations have grown quickly since they opened Palm Valley Fish Camp a few years ago. Serving old-fashioned fried oysters and shrimp baskets with contemporary octopus and white beans in bait-shack chic was such a hit in upscale Ponte Vedra they took their New Fish Camp cooking to North Beach Fish Camp and soon a Creekside Fish Camp on Julington Creek in Mandarin.
D’Amico & Partners (Naples)
Richard and Larry D’Amico have given Naples a multicourse taste of the collection they serve in Minneapolis. In the Twin Cities, they have eight individual operations, from Italian to museum cafe, and reproduced one each of four of them in Florida. To Campiello’s rustic Italian, sleek New American at Café Lurcat and pizza, pasta and all-you-can drink wine at D’Amico & Sons in Naples, they have just added Masa. The menu is regional Mexican with contemporary flash, from fresh fruit, agua fresca and pork in banana leaves to cobia a la parrilla.
Gordon Davis (Tampa)
In Tampa, serial restaurateur Gordon Davis started with the very French Le Bordeaux in Hyde Park some 25 years ago. Since then he parlayed that space and two more from Vietnamese to Brazilian, Caribbean (St. Bart’s), new wave barbecue (Smoke) and tapas (Ceviche, which he built into a successful chain and sold). He now runs retro Ciro’s Speakeasy and Supper Club, rusticated Boca Kitchen Bar Market and new Copper Fish with littleneck clam skillets, softshell crab BLTs and 2-pound lobsters. Next is French again: A brasserie in the old Federal courthouse remade as Le Meridien Hotel.
In St. Petersburg, Steve Westphal and chef Tyson Grant are behind the New American at Parkshore Grill, seafood at 400 Beach Drive, biplane burgers at The Hangar and now the Spanish munchies at Cafe Gala at the new Dali Museum.
BayStar (Tampa Bay)
Around Tampa Bay, the hometown success of Outback makes many restaurateurs dream of their own monster chains. But not all. Frank Chivas and chef Tom Pritchard have a taste for sea breeze, fresh fish and beach casual, but rarely in the same proportions. Chivas’ BayStar Group started with surf ’n’ turf Salt Rock Grill, less beefy Island Way Grill, Marlin Darlin’ and reggae-accented Rumba Island Bar & Grill all along the Gulf side of Pinellas County. This year, they added a another Rumba and a modified Salt Rock Tavern in Oldsmar, but like any boat owner, Chivas keeps dreaming bigger: Marina Cantina in the middle of Clearwater’s docks.