Florida Life - Dining
Food markets off the beaten path
Across Florida, entrepreneurs obsessed with good food and craft beer have created new restaurant rows that are reviving older neighborhoods.
In Tampa, culinary adventurers focus on Seminole Heights, a bungalow neighborhood five miles from downtown. The newest arrival, urban/rustic Rooster & the Till, brings the area a big-city standard of polished style and hand-crafted food. Chef Ferrell Alvarez packs house-made rillettes, wahoo crudo and sous-vide duck breast, roasted cauliflower and zucchini pickles into an under-$20 menu and a warm tiny space.
Already there among the used-car lots and repair shops with strong fan bases are Domani Bistro with creative hand-made Italian, the local-focused Refinery for the likes of kale Hot Brown or red pepper sour cream cake (and plans for a second venture called Fodder & Shine), and the pioneering Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe, serving up outsider art, porterhouse pork chops and Sunday soul brunches.
It is also home to Tampa's busiest outdoor beer scene at The Independent, two young breweries, Cold Storage and Angry Chair, and Southern Brewing Supplies for home brewers and beer dreamers.
Across the bay, a craft beer boom spreads across St. Petersburg to the emerging Warehouse Art District. In the last year, Cycle Brewing and Green Bench opened; 3 Daughters, a massive 30-barrel brewery anchors the cluster of artists, potters and sculptors reviving an industrial zone.
When neighbors Karin Tucker and Barbara Bredehoeft opened Biscottis in 1993, the historic neighborhoods south of downtown were gracious but very quiet. The Fox, a beloved '50s diner, was the place for breakfast and lunch.
Tucker and Bredehoeft bemoaned the city's lack of a good coffeehouse, and so squeezed a big dessert case, espresso machines and 37 seats into a florist's shop. A dining revolution was on.
Twenty years later, they have a separate bakery, a busy catering operation and the bistro bb's, while the original site has expanded twice. It has a menu that includes crème brulee French toast, seafood Newburg pizza and 150 slices of desserts every day.
The neighborhoods around their enterprises throb with independent ventures flavored by Spain, the Deep South, the Middle East and craft beer.
Along St. Johns Avenue, the river and the rest of Avondale are Mojo No. 4: Urban BBQ/Whiskey Bar; retro milkshakes and local ice cream at Florida Creamery; the Blue Fish with its Old Bay mixed grill, and an upstairs lounge called Elevated Avondale, along with Brick, with burgers, prime rib and chilled couscous, plus brunch with seven eggs Benedict.
To the south, Riverside has a bigger menu and longer beer list centered around Five Points. You can eat vegan-friendly Spanish at Tapa That, hit the Blind Fig Southern gastropub for a pork belly and oyster sandwich with a fig-infused Manhattan, revel in local meats, cheese and produce plus collard greens and creamed peas at Black Sheep, or sample the flavors of 13 Gypsies' chorizo crepes and saffron scallops.
Riverside is home to two craft breweries, Bold City and Intuition Ale Works, as well as Kickbacks gastropub with 84 beers on tap, Dahlia's Pour House with 85, Pele's and Lola's, each with 50, and the Beer:30 store with 650 labels.
Away from beer, there's Bold Bean, where you have a choice of a dozen world coffees, all roasted in Riverside.