Updated 3 yearss ago
Will Florida menus turn toward classical French, or more Southern fried this year? More toward full-sized entrees, or smaller small plates? Will we dine in markets or shop in restaurants?
Trick questions. All of the above are true. And in bigger numbers than ever.
Restauranting has always attracted optimists, and the new TV-fueled obsession with food has revved up even more entrepreneurs, food truckers and pioneers.
Here are some of the ingredients bubbling in our stewpot.
Tampa / St. Petersburg
Having built the ultramodern Ulele, the Columbia’s Richard Gonzmart is now focusing on capturing the past in Tampa. He will revive Goody Goody, the hamburger stand of his childhood and a beloved icon of 1950s Tampa. “I want to go back to food I had growing up, and before. Back to 1925, when all the food was local.’’ That means roasted turkey, a perfect burger and matching buns (not too tall), house root beer, home fries, pancakes and coffee — $1.75 cups of Naviera from Ybor. His next dream: A Sicilian spot in an old macaroni factory.
Opening next to Goody Goody in Hyde Park will be slickly rustic On Swann, a dynamic duet from local heroes Chris Ponte and Bonefish vet John Cooper. The casual gourmet fare will be the first from chef Ponte in south Tampa.
In Pinellas County, Frank Chivas is remaking Clearwater Beach harbor with Marina Cantina, a Mexican seafood triple-decker. San Francisco chef Michael Mina is relaunching his upscale food hall Locale in St. Petersburg but keeping his grand ambitions. Farm- Table Kitchen has expanded dining to fill the second floor, a large balcony and a full menu that runs from creamy chestnut soup and dry-aged bison to tomahawk ribeyes.
In Miami, the biggest celebrity chefs are moving off the beaches into once-funky Wynwood. Joel Robuchon is opening a somewhat affordable, casual version of his exquisite French cuisine plus a bar and market called L’Atelier, La Boutique and La Terrace. New York’s Jean-Georges Vongerichten is also expected to open in Paradise Plaza, possibly with a branch of ABC Kitchen.
In other Miami moves, The Pubbelly gang from South Beach will open PB Station downtown, while whimsical star chef Jamie DeRosa has closed SoBe’s Tongue and Cheek but opened Izzy’s Fish & Oyster and plans La Muse, a small French cafe of healthy light meals inside an art gallery at the Epic Hotel in Brickell.
Palm Beach / Fort Lauderdale
Look for the Regional Kitchen & Public House, a vast space with farmto- table near the Palm Beach County Convention Center. Partners Lindsay Autry, a “Top Chef” finalist, and Pistache’s Thierry Beaud say they’ll serve “consciously sourced” food.
Burlock Coast Seafare & Spirits and its marketplace at the Ritz-Carlton in Fort Lauderdale is a little rustic and a little urban. Breakfast menu includes arepas and chorizo, cobia crudo, and a big fish catch from Gavin Pera. The market is stocked with Panther coffee, Zak the Baker breads and other bigcity treats from Miami.
Fort Myers / Cape Coral
Harold Balink, beloved chef of Cru in Fort Myers, has now taken his inventive style to the small, intimate Harold’s in Regal Plaza. It seats only a few dozen diners but musters a wide menu. Pickled watermelon radishes, sweet potato curry, edamame succotash with game, poultry and exotic local catch.
Table 209 in downtown Cape Coral has become The Office this winter with a fresh French face. Thierry Cros has imported chef Christian Calliaba to run the kitchen with a fusion of Mediterranean cuisines and an indoor-outdoor bar.
Orlando / Mount Dora
Big news in Mouseville is the transformation of Downtown Disney, where Wolfgang Puck landed almost 20 years ago, into Disney Springs, with a fresh crop of celebrity chefs. “Iron Chef” and sushi star Masaharu Morimoto has opened Morimoto Asia with a broad range of pan-Asian dishes. Chicago’s Mexican-food maven Rick Bayless will open Frontera Fresco. Florida-born, Disney-trained, Oprah-endorsed Art Smith will return for a homecoming with chicken and dumplings, pimiento cheese and a moonshine bar.
Also on tap is a new outlet of STK and The Edison, an entertainment nightspot in industrial, gothic drag.
Among independents, celebrity chef Norman Van Aken will go a bit country in Mount Dora, 50 miles north of his Grand Lakes restaurant. Going in somewhat the other direction, James and Julie Petrakis of Ravenous Pig and Cask & Larder will open a French brasserie in downtown Orlando called DoveCote. Opening in the Ivanhoe Row antique district is NOVA, with a fusion of Mediterranean and Southern cooking from a chef with Filipino tastes.
Tallahassee / Jacksonville
Four Italian chefs are joining forces to create Urban Food Market in the revamped Centre of Tallahassee. Look for fresh pasta, bread and cheeses to sample, eat or take home for your own gourmet kitchen a la Eataly in Manhattan.
In Jacksonville, Il Desco’s modern Italian has just been installed in the former Pele’s in Riverside with a raw bar, wood-fired pizza and batch cocktails. Developer Forking Amazing Restaurants, which owns Bistro AIX and Ovinte, has another big project under construction downtown, a high-end steak house called Cowford Chophouse.