What's your favorite legendary restaurant?
When you think of long-time Tampa Bay restaurants, the first one that comes to mind is probably the Columbia, Ybor City's 104-year-old grand dame.
But if you had to name the 25 iconic restaurants that had been operating here for 25 years or more, what would make your list? We took the challenge and came up with our Top 25, which we'll publish in Weekend on June 11. But we had to leave a lot of mainstays off our list — places such as Harvey's Fourth Street Grill, Donatellos, Dairy Inn and Crabby Bill's, to name just a few. We're offering you a chance to vote for your own favorite so we can include a Readers' Choice in our Top Iconic Tampa Bay Restaurants.
We have a list of more than 50 spots that didn't make our Top 25 to choose from. So if you're a Sea Horse fan or a La Teresita regular, go to food.tampabay.com and cast your vote. We'll keep the poll open until Monday so vote as often as you like for your favorite.
Chappy's owner clarifies future
James Connell and Craig Chapman recently sold St. Petersburg's Grillside Central to Bob Churuti (he became the managing director, replacing Chapman) but retained ownership of nearby Chappy's Louisiana Kitchen. According to Connell, they are courting more catering and group reservation business, but the Louisiana culinary concept remains the same: "Everything is status quo and we have a great lease on that property."
Chapman and Connell have also signed a lease on the original Bonefish location at 5901 Fourth St. N in St. Petersburg, which has been empty for several months. It will become Chappy's Martini Bar and Grill, open for lunch and dinner, continuing the Chappy's brand but not accenting the Louisiana style quite as much.
According to Chapman, at the new location they "will do more seafood and add some shellfish, and focus on more upscale cocktails (even some low-cal martinis)." Aiming to be open the first week in July, "it will look like a spin-off on Chappy's, but not as much a fine dining restaurant with white tablecloths."
Happy hours to make you smile
The Table in St. Petersburg has instituted Monday night "guest bartender night," drawing from other downtown restaurants and local luminaries to keep things shaken and stirred (each guest bartender choosing a charity for some of the proceeds). Monday to Thursday, it's buy two entrees, get a complimentary bottle of wine, and happy hour runs 4 to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday with all drinks offered two for one.
There's been a bit of a shakeup in the kitchen at the Table (539 Central Ave., St. Petersburg; (727) 823-3700). After Pedro Flores left (turns out he headed south to Sarasota, where he's the chef at Big Sugar, which will soon be renamed Ole, with a corresponding new concept), Steven O'Brien, previously of Tradewinds, took over. O'Brien is no longer there, and the reins have been handed off to Jay Ward, who used to work at Mise en Place in Tampa.
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse (4322 W Boy Scout Blvd., Tampa; (813) 874-9463) recently introduced a new bar menu called 5 for 6 'til 7. That's 5 wines by the glass, 5 cocktails and 5 signature appetizers, all priced at $6 each, until 7 p.m.
In a similar vein, Belleair Grill and Wine Bar (1575 S Fort Harrison Ave., Clearwater; (727) 449-2988) has just instituted a new weekend-only four-course prix-fixe dinner for $25, paired with wines for $40. According to owner Mark Marone, "Value-priced prix-fixe menus have become more popular, but I think the wine pairing is unique. Guests like not having to worry about pairing the wine themselves, and for an extra fifteen bucks they get a 4-ounce pour with each course."
Appetizers less appetizing?
A new study was recently released by Chicago-based consulting firm Technomic. It seems the recession is stalling appetizer sales. The study looks at consumer purchases in appetizers, soups and salads. According to the reports, heavy purchasers of salads dropped from 51 percent in 2007 to 33 percent in 2009. Similarly, heavy purchasers of appetizers fell from 40 percent in 2007 to 24 percent in 2009, and heavy purchasers of soups slipped from 25 percent to 15 percent in the same time period.
New pizza in Clearwater
Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza has added a second bay area location (its first opened several months ago in Tampa's Carrollwood neighborhood). On May 27, the pizza chain's 16th location opened at 2532 McMullen Booth Road.
• Whataburger announced that it will pull out of Central Florida, closing 14 stores in this area, with 400 employees losing their jobs.
• Tampa's outpost of Hip Hop Soda Shop (1241 E Fowler Ave., Tampa) has closed. Parent company H3 Enterprises Inc. blames "regional business and real estate issues."
Laura Reiley, Times food critic