Better luck next year for Beard awards
Tampa's fabled Bern's Steak House and chef Zack Gross, above, of Z Grille in St. Petersburg, nominees for the 2009 James Beard Foundation Awards, were overlooked this year when the finalists were announced on March 23. Nonetheless, Florida fared well, with Miami's Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink still in the running as well as fellow Florida chefs Zach Bell and Douglas Rodriguez. The winners will be announced in New York on May 4.
Shackleton's, the Rail join restaurant options
Much-anticipated Shackleton's Folly opens later this week. Located in the Coquina Key Shopping Plaza (4300 Sixth St. S, St. Petersburg), this new gastropub will feature the culinary stylings of celebrated local chef Domenica Macchia (most recently at MJ's, Redwoods before that). Owner Dan Soronen (former owner of Old Northeast Tavern) has installed a gorgeous, long bar and is serious about some on-site volleyball.
And the Rail (3534 Adrian Ave., Largo, (727) 239-0679) is back. Open daily at 3 p.m., it's a no-cover, all-ages, beer-and-wine kind of place with an American menu and artwork by Largo artist Ron Guerin (he does kind of a tribute to rock 'n' roll, Andy Warhol and Marilyn Monroe, always good, but kooky, bedfellows).
Old favorites learn some new tricks
St. Petersburg's BellaBrava (515 Central Ave.) has introduced a new menu, available all day in the bar. Items include suave veal meatballs, Italian-style wings and a trio of skinny fry options, from truffle-scented to spuds tossed with Parmesan and rosemary and served with balsamic ketchup. And longtime St. Petersburg stalwart Pepin Restaurant (4125 Fourth St. N) began serving brunch March 29. Several local restaurants have expanded hours to include weekend brunches — maybe eggs over easy are the answer to economic woes.
Irish bar closes; Scottish pub expands
O'Boobigan's in Clearwater closed just before St. Patrick's Day, while nearby Scottish bar Tilted Kilt has spawned a second location in Tampa's Carrollwood at 14457 N Dale Mabry Highway. Good beers, attractive servers and grub from the United Kingdom — so why did one fail while the other expands? Must be the tartan plaid.
BayWalk continues to be beleaguered. Grille 121 (121 Second Ave. N, St. Petersburg), previously Dan Marino's, closed its doors on March 23. The Web site lives on as a virtual phantom limb, but don't let that fool you.
New digits at beach
Sculley's Boardwalk Restaurant and the Hut (190 John's Pass Boardwalk, Madeira Beach) have changed their phone numbers. The Hut's new number is (727) 233-3311. Sculley's is (727) 230-0608.
Laura Reiley, Times food critic