The burger scene continues to sizzle
Gourmet burger joints are proliferating in Tampa faster than mushrooms after the rainy season (mushrooms with a little Swiss, or maybe Gruyere). Square 1 Burgers, Burger 21, Burger Monger, and now BGR the Burger Joint.
BGR, which opened Nov. 16 at 12913 N Dale Mabry Highway in the heart of Carrollwood, features vintage rock band memorabilia on the walls, funky mosaic tabletops and classic music videos playing on the large flat-screen TVs. The first BGR opened in Bethesda, Md., in 2008 followed by a dozen more across the country, including in Miami.
Using naturally raised and antibiotic-free grain-fed beef, and locally sourced produce, the chain is known for its specialty and seasonal burgers, like the Christmas Burger ($12.99), red-white-and-greened out with beefsteak tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil (Christmas-themed gingerbread and eggnog milkshakes round out the good cheer). Look for fancy burger toppings like foie gras and black truffles and burgers of ahi and lamb. For more information about BGR, call (813) 962-4050 or visit bgrtheburgerjoint.com.
New pizza gets a spin in Gulfport
Cousins Frank and Joe Casselino opened Cousins Pizzeria at 2813 Beach Blvd. in Gulfport on Nov. 28. From New York, they're bringing Sicilian thick-crust square, Neapolitan thin crust, calzones, eggplant parm and a mind-boggling array of what they call Italian ices (read: gelato) to what was once a coin laundry. After owning three restaurants in New York, Frank retired to Florida two years ago to spend every day fishing. It didn't take, and the upshot is that now the two cousins are throwing pies in one of the area's most charming communities. Bonus: They're selling by the slice, a rarity in these parts. For information, call (727) 258-4905.
Two restaurants closing their doors
We're losing a couple of good ones. Last Wednesday, Bistro Bleu on S MacDill in Tampa announced that it would close on Saturday night. Owners Tina Hurless and Tomas Carrasquillo cite tough economic times as the impetus for the closure. Having moved the NoHo Bistro (which became Bistro Bleu) from a really tricky location in west Tampa to a stretch of MacDill not far from Datz, Byblos and a number of other busy restaurants, it's a shame to hear that a greater density of quality restaurants didn't net sufficient new customers.
Bruce Caplan, who opened Fetishes Fine Dining at 6690 Gulf Blvd. in St. Pete Beach in 1994, has a different tale of woe to tell. After 18 years, his landlord sent him a brief note on Nov. 18 saying that the lease was not available for further extension and that Caplan should vacate the property by Dec. 31. Caplan plans to run his fine dining concept through New Year's Eve, at which point he will pack up his Wine Spectator-award-winning wine list and his restaurant equipment and put it all in storage. Already looking at possible new locations, Caplan's plan is to mastermind a new restaurant concept in the near future.
Laura Reiley, Times food critic