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New chef sends Tampa's Fly Bar aloft

Fly? Yes, it was two years ago at its grand opening, above, and it is today with the recent addition of chef Rene Caceres. His new menu offers fresh surprises for the palate.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times (2006)

Fly? Yes, it was two years ago at its grand opening, above, and it is today with the recent addition of chef Rene Caceres. His new menu offers fresh surprises for the palate.

TAMPA

The Fly is 2 years old, and its buzz is still deafening. The brainchild of Tampa native Leslie Shirah, this bastion of hip has since gained a devoted following among Tampa foodies and revelers. Shirah honed the concept during a 15-year stint in San Francisco, where she still owns three restaurants — her first Fly Bar plus Brick and Solstice.

The concept is this: an all-day menu until late-late; a share-it-with-friends approach to international small plates; suave cocktails; a little live music; and a minimalist-hip decor.

It's a nightspot to rival any in Ybor City, a restaurant that goes toe-to-toe with the best in Hyde Park. New chef Rene Caceres has enabled Fly to spread its wings, a beacon downtown nearly as sparkly and inviting as the nearby Tampa Theatre marquee. Caceres arrived in Tampa in November, fresh from a stint as sous chef at Brick.

Walking up to the rehabbed 1920s storefront, one first hears a cacophony of voices from above. A thronged rooftop bar sends enticing drifts of conversation to the sidewalk, promising fun and convivial mingling. All this hubbub is amped up by Caceres' understated new menu of affordable dishes that speak to our growing enthusiasm for seasonal boutique produce.

His new dishes: Tiny golden and red beets ($12) are roasted, herbed and given a molten blanket of tangy Humboldt Fog goat cheese. A delicious contrast of flavors, it's rivaled by a bowl of caramelized Brussels sprouts ($8), their earthiness accented with a sharp grain mustard vinaigrette. The trio of fries has been refined, focusing now exclusively on Kennebec potatoes (a rare but tasty late-harvest potato) and gussied with chipotle ketchup and a sprinkle of cilantro ($8). He has added fish tacos with fruity tomatillo salsa ($11), an heirloom tomato salad ($11) and tucked onions and cheddar cheese in the center of the lush kobe sliders ($13).

Shirah gave downtown Tampa a gift with the opening of Fly, and another with the arrival of chef Caceres.

Laura Reiley can be reached at lreiley@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2293. Her blog, the Mouth of Tampa Bay, can be found at www.blogs.tampabay.com/dining. Reiley dines anonymously and unannounced. The Times pays all expenses. Advertising has nothing to do with selection for review or the assessment.

.Review

Fly Bar and Restaurant

1202 Franklin St., Tampa

(813) 275-5000

Cuisine: Small plates

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. Monday through Friday, 5:30 p.m. to midnight Monday to Thursday, until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday; swing menu available between lunch and dinner and after 11 p.m.

Details: Amex, V, MC; reservations accepted; full bar.

Prices: Lunch $6-$13; dinner $8-$17

New chef sends Tampa's Fly Bar aloft 04/16/08 [Last modified: Friday, April 18, 2008 10:02am]
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