Hipster club Aja in Channelside, where there have been numerous celebrity sightings, opened a sister property called Aja Wiregrass in the Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel on May 13. It is open nightly from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., with no cover charge and a small-plate menu that includes sliders, tuna tartare and other nibbles.
St. Pete Beach welcomes the new Swigwam Beach Bar at 336 Corey Ave.; (727) 363-7944. Owners Rob Williams and Alice Aitken-Kloss have opened their doors to new customers as well as all the regulars who cherished the old location, behind the Travelodge (now Postcard Inn on the Beach), as a hallowed spot for carousing and listening to live music.
Baby Cakes will open at the end of this month at 2444 Central Ave. in the Grand Central District in St. Petersburg. Terry Farmer and Nancy Cruz are creating decor that highlights the original terrazzo floors and original art on the walls. The menu will be casual, lunch and dinner, with beer and wine. Grand Central District Association will host a meet-and-greet from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the restaurant to celebrate its opening.
Diner 437, which lived briefly at 437 Central Ave. in downtown St. Petersburg and before that was Grillside Central, will soon reopen as Emilio's, a bistro, bakery and bar.
It's been a rough few weeks for Tampa Bay restaurants. Sam Seltzer's went out of business, but their gift cards are still being honored at Tucson's Southwest Grill (13563 Icot Blvd., Clearwater; (727) 530-0637), Datz (2616 S MacDill Ave., Tampa; (813) 831-7000) and Arigato Japanese Steak House locations. Trade in a Sam Seltzer gift card at Fish Tales (1500 Second St. S, St. Petersburg; (727) 821-3474) for a free meal with the purchase of a meal.
RawBar closed in Tampa's SkyPoint building (across from the Tampa Museum of Art) at 777 N Ashley Drive. At its base, James DeVito launched Taps in spring 2008 as a hip downtown watering hole with beer and wine served via a neat ATM-style card system. Then next door he launched RawBar in 2009. Original chef Naohiro Higuchi was a superstar, with experience at Nobu in the Bahamas, Restaurant le Pacifique in Monte Carlo and Sushi Samba in Miami Beach. He left and the menu downshifted somewhat to give patrons slightly less ambitious, more familiar sushi offerings. RawBar has closed, but Taps is still open.
Michael Peel and Sally Herb have called it quits at WineBurgers in Tierra Verde, home of their previous Crazy Conch Cafe. Peel attributes the decision to the recession; the property and equipment are now on the market.
Michael Cecere, owner of Bowled at 3451 Fourth St. N in St. Petersburg, faced a similar choice recently. His decision was to close shop, but an outpouring of love on Facebook persuaded him to persevere. The doors are open for now.
Bayshore Pizza a winner
The House of Beers held a "Best Pizza in Dunedin Contest" on May 15. Eight pizzerias brought four pizzas each. Four-month-old Bayshore Pizza (1269 Bayshore Blvd., Dunedin; (727) 412-8677) took home the coveted "best specialty pizza" prize for its Wise Guy Pie, which head pizza chef Erik Johanson describes as a white pie with fresh mozzarella, garlic, tomato slices and basil.
Laura Reiley, Times food critic