Sunday, June 17, 2018
Features and More

The Avenue delivers after finding opportunity at World of Beer

ST. PETERSBURG

WOB is, apparently, a game-changer. If you're saying "what's WOB?", you need to get out more. World of Beer, now 21 strong with eight more locations in the works, is spreading across the country, taking its no-food, encyclopedic-beer-list concept to suds fans everywhere. They've tried offering food, but it just wasn't what WOB does best. Here's what they do instead: order out.

Allan Galeano knows this. He came to St. Petersburg from Park City, Utah, where he owned a small group of restaurants called Buona Vita. He tried one here, on First Avenue S in the ramshackle-yet-charming space vacated by St. Pete's Finest Coffeehouse. It puttered along, always suffering from being just slightly away from the action of Central Avenue or the restaurant destination that Beach Drive has become. Then he heard WOB was moving in next door.

Galeano retooled, added partners Stephen Schrutt, Chris Dorsey and Jason Levine, giving the space a lovely ski lodge/rec room remodel, and reopening (on 11/11/11) as the Avenue. It's upscale burgers, a notch above nearby Five Guys, aimed to compete with Tampa's Square 1 Burgers or Burger 21. But more importantly, it's aimed to feed the hungry beer drinkers at WOB. Tampa restaurateur Peter Taylor has the same idea, hoping to open Wood Fired Pizza in the tiny space between the Avenue and WOB later this month. This triumvirate could prove a potent lure for St. Petersburg's party people.

They will deliver a burger or wrap directly to your bar stool at WOB, but there's plenty to entice WOBblers to take the 20 steps east on First Avenue. On weekends, the Avenue serves a late-night burger menu all the way until 3 a.m., with some very crafty breakfast burritos and scrambled-egg bowls thrown into the mix. There's live music on weekends, 25-cent wings and $2 Bud Light drafts on Mondays, $2 build-a-burger nights on Wednesdays, two-for-one happy hour specials between 4 and 7 p.m. and numerous flat screens for all the games.

Galeano and crew have installed big double doors that open onto the sidewalk; there's a fireplace at one end and a homey set of bookcases at the other end for tchotchkes and doodads. The Avenue, named with the clear intent of making this stretch of First Avenue S a destination, is much warmer and more inviting than any of the space's previous incarnations. Servers are speedy at lunch and unswervingly friendly (if not always on top of every detail).

And the burgers are pretty good. The kitchen works with a decent Angus chuck (which they maddeningly won't seem to cook any rarer than medium-well), with solid alterna-burgers like bison and ahi. The accoutrements (bun, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle) are middle-of-the-pack, and the accompanying fries (also offered in a Cajun-spiced version or a sweet potato fry for $1 more) are nicely done, not too greasy and sensibly portioned. Most of the specialty burgers (from a bacon-blue cheese burger to a "reuben" style) hover around $9, which starts to creep into the high-expectations zone for me. If they could nail down the meat temperature issue and season the beef a little more aggressively, I'd be more comfortable with the price point.

That's not to say that Galeano et al aren't detail-oriented: Drinks are served in nostalgia-sized Mason jars, for dessert they bring in a range of enticing cupcakes, and finger-foods like onion rings ($4) and jalapeno poppers ($5) are carefully coddled in the fryer. They've made it a comfortable place for a quick lunch or a more leisurely chill with friends, with or without a pit stop at WOB.

Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. She dines anonymously and unannounced. The Times pays all expenses. Advertising has nothing to do with selection for review or the assessment.

Comments
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/15/18
With over 40 years between the birth of my two daughters, I am two different fathers

With over 40 years between the birth of my two daughters, I am two different fathers

Still shaken by Bobby Kennedy’s assassination six days earlier, I sat in the hospital waiting room mindlessly thumbing through a May 1968 Rolling Stone while my wife, Fran, gave birth to our daughter Elle. As was customary, when everyone had been fre...
Published: 06/15/18
Puerto Vallarta is a dreamy Mexican getaway within reach

Puerto Vallarta is a dreamy Mexican getaway within reach

LOREN ELLIOTT • Times CorrespondentPUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICOThe third-floor balcony attached to our rented apartment served as a peaceful refuge above Puerto Vallarta’s bustling central district streets. Below us, taxis honked, people crowded bus ...
Published: 06/15/18
How Tampa's Cole and Marmalade got famous, beat cancer and helped save more cats

How Tampa's Cole and Marmalade got famous, beat cancer and helped save more cats

Here's how to make your cat famous on the internet, according to the owners of some famous felines.
Published: 06/15/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/16/18
High-tech nighttime lagoon show coming to Universal Orlando this summer

High-tech nighttime lagoon show coming to Universal Orlando this summer

A gliding, wraith-like figure of a Dementor from the Harry Potter films enters Central Park, and the exteriors of the surrounding buildings immediately are covered in a layer of ice, a sign of their power to drain happiness out of the air around them...
Published: 06/14/18
Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

GULFPORT — Brianna Melton is as serious a ballet student as they come.By her junior year at St. Petersburg High’s International Baccalaureate program, she had already spent four summers training with ballet companies across the country and had narrow...
Published: 06/14/18
Frito and Cheeto: How rescued seahorses found webcam fame

Frito and Cheeto: How rescued seahorses found webcam fame

Smile for the camera, Frito. The world is watching, and you have a story to tell. The tiny seahorse came to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on Sunday with fishing line wrapped around her neck. By Wednesday, she became the CMA’s newest internet ...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

I know we have three more months or so of hot-as-dog-breath Tampa Bay summer, but let’s start things off on the right foot with some frozen treats. Ice cream is on my mind after a recent visit to Disney Springs, when I found love in a perfect scoop o...
Published: 06/13/18
He loves his Dad Shoes ... in all their lame, comfortable glory

He loves his Dad Shoes ... in all their lame, comfortable glory

Think of your father, and the first pair of shoes that come to mind. Grass-stained golf cleats. Crusty old mudders on the deck. Fraying, decaying Birkenstocks. Burgundy leather loafers, the slip-on kind, softened and flattened by the weight of so ma...
Published: 06/13/18