Restaurateur Gordon Davis is a master of reinvention, announcing Wednesday two new projects that should add considerably to Tampa's ever-growing independent dining scene.
Davis will open Samba Room in mid February in the space at 1502 S Howard Ave. that for 20 years was Le Bordeaux, then St. Bart's Island House and, most recently, Ceviche.
And by the end of this month he will reopen his Smoke BBQ on Platt Street in South Tampa as Boca Kitchen Bar and Market, a farm-to-table concept featuring locally grown produce and Gulf of Mexico seafood.
Ceviche, which Davis formerly owned, moves this month to 2500 W Azeele St. to the space vacated recently by Circles, leaving the 300-seat restaurant space on Howard Avenue a blank slate for Davis' fertile imagination.
He was, after all, the mastermind behind the wildly innovative Ciro's Speakeasy and Supper Club, which opened in 2010 in the Bayshore Boulevard space once home to the original Ceviche.
After Davis sold his chain of Ceviche restaurants in 2008, he considered retiring and raising red Angus cattle in Colorado. But then he built Smoke for his son, Gene Davis. The younger Davis made a run at it but decided to cede the restaurant world to his father. He's back in school getting an MBA. Gordon Davis considered selling the concept to corporate interests, but ultimately shut down the barbecue restaurant.
For six months he was mum on what was to become of the 901 W Platt St. space, quietly forming a corporation called SoHo Hospitality with partner Kevin Enderle. Enderle, meanwhile, researched the idea of buying the Samba Room concept, a small chain that was orphaned when Orlando's E-Brands was sold to Tavistock Group last March. There was a Samba Room in Old Hyde Park Village in the location that's now Timpano's Chop House.
"I always liked Samba Room," says Davis, who, with Enderle, will bring back the "Nuevo Cubano" concept with a twist at the S Howard Avenue space: "It will be a broader concept, incorporating South American tapas, Brazilian feijoada, Colombian rodizio meats and Caribbean tapas. I'm also interested in introducing modern Spanish cuisine."
To achieve this, they will bring in Felicia Anzardo, an alumna of Roy's on Boy Scout Boulevard, as executive chef. And to add to Tampa's meager number of female-headed kitchens, Ciro's sous chef Mary Paff will take over at Ciro's when its executive chef, Ted Dorsey, moves to Boca Kitchen Bar and Market.
Boca is the project that seems most dear to Davis' heart. Davis, 59, owns a farm in Odessa, one that Sweetwater Farms executive director Rick Martinez has helped to transform in the past 18 months, with more than an acre and a half of organic produce that will find its way to the kitchen at Boca Kitchen Bar and Market.
"We'll source seafood from the gulf, and sustainably raised pork from the Odessa area. We'll have to look outside the area for our beef and lamb," concedes Davis. But for this indefatigable Tampa restaurateur, wading into the farm-to-table world has been a hoot.
"Right now I'm having so much fun, although I'm not yet chewing tobacco while I'm driving my tractor."
Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293.