Only three days old and already 2012 is wearing his big-boy pants: Restaurant openings are coming fast and furiously, with all-new concepts, new locations and some blasts-from-the-past reemerging.
Opened Monday at 678 75th Ave. in St. Pete Beach at the site of the Twisted Tarpon (and Philthy Phil's before that), the Daiquiri Shak Blind Pass Grille is a new project from Jeremy and Lori Runo. It's a fourth location for LJR Investments Group, which also operates the Daiquiri Deck in Madeira Beach (for the past 15 years), Nickel City in Pinellas Park and Tequila Beach Sport Grille in Bradenton. Daiquiri Shak features more than 30 flavors of daiquiris along with a casual American menu of fresh seafood, raw oysters and seafood steam pots, all with a view of the Gulf of Mexico.
Opened just a week ago, Wimauma is the new project from husband-wife team Gary and Amy Moran (most recently, and fleetingly, of Knife & Co.). The concept is "fresh Florida cuisine," with items like buttermilk hoe cakes with house-smoked trout or fried oyster sandwiches with smoked tomato jam. The new restaurant is at 4205 S MacDill Ave. in Tampa at the site of the former Delizie.
And Arigato has returned to Carrollwood after a long absence due to a devastating fire in December 2006. The Japanese steakhouse concept, which was started in 1980 by the Del Bello family, has reopened at 14330 N Dale Mabry, in the same complex as Bally's Fitness and Starbucks and just a quarter mile from its original location. As with its other locations in St. Petersburg and Clearwater, it features a Japanese teppanyaki style of grill cooking, hibachi style seating, and entertaining and talented chefs (think shrimp-in-the-hat tricks).
Sigrid Bratic and Nick Vojnovic (former president of Beef 'O' Brady's), co-partners of Tampa Bay's Little Greek Restaurants, will open two new locations in the area on Jan. 12 and Jan. 20. The first is a franchised location owned by Fotis Giannoisis at 12117 W Linebaugh Ave. in Westchase and the second is at 2548 E Fowler Ave., near USF, making it the seventh location for the 7-year-old restaurant chain. The concept is moderately priced, American-influence Greek food (gyros, pitas, spinach pie) served in a quick, family-friendly environment.
In Ballast Point, Cellini Restaurant (5427 Bayshore Blvd.) has reopened after a short renovation. St. Petersburg gets its second "green" Dunkin' Donuts at 1046 4th St. N, featuring internal and external elements that increase energy efficiency and minimize its impact on the environment (the owners have applied for LEED status). Plus, of course, there are donuts. And Tampa phenomenon MacDinton's Irish Pub and Restaurant opened a St. Petersburg location in the Jannus Live entertainment complex on Dec. 30. Already it's the place to be for downtown party people, and the St. Pete Kitchen is slated to open any day in the same complex, at 200 First Ave. N, Suite 226 in St. Petersburg. Chef J. Sean Squires will be serving his own brand of traditional Irish fare.