Those in the mood for some live blues this weekend might want to make the short trek south to J.C. Craver's Bar and Grill in Palm Harbor.
Sunday marks the one-year anniversary for the casual venue with a word-of-mouth reputation that lies along the Pinellas Trail in the quaint community of Ozona. The full-service restaurant and bar, named for the original settler of Palm Harbor, features a price-friendly menu with offerings ranging from a good-sized burger ($3.99 on Wednesday nights) to mussels to a signature prime rib sandwich.
Feel like kicking up your heels? You can do that on a 400-square-foot dance floor, typically on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights, when bands featuring good-times music take the stage.
Offering good food at reasonable prices was what owners Vince and Kelly Lamattina had in mind when they took over and renovated the restaurant that has seen a few name changes over the years — from Mango Millie's to the Beach Tree, to Steve's Cape Cod.
"I did my research and just saw the opportunity here," said Vince, 37, who is taking on ownership for the first time after 25 years of experience working in the restaurant business. "From managing to bartending to working in the kitchen, you name it, I've done it."
Even so, offering live music along with that Philly cheesesteak turned out to be a new venture.
"Initially, we wanted to just cater to the local people and what they've always liked in this area," he said. "The blues is something that our locals just love, so one of the things we've done is to try to get good bands in here."
Good music, after all, was in keeping with the restaurant's history.
"I've played there throughout the years when it was Mango Millie's," said blues guitarist Walker Smith, who will perform with his group at the anniversary party Sunday. "I like it there. It's a very nice, quaint little area."
Kelly Lamattina, 33, is in charge of booking bands. Many, including Smith or local blues guitarist Damon Fowler, typically perform at places such as Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa, Dave's Aqua Lounge in St. Petersburg or local and regional blues festivals.
"It's expensive; the bands don't come cheap." Vince said. "But in the long run I think it really works out. It's been going fantastic. We've done really, really good for our first year even though it can be a struggle in this economy."
Business, he said, has been fairly steady, even during the summer, when locals rule the roost because snowbirds have headed north.
No doubt they'll be celebrating their success in style starting Friday night with the eclectic four-member band Sarge and the Aeromen. The Backwater Blues Band performs Saturday evening.
Sunday promises to be a rocking good time. Festivities start at 3 p.m. and feature a free pig roast, giveaways, drink specials and entertainment by St. Petersburg's Walker Smith Group, which was named Best Blues Band in the Tampa Bay region at the 2009 International Blues Challenge, and named Best Blues Performance in the 2010 Memphis International Blues Challenge.
Michele Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (727) 869-6251.