Sunday, June 24, 2018

You can drink up in this Kitchen

The new year is here, and I suspect that many people spent the 1st nursing hangovers. If the best cure for one is brunch and cocktails, then Jan. 1 must be the big day for cafe brunch spots.

If I ran such a business, I would advertise specifically for this day, so the hangover crowd would know exactly where to spend a long, recuperative afternoon. Of course, setting is key, so I would make sure to have plenty of outdoor, fresh-air seating with a relaxed vibe and open atmosphere.

The Kitchen in St. Petersburg seems to be designed for this exact purpose. It opens at 11 (the optimal brunch start time), has a long list of libations to soothe and refresh, serves a variety of interesting gourmet fare and is as open-air as they come.

Between the indoor dining area and the kitchen is a long bar; the rest of the place is literally located right on the sidewalk of First Avenue N, with tables and benches adorned with large pillows stretching nearly a quarter of a city block. On the kitchen side, guests have a mostly unobstructed view into the cooking area through large windows. If the weather is on the cooler side, there are outdoor heaters positioned between tables.

This layout makes The Kitchen a perfect spot for sidewalk-sipping and people-watching. First Avenue N, rather than a fancy restaurant interior, is the star at The Kitchen, which makes sense considering its affiliation and close partnership with Jannus Live — a landmark downtown concert venue — and other businesses located along First Avenue N. The Kitchen supplies food to the Jannus Live Suites and adjoining Crystal Head Lounge, as well as the Pelican Pub and MacDinton's Irish Pub.

Another unique feature of The Kitchen is that it offers delivery of food and, impressively, beer, wine and liquor to the surrounding residential areas. Because Detroit Liquors is part of the Jannus Live complex and is accessible to The Kitchen, having a bottle of Scotch delivered with your meal is no longer a fanciful dream.

If the name didn't give it away, the menu certainly will — The Kitchen is a food-centric destination. The menu is a one-pager made up of modern, gourmet fare on one side and an extensive sushi list on the other. But the most visible aspect of The Kitchen is its bar, which is where you'll find a separate menu for drinks, many of which are just as creative as the food.

Aside from some reasonable beer options and a short wine list, much of this menu falls into the specialty cocktail category — most original, in-house creations — many of which seem purposefully designed for leisurely, post party-night drinking I described above. These are refreshing drinks — not heavy, not too complex; just something flavorful to sip on while lounging around. For example: the Strawberry-Basil Lemonade, which is self-explanatory; the Stoli Aranciata, made with citrus vodka, sparkling orangeade, and club soda; and the Sunset on 1st Ave Martini, a blend of Bacardi Rock Coconut rum, banana liqueur, white creme de cacao, pineapple juice, grenadine and a Myers dark rum float (whew!).

While The Kitchen is well-suited for afternoon cocktails, it's also popular at night, especially on weekends, when First Avenue N becomes dense with foot traffic. On Saturdays and Sundays, The Kitchen even has an all-you-can-drink special for $30, which buys you unlimited drinks from open to close. That's enough to cure one hangover while simultaneously creating an all new one. Just make sure to bring sunglasses — it can get pretty bright out there on the sidewalk.

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