CHANNEL DISTRICT — Growing up in San Diego, near the Mexican border, John Oraha became a taco connoisseur.
A 22-year career far from home, in the Detroit auto industry, only fueled his hunger for Mexican food. All those years, Oraha said, he catered parties for friends and family, preparing his favorites.
On Dec. 19, he put those skills into opening Sea Dog Cantina in the Grand Central at Kennedy retail courtyard.
"Tacos, burritos, salsas . . . everything is made from scratch, from my own recipes,'' Oraha said. Creative dishes include quesadillas with squid, shrimp and blackened scallops for $12, and lobster tacos for $11. A crab cake BLT sandwich is $11.50; a jalapeno bacon mac and cheese costs $8. There is a full liquor bar, 20 beers on tap and dozens of wine selections, by bottle or glass.
Three years ago Oraha, 40, was transferred to Tampa to run a car dealership. When that job ended, Oraha, who lives in a Grand Central condo, eventually steered into the restaurant business.
He has built-out an empty storefront to seat 100 inside, and another 50 outdoors. Four big-screen TVs hang over a 40-foot bar made from reclaimed black walnut and hickory. Bricks salvaged from an old building in Ybor City cover the walls.
Sea Dog Cantina, 1208 E Kennedy Blvd.; open 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 4 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 4 p.m. to midnight Sunday. Visit seadogcantina.com (site in progress) or (813) 280-2999.
New Eleventwenty Cafe Bistro will offer breakfast and lunch
Also new at Grand Central is Eleventwenty Cafe Bistro, which co-owner Terry Riney describes as similar to a merger of Panera and Starbucks.
He and his wife, Dolly Adams Riney, expect to open Jan. 14 in the courtyard of the condo complex, opposite Sea Dog Cantina and around the corner from Powerhouse Gym. The couple also own Be Seen, a "green" dry cleaner next door to the bistro.
Breakfast and lunch will be served daily, with an expanded brunch menu on weekends. "Omelets, waffles, pastries to start the day,'' Terry said. "Then we'll make wraps, artisan sandwiches and salads."
There will be a selection of desserts and locally made gelato, as well as beer and wine.
The Rineys expect to see old friends stop by. "She's the Tampa native, I've only lived here 50 or so years,'' said Terry, a 1971 graduate of Plant High. Dolly went to Hillsborough High but he knows better than to reveal the year she graduated.
Eleventwenty Cafe Bistro, 1120 E Kennedy Blvd., will be open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Facebook: facebook.com/eleventwenty cafebistro; or eleventwentycafebistro.com (site in progress) or call (813) 220-2147.
Fruit of the Vine Organics teams up with Cru Cellars wine shop
Fruit of the Vine Organics owner Vera Farmen and Cru Cellars' sommelier Jennifer Bingham brainstormed to offer their respective customers a new service.
Every Monday, preordered baskets of fresh organic fruits and vegetables may be picked up at the South Tampa wine shop from 3 to 7 p.m.
Prices start at $35 for a half-bushel of a mixture of fruits and vegetables; $40 for a half-bushel of all fruit. A full bushel of mixed fruit and veggies is $55.
A bottle of organic wine to accompany it starts at $12.99, Bingham said.
Farmen started Fruit of the Vine Organics in her Davis Islands dining room with nine friends. When the business outgrew her home, Bingham offered Cru Cellars as a convenient outlet. The two women met in September at an Ohio Wesleyan University reunion held at Cru Cellars. Bingham, who graduated in 2004, and Farmen, a 1989 grad, clicked.
In addition to the produce, shoppers receive a newsletter with suggested wine pairings and recipes featuring that week's seasonal offerings.
For more information, call Cru Cellars, 2506 S MacDill Ave., at (813) 831-1117.
Amy Scherzer can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3332.