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Rojo Taco to open on Twigg Street in Tampa

Like many business owners during the recession, Mary Khabbaz has mulled creative ways to bring frugal fun to the midday meal.

Her solution? The new Rojo Taco, slated to open early next month in a tiny spot at 309 Twigg St.

The owner of the well-reviewed Paninoteca Mediterranean Café is opening a second venture because, she believes, downtown workers need it.

"I know this recession has just been killing everyone," Khabbaz said. "We want to bring down our price point for lunch to where people are able to afford to eat (out) every day instead of packing their lunch."

Rojo Taco will be built around "fun Mexican," she said, with create-your-own burritos and tacos and taco salad, much of it for takeout. There will be a small amount of indoor and patio seating. "It will be more of a fast-food type place, but we want to keep it healthy, the same as what we are doing with Paninoteca," Khabbaz said, meaning organic vegetables and grilled and antibiotic-free meats and chicken.

Rojo Taco also will stay open late for those who need a bite after a night out. It will be open daily from about 11 a.m. to 2 or 3 a.m.

"It's going to be that place that is always open, every day," Khabbaz said.

Biergarten opens at Hyde Park Cafe

Jayne Portnoy swears that when the Hyde Park Café opened 14 years ago it was much more low-key than the humming night spot it has become.

Portnoy, marketing director for the cafe and parent company Soho Leisure Group, said the club hopes to bring back some of its earlier customers — that is, the ones who may now have to be home by 10 p.m. — with its new (and more relaxed) Biergarten.

The Biergarten opened Jan. 1 in an outdoor atrium at the Hyde Park Café that seats up to 200 people. It serves over 60 handcrafted and domestic beers, along with everything else on the main Hyde Park Café menu.

The difference: It's more mellow, and open at 5 p.m., five hours before nightclubs Velociti and Wally & Bernie's get rolling. The kitchen serves traditional favorites like Cajun peanuts, wings, sliders and Paranelli's pizza.

"We added the Biergarten in hopes of bringing back that 35-plus customer who used to be at the cafe all the time," Portnoy said.

The Biergarten is open Tuesday through Saturday. The club's Web site is

Davis Islands duo does massage and facials

Massage therapist Erin Powers has teamed up with a former colleague to create Islander Massage and Skin Care.

Powers opened up her own shop in 2008 near the entrance to Davis Islands, 43B Davis Blvd. She was joined last month by Cathy Tunick-Cabeche, who needed a place to go after the closing of the DI Body and Boutique location on Davis Islands, where they both once worked. "We've always stayed in touch," Powers said. "I had a back room that ended up being a perfect spot for her."

Powers is a licensed massage therapist and Tunick-Cabeche is an esthetician who does facials and waxing with a holistic approach. Hours at Islander Massage and Skin Care are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 to 5 on Saturday, all by appointment. Islander's Web site is

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Rojo Taco to open on Twigg Street in Tampa 01/21/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 5:21pm]
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