TAMPA — In his newest venture, Carne ChopHouse, owner Jason Fernandez paid his respects to his Ybor City roots and some restaurant mentors.
The restaurant opened April 10 on a first floor corner of the Centro Ybor shopping complex on Seventh Avenue. Three other Fernandez restaurants, Bernini, Green Iguana and Hot Willy's, are just blocks away.
"This place is special to me," Fernandez said. "It's the first place my grandparents danced when it was the Centro Espanol cantina."
Quite possibly, the 1910 piano near the original dance floor, now a waiting lounge, was playing that night. Most recently, the 175-seat restaurant, including a private dining room for 60, was occupied by L'Olivier Restaurant & Cabaret and Metropolitan design store.
For extra staff training, Fernandez, 43, knew where to turn — to George Palios, longtime South Tampa restaurateur, and Jack Herr, general manager of Bob Heilman's Beachcomber in Clearwater Beach.
"George has been kind enough to teach the staff how to make his beloved fried chicken," Fernandez said, as well as fried chicken livers with tomato jalepeno jam. "And my crew went to Bob Heilman's in Clearwater to learn how to make baked Alaska."
Carne ChopHouse offers a variety of cuts of beef, including prime rib, chopped steak and sirloin chimichurri. Seafood, including grouper and trout amandine, is prepared the way Fernandez learned at Commander's Palace in New Orleans. He predicts pork shoulder pot pie, $10 at lunch and $14 at dinner, will be very popular.
Fernandez, who holds a master's degree in hotel and restaurant management from Johnson & Wales University, plans to keep prices moderate at $10 to $12 for lunch and the average dinner check under $30 per person.
"We're within a dollar of every steak that Longhorn and Outback has,'' he said, with a salad and a side dish included. "We know Ybor visitors are not looking for a high-end experience."
There is a full bar and a wine list topping 100 bottles, with about 25 varieties sold by the glass.
Carne ChopHouse, 1536 E Seventh Ave., is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4 to 10 p.m. on Sunday. Visit carnechophouse.com or call (813) 341-9555.
Beth Kokol Arts relocates to Bay to Bay Boulevard
Beth Kokol knows her way around a color wheel, evidenced by the palette of vivid Caribbean colors that she used to paint her new art school.
"Parakeet green, bright fuchsia, sapphire blue,'' said Kokol, who relocated her Neptune Street studio this month, after she and her husband, Bob, bought two buildings on Bay to Bay Boulevard.
The colorful one is her studio and gallery, encompassing two small studios for rent as well as a back patio ideal for staging exhibitions and also available to be rented for private parties. Bob Kokol's divorce financial planning and asset management practice occupies the other building.
Beth, who has taught in the bay area for 20 years, offers classes and specialized workshops in drawing, painting, printmaking, collage, clay and mixed media for children and adults. Summer camp will be open for children ages 3 to 18. A frequent volunteer, Beth will oversee art projects Saturday at the Erase Hate Festival in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
On April 26 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., the Kokols will host a grand opening cocktail party to benefit Beat Cancer With a Paddle, a 5-mile race and 2-mile family paddle for kayaks and standup paddleboards started by physician Arnie Goodman for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (beatcancerwithapaddle.com). Tickets are $40; a silent auction will feature boat paddles turned into artwork by her students.
Beth Kokol Arts, 3318 W Bay to Bay Blvd., is open Monday through Friday. Visit bethkokolarts.com or call (813) 334-5100.
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