Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Grand opening draws a crowd to Sylvia's in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — "Hello and welcome to Sylvia's," the host said.

Mike Singleton and his wife, Felicia, wandered into Sylvia's Queen of Soul Food restaurant Saturday afternoon, not realizing it was opening day.

They sat on a red cushion in the foyer. Above them hung a picture of President Barack Obama with his teeth wrapped around a chicken leg at the original location in Harlem. Al Sharpton sat next to the president, staring with a face that seemed to say, "Whoa, slow down there."

Mike, 45, laughed when he thought of that.

The host told the couple it would be 10 minutes. They had already waited 20.

"They should have more staff," Felicia, 41, said.

The restaurant was hopping. The only tables that weren't full had been reserved.

After more than eight years of planning and $2.8 million in taxpayer money to renovate the restaurant's home, the Manhattan Casino, Sylvia's opened Saturday. The success of the venture rests on the satisfaction of the Singletons and others like them.

As they waited Saturday afternoon, Felicia's legs bounced; Mike craned his neck in agitation.

"They must be short-staffed," he said.

The St. Petersburg couple admired the interior — chocolate-colored wood floors, mirror black light fixtures — modern, yet warm. Felicia raised her brows in approval.

Across from them the wall was wrapped in a blurry picture of the original location. This new site is the only one outside Harlem.

The nonprofit Urban Development Solutions, run by Larry Newsome, courted restaurant owners and spent a year negotiating a deal with the city to open this location.

Mayor Bill Foster and other city leaders believe new developments like Sylvia's and a nearby Walmart will revitalize Midtown.

"Singleton," the host called.

Mike ordered a Diet Coke, Felicia a sweet tea, and the waiter served corn bread like mother made.

Chicken livers. Smothered chicken. Barbecue ribs. Okra. Candied yams. Collard greens. This is soul food, said the Singletons.

Mike ordered pork chops; Felicia had collard greens and fried chicken.

"Mmmm, greens are good," said Felicia, a call center manager. "What do you think?"

"Delicious," said Mike who works as a safety inspector.

A man who works with UDS stopped at the table and talked to the couple. He said the next move was to build an attraction to keep kids occupied. Maybe a laser tag facility, he mused. Mike and Felicia, who grew up nearby, thought it was a great idea.

For dessert Mike had yam pie and Felicia had a banana pudding cake the waiter said was so tasty it turns people into animals.

The plates empty, stomachs satisfied, Felicia asked, "Would you come back?"

"Yeah," Mike said. "That was delicious, I'll definitely be back."

Grand opening draws a crowd to Sylvia's in St. Petersburg 11/09/13 [Last modified: Saturday, November 9, 2013 10:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No. 21 USF Bulls roll over Temple to stay undefeated


    TAMPA — They emerged from Raymond James Stadium's southwest tunnel on the 11-month anniversary of their public humiliation at Temple.

    Bulls tailback Darius Tice, who rushes for 117 yards, is elated by his 47-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.
  2. Fennelly: USF thrashes Temple to stay unbeaten; too bad not many saw it in person



    No. 21 USF ran its record to 4-0 Thursday night with some payback against Temple, a 43-7 trouncing, no contest, as if anyone cares, at least judging by the paltry crowd at Raymond James Stadium. Where was everybody?

    Bulls cornerback Deatrick Nichols (3) celebrates with teammates after making a defensive play during the first half.
  3. Former Ray Tim Beckham's over being traded, or is he?

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — As the Rays reunited Thursday with Tim Beckham for the first time since he was dealt July 31 to Baltimore, it became very clear that not everything in assessing the trade is as it appears.

    Tim Beckham, here in action Monday against the Red Sox, has hit .310, with 10 homers and 26 RBIs since going to the Orioles.
  4. Bucs probe how to fix deep-ball chances missed vs. Bears


    TAMPA — It was only minutes after the Bucs had demolished the Bears 29-7 Sunday when quarterback Jameis Winston tried one final time to connect with receiver DeSean Jackson.

    QB Jameis Winston says he’s focused on the deep-ball chances to DeSean Jackson he missed in the opener: “We left a lot out there.”
  5. Rays journal: Ugly first inning dooms Andriese, Rays against Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Thursday's game that RHP Matt Andriese was among the pitchers who would most benefit from a strong finish to the season.

    Matt Andriese has a tough first: hits to four of first five batters, leading to three runs, the only ones he gives up in six innings