The make-your-own bowl formula at fast-casual poke restaurants is pretty standard: base, protein, toppings, sauce. But Baystar Restaurant Group founder Frank Chivas’ latest project — which joins Salt Cracker Fish Camp and Marina Cantina, his existing restaurants at the Clearwater Beach Marina (Roundabout Pizza remains in the works) — has set itself apart with a couple of neat additions. Launched March 22 in tiny, bright digs, Poke Havana offers Cuban-inspired “Havana” bowls and the beloved sandwich eponymous with Tampa to accompany its poke, served as either a signature build or a customized creation. As for those Havana bowls, they’re dressed with you-pick-them ingredients like adobo chicken, pineapple pico and mojo glaze. 25 Causeway Blvd., No. 108, Clearwater Beach. (727) 441-4440. pokehavana.com.
This Mexican eatery that celebrated its grand opening last week churns out an array of specialties. Mega Burrito’s large lineup spotlights menudo, burritos, enchiladas, molcajete and tacos, to name a few, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 1478 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., Clearwater. (727) 386-5989. megaburritorestaurant.com.
Get excited, Historic Uptown. Pete’s General in St. Petersburg has brought a haven of local products to the neighborhood. One long wall stocks its shelves with everything from Queen and Colony raw honey to Bavaro’s pasta sauce, while a large cooler chills items such as St. Pete Ferments’ ginger carrots, produce, eggs and Made Coffee cans. And behind the counter? House-made bagels await the schmear of your choice: Opt for cream cheese, butter, small-batch jam by the Urban Canning Company, peanut butter or almond butter. To top it all off, the store houses the first brick-and-mortar bar for Posies Flower Truck. 495 Seventh Ave. N, St. Petersburg. petesgeneral.com.
Arepa Factory Latin Cafe
Venezuelan dishes like pepitos (sandwiches), tequenos (fried cheese sticks) and 12 kinds of house-made arepas stuffed with tempting fillings are showcased alongside salads, hot dogs and burgers. With an emphasis on fresh ingredients since debuting in February, the cozy cafe with four- and two-top tables also features a nice juice selection and coffee drinks, including cortaditos. 11142 N 30th St., Tampa. (813) 570-8609. arepafactorylatincafe.com.
Where has the late-night cookie shop set up its second location? Next to the University of South Florida, of course. Established in New Jersey by Cassandra Aran and Brandon Lucante in 2016, Cookie Munchers started serving its signature jumbo treat earlier this month to folks who stop by in person — and those who place an online order for delivery. The shop transports warm cookies, as well as edible cookie dough, cookie cakes, milk and ice cream, to doorsteps near the USF Tampa campus till 3:30 a.m. Sweet-tooths, let your after-hours cravings loose. 11842 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Tampa. (813) 631-0050. rucookiemunchers.com.
Another newly opened spot in the Clearwater area. Owners Tom Draskovics and Linda Souza rolled out Kaia Bowls in March, and with it, one big menu influenced by the acai and poke bowls they experienced during trips to Hawaii. Other options include pitaya, oatmeal, chia pudding and spirulina bowls. 483 Mandalay Ave., Clearwater Beach. (727) 223-3073. kaiabowls.com.
Willie Jewell’s Old School Bar-B-Q
Chow down at the latest Tampa Bay restaurant for this Jacksonville-based franchise, offering paper-lined trays of barbecue favorites like brisket, St. Louis ribs, collard greens and mac and cheese. Locally, two more Willie Jewell’s Old School Bar-B-Q locations are headed for Pinellas Park and Riverview. 9040 Ulmerton Road, Suite 100, Largo. (727) 286-7469. williejewells.com.
The popular Thai-Mex fusion joint has risen in St. Petersburg again, with a limited menu. Nitally’s, which moved to South Pasadena after bidding the Grand Central District farewell last year, will host an appreciation day for St. Petersburg customers on May 3. Promising gift card prizes and the infamous Inferno Soup Challenge, the celebration marks the anniversary of when Nitally’s revealed plans to close its first St. Petersburg location. 1163 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 290-6166. nitallys.com.
Owner Ann Margo Fisher introduced Juan-A-Taco’s laid-back Mexican eats, mostly ranging from a little more than $3 to about $10 each, in February. The lineup highlights 10 specials daily, whether you’re dining in or grabbing takeout. 5781 Nebraska Ave., New Port Richey. (727) 247-8000.
Jet City Espresso
As of April 7, this 5 ½-year-old Seminole Heights staple has shuttered at 5803 N Florida Ave. Fans of Jet City Espresso — known for bringing its Seattle-style coffeehouses to Tampa in the mid ’90s before Starbucks was a thing — can continue to get their caffeine fix at owner Jessica Conlan’s shop in Hyde Park, which is still up and running. Last month, Jet City Espresso announced the closure of the Seminole Heights outpost on Facebook, adding that the Hyde Park shop, launched more than eight years ago, plans to expand and open seven days a week. 318 S Edison Ave., Tampa. (813) 892-1725. jetcityespresso.com.
Pie Five Pizza Co.
Tampa Bay’s first Pie Five Pizza Co. franchise, the second in Florida up until recently, is no more. Opened at 2689 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd. in July 2017, the fast-casual restaurant catered to Clearwater Mall shoppers with unlimited toppings-covered personal pies prepared in five minutes or less.
Mini Doughnut Factory
Not long after its younger sibling closed in St. Petersburg, the original location for South Tampa-born Mini Doughnut Factory has also called it quits. The bite-sized doughnut purveyor at 2109 S Dale Mabry Highway debuted in November 2015. As for the legal battle between Mini Doughnut Factory founders and investors, that remains ongoing.
An American bar and grill moving into the space where Vincenzo’s in New Port Richey used to be. The Social will feature two stages and two bars, one with 25 primarily local drafts and a second driven by whiskey-based cocktails, in addition to rooftop dining. Last month, planners told the Times they hope to debut the ground floor within the next 30 days, followed by the rooftop in 2020. 5650 Main St., New Port Richey. (727) 834-8137. thesocialnpr.com.