The Refinery, one of Tampa’s most iconic restaurants, is relocating. It is moving from its current location this week to its nearby younger sibling restaurant, Fodder & Shine.
Fodder will cease to exist and the Refinery will incorporate a couple of Fodder’s most popular dishes (chef/co-owner Greg Baker can’t seem to escape the fried chicken and chicken biscuits).
Why the move?
"We’d had some people call us and say, ‘Would you consider getting out of your lease early?’ and the gears started turning," Greg Baker said Monday by phone. "We own the property (at Fodder), and it’s a better building in every way: bigger kitchen, the ability to have full liquor, the parking lot."
The little carriage house in Seminole Heights was seminal indeed, Greg and Michelle Baker helping to launch a more nationally notable food scene in Tampa Bay. Their vision was pure: They would have a nine-item menu, buy from local farmers, make everything in house (even the catsup) with only the aid of sous chef Eddie Shumard. Michelle would host and serve tables alongside the only other employee, Melissa Gwyn.
It quickly caught on, receiving praise from local media and a series of James Beard semifinalist nods (2011 as best new restaurant, then 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 as best chef, south). Southern Living would name it as one of the best restaurants in the South. Following their lead, a number of other ambitious restaurants popped up in Seminole Heights, making it a foodie destination for the region.
Several years later they built and opened Fodder & Shine, an homage to the early Florida Cracker settlers, eventually morphing into a Southern public house that featured items from across the southern United States.
So what is lost in decommissioning Fodder and relocating the Refinery?
"I don’t see anything as a loss. Michelle and I have been splitting front of the house duties at both restaurants, and I’m handyman, IT consultant, etc. It’s a lot. All of these things take away from me being a chef," Greg said. "Personally, I feel 2,000 pounds lighter."
Part of the Refinery’s charm was its intimate nature, set in an old Victorian house. Fodder, on the other hand, is a big, cavernous, more casual affair. To remedy that disconnect, the Bakers have hired Kreher/Barna Design Studio to design a more intimate, natural look, breaking up the floor plan into smaller dining areas.
And as per the menu, Greg says, "We are going to be doing some things that were outside the bounds at the old Refinery, largely because of kitchen space. Our prices may go up a little bit. I’ve added between six and eight dishes, so a slightly bigger menu."
Competition is fierce in Seminole Heights these days, glimmers of a restaurant recession in 2017 exacerbated by the double whammy of Hurricane Irma and a series of murders in the neighborhood. Many local restaurants felt the burn, with a number of closures.
The Bakers expect the Refinery to reopen in Fodder’s space by the weekend.
Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.