Saturday, August 18, 2018
Dining

Where to eat and drink around Safety Harbor: Gigglewaters bar, Parts of Paris, Sno Beach and more

Not that many years ago, downtown Safety Harbor was a little lean on places to eat. Green Springs Bistro had been an anchor, Whistle Stop and Cello’s Char House, too. But no one would have called it a dining destination. It was too bad: The city of 17,000 has a compact downtown, very walkable, with sufficient parking (relatively speaking) and housing stock that runs heavily toward lovely little 1930s Florida bungalows.

But then something started happening. Parts of Paris, then Southern Fresh and Pizzeria Gregario, and then a veritable avalanche of newcomers in a range of cuisines: Pacini’s, Coastal Cantina, Miss Hazel’s Kitchen, etc. We decided it would be a dreamy place for an evening of dining, a movable feast of drinks over here, appetizers over there, then something more substantial before a grand finale on the sweet side.

Main Street runs east-west, at its easternmost edge running into the water at the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa. Most days you’ll find runners and bikers availing themselves of the wide sidewalk that runs along Philippe Park Drive up into Philippe Park. The bulk of downtown’s restaurants are clustered along and just off Main Street, roughly from Second to Ninth avenues. It’s best to park once, in a central spot near Main, then hoof it.

STOP 1: Gigglewaters Social Club & Screening Room

737 Main St. (727) 669-7077. gigglewaters.com.

That’s a mouthful of a name for what amounts to Safety Harbor’s newest speakeasy, an attractive but comfortable Prohibition-era charmer opened in May and set in a single room dominated by an L-shaped bar built in the 19th century, pressed-tin ceilings and a private movie screening room. This is where we chose to wet our whistle for the evening, just a nip before moving on. The cocktail list is a jumble of classics and more contemporary references. (I applaud the Big Lebowski, a white Russian, natch, $12.) My choice was a refreshing Bathtub Gin drink that pairs gin, cucumber, lime and tonic ($10), and it’s sometimes on special during happy hour before 6 p.m.

The problem that arises when your companions are a little late and you’re cooling your jets is that it’s easy to start reading the menu (but only after you’ve fully scrutinized the portraits of Barbra Streisand and Mr. Spock reimagined fully inked). Which can cause a clear-headed plan to devolve a little. The menu is dominated by burgers, dogs and chicken sandwiches, but there’s a section called "Giggle Dippers" ($7 to $9) that caught my eye, a mix-and-match array of things that can be dipped (onion strings, battered green beans, pretzel loaf) and dips (beer cheese, sriracha ranch). We had to get a Giggle Dipper, right, if only to have to say it out loud?

STOP 2: Happy Salmon

500 Main St. (727) 723-1116. facebook.com/happysalmonbar.

Tom Shibusawa has owned this little sushi bar for about three years, but it has somehow remained off my radar. It’s an intimate mom-and-pop space that used to be an Italian restaurant, its decor more of an accretion of stuff than a motif: long wooden bar backed by big sake bottles and black banners with Japanese text, rice paper lanterns overhead, a couple of sidewalk tables out front.

We figured a few rolls and a sake would position us perfectly for entrees elsewhere. Negotiation was fierce, so we tweezered our chopsticks into a bowl of tangy, sesame-swirled seaweed salad ($5.99) before arriving at a decision: a Jessica roll ($13.99) and a shrimp crunch ($7.99), the former a tight roll of shrimp, crab, avocado and cucumber, topped with swaths of tuna, salmon (not sure how happy, but tasty), avocado, spicy mayo and scallion. Presentations are attractive without verging on rococo with sauce squiggles and such, fish plush with just a briny whiff that indicates freshness.

STOP 3: Parts of Paris

146 Fourth Ave N. (727) 797-7979. partsofparis.com.

For this story I told myself I had to try places that were all new to me, so I couldn’t go to my favorite Safety Harbor restaurant, Pizzeria Gregario (plus, we did our dinearound on a Tuesday, an evening Greg Seymour is closed). The problem with our Tuesday gallivanting, however, was that my original main-course plan, Marker 39 Floribbean Cuisine, is also dark that night. Door locked, we huddled in consternation. Plan B: a visit to Parts of Paris, a charming bungalow just a half-block away serving classical French fare that opened in 2012. I’ve eaten at Chris Orrung’s place many times, but not in a number of months.

Our hunger level ratcheted down (darn those Giggle Dippers), we aimed to share a couple of the larger plates. Parts of Paris does the classics with aplomb, so we couldn’t pass up a bowl of French onion soup ($6), its broth sherried and not overly salty, its mantle of cheese creating drooping garlands betwixt spoon and mouth. That dispatched, it was time for a wide bowl of mussels with a side of skinny, crisp frites ($22), an accompaniment we doubled down on with an order of steak frites ($29), its rosy New York strip cut into thin horizontal strips and paired with a perfect tarragon-flecked bearnaise. You will likely be tempted by dessert at Parts of Paris (creme brulee, crepe Suzette and all the things that make it impossible to understand why French folks aren’t all pear-shaped), but it’s time to move on.

STOP 4: Sno Beach

310 Main St. (727) 223-3638. snobeachhut.com.

You’re going to have to start your dinearound fairly early if you want to hit this at the end — it closes early in the week at 9 p.m., 10 Thursday to Saturday. This is Hawaiian ice, fluffy and not grainy like Sno Cones, the most interesting flavors, all made in house, what they call "Harbor Combos." There’s the Gator Bite (orange, mango and vanilla ice cream), Bull’s Horn (lemon-lime, watermelon and vanilla ice cream) and the Gulf Breeze (strawberry, cherry, blue raspberry and vanilla ice cream). Most of the 40 flavors are offered in a sugar-free version, and there are toppers that may seem like gilding the lily (sweet cream, caramel, marshmallow cream) but are actually a nice way to cut the sweet-tart of the ice and add a little richness.

Opened in 2015, the little spot is charming and homespun with an aquamarine-and-robin’s-egg-blue color scheme and loads of sand dollars and starfish so it has a robust beachy feel fairly far from the water’s edge. Choose your size ($3 for a baby, up to $5.50 for an XL), pick one to three flavors, pick your toppings (50 cents each), then wait for your plastic foam cup capped with a jaunty paper parasol. During the day, they also have Maui mini doughnuts that are worth investigating.

   
Comments
Dining events: Bolts Brew Fest, Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month

Dining events: Bolts Brew Fest, Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month

BOLTS: BREW FESTI was going to list all the craft brewers whose wares will be on offer at 7 p.m. Friday at this year’s Bolts Brew Fest, a Tampa Bay Lightning benefit for the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. But with 50 local breweries alone, and another ...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18
Asian-inspired Chop Chop Shop takes over Nicko’s in Seminole Heights

Asian-inspired Chop Chop Shop takes over Nicko’s in Seminole Heights

Folks around Seminole Heights will soon be able to eat Asian-inspired food with the spirit of the King.Nicko’s Fine Foods , one of the last standing classic American-style diners in Tampa Bay and the spot where Elvis Presley ate after his 1956 concer...
Published: 08/14/18
Amalie Arena tries to lure millenials to its Firestick Grill

Amalie Arena tries to lure millenials to its Firestick Grill

TAMPA — How to attract the cool kids? This is the mantra for so many restaurants these days: That huge generation of millennials eats differently, thinks differently and spends differently than their parents. So how do you reel them in and make them ...
Published: 08/14/18
Restaurant review: Oak & Stone brings a lot to an already thriving downtown St. Petersburg dining and beer scene

Restaurant review: Oak & Stone brings a lot to an already thriving downtown St. Petersburg dining and beer scene

ST. PETERSBURG You stand up. You show your ID and get a wristband. A server walks you to the wall and through the options: more than 50 taps, grouped by style, mostly local (Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Green Bench, 3 Daughters, etc.) and regional cra...
Published: 08/13/18
Restaurants closing and changing hands: Silas Dent’s, Salty Rim Grill and more

Restaurants closing and changing hands: Silas Dent’s, Salty Rim Grill and more

SILAS DENT’SAfter 39 years of business, Silas Dent’s Steakhouse at 5501 Gulf Blvd. in St. Pete Beach has been sold to the owners of Caddy’s on the Beach. It will be retrofitted and reopened as the boat-up Caddy’s St. Pete.In 1978, Ted Stambaugh, Rob...
Published: 08/08/18
TeBella founder Abigail StClair talks tea facts you may not know

TeBella founder Abigail StClair talks tea facts you may not know

When Abigail StClair studied at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., she set her sights on preveterinary classes, specifically marine mammals. Why? Because it was the hardest curriculum. A postcollege stint as a whale trainer at the Mystic A...
Published: 08/08/18
Restaurant review: Alsace Bistro is doing a solid job bringing the foods of northeast France to Tierra Verde

Restaurant review: Alsace Bistro is doing a solid job bringing the foods of northeast France to Tierra Verde

TIERRA VERDEIt has always been a charming restaurant space, tucked at the back of the little shopping center adjacent to Billy’s Stone Crab on the way to Fort De Soto Park. I reviewed it when it was the German Crepe House, and maybe again shortly aft...
Published: 08/06/18
Rooster and the Till owners will open a taqueria in Sparkman Wharf

Rooster and the Till owners will open a taqueria in Sparkman Wharf

TAMPA — Sparkman Wharf, a part of the $3 billion Water Street Tampa neighborhood, has revealed the first major restaurant of its promised ten regional chefs and restaurateurs to join the lineup of culinary concepts.Two of Tampa’s most celebrated rest...
Updated one month ago
Restaurant openings: Left Bank Bistro, Nekter, Mekenita Cantina

Restaurant openings: Left Bank Bistro, Nekter, Mekenita Cantina

NOW OPEN: MEKENITA CANTINAOne of my favorite Mexican spots has pulled up stakes in Lutz, changed its name from Mekenita Mexican Grille to Mekenita Cantina and moved to a central spot at 6707 N Florida Ave. in Seminole Heights. Bodega and Mandarin Hei...
Updated one month ago
Restaurant review: Frank Chivas’ new Belleair Bluffs spot Seaweed is a revelation with fresh fish and an interesting menu

Restaurant review: Frank Chivas’ new Belleair Bluffs spot Seaweed is a revelation with fresh fish and an interesting menu

BELLEAIR BLUFFSI’ve been writing about Baystar Restaurant Group since I started at the Times 10 years ago. I’ve been writing about its founders Frank Chivas and the late, larger-than-life Tom Pritchard for just as long. I’ve reviewed most of their re...
Updated one month ago