Chuck Prather, owner of the 1920s hotel at 340 Beach Drive NE in St. Petersburg, initially hoped to have the Birchwood open by December. Not surprisingly, the $6 million renovation has gone long, but the unveiling is in sight, scheduled now for the first week in May.
What was most recently the Grayl's Hotel has been carefully amended to preserve much of the intent of original architect George Feltham, a leading architect in St. Petersburg in the 1920s. The Spanish Mission-style building listed on the National Registry of Historic Places has been renovated, as so many South Beach boutique hotels of that vintage have been, aiming for a transformation that is both hip and contemporary but pays homage to its glamorous past.
To hit this sweet spot, Prather has hired a culinary dream team to oversee proceedings at the 225-seat fine-dining Birch and Vine on the hotel's first floor and the rooftop Canopy bar and restaurant on the top floor. As general manager he has tapped Robert Snow, who was with Roy's for 17 years, much of that time as the managing partner of the Tampa location. More recently Snow was part owner in the excellent but short lived Suro in Oldsmar.
And in the kitchen Prather and Snow have brought on Jason Cline, who received critical raves for his work as executive chef at Tampa's Bin 27 Bistro. Todd McNulty, most recently of St. Petersburg's Wood Fired Pizza, will serve as wine and spirits director.
According to Snow, the culinary focus of both restaurants will be on farm-to-table fare.
"That idea prevails throughout the property, but globally inspired. In Birch and Vine it will be more fine-dining with elevated service, and the Canopy will have a separate menu but the same style of cuisine, with smaller, fun, easier-to-share plates in a more casual setting, with fire pits, private cabanas, overstuffed chairs and views of North Straub Park.
In the main restaurant, which will feature a lobby bar and lounge as well as umbrellaed sidewalk seating for 50, appetizer prices will run between $8 and $18, with entrees between $18 and $40.
Of Klein's skills, Snow touts, "his ability to elevate dishes people are familiar with and put new, creative twists on them. Our goal is to bring something new and fresh and different to the Beach Drive arena."