Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Restaurant News

Dining planner: Our favorite country and Southern restaurants

RECOMMENDED READING


Our favorite country & Southern restaurants

With a stellar lineup of country all-stars in town this week, it got us digging for the best country cooking.

Loretta Lynn, the most awarded woman in country music history, starts things off Sunday (Mahaffey Theater $35.50-$65.50), and then Feb. 24 is a twangy day bringing us Travis Tritt (Mahaffey $35.50-$55.50) as well as Vince Gill and Lyle Lovett (together at Ruth Eckerd Hall $48.75-$125) before Rosanne Cash brings Grammy-winning country royalty to the Capitol Theatre on Feb. 25 ($35-$75).

All this country goodness reminds us that there's been a wave of upscale, down-home cooking in the Tampa Bay restaurant scene and here are some of our recent favorites:

The Mill Restaurant

200 Central Ave., St. Petersburg; (727) 317-3930

The place is steampunk-cool, festooned with gears and tooled leather and vintage waterwheels, and the food is vibrant, with a globe-trotting knack for bringing in Spanish or Southeast Asian or Middle Eastern flavors without seeming incoherent. Its menu concerns itself with gamier meats and humbler cuts (boar ribs, braised lamb belly, venison saddle). A meal alone could be made on the Brussels leaves salad with grilled radicchio and pork belly croutons (what kind of black magic is that?), and a pork tomahawk is the kind of Flintstone-sized dish you'll be dipping into fridge-side at home for a couple of days.

Fodder and Shine

5910 N Florida Ave., Tampa; (813) 234-3710

What started last year as an academically rigorous re-creation of Florida Cracker food from about 1820 to the Depression has morphed into a more broadly appealing Southern restaurant in the hands of four-time James Beard Award semifinalist Greg Baker and his wife, Michelle. The Florida-raised and classically trained chef puts out a no-flour skillet corn bread with a satisfying crispy edge and just the right amount of sweetness; vinegar-zingy braised greens with a deep smoky bacon flavor; simple, earthy roast beets sweetened with cane syrup; and soft butter-braised cabbage and turnips. All of these are served in little individual bowls that are easily passed as shared sides (or put together as a vegetarian dinner).

Urban Comfort Restaurant and Brewery

2601 Central Ave., St. Petersburg; (727) 623-9823

The sister restaurant to Urban Brew and BBQ, with made-from-scratch menu items, craft beers on tap and an open kitchen that puts out a very solid fried chicken (juicy interior, fairly thick crunchy batter, very greaseless). It tips into memorable territory with a little ramekin of honey hot sauce, but you've got to pay an extra buck for that. There's a homey chicken pot pie (they also offer a vegetarian version), the bechamel-style sauce cradling familiar veggies and big shreds of white-meat chicken (and a few unfortunate bone pieces). The overall effect, served in a super-hot cast iron skillet, is inviting and old-timey. Same goes for the house hush puppies and biscuits, both fairly airy and light, offered as a side to the solid fried fish of the day. The single best menu item is the fried green tomatoes, offered at lunch as the centerpiece of a BLT.

Hog Island Fish Camp

900 Broadway Ave., Dunedin; (727) 736-1179

The name is a nod to the area's history and the hog farm that was once on Honeymoon and neighboring Caladesi, renamed and rebranded as a honeymoon spot in 1939. Owner Walt Wickman is paying tribute to the area's past, but hog is also germane to the menu. There is an excellent blackened or fried hogfish sandwich and plenty of pork, from a sandwich with sweet-zingy house-made bread and butter pickles to a rustic pork "steak." The Southern-style buttermilk fried chicken is a big pile of crunchy-exteriored, juicy-interiored poultry pieces that serves two or three people with a choice of three sides. Salt-and-pepper fried seafood options from shrimp to oysters. As at Wickman's other restaurants, seafood is unmistakably fresh and very Florida-centric.

   
Comments
Dining news: More poke coming, Frogman Feast raises money for SEALs and Gold Star families

Dining news: More poke coming, Frogman Feast raises money for SEALs and Gold Star families

FUNDRAISER: FROGMAN FEASTLast year, the first celebrity chef charity event called Frogman Feast raised more than $12,000 for Navy SEALs and their Gold Star families. Ken Bowen is spearheading the effort again this year from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at 3 Da...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/22/17
No Thanksgiving plan? Head to one of these Tampa Bay restaurants for traditional feasts and more

No Thanksgiving plan? Head to one of these Tampa Bay restaurants for traditional feasts and more

You realize Thanksgiving is just a week away, right? No pressure. If you don’t have a holiday game plan for Nov. 23, let’s do this thing. There are still a bunch of options, many traditional Thanksgiving repasts and some a little less conventional. C...
Published: 11/16/17
Oak & Stone with self-serve beer coming to St. Pete, South Tampa’s Byblos to reopen

Oak & Stone with self-serve beer coming to St. Pete, South Tampa’s Byblos to reopen

COMING SOON: OAK & STONEBeen to Oak & Stone in Sarasota? In early 2018 we’ll get one in St. Petersburg at 199 Central Ave., next to the newly constructed Hyatt Place. The concept is wood-fired pizzas mated with a self-serve beer wall highlighting cr...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/20/17
A St. Petersburg artist created the labels for this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau wine release

A St. Petersburg artist created the labels for this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau wine release

Every year, there are bad things we can count on: taxes and death. And good things: Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of November and on the Thursday before, the Beaujolais nouveau arrives. What is less predictable is just how this vin de l’ann...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Restaurant review: NuMex needs to tell its story better to stand out among St. Petersburg’s taco scene

Restaurant review: NuMex needs to tell its story better to stand out among St. Petersburg’s taco scene

ST. PETERSBURGI seldom have been so perplexed about a new restaurant. The prospect of NuMex’s opening in the Grand Central District swirled more than a year ago and I watched the hip little building come together. The spelling of the name itself was ...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/21/17
Proper in downtown St. Pete to close as Park & Rec takes over its space

Proper in downtown St. Pete to close as Park & Rec takes over its space

ST. PETERSBURG — Next week, something almost unprecedented is happening in St. Petersburg’s restaurant scene.Park & Rec, the game-oriented concept from Stephen Schrutt’s Hunger + Thirst Restaurant Group, will expand Nov. 17 into a second building. It...
Published: 11/10/17
Don’t want to cook on Thanksgiving? Where to pick up every part of the meal in Tampa Bay

Don’t want to cook on Thanksgiving? Where to pick up every part of the meal in Tampa Bay

Some years you’re feeling it. The peeling of the pearl onions, the procuring of the chestnuts, that one creepy moment when you’re nearly elbow-deep trying to locate the bag of giblets. Thanksgiving is the most important cooking holiday of the year, t...
Published: 11/08/17
Made Coffee’s cold brew creation is brewed and canned right here in Tampa Bay

Made Coffee’s cold brew creation is brewed and canned right here in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURGLet’s start with the actual can itself, a turquoise-tan-orange vessel emblazoned with text and illustrations: "Ingredients: coffee, water, time"; an image of a simple coffee brewing process under "How we made it." The colors pop, the fo...
Published: 11/07/17
Updated: 11/10/17
New Indian restaurant Rasoi now open in Ybor City

New Indian restaurant Rasoi now open in Ybor City

Rasoi Indian Cuisine, launched its grand opening Saturday (Nov. 4) as the only Indian restaurant in Ybor City. Located at 1701 E Eighth Ave., the traditional restaurant cooks authentic Indian food with the finest spices and ingredients imported from...
Updated one month ago
Naples is a dining destination worth visiting, rich with newcomers and long-standing favorites

Naples is a dining destination worth visiting, rich with newcomers and long-standing favorites

NAPLES Naples Restaurant Week is a semiannual promotion celebrating the region’s best dining at an affordable price, with lunch and dinner prix fixe meals available for either $25 or $35, depending on the location. This year it’s slated ...
Updated one month ago