Downtown, like the universe, keeps expanding.
Jeremy Duclut, the executive chef at Beach Drive's Cassis, has announced he will open something new near the end of this month. He stays on as exec of Cassis, but with wife Liset debuts the Wooden Rooster at 104 Second Ave. NE on the ground floor of the Ovation condo tower. The 1,400-square-foot space will be devoted to healthy, casual fare, says Duclut.
"Growing up in France, I've always loved crepes. So that's where we started. We will also serve fresh sandwiches, soups and salads to make it a better and more rounded venue."
The savory menu will consist of signature combinations tucked into a choice of buckwheat, gluten-free or regular crepes (those same combos are available as sandwiches on baguette, multigrain or gluten-free bread). And creative types can concoct their own savory or sweet crepes from a list of ingredients.
The Wooden Rooster, with approximately 30 seats inside and another 16 outside, will serve brunch on the weekends and lunch and dinner daily, with breakfast added down the pike.
Although nearby Cassis has a French-inspired menu, Duclut doesn't see the dense competition along Beach Drive as daunting.
"Many restaurants have been opening in the past months, which is a great thing. The more, the better! It means more customers, business and opportunity for everyone."
This spirit of "coopetition" is alive and well at nearby Locale Market. The two-story dining/retail/foodie dreamscape has recently undergone a bit of shuffling, bringing much of the retail downstairs and re-envisioning upstairs as the dining/restaurant component (although the bakery will remain on the second floor).
As part of this new push, they will debut a guest chef series on Thursday, with Z Grille's Zack Gross helming an eight-course intimate dinner for 10 guests for $105 per person at FarmTable Kitchen. Gross, having recently lost 50 pounds through dietary change, is in the process of overhauling his Z Grille menu with a more health-forward paradigm. His "chef's table" dinner is the maiden voyage for a guest program at Michael Mina/Don Pintabona's celebrated collaboration. Locale chefs Jeffrey Hileman and Matt Dahlkemper welcome Haven/Epicurean chef Chad Johnson on Nov. 19, with other chefs to follow.
Billed as a "celebration of food, wine and friendship," this new effort underlines the fact that, despite boom times for new businesses in St. Petersburg, early fall is rough for local restaurants. In the past few years European tourists and a new market, affluent Brazilians, have buoyed traditionally meager sales numbers. This year, because of the strength of the dollar, European tourists haven't flocked, and because of the Brazilian economic crisis, they've stayed home as well.
Thus, September/October were perseverance months for a lot of restaurants downtown and along the beaches: Hold on until high season. And so creativity and new allegiances blossom.
Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.