Wednesday is shaping up to be an exciting day for Tampa Bay foodies. It starts bright and early as Kahwa Coffee celebrates the opening of its eighth location and first St. Petersburg drive-through.
Head to 3901 3rd St. N starting at 7:30 a.m. and St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman and celebrity pitchman Anthony Sullivan (he's the face of OxiClean) will serve up free coffee beverages to visitors until 10 a.m.
It's too early to say whether the mayor is a notable barista, but it's clear Kahwa is going great guns. The company began roasting in Tampa Bay in 2005 and continues to roast all of its beans at a local production site. The first Kahwa Coffee cafe opened in downtown St. Pete in 2008, then crossed the bay in 2012 and now has four locations Tampa. Kahwa Coffee plans to open its first cafe in Sarasota in late 2015.
On the Tampa side, Noel Cruz officially opens his much-anticipated Ichicoro Ramen in Seminole Heights at 5229 N Florida Ave. Cruz and crew previewed his "Tampa-style ramen" in May at a pop-up at New York City's red-hot Ramen Lab. Run by Sun Noodle as a test-kitchen restaurant, it was part of a guest chef program.
Cruz, a University of Florida and Culinary Institute of America grad, debuts an intimate 50-seat open design, and has imported a chef team originally from Sapporo, a hotbed of ramen innovation. This is not instant soup, folks: Bone up on tonkotsu (a style made with pork bones), shoyu (a style heavy on soy), kansui and other styles of broth studded with noodles, meats, veggies and eggs. The "Tampa" part comes into play with ingredients (gulf shrimp, citrus, corn and tomato all make unusual showings) but also accommodates the region's sultry climate with an array of refreshing brothless noodle dishes, plus some extra spiciness (kosho, a pepper paste, is made of Florida citrus and habaneros) to beat the heat.
Also Wednesday, Michael Cecere, who owned Bowled on Fourth St. N, opens the doors at his new Bowled Express at 1631 4th St. N in the Bob Lee Tire Company space (where Ricky P's once was). Cecere made a name for himself with bowls cradling single protein-starch-veg creations. Steam rising up, customers were charmed by piles of jasmine rice topped with quick-wokked bean sprouts, peppers and bok choy, atop of which rode a trio of orange-cashew-crusted fried shrimp, and were equally enthusiastic about bowls of spicy red curry rice noodles topped with thin slices of flank steak and more stir-fried veggies.
Cecere, working in this new location with limited space an all induction burners, will start with just quick-serve brunch and lunch, but aims to add dinner next month.
Looking forward, things continue apace: On Thursday, Persian-American chef Sebastian Oveysi, who oversees his family restaurant Amoo's in Washington, D.C. as well as a popular food truck, will launch Boca Bay Grille in Gulfport in the space that was La Fogata. The 180-seat restaurant at 2834 Beach Blvd. S will feature Persian-New American fusion, a cuisine that will fill a new niche with Gulfport's array of existing spots (Pia's, O'Maddy's. Backfin Blue, etc.). Permitting and construction slowed Oveysi progress for a number of months, but he is poised to debut as area restaurants ramp up for high season.
Next Tuesday, celebrated Tampa restaurateur BT Nguyen opens a more casual to-go restaurant. This new venture, dubbed BT To Go, will offer many of her current restaurant's menu faves, along with some new dishes. Over the years customers urged her to make lunch items at dinner, so she decided to create a more casual spot where folks could grab meals to go. Customers will be able to pre-order online for scheduled pick-up and food will be brought right out to your car. With a little more than a dozen seats inside and out, customers can eat in, too. Prices are lower than at her flagship Restaurant BT. BT To Go is located 3215 S MacDill Ave.
Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.