Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Dining

Review: Stann's on Fifth brings groovy 'casual fine dining' to Safety Harbor

By Laura Reiley

Times Food Critic

SAFETY HARBOR

When Stann Cherniack left San Diego on his motorcycle in the summer of 1969 it was him and a couple of other guys. And by the time he got to Woodstock he was 400 strong (apologies to Joni Mitchell on the lyric tweak). Cherniack, by his own admission, was "without a doubt a hippie." Since that summer of love, he has collected Woodstock-obilia, pulling it all together for the launch, in March, of Woodstock on Fifth.

A copyright infringement issue caused him to swiftly change the name to Stann's on Fifth. But the concept remains: Tie-dyed doodads, a staff that lets its freak flag fly and live music Tuesday to Sunday out on the patio, often of the 1960s and 1970s ilk. It all takes place in a little bungalow that most recently housed Crepe-ology. It's not glamorous, but Cherniack is nudging it toward what he calls "casual fine dining." There are tablecloths and nice napkins and a pleasant wine list, but most dishes don't tip past $17 and diners will feel comfortable wearing most anything.

Safety Harbor has had an exciting spring, with loads of new restaurants opening to fill a bunch of welcome niches. Stann's fits in well — there's a warmth and charm to the place that makes it a natural hangout. But it's Paul Tavares' work in the kitchen that makes this newcomer especially noteworthy. Most recently at Basque in Clearwater, Tavares has an interesting California sensibility. Dishes have slightly goofy peacenik names, but what's on each plate is sophisticated.

A meal may start with a daily special soup of gazpacho, a cup ($3.95) of smooth puree with a bright acidity and just a touch of garlic. For something a little more decadent, a duo of corn fritters (really more like zeppole, those sinful Southern Italian doughnuts, $5.95) come riding atop a shallow pool of sweet, creamy corn puree. A little tough love on the "time for love" bruschetta: The dish yielded a gorgeous jumble of tomato, red onion and herbs with a rich slick of ricotta underneath, but their toasted baguette round perches had suffered under too much liquid. With saucy liquid, successful bruschetta seems all about timing.

The most drop-dead gorgeous entree was salmon (really, look at that photo), called cryptically "the Sunflower." The plate gets a swipe of roasted tomato vinaigrette, then there's a pile of gently sauteed spinach surrounded by a succotash of fresh corn niblets, zucchini and red bell peppers, and on top of all this gorgeousness is a perfectly cooked salmon fillet with a crisp cap of skin. Hard to find other entrees around here to rival this one for $15.95.

I was also smitten by the "Route 66," a low bowl of wide pappardelle with a ragout of shiitake and crimini mushrooms with a touch of chive-dotted cream sauce and just a hint of truffle oil (seriously, there have been too many heavy pours of truffle oil in this area recently). A few shaves of Parmesan and the finished dish was homey but stylish, for $14.95.

Since Parts of Paris opened in 2012, Safety Harbor has added a half dozen notable newcomers downtown. Stann's on Fifth is up there with the best of them, getting extra high marks for being groovy for not a lot of bread.

Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter. She dines anonymously and unannounced; the Times pays all expenses.

Comments
Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

FILIPINO FOOD: WELCOME CHISMISHave you been to the Heights Public Market at the 73,000-square-foot Armature Works yet? It’s the buzzy food market in Tampa Heights with more than a dozen vendors offering up everything from rolled ice cream to Cuban sa...
Published: 06/20/18
Restaurant review: Chile Verde is serving up very solid tacos in an unlikely spot

Restaurant review: Chile Verde is serving up very solid tacos in an unlikely spot

ST. PETERSBURGThere are a lot of decommissioned gas stations across the country. Some have been reinvented, cleverly made over as upscale restaurants. There’s Big Star in Chicago, Elaia & Olio in St. Louis, Red Truck Bakery in Warrenton, Va., even Bi...
Published: 06/18/18
From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

I know we have three more months or so of hot-as-dog-breath Tampa Bay summer, but let’s start things off on the right foot with some frozen treats. Ice cream is on my mind after a recent visit to Disney Springs, when I found love in a perfect scoop o...
Published: 06/13/18
Five restaurants worth checking out at Disney Springs in Orlando (w/video)

Five restaurants worth checking out at Disney Springs in Orlando (w/video)

LAKE BUENA VISTA Disney Springs has swiftly become a playground or trial balloon for the country?s celebrity chefs. Art Smith, Masaharu Morimoto, Rick Bayless, Guy Fieri, Tony Mantuano, Wolfgang Puck and others are already on board, with names like ...
Published: 06/13/18
A hook-to-table food experience in Tampa Bay

A hook-to-table food experience in Tampa Bay

Going fishing is like doing your taxes. If it’s something you dive into just once a year you end up relearning the whole thing every time. Jake Whitfield eyed me, no judgment, and decided to cast for me the first time, my little wriggling greenback z...
Published: 06/11/18
Ceviche closing in South Tampa

Ceviche closing in South Tampa

TAMPA – The Ceviche restaurant at 2500 W Azeele St. is closing.Caledon Concepts, which operates Ceviche restaurants in Orlando, Tampa and St. Petersburg, said the restaurant’s last day at that location will be June 16."The expiration of the lease for...
Published: 06/08/18
Deal alert: Hard Rock Cafe has 71 cent burgers for its birthday

Deal alert: Hard Rock Cafe has 71 cent burgers for its birthday

SAVE THE DATE: HARD ROCK B-DAYOn June 14, 1971, the founders opened their own American-style diner in an old Rolls-Royce dealership and called it Hard Rock Cafe. They had a vision to combine music, memorabilia and all-American fare. Here’s a tip: To ...
Published: 06/06/18
Restaurant review: El Chapo Taco fills a need with fun, friendly Mexican spot in Gulfport

Restaurant review: El Chapo Taco fills a need with fun, friendly Mexican spot in Gulfport

GULFPORTWhat do we know about El Chapo, a.k.a. Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán? He ran the Sinaloa Cartel, even from prison, and first appeared on Forbes’ billionaires list in 2009. He’s 5 feet 6. He’s the father of 12 or 13 children. He has a talen...
Published: 06/04/18
Updated: 06/07/18
National Doughnut Day is back. Where to get free doughnuts, doughnut beers and more

National Doughnut Day is back. Where to get free doughnuts, doughnut beers and more

Believe it or not, Friday is already June 1, which means National Doughnut Day is back with sweet deals.The day was created to celebrate the Salvation Army’s "Doughnut Lassies," who served the treats to American soldiers on the front lines during Wor...
Updated one month ago
A look at how Tampa steakhouse Ocean Prime keeps its menu fresh

A look at how Tampa steakhouse Ocean Prime keeps its menu fresh

TAMPAThe executive chefs all fly into Columbus, Ohio. Before they step into the kitchen, before they sharpen a knife, they sit down and have a meeting, an open dialogue. They examine the whole menu: What’s working? What needs fixing? And then they ge...
Updated one month ago