Three of the Tampa Bay area's celebrated restaurateurs are expanding their empires, launching fresh concepts in upcoming months that bring something new to the table.
Curtis Beebe, owner of Dade City's Pearl in the Grove (which celebrates its third anniversary this month), will launch Local Public House at 32750 Pennsylvania Ave. in San Antonio in January.
The idea for the casual gastropub came from a need he perceived in his own life. On their nights off from the restaurant, he and his wife couldn't find a suitable "local."
"That's how the conversation started with my wife, Rebecca," says Beebe. "We asked ourselves what our perfect hangout would look like. That idea evolved and we kind of settled on the idea that we really like a great wine and beer list with a lot of great snacks, and a place to hang out outside, and the option of having good casual food to go along with it."
He felt that there was an untapped market in Pasco County and that "having two oars in the water" made more business sense.
"Right now I think we're losing business from people who live nearby and want to have an entire evening out. At Pearl we can give them a great meal and they can love it, but after dinner they are like, 'Now what?' "
Six miles from their flagship restaurant, Local will have fire pits, a casual beer-friendly menu (including what Beebe hopes will be a great burger and po' boys) and wine by the keg (a new trend nationally to control cost, transportation cost and waste). For a preview of Local's menu, visit Pearl in the Grove on Monday nights. (31936 St. Joe Road, Dade City; (352) 588-0008 or pearlinthegrove.com.)
Tacos in Ybor
In Ybor City, veteran Jason Fernandez (Bernini, Carne ChopHouse) has just taken over Tequilas at 1613 E Seventh Ave. Although it lived a measly six months, Fernandez decided the idea wasn't bad: Since the closure of Mema's Alaskan Tacos, Ybor City has seen a paucity of taco places. He signed a lease Oct. 1 and has closed briefly to gussy up the huge space (120 seats inside and a similar number outdoors). On Nov. 13 he will debut the new Tequilas with build-your-own tacos and burritos, a pass-through window for sidewalk sales and a serious tequila list.
"I love coming to this community every day," says Fernandez, who hails from a long line of Ybor City residents. "It's great to revive some of these old buildings that my grandparents were a part of."
South Tampa changes
Gordon Davis, the king of South Tampa restaurants, is mixing things up as well. Ciro's Speakeasy and Supper Club is launching a new menu, Boca Kitchen Bar Market welcomes new chef Justin Sells, and in April, Davis' SoHo Hospitality restaurant group will launch the main restaurant inside Tampa's new Le Meridien Hotel.
A classic French brasserie, it will be called Zazou, named for a hipster French subculture during World War II (think big zoot suits and crazy swing dancing).
Davis, who started with the very French Le Bordeaux in Hyde Park some 25 years ago, says, "It's time I got back to doing something French."
Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.