Sunday, January 21, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Adagio evolves to fit St. Petersburg's hip Edge District

New year, fresh start. The sentiment may be somewhat arbitrary, but there's no denying that beginning of a new year does have a symbolic power that even logical types like myself find hard to resist. Even if it's just all in our heads, the idea of a clean slate in 2014 is certainly an appealing one.

This usually applies to fitness and career goals, self-improvement and things of that nature, but it's also a chance for businesses to reinvigorate their brand or, in the case of downtown St. Petersburg's Adagio, even reinvent itself.

Until last month, Adagio was Café Adagio, a long-running nightclub located in the center of downtown St. Pete's Edge District. Despite a small local following, Café Adagio never seemed to fully hit its stride, hosting myriad short-running DJ nights, odd events such as Jell-O wrestling, and even flirting at one point with the idea of converting to a bikini bar. The problem was part-confused branding (the place was never much of a café, and the music played inside was rarely played adagio) and part-location — until recently, the Edge District was more outskirts than destination.

However, with the opening of several popular businesses in the immediate area — The Bends, Engine No. 9, Green Bench, The Amsterdam, and so on — the Edge District has eliminated one of those issues, and it seems that Adagio is really taking some positive steps to remedy the other.

A friend involved in the renovation of Adagio gave me a heads-up about the new digs, so I decided to take a look and see how it stacked up with what I knew about the old place, which, admittedly, is limited to only a few nights out, most of which occurred several years ago.

The obvious change is the name. Gone is the vague café designation, and instead a simple, stripped-down version of the club's former identity: Adagio. I like it. The sign out front hasn't changed yet, but I expect it will be soon, now that the interior renovations and online rebranding are complete.

Equally obvious as the name change is the view from the street. Café Adagio used to be a bit of a question mark — a dark, generic-looking bar on the corner with few hints from the exterior as to what was happening inside. At the new Adagio, the street-facing wall is much more open, with glass doors and large windows at the end of the bar, adding an open-air element into the mix.

This is a nice contrast with the rest of the place, which is all stone façade and dark-lacquered wood. There's a bar on one side, backed with attractive, wall-mounted cube storage to display the various beers and wines on the menu and a flat-screen TV in the middle; plush booth seating along the wall; café tables in the center; and a combo DJ/VIP stage area in the back. The stage is modeled to look like some sort of ancient, stone-columned structure, with dark red curtains for when it's in VIP mode. I was told by the bartender that Adagio will have live jazz bands this Friday and Saturday.

The beer and wine selection is to the point, following the overall aesthetic. Wines are white, red and, mysteriously, other (a Bosnian wine called Citluk Rosary is the sole entry; I believe it's a rosé). There are many selections from the former Yugoslavia, a nod to the owner and staff's heritage. I tried the Plantaze Vranac Pro Corde from Montenegro, and it was excellent — semi-dry, but with rich, jam-like berry notes. On the way out, the bartender recommended a Serbian wine called Medvedja Krv for next time, which he said was excellent and that I later learned translates as "bear's blood." Duly noted.

The beer options are fairly standard, but it was refreshing to see several newer local brews on draft, including the sessionable Parlay Pale Ale from Clearwater's Pair O' Dice Brewing, the full-bodied Arcus IPA from Odessa's Big Storm Brewery, and of course, Maduro Brown Ale from Cigar City. If you really want a lot of beer in your system, you can also order a "beer tower," a plastic column of beer with its own tap that holds 3 liters of beer. Share with some friends.

Overall, I think Adagio is going the right route with the new approach. Instead of adding more bells and whistles, it's opting for a comfortable, classy minimalism. In a neighborhood that's quickly coming up as one of the hipper areas downtown, I think this approach will serve the new Adagio well. — [email protected]

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