Reviving a menu, a location and an interest in restaurants, Linda Bernard will soon open Brisket Basket at the site of the old Triplett's drive-in across from St. Petersburg High School.
"It's something nobody's done in a long time," said Bernard, whose first restaurant, Tangelo's, served plenty of brisket sandwiches from its Tangerine Avenue S location in the 1980s.
Brisket Basket takes brisket, a supporting character on a few barbecue menus, and makes it the star, including brisket burgers, sausage, meatloaf, even soups and chili. Bernard said brisket is the "forgotten part of barbecue" but has started to regain popularity, even as a cut of meat.
"On food shows, it's the thing to grind," she said of the marbled beef cut from the chest of the cow. "If you go to the butcher and say, 'Would I be crazy to have you double-grind some brisket for me?' you will become the butcher's best friend."
Bernard said she plans to make everything from scratch in the small kitchen at 2500 Fifth Ave. N. She will smoke the brisket in-house, using a special rub, and also do all the sausage grinding, slicing for fresh-cut french fries, and preparation of hot German potato salad and a dessert specialty: "gooey bars."
Recalling Triplett's, which closed in 1982 after 36 years, Bernard will not have a dining room but will make use of the four lots at the site for outdoor dining, pickups and the drive-in style of which Triplett's was a hallmark.
Several other restaurants have tried to take root at the site but none has lasted. Bernard said she sees the surrounding neighborhood as a hot market and is hoping to attract its customers more so than high school students. She also thinks the location is convenient and hopes the drive-in model makes it even more convenient.
"This spot is a lot more centrally located than people realize," she said.
This is a return to restaurants for Bernard, who started in 1982 with Tangelo's. She later moved that store downtown and sold it in 1985. It remains but has a different menu. Bernard bought Ringside Cafe on Fourth Street N in 1988 but sold it in 1992.
Since then, Bernard has been operating a business as a vendor's representative to Home Depot Expo Design Centers, a connection she made with regulars at Ringside. She said she has been traveling a lot but wants to settle back into the city and return to restaurants.
"It's a great business if you can make any money at it," she said.
Bernard said she had a great following for the brisket sandwiches at the original Tangelo's, but this restaurant will have other interesting menu items. There will be chicken sandwiches and veggie burgers, but she will also serve five-way beans, green-chili hominy with cheese, and sliders, or small sandwiches.
"Some people will just love a bucket of sliders," she said. With a limited menu, Bernard said, she will allow people to mix and match freely to generate lots of combinations.
Bernard is easing herself out of the home decorating business and hoping this foray into brisket comes at the right time.
"Hopefully, we're ahead enough of the curve," she said.
Paul Swider can be reached at 892-2271 or email@example.com or by participating in itsyourtimes.com.
2500 Fifth Ave. N
Opening date: late 2006 or early 2007