SAFETY HARBOR — Tom Golden and Michael Stewart are indefatigable. The former once presided over the Rack in South Tampa, then launched the Lure in St. Petersburg at the beginning of 2016, followed by one in South Tampa, and another one that opened recently as a component of the Artisan Art & Food Collective in Gulfport. Stewart, on the other hand, started in Tampa with 717 South, added Ava across the street, then an Ava kiosk at Armature Works, and he has other projects on the horizon. (He's also a partner with Golden in the Lure.)
And there's more. Together with chef Jason Rodis, Golden and Stewart took over long-standing Safety Harbor restaurant anchor Green Springs Bistro in June. Set in a charming bungalow, it was run ably by Paul Kapsalis and Kris Kubik for 18 years. But they had an opportunity to fulfill a dream, and moved to Sugarloaf Key to open a restaurant. Kapsalis is Rodis' brother, and Rodis has been working with Golden at the Lure restaurants. A deal was struck.
They reopened as Kitchen and Bar at Green Springs on June 28, after painting the walls and rearranging some artwork. In the next couple of months they will add a bar, a deck and a full liquor license. Much of what made Green Springs such a local favorite has been preserved. It's warm and inviting, service is personal and attentive, and some of the mid-priced, slightly Southern-inflected menu has been maintained.
But Rodis has added a raft of Greek-accented dishes that feel like an unfilled niche in Safety Harbor, as well as a couple sizes of monster tomahawk ribeyes that I watched tables get all swoony over. This is a collaborative eating event, complete with selfies and served with garlic mashed potatoes, roasted balsamic Brussels and something called "truffled eel veal demi" (I was with them except for the eel part) — I'm wondering how folks decide who gets to take the scimitar-sized bone home to their dog.
On a couple of visits, my biggest peeve is a funny one: Food comes too quickly. As in, immediately, entree plates arriving often with appetizers only half consumed. Unless customers have expressed urgency, dining out should leave almost enough time to finish a drink before appetizers arrive, and forks should definitely be set down for a final salad bite before entrees are served.
Rodis has a canny understanding of how to repurpose things for different dishes: A vanilla white pepper sweet potato mash makes a showing by itself as a side ($6), underneath a trio of bronzed sea scallops with dabs of wasabi aioli ($12, maybe a little too sweet for this one), spooned alongside a fan of duck breast ($15) and adjacent to a fat and sassy grilled pork chop with a spicy apple and pine nut chutney, which comes in its own little sealed mason jar with a passel of sauteed zucchini halfmoons ($24). Creamy feta cheese grits make a few appearances, and hush puppies pop up here and there, as do those Brussels sprouts. It's smart, keeps things moving in the kitchen, and he works with a palette of synergistic flavors.
There's a classic saganaki with Kefalograviera (essentially, fried cheese), broiled and melty and spritzed with lemon, served with thin slices of country baguette ($11). It makes a nice foil for a tart, oregano-speckled salad of cucumber, red onion, feta and tomato (some pretty mealy tomatoes, though; $8).
One of my favorite dishes felt like a solidly good deal at $18: A half Cornish hen comes golden skinned, lemony and garlicky, with dribbles of pan gravy, a scoop of rustic mashed potatoes and zucchini. It reads like home cooking, nurturing and appealing to look at. There's a short, familiar wine list (half-price bottles on Wednesdays) and a very curated beer list. Desserts include a couple of decadent Mike's Pie options and a solid house-made berry cobbler with vanilla ice cream.
Kitchen and Bar at Green Springs has yet to deliver on the promised "Bar" part, but this newcomer brings another solid offering to Safety Harbor, one that pays homage to its predecessor while broadening the culinary offerings.
Contact Laura Reiley at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley. She dines unannounced and the Times pays all expenses.
Kitchen and Bar at Green Springs
156 Fourth Ave. N, Safety Harbor
(727) 669-6762; kitchenatgreensprings.com
Hours: 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, brunch Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Details: AmEx, V, MC, Disc., reservations accepted; beer and wine; takeout
Prices: Appetizers $4-$16; entrees $18-$34
Rating, out of four stars:
Food: *** Service: **
Overall: ** 1/2