The word chef Rob Reinsmith frequently uses when describing his soon-to-open St. Petersburg restaurant is “tropical.”
Wild Child, the new neighborhood restaurant and bar from Reinsmith and the Bends owner Matt Kaye, will feature a cocktail list heavy with tropical influence, with a focus on mezcal- and tequila-based drinks.
The food menu will skew tropical, too, inspired by a “global coastal” theme, with influences from Florida’s west coast and the Caribbean as well as Portugal, Spain, Costa Rica and the Yucatan. And the decor, which will feature a large coral-hued graphic mural from Miami artist Jessy Nite, will evoke a strong tropical vibe.
Kaye and Reinsmith have been planning the new spot for some time now. Reinsmith left his longtime gig as executive chef at Noble Crust in early March, a few weeks before the coronavirus pandemic surged into full swing and all restaurants in the state were ordered to shut down. What they had originally hoped would be a June or July opening for Wild Child quickly became a late summer project.
Launching a new restaurant during COVID-19 has been challenging, to say the least. But Reinsmith said the delayed opening hasn’t been all bad. It’s given him and Kaye time to reassess what they want their restaurant to be, and how to ensure that it thrives, even in the middle of a pandemic and increasingly volatile restaurant environment.
When Wild Child opens next month, it will take over the building at 2710 Central Ave., formerly home to NuMex, the New Mexican-themed eatery that closed in the fall after a two-year run. To start, the restaurant will offer counter service only, so guests can either take their food to-go or grab a seat on the shaded outdoor patio or inside the restaurant.
The footprint allows for seating roughly 150 people (40 people inside and 110 outside), but with the current social distancing requirements, that number will initially be a lot smaller. Originally, the team envisioned a full sit-down restaurant with an outdoor lounge on the patio that could double as an “adult party” area, but at the moment those plans are up in the air.
“We just want to do the right thing and keep everyone safe,” Reinsmith said.
Despite some adjustments, the food and beverage program they designed will largely stay as planned. A globally inspired coastal menu will lean toward seafood-centric dishes, with bright and lively flavors.
So far, the opening menu includes a jerk octopus with Meyer lemon jam, pickled shallots and Thai basil; a chicken, brined and pan-seared under a brick, served with a yuzu salsa verde; chorizo-stuffed dates with bacon and a piquillo pepper sauce; and a veggie burger made with mushrooms, chickpeas, eggplant and cashews. For dessert, there will be a lemon panna cotta with blackberries and milk crumbs, and a black sesame chocolate tart with miso caramel.
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The bar program will largely nod to warmer climates with a wine list heavy on natural and rose wines and a seasonal cocktail menu that will feature drinks like the Lone Palm, made with gin, green chartreuse, lime, simple syrup and cucumber, and one made with mezcal, lime, watermelon and a chipotle syrup.
The team is in the final stages of putting the finishing touches on the restaurant. Reinsmith said that barring any major setbacks, he hopes to open the first week of August.
Once open, Wild Child will serve dinner Wednesday through Sunday and will eventually add a weekend brunch.