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New plant-based cafe The Works opens in St. Petersburg

The new vegan spot, from the owner of Squeeze Juice Works, opened Sunday in Historic Uptown.
Kale pesto and avocado "toasties" are served at The Works, a new plant-based cafe in St. Petersburg's Historic Uptown from the owner of Squeeze Juice Works.
Kale pesto and avocado "toasties" are served at The Works, a new plant-based cafe in St. Petersburg's Historic Uptown from the owner of Squeeze Juice Works. [ Courtesy of Illene Sofranko ]
Published Jan. 21

ST. PETERSBURG — The Works, a new vegan cafe from the owner of Squeeze Juice Works, is now open in Historic Uptown.

The cafe, from owner Kelly Lessem, opened Jan. 16 at 495 Seventh Ave. N, the building formerly home to Pete’s General, which closed in November.

Related: Pete's General closes original Uptown store

Though the decor has changed and now includes colorful artworks and several cozy nooks for lounging, the layout of the store is similar to its predecessor. Guests have the option of grabbing premade meals and drinks from a cooler or they can order from a counter in the back, where the kitchen staff prepares hot meals and fresh smoothies.

Lessem said the focus of her business is primarily on the benefits of preventive medicinal foods, discovered through her own wellness journey and travels across India and Southeast Asia. She described the spot’s kitchen as a “lab or a playground,” where chef Kendra Hardesty will create health-focused and plant-based dishes, which will change seasonally. Lessem was diagnosed with a rare neurological autoimmune condition in 2008 and launched her business in 2012 as part of her search to support her own health through alternative methods.

Chef Kendra Hardesty's menu includes a rotating selection of seasonal dishes, all of which are vegan, as well as grab-and-go salads and bowls.
Chef Kendra Hardesty's menu includes a rotating selection of seasonal dishes, all of which are vegan, as well as grab-and-go salads and bowls. [ Courtesy of Illene Sofranko ]

Cold grab-and-go vegan meals, popularized at the other two Squeeze Juice Works locations, will be sold at the new cafe, but the focus will be on a new warm menu that currently features five bowls, all $12. They include a kimchi fried rice, topped with Just Egg, spicy gochujang sauce, scallions, toasted sesame seeds and furikake; the Lindito, a quinoa salad with sauteed zucchini, smokey bean salad, brassicas, citrus-pickled onions and a roasted poblano avocado dressing; and chana masala, a chickpea curry with roasted tomatoes and spinach served over spiced basmati rice and topped with a mango chutney, cucumber mint yogurt and cilantro.

A short list of “toasties” includes a version topped with kale pesto and avocado, and the salad selection includes a winter beet medley ($11) made with local greens, homemade (vegan) goat cheese, citrus-roasted beets and curried almonds dressed in an herbed tahini dressing.

As with the Squeeze Juice Works locations, a selection of fresh cold-pressed juices is served while a smoothie bar features a build-your-own-smoothie setup with several original creations.

The plant-based menu includes fresh-squeezed juices and kimchi fried rice.
The plant-based menu includes fresh-squeezed juices and kimchi fried rice. [ Courtesy of Illene Sofranko ]
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An adaptogenic coffee program includes drinks like matcha lattes with ashwagandha, a medicinal herb derived from a shrub believed to help relieve stress and improve concentration. The shop also currently features a small retail component, which includes adaptogens and mushroom supplements like reishi (used to enhance the immune system and reduce stress) as well as several soaps, natural deodorants and other wellness supplements.

Lessem said the larger footprint at the Historic Uptown location will allow her team to expand on their home juice deliveries, and a subscription meal service is in development. Once launched, diners will be able to order weekly plant-based meals delivered straight to their doorstep.

The Works is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Hot food is served Tuesday through Sunday.

495 Seventh Ave. N, St. Petersburg. squeezejuiceworks.com.

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