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Gulfport’s Smokin’ J’s BBQ and Backfin Blue Cafe have closed

Also: Longtime St. Petersburg restaurant Kissin’ Cuzzins is up for sale.
Backfin Blue Cafe in Gulfport has closed.
Backfin Blue Cafe in Gulfport has closed. [ TIMES (2010) | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Jul. 25|Updated Jul. 25

Two beloved Gulfport restaurants have permanently closed.

Barbecue favorite Smokin’ J’s BBQ served its last brisket and pulled pork platters on Sunday, capping a 13-year-run at 5145 Gulfport Blvd. S.

Related: John Riesebeck embraces a family tradition amid the coronavirus pandemic

Owner John Riesebeck, a butcher and pitmaster who opened the popular Texas-style smokehouse in 2009, made the announcement on the restaurant’s Facebook page, saying the decision to close and retire was made with “mixed emotions.”

“It has been a wonderful 13 years and we appreciate all your support throughout the years,” the announcement said. “We have made many friends along the way and for that we are truly blessed, but the time has come to retire and enjoy the rest of our lives.”

John Riesebeck, owner of Smokin' J's BBQ, poses in front of his smokehouse in Gulfport on March 22, 2020.
John Riesebeck, owner of Smokin' J's BBQ, poses in front of his smokehouse in Gulfport on March 22, 2020. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times ]

Smokin’ J’s shutter comes just a few weeks after another longtime Gulfport restaurant permanently closed.

Following a 25-year run, Backfin Blue Cafe — a casual seafood spot beloved for its crab cakes — closed on July 4. Owner Harold Russell opened the restaurant inside the cottage at 2913 Beach Blvd. S in 1997.

The news of both closures had fans mourning the loss of two local restaurant fixtures while other longtime St. Petersburg eateries — Kissin’ Cuzzins and Munch’s — are currently listed for sale.

Last week, the iconic St. Petersburg diner Kissin’ Cuzzins at 951 34th St. N was listed for sale for nearly $2.5 million. In June, the building that houses Old Southeast mainstay Munch’s and several surrounding properties at 3920 Sixth St. S were listed for $2.7 million. Both restaurants are still open for now. It’s unclear whether either restaurant would close if purchased or remain open.

Related: Munch's, a St. Petersburg icon, is for sale
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