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Good Intentions makes a big splash in St. Petersburg, and not just with vegans

A new restaurant and cocktail lounge is raising the bar for plant-based dining.
The bar Good Intentions, a new vegan restaurant in St. Petersburg, features a horseshoe-shaped bar with towering shelves stacked with lush plants, ceramics, glassware and books.
The bar Good Intentions, a new vegan restaurant in St. Petersburg, features a horseshoe-shaped bar with towering shelves stacked with lush plants, ceramics, glassware and books. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]
Published Oct. 5

ST. PETERSBURG — The buzz started building last fall.

In spring, a sign finally went up: Cobalt blue cursive letters spelled out the name above a coral-painted doorway. More months passed, more anticipation ensued.

During the opening weekend, Instagram influencers and foodies swarmed the spot, posting photographs in front of colorful animal print backdrops in the bathroom and surrounded by lush, dangling plants at the terrazzo-topped bar. Massive cheese boards, bowls of glistening gnocchi and olive-studded martinis also made the cut. On a Saturday night, a wait for a table was almost guaranteed.

It has been like any other big restaurant opening, with one notable exception: Everything is vegan.

In the few weeks since opening, Good Intentions has made quite the splash, and not just with vegans.

Grazing boards feature a selection of vegan cheeses, sourced from local and national producers, and a medley of house-made accoutrement, including caramelized onions and zingy kombucha-pickled grapes.
Grazing boards feature a selection of vegan cheeses, sourced from local and national producers, and a medley of house-made accoutrement, including caramelized onions and zingy kombucha-pickled grapes. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]

A collaborative effort from a group of tenured players in Tampa Bay’s plant-based dining scene, the new St. Petersburg restaurant is looking to raise the bar by bridging the gap between the genre’s more casual counterparts (cafes and delis) and St. Petersburg’s elevated culinary landscape.

”We built this place (based) off our lifestyles and we live one hundred percent vegan,” said co-owner Jenny Howe, who together with her husband Jeff also runs the popular vegan hot dog business Nah Dogs. Together with Audrey and Brian Dingeman of Gulfport’s Golden Dinosaurs, and Mikey Schmidt and Bryon Lippincott of Black Radish Grocer in Ybor City and St. Petersburg, the group paired up to create a restaurant where both vegans and non-vegans could comfortably dine out, be it for a quick bite and a drink or something more celebratory.

“That’s absolutely what was lacking for us,” said Howe. “We really wanted something for everyone.”

Related: Tampa Bay is experiencing a vegan renaissance

Featuring of-the-moment design elements, an elevated cocktail program and a cozy, mid-century modern aesthetic, Good Intentions appears to have tapped comfortably into the ‘burg’s bohemian zeitgeist. At some point, the owners hope to extend the restaurant hours to later in the night, offering options for cocktails and snacks in an area of town where options are still scant.

The space

Good Intentions, a new vegan restaurant, opened in September in St. Petersburg.
Good Intentions, a new vegan restaurant, opened in September in St. Petersburg. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]
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It’s no wonder photographs of the restaurant keep showing up in social feeds: Good Intentions happens to be a really good-looking restaurant.

It all starts with the building, a striking 1940s Quonset hut on 1900 First Ave. S. The half-round structure features lofty ceilings and was at one point a gallery for local muralist company Vitale Bros. The group tapped a team of local players to help with the buildout, including Dingeman’s sister, Kelsi Thrasher, an architect with Wannemacher Jensen Architects.

The building underwent a full gut renovation but kept much of the original structure’s charm intact (hello, 21-foot-ceilings). The space now features mauve and peach tones paired with the lush green of potted and hanging plants. A cozy waiting area flanking windows overlooking First Avenue S. imbues a 1970s vibe, with warm, golden accents and a coffee table stacked with books.

The dining room of Good Intentions features a mid-century modern vibe and a horseshoe-shaped bar, which serves as the backdrop and focal point for the restaurant.
The dining room of Good Intentions features a mid-century modern vibe and a horseshoe-shaped bar, which serves as the backdrop and focal point for the restaurant. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]

The mid-century modern vibe extends to the dining room, where a horseshoe-shaped bar serves as the backdrop and focal point. The stunning design, from local architecture firm T2TheS, features a towering shelved structure encasing the terrazzo-topped bar, stacked with lush plants, ceramics, glassware and books.

Fair warning: The combination of high ceilings and concrete means the space can get quite loud.

The bar

(From left) The Saturn and Frankie Goes to Dollywood drinks are served at Good Intentions, a new vegan restaurant in St.Petersburg.
(From left) The Saturn and Frankie Goes to Dollywood drinks are served at Good Intentions, a new vegan restaurant in St.Petersburg. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]

Overseeing the restaurant’s cocktail program is bar manager Eric McKinney, who has designed a creative list of drinks, including several vegan versions of the classics. There’s a whiskey sour made with saline instead of egg white ($12) and a white Russian made with oat milk ($13). There’s even a classic martini (drinker’s choice of gin or vodka) made with two “blue cheese”-stuffed olives that taste remarkably like the real thing.

There are also several non-alcoholic cocktail creations, a welcome addition to a genre that still has room for improvement in this town. That includes drinks like the Frankie Goes to Dollywood ($9), made with pineapple, oregeat, Monin Blue Curacao, lime and club soda, and the Mind Reader ($8), a strawberry pineapple shrub with lemon, hibiscus bitters and club soda.

Rounding out the drinks program is a wine list featuring several natural and small vineyard selections and a daily house wine that runs $8 a glass and $6 during happy hour.

The food

A glass of rosé, the Tarpon Greek Salad, and a bowl of seasonal gnocchi are served at Good Intentions in St.Petersburg.
A glass of rosé, the Tarpon Greek Salad, and a bowl of seasonal gnocchi are served at Good Intentions in St.Petersburg. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]

As advertised, everything on the menu is vegan. While a recent influx of plant-based meat and dairy alternatives has helped fuel the current plant-based renaissance, the kitchen also makes their own meat alternatives, in addition to using popular stand-ins like hearts of palm and jackfruit.

Helming the kitchen is executive chef Bianca Pineda, whose resume includes stints working at St. Petersburg’s Red Mesa, Paradeco Coffee Roasters and Tampa’s Fat Beet Farm. Though Black Radish, Golden Dinosaurs and Nah Dogs all have their respective best-sellers, the menu here is distinct. Still in a soft-opening phase, the team is slowly rolling out the menu day by day, adding a few new dishes each week as the kitchen finds its footing.

The Tarpon Greek Salad is topped with fried vegan halloumi cheese.
The Tarpon Greek Salad is topped with fried vegan halloumi cheese. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]

For now, there’s a list of roughly eight starters, five salads and sandwiches, and three entree-sized mains. Most of the menu feels designed to share, including the Grazing Boards ($45), which feature a selection of vegan cheeses sourced from local and national producers and a medley of house-made accoutrement, including caramelized onions and zingy kombucha-pickled grapes.

Nacho lovers will fall hard for the Big Can Nachos ($17), a towering jumble of blue corn chips, elote-style corn, carnitas and pickled red onions blanketed by a creamy hatch green chile queso.

Also good are the Devilish Crab Balls($12), made with hearts of palm and jackfruit. They are served either on their own, with a remoulade, or atop the Kimchi Fried Rice ($23), an umami-rich mashup of crispy-fried jasmine rice, scrambled Just Egg, kimchi (from St. Pete Ferments), vegan Kewpie aioli and scallions.

A seasonal gnocchi features lemon garlic butter, sauteed mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, charred corn, caramelized onions with grated Parmesan and a basil oil.
A seasonal gnocchi features lemon garlic butter, sauteed mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, charred corn, caramelized onions with grated Parmesan and a basil oil. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]

Beyond the plant-based narrative, the menu doesn’t adhere to one cuisine or another, but somehow it works — a Tarpon-style Greek salad ($16) pairs just as well with a plate of Italian-leaning seasonal gnocchi ($23) as it does with the kimchi fried rice.

And though the dessert menu is still a work in progress, a velvety cherry cheesecake with a gluten-free crust offers a glimpse into the kitchen’s future: sweet and promising.

The restaurant is currently just open for dinner but will add brunch and a late-night service soon.

Marinated tempeh is served with chimichurri, mofongo, roasted broccolini and a curry aioli.
Marinated tempeh is served with chimichurri, mofongo, roasted broccolini and a curry aioli. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]

If you go

Where: 1900 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg. 727-280-6068. instagram.com/goodintentions_fl

Hours: Dinner, 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Prices: Starters, $12 to $17; salads and sandwiches, $15 to $18; mains, $23.

Don’t skip: Grazing boards, devilish crab balls, kimchi fried rice.

Details: No reservations. Cash and credit cards accepted. No wheelchair access in the front, but accessible through the back door.

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