ST. PETERSBURG — At first glance, Dirty Laundry is a low-key eatery tucked inside a laundromat-themed room. During the day, visitors can enjoy cafe con leches and pressed sandwiches.
But at night, the space at 1742 Central Ave. has a secret. Peek behind one of those washing machines, and you’ll find yourself inside a colorful, dreamy cocktail bar inspired by the Cuban histories of Ybor City and Havana.
Dirty Laundry is the latest venture from Hunger + Thirst Group, the folks behind Park & Rec, The Avenue and No Vacancy. Hunger + Thirst Group founder Stephen Schrutt was inspired by his childhood growing up in Tampa — especially visiting Ybor City. He’s been dreaming of opening a hidden bar in St. Petersburg for years.
The cafe opens at 8 a.m., with offerings like sodas, coffee and sandwiches. At noon on Saturdays and Sundays, the payphone in the back of the “laundromat” will be turned on.
The phone greets each guest with a password to punch in. Visitors are then instructed to head to laundry machine No. 2.
“You walk through it and you have our Havana nights vibe,” Schrutt explained.
The hidden portion of Dirty Laundry includes a full cocktail bar and a stage. Depending on the evening, there will be live music and DJs. There are also small plates of food for sale, from yellow rice and beans to ceviche with plantain chips.
Schrutt was so secretive about Dirty Laundry that he didn’t even tell his own family until Thursday. On Friday‘s opening day, cryptic posts started appearing on Instagram.
He’s excited to see people finally enjoy the space.
“This has been a crazy ride,” he said.