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Inside St. Petersburg’s 2D Cafe, opening this week

Its slogan, “Be the art,” means that guests are what bring the black-and-white aesthetic alive.
Inside the 2D Cafe in St. Petersburg on Monday. It was painted by local artist Chad Mize.
Inside the 2D Cafe in St. Petersburg on Monday. It was painted by local artist Chad Mize. [ AYA DIAB ]
Published Apr. 7|Updated Jun. 23

From the window to the wall, every detail inside the 2D Cafe is meant to create the illusion of being inside a drawing.

The curtains aren’t made of fabric, but from white boards. The chairs, tables and floorboards are hand-painted with black outlines. Wire vases sit on each table. It took three months to transform the former Swah-Rey bakery into a two-dimensional-looking restaurant, said owner Maria Merello. The 2D Cafe will open in St. Petersburg on Friday at 2105 Central Ave.

Inside the 2D Cafe in St. Petersburg, chairs, tables and floorboards are hand-painted with black outlines.
Inside the 2D Cafe in St. Petersburg, chairs, tables and floorboards are hand-painted with black outlines. [ AYA DIAB ]

Merello said she was first inspired by a cartoon-like restaurant in Tokyo and had since wanted to open her own. Similar diners have popped up across the U.S., like Twenty Pho Hours in Orlando and Matte Black in Los Angeles. Merello said St. Petersburg’s vibrant arts culture made it the right place for an idea like this.

Merello commissioned local artist Chad Mize and gave him free range with the concept. The St. Petersburg artist has painted murals for The Saint, Hawkers, Bodega and several other local establishments. The inside of 2D Cafe is one of his largest business projects to date.

“We gave him an idea of the things we wanted to have in here,” Merello said. “But then we wanted his own style to be the art.”

Mize painted windows looking out at European landscapes like the Eiffel Tower in Paris and a Greek countryside. There’s even a sketch of his dog sitting under one of the windows. Other scenes on the wall show a cartoon library and a corner where patrons can enjoy the doodle of a fireplace without feeling its heat.

The former Swah-Rey bakery at 2105 Central Ave. was transformed into the 2D Cafe.
The former Swah-Rey bakery at 2105 Central Ave. was transformed into the 2D Cafe. [ AYA DIAB ]

The furniture was hand-painted by general manager Alex Campbell, who described it as a tedious process.

“But look how cool,” Campbell said. “It’s definitely worth the effort.”

A blue neon sign by the entrance reads: “Be the art,” 2D Cafe’s slogan, which Mize helped come up with. Merello said it means that guests are invited to come and be the main character of their own comic book story. The black-and-white aesthetic allows for guests and the colorful food to act as a focal point.

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Avocado toast at the 2D Cafe in St. Petersburg. The menu features cafe staples and homages to cuisine from Greece and Ecuador.
Avocado toast at the 2D Cafe in St. Petersburg. The menu features cafe staples and homages to cuisine from Greece and Ecuador. [ AYA DIAB ]

The menu will have cafe staples like coffee, croissants, muffins, avocado toast, sandwiches, salads and charcuterie (either on a board or skewered in a cone). The 2D Cafe will also feature cuisine honoring Merello and her wife’s home countries, Uruguay and Greece respectively, like empanadas and spanakopita. Pastries will be made by the Crumb Factory Bakery and the coffee beans will come from Dancing Goats.

The 2D Cafe will be open from Wednesdays to Sundays, 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and Merello said she plans to extend hours in the future. Wi-Fi is available for guests.

“I think the aesthetics will bring people in naturally because it’s just really unique and cool,” Campbell said. “And we’re hoping obviously that the service, food and the product will keep people coming back.”

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