Popularity of Lobby Bar helps spur changes in layout, menu at Epicurean Hotel in South Tampa

Published October 4 2018

TAMPA — After several years contemplating it, Tampa’s Epicurean Hotel recently updated its signature restaurant Élevage with a new menu and an expanded Lobby Bar featuring more of a comfort vibe for breakfast, happy hour and weekend brunch.

The updates include modernized decor, but the main focus was the food.

The hotel’s executive chef, Chad Johnson, who has been with the Epicurean since its opening in 2013, spearheaded the changes while retaining the original vision of a restaurant where Southern-style cooking meets classical French cuisine.

New menu items at the Élevage restaurant include goat cheese and sweet potato agnolotti, a hand-made pasta filled with a mousse of goat cheese, roasted sweet potato, and pureed black truffles.

Other dishes on the new menu include brioche-crusted halibut in a modified classic Veronique sauce and snapper crudo with crab remoulade, dried tomato, watercress and buttermilk consommé.

“We looked to Chef Chad to make these improvements to keep our offerings fresh and accommodate the changing trends and tastes of our guests and the local community,” Epicurean general manager Kevin Scott said in a news release.

Johnson set out to fully capitalize on the popular bar and lounge in the hotel lobby, a main revenue generator. The area was expanded to seat some 60 people and formally named Lobby Bar.

The area now features traditional, industrial bar-top chairs, leather couches, shared bar seating and two flat screen televisions. Business professionals can use the area to relax, watch the news or get work done while enjoying coffee and food.

“We sold ourselves short on what that space is capable of in the beginning,” Johnson said.

“Over time the way the restaurant business has evolved, you learn what sells and what doesn’t sell and that it's not about the number of sales, it’s about the balance of the items you’re selling. A recipe that may have developed since four years ago and might not be what a dish is today.”

For the Lobby Bar food offerings, Johnson refocused on his initial vision of comfort food.

The menu features a cocktail program and plates such as the Diner Burger, a fresh take on a classic burger with cheddar, bread and butter pickles, and comeback sauce, as well as the Moules Dijonnaise with mussels, mustard, creme fraiche and parsley on a baguette.

The menus have been reinvented, but the Epicurean continues paying homage to the hotel’s legendary neighbor and inspiration — Bern’s Steak House.

The hotel and its restaurants, at 1207 South Howard Ave., are part of the trendy Hyde Park historic district. Prices range from $10 to $40.

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