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Seminole Heights farm-to-table pioneer The Refinery to close Aug. 3

Michelle and Greg Baker, owners of The Refinery in Tampa, posing for a portrait at the Hillsborough River in Seminole Heights on January 13, 2011. Times (2012)
Michelle and Greg Baker, owners of The Refinery in Tampa, posing for a portrait at the Hillsborough River in Seminole Heights on January 13, 2011. Times (2012)
Published Jul. 25, 2019

Iconic Tampa Bay restaurant The Refinery will close next month, the owners said Thursday.

Following a nine-year run, the Seminole Heights farm-to-table pioneer will serve its last dinner on Aug. 3.

Owners Greg and Michelle Baker made the announcement on the restaurant's Facebook page Thursday afternoon, and said that a collection of the kitchen's biggest hits from its first year will be on the menu during the final days.

"It's been an honor to be able to serve y'all since 2010, but everything must end!" the statement said. The couple plan on opening a catering hall and events space called the Idyllwild in the Florida Avenue building once the restaurant closes.

The news comes following several shake-ups in the restaurant's recent history, including the announcement in December that Baker, then 51, was retiring.

A champion of the local farm-to-table movement, the Refinery first opened in 2010 inside an intimate Victorian house in the Seminole Heights neighborhood. Baker and his wife, with the help of a small staff, offered diners a nine-item menu that changed weekly, dictated by the season and what farmers had available. It was a novel concept for the area at the time, and critics — both local and nationally — took note.

In 2014, Southern Living named the restaurant among the top 100 best restaurants in the South and both the restaurant and Baker received multiple James Beard nods throughout the years (six, in total). The restaurant also paved the way for aspiring chefs and other restaurant concepts that set up shop in the area in the years that followed.

In 2018, the restaurant moved from its original location to a larger space down the street. That space, also on Florida Avenue, was then home to Fodder & Shine, a regional concept inspired by Florida Cracker settlers and also run by the Bakers. That restaurant closed when the Refinery moved into the building, though some menu items remained.

When Baker announced his pending retirement plans last year, the tenured chef said he planned on pursuing food writing, consulting and advocacy work for the James Beard Foundation, among other organizations. The couple did not immediately comment on their future plans Thursday, but said on social media that Greg Baker plans to "kick back and relax for a minute" while Michelle helms the new catering operation.

Contact Helen Freund at hfreund@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8310. Follow @helenfreund.