NEW RESTAURANTs: ROUNDUP
Capitalizing on spring breakers and snowbirds, finishing up construction in the good-weather months with little rain and high temps — it makes sense. Spring tends to be an active time for restaurant openings, and this year is no exception. Doors have opened in recent weeks all over Tampa Bay.
Whiskey Joe's Port Richey debuted on March 6 at 7835 Bayview St. on Port Richey's famous Cotee River. It's a sprawling waterfront affair — 66,000 square feet and seating for 500 guests — with a large boat dock and indoor-outdoor seating and a version of Whiskey Joe's classic Barefoot Tiki Bar. If you've been to the Tampa Rocky Point location over the past 35 years, you know the drill: white sand, boat pull-ups, fire pits and laid back atmosphere. The menu is in keeping with that setup, a Floribbean array of gulf grouper tacos, raw oysters, mango-glazed scallops and coconut rum chicken. To wet the proverbial whistle, Whiskey Joe's features 14 different mojitos, 30 types of margaritas and a slew of local beers on tap. The new location has created more than 130 jobs. whiskeyjoesportrichey.com.
Trophy Fish opens in April at 2060 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg's Grand Central District. Masterminded by Ryan Griffin of Mandarin Hide and partners Blake Thompson and Bill Griffin (Ryan's father), the concept is fresh-from-the-Gulf seafood and nautically inspired cocktails. Despite our waterside location, downtown St. Pete has very few restaurants built on a classic fish house idiom. Trophy Fish will feature a rotating lineup of freshly caught fish — grouper, snapper, hogfish, scamp, etc. — in straightforward preparations, presided over by chef Andy Hobbs. The Mandarin Hide's Erin Lee will be the managing director. trophyfishstpete.com.
Bar Asia opened March 10 in the Raydiance Day Spa location at 122 S Howard Ave. at the northern edge of the SoHo District of Tampa, an area absolutely packed with new and emerging restaurants. It's another Asian-fusion concept, with dishes that scoot between Vietnam, Korea, Japan and China in an array of shareable plates, fresh bowls (the millennials' fave formula of base plus sauce plus protein and doodads), Asian tacos, banh mi sandwiches and sushi rolls. In an all-day menu (hours 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday, until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, a boon for the party crowd), tacos hover around $4, bowls around $14, with sushi rolls that span from $7 to $22. barasiatampa.com.
In Gulfport, Fish closed up shop and in its place bloomed El Chapo Taco. And if you're wondering if they mean that El Chapo, they do. It means "shorty," but there's a pic of Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán right there on their Facebook page next to a taco. Erm, not sure what to make of that, but the restaurant at 3038 Beach Blvd. features the same appealing, funky bungalow with indoor and outdoor seating (big side deck and patio, picnic tables and umbrellas, lots of strings of little white lights) as its predecessor, as well as some of the same staff.
German restaurants are in short supply in these parts, which is why the late January opening of Prost Kitchen + Bar in the space vacated by Big Papa's Pit at 2802 E Bearss Ave. in New Tampa was a boon (okay, New Tampa already has Mr. Dunderbak's, so they must be gloating right now). Owner Cody Jay is calling it a German gastropub, but what you need to know is curry wurst, jaeger schnitzel and those mondo pretzels that everyone thinks are a good idea but then you get halfway through and need to lie down, defeated and mustard stained. Maybe that's just me? There's a liberal vision of German food (they're doing Taco Tuesday, for cripessake), but Prost features a nice array of 22 beers on tap, wines and specialty cocktails and they are offering brunch with bottomless mimosas for $8. prostkitchen.com.
But wait, what's this? Another new German restaurant, this one at 4195 34th St. S in St. Petersburg. Berlin's Doener, in what was formerly Brewburger, is the project of Susan and Thomas Boell, the latter until fairly recently the general manager at Hofbrauhaus in St. Petersburg. It opened Feb. 9 and purveys the hottest street food in Germany: the doner kebab. It's really a multicultural invention, brought to German post World War II when Turkish immigrants helped rebuild bombed out cities. A Turk opened a first sandwich shop in Berlin in 1972 but it didn't quite take off. After a bit of Germanizing (adding cabbage and such), it became a runaway hit and now Germans eat 720 million doner kebabs a year, with 15,000 stores in the country selling them. The Boells' son has three successful doner kebab shops in Southern California, so the parents figured they would follow suit. The larger location means they've filled out the menu with an array of other German classics beyond the classic doner ($8), from curry wurst to schnitzel, goulash soup, wurst platters and a housemade apple strudel. It is open daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. berlinsdoener.com.
And were you a fan of Shula Burger at the airport and just a little bit bummed when you found out it closed, still standing in your post-security stocking feet? It's back. This time Shula Burger opened in February at 500 S Howard Ave. in Tampa, named after the beloved Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula. It takes over what was previously Pita Pit, swapping out falafel and souvlaki for serious premium burgers, each bun marked lavishly with a Shula brand (a la Burger Fi). These are fresh not frozen patties made from a blend of black angus beef, short-rib and brisket, glossy buns from New York's famous Tom Cat Bakery. Yes, there is already a preponderance of fancy burgers in South Tampa, but there's serious name recognition here, and get this: Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. most days, but all the way to 4 a.m. Thursday to Saturday. That will get South Tampa's attention. shulaburger.com/location/tampa.