1. Food

Rooster and the Till owners will open a taqueria in Sparkman Wharf

Owners Ty Rodriguez and Ferrell Alvarez pose for a portrait at Rooster and the Till on January 19, 2018. EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times
Owners Ty Rodriguez and Ferrell Alvarez pose for a portrait at Rooster and the Till on January 19, 2018. EVE EDELHEIT | Times
Published Aug. 2, 2018

TAMPA — Sparkman Wharf, a part of the $3 billion Water Street Tampa neighborhood, has revealed the first major restaurant of its promised ten regional chefs and restaurateurs to join the lineup of culinary concepts.

Two of Tampa's most celebrated restaurateurs will do something entirely new: Chef Ferrell Alvarez and partner Ty Rodriguez of Seminole Heights' farm-to-table restaurant Rooster & the Till will debut Gallito, a modern taqueria.

All the restaurants planned for Jeff Vinik and Strategic Property Partners' project in what was Channelside Bay Plaza will be announced serially in the next week. Like the others, Gallito will focus on street food and be housed in a repurposed shipping container with murals paying tribute to natural Florida. It joins the already announced Foundation Coffee and Whatever Pops (artisanal ice pops). In addition to the outdoor dining garden, lawn and beer garden, Sparkman Wharf will include 180,000 square feet of office lofts and 65,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, all of it to be completed in early 2020.

RELATED: Channelside Bay Plaza to be remade as Sparkman Wharf, with waterfront lawn, beer garden, outdoor dining and loft-style offices

Alvarez, who with Rodriguez will also open Nebraska Mini Mart as early as this weekend, felt the opportunity at Sparkman Wharf was too good to pass up.

"It is a benefit to the company because of the location, it will give us an opportunity to capture some new customer base," he said. "And it's great being in the first part of what will inform the Water Street project, as well as witnessing the revitalization of Channelside."

Alvarez always wanted to do a restaurant focused on real Mexican flavors, with real tortillas.

"We're going to be sourcing heirloom corn varieties and fresh masa," he said. "We're in talks with Hacienda out of Los Angeles. They don't distribute to anyone in Florida yet, but we're going to figure it out."

For Rodriguez, Gallito (pronounced guy-E-toe) represents an opportunity to help shape Tampa's future.

"This is, first of all, about the progression of Tampa, of pushing it in a new direction. (Sparkman Wharf) will utterly transform Channelside. Channelside and Ybor City represent two areas where we've always aspired to greatness. And we're honored to be in this lineup that's a who's-who of Tampa cuisine. Ferrell and I frequent almost all of the restaurants of the vendors who will operate here."

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Because the Rooster team was among the earliest vendors courted for the project, they had carte blanche on the concept they would create.

"We had to submit a concept and sample menus in advance to make sure we're not being redundant," Alvarez said. He was a 2017 James Beard Best Chef South semifinalist and has recently been tapped by Walmart as a partner in a culinary pilot program focusing attention of locally grown produce, a program that will be filmed in a program called Rediscovering America, five Beard semifinalists paired with five farms in cities across the country.

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Hall on Franklin and Armature Works, both in Tampa Heights, have proven that food hall concepts can be embraced by the local dining public. For Alvarez, multi-vendor concepts of this sort have advantages for diners and vendors alike.

"That's part of (Sparkman Wharf's) genius, they've curated really great tenants so that it becomes more valuable for the other vendors."

Contact Laura Reiley at or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.