One of the most unique spaces in downtown St. Petersburg finally has a new occupant, and I've got to say, it's better than I expected.
There's been a lot of buzz about Station House, which held its grand opening in late January. Station House is a unique, basement-level restaurant and bar that occupies the vacant spot left by Cafe Alma a year ago.
Cafe Alma was a very attractive place, but Station House is gorgeous.
The aesthetic feat is made all the more impressive by the underground location, as low ceilings might lead one to expect a claustrophobic affair. Instead, Station House expands horizontally, pushing cozy dining areas decked out with plush, orange velvet booth seating through low, brick archways and using funky, homey décor and light turquoise wainscoting to create a warm, inviting atmosphere. Even the exposed ducts, painted black, look smart above the bar area. If you still need some fresh air, there's a small patio out front, with café seating and cool, suspended tables made of wooden slats.
The various nooks inside Station House create a diverse environment. One hallway offers casual high-tops with stools perched atop unicycle wheels, while another area has a semicircular booth capable of seating a dozen people. There are banquet tables, intimate two-seaters, a small bar up front, and in back, a special cocktail lounge that formerly operated as a speakeasy.
The rear cocktail lounge — known as GWR, God's Waiting Room — is especially intriguing. Though it's now accessible from the main dining area, it was previously accessible only by a mysterious and unmarked street-level elevator. If you didn't know, you didn't go.
Now, GWR — open on Friday and Saturday nights — is a favorite for local cocktail hounds. It's a dense, dimly-lit lounge with roughly-cut, low tables and a tiny bar stocked with a rotating selection of premium spirits. Personally, it reminds me of a classic tiki lounge, with its dark, moody interior.
A key feature of GWR is the experimental cocktail program. While you won't find it on the main menu, I advise you to ask about the sous-vide cocktails. Sous-vide is a cooking technique that involves a slow, low-temperature heating of food sealed in a vacuum-sealed bag. Can you do this with cocktails? Apparently, yes.
The one I tried, created for Negroni Week (June 1- 7), employs pisco in place of gin and utilizes toasted American and French oak in the sous-vide process. The result is a smooth but complex Negroni spinoff with an incredible wood (but not overly tannic) character. It's called Franky Four Fingers (after Benicio del Toro's character in the film Snatch), and it's the best cocktail I've had in months.
Another hit from the menu is the Bitter Betty. This spin on the classic Manhattan involves Cynar, an artichoke-infused bitter liqueur, to provide a savory quality, balanced with a thick, lavender ice cube, adding additional aromatics and flavor as the ice melts. There's plenty more where those came from.
It should be no surprise that local cocktail visionary Ro Patel had a hand in setting up Station House's cocktail program. But beyond that, it's a spirit lover's dream. Station House stocks a selection comprised largely of spirits you won't find elsewhere, and it's always changing. When the staff tires of a particular bottle, they replace it with something new.
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Station House gets it right on just about every level. The food's a hit, and the drinks are some of the best in town. The look, feel and regularly-changing drink selections of Station House make it a worthwhile spot to visit many times over. A sub-optimal use of this unique space would be unacceptable; thankfully, Station House has ensured that won't happen.
— firstname.lastname@example.org. @WordsWithJG.