CELEB POWER: Suegra Tequila Cantina
In the mood for some good news? Big-name chefs from elsewhere in the country are mulling the idea of setting up shop in the Tampa Bay area. Marc Murphy fleetingly had Grey Salt in the Hard Rock. And Robert Irvine famously scouted downtown St. Petersburg. There have been rumors of Emeril, Donatella Arpaia and other HSN stars.
But here's one you can take to the bank: Todd Hall, a two-time James Beard honoree, finalist in the Bocuse d'Or and opening chef of La Hacienda at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort (which for many years was the only four-star Mexican restaurant in the world), will open Suegra Tequila Cantina on Tampa Road in Oldsmar sometime in March.
Hall said by phone that he did market research: A huge number of cars flow by that spot every day; median household income in nearby Westchase is $124,000 per year; and restaurants like Flamestone Grill regularly rock 45-minute wait times.
"All the signs are there. There's so much fast casual but a lack of upscale casual. It's not going to be fine dining."
Taking over the space that housed City Fish, Suegra (which means "mother-in-law," a dubious draw in some circles) will offer fresh Mexican with a farm-to-table bent. Hall's aim is to provide food traceability, a way to "know where your food comes from," to consumers curious about the origin of their meal's ingredients.
Suegra will also showcase a broad tequila bar with more than 200 tequilas and mezcals — available in shots, flights or cocktail. There's no firm opening date yet, but Hall, with partners Craig and Matt Vario (Toasted Monkey, Rick's Reef and Screwie Louie's), will be open for lunch and dinner at 4022 Tampa Road, No. 1, Oldsmar.
QUOTH: THE RAVEN
Barley Mow Brewing Company owners Jay and Colleen Dingman have teamed up with local chefs Allan and Ashley Fernandez, all at right, from Out of the Pot Catering to debut the Raven Eatery & Brewery in Largo. With 18 taps of all Barley Mow Brewing Co. beers, this fusion of gastropub and brewery features seasonal and beer-infused dishes, one-off chef-inspired brews and craft cocktails. Think bulgogi tacos and roasted cauliflower grilled cheese, or fried olives and house-made ice cream sandwiches. 2535 E Bay Drive, Largo. (727) 507-0818.
AFTER HOURS: THE GRATEFUL FED PUB
Night owls, prepare the plastic pants. We finally have a restaurant in these parts that serves a late-night, from-scratch menu. It's called the Grateful Fed Pub (gold star for the name alone), at 300 10th St. S in St. Petersburg's EDGE District on the ground floor of the Urban Style Flats building. Sean Ford, former executive chef at Tryst, recognized a demand for both comfort food and healthy food when he created the concept.
"It's nearly impossible to eat healthy after hours, and no one delivers commissary. The restaurant has a small convenience store with hygiene items, snacks, toiletries, coffee, etc. that it will deliver along with food, until 5 a.m." Healthy food: red quinoa and grilled vegetable burrito with alfalfa sprouts, heirloom tomato and avocado. On the other hand, there's this: cheeseburger with Krispy Kreme doughnuts for buns. Whatever floats your boat. For more information, call (727) 394-3408.
BUBBLE UP: FLUTE
Want to celebrate all these new eats with a glass of bubbly? For that you may have to wait until April when Flute debuts at 234 Beach Drive (where the Eagle Cafe is) in St. Petersburg. A collaboration between restaurateur Tony Mangiafico (Gratzzi Italian Grille), and bar and club owner Greg Haddad (Central Cigars and Ruby's Elixir), the lounge concept will feature more than 100 champagnes, cavas, proseccos and other bubblies, which will be offered alongside caviar, foie gras, lobster pate and suitably luxe accompaniments.