3rd Annual Beer Project Returns to the Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts and fifteen area craft brewers collaborate to preserve one of the Museum’s most popular pieces of art, a 20th century beaded Bamileke elephant mask.  This MFA fundraiser features hand-crafted beers, available for one-night only, inspired by selected works in the Museum collection. From the vintage tattoo girl photographed by H.H. Bartram to the sun-drenched, California glamour of a James Weeks painting, each work of art inspires a different taste profile and mood, all captured by craft beer makers. Each guest receives a commemorative Beer Project glass, beer tasting, gourmet appetizers and entrance into the MFA galleries.

Festivities include a roving tattoo parlor, themed pop-up beer lounges designed by Andrew Winchell of Inside Jobs Design, and live painting by Daniel Mrgan, a St. Pete-based muralist and artist. Mrgan’s work, seen in galleries and collections throughout the Bay area, is a celebratory paean to an ever-changing St. Pete. His large scale work, painted live on-site during The Beer Project, will be auctioned off that evening. All funds raised at the auction will help conserve the Museum’s Bamileke elephant mask.

Participating breweries include Abita Brewing Co., Big Storm Brewing Co., Bootleggers Brewworx, Bury Me Brewing Co., Cigar City Cider & Mead, Crooked Thumb Brewery, Flying Boat Brewery, Green Bench Brewing Co., Green Bench Cider & Mead, Marker 48 Brewing Co., Mastry’s Brewing Co., Pinellas Ale Works, Rapp Brewing Co., and Stilt House Brewing Co.

DATE: Friday, June 9
TIME: 7 – 10 pm
TICKETS: $45 for MFA members; non-members pay $60 in advance and $75 at the door.

Wine passes are also available for an additional $5.  Designated drivers are $30.  

Guests must be 21 years or older to participate.

ABOUT THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA – The MFA at 255 Beach Drive N.E. has a world-class collection, with works by Monet, Morisot, Rodin, O’Keeffe, Willem de Kooning, and many others. Also displayed are ancient Greek and Roman, Egyptian, Asian, African, pre-Columbian, and Native American art. Selections from the photography collection, one of the largest and finest in the Southeast, are now on view in a gallery dedicated to the medium. Kristen A. Shepherd is the new Executive Director.

To order tickets, please call 727.896.2667 or visit mfastpete.org/beer-project. To receive further Beer Project updates, visit us on social media at Facebook.com/MFABeerProject or on the MFA Viewpoint App under Custom Tours.

Dining: Middle Grounds Grill Celebrates 10 Years

A decade ago, Treasure Island’s beloved Robbie’s Pancake House transformed into Middle Grounds Grill, a culinary haven for seafood and steak lovers. Superb food, service and cocktails coupled with an elegant, boutique wine list and craft beers, brings locals and visitors flocking to this superb restaurant.

PN caught up with Dan Coover, who proudly said Middle Grounds is still a family affair. His dad, brother Scott and sister-in-law Wendy Coover, even Scott’s son, little Scott, are all involved in the restaurant, although Dad heads out to Montana in spring just after the bi-annual May classic car show at the restaurant.

What’s the secret to their success? “We get the freshest fish possible every day and deliver a dining experience that is like no other, especially with the aquarium that makes you feel like you’re dining under the sea,” says Dan. “We also offer wet-aged steaks, upscale entrees, delicious sauces and unique seasonal dishes in a casual, comfortable atmosphere without the fancy white tablecloths.”

You can get treated like a VIP in a tuxedo or flip-flops. It’s a local hotspot, with nightly light live music seven nights a week during season (including April), a full bar that you can dine at, magnificent martinis, a tempting kids menu, daily happy hour (4:30-7), $12.95 early bird specials (4:30-5:30) and ½ price wine bottles on Wednesday. There’s valet parking and a private banquet room that seats 48 for receptions and parties.

Earlier this year, Middle Grounds refurnished the patio with new tables and chairs making it more of a hip lounge experience where you can drink and eat as well. For Easter and Mother’s Day, the restaurant opens at 3 p.m. and serves the regular menu with a few holiday favorites, such as lamb for Easter.

Seafood rules here. The best fresh fish from here and around the world is delivered daily. Hogfish it sells out quickly. One of the most popular dishes is a three nut-crusted, fresh local, black grouper, served with mango beurre blanc.

On the apps and salad side, big hits are the Key West chowder, grilled Mediterranean octopus salad, fresh smoked mahi fish spread, tangy ginger calamari, coconut almond-crusted shrimp, artichoke gouda dip on toast points and Prince Edward island mussels hand-selected for presentation and delivered live on ice.

For meat lovers, order the 18 oz bone-in cowboy steak topped with gunpowder onion rings, New Zealand lamb shank, stuffed veal scaloppini or herb-crusted pork tenderloin.  Says Dan: “All of our steaks are certified angus beef, wet aged unlike Bern’s that uses a dry aged steak and a totally fabulous flavor.” Get your steak Oscar style with crabmeat, asparagus and hollandaise sauce or served with a lobster tail.

Save room for desserts and after-dinner drinks, especially the deep-fried cheesecake rolled in Rice Krispies, the chocolate lava cake and tangy key lime stack with tuile cookies.

Middle Grounds serves some of the most innovative sauces to pair with their dishes. Right now, the chimichurri and mango habanero sauces have my vote. “The customers drive what dishes stay on the menu,” says Dan proudly. “It becomes a signature dish because they love it so much and tell their friends.”

So if you want to enjoy a little dish of paradise, head over to Middle Grounds Grill. Open at 4:30 daily.
If you get there too early, stop in next door at Coffee Grounds for a cocktail or vanilla cafe latte.

FYI:  Open 4:30 daily.  10925 Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island; 727-360-4253, wwwMiddleGroundsGrill.com

Breakfast of Champions

April is the month for visiting friends and family, so why not get them out and about early with a breakfast rendezvous? After a few days entertaining, it’s eggs-actly what you need in the morning, from fresh brewed java to homebaked muffins.

In addition to those listed here, we also like Jessie’s (Pinellas Park), First Watch, Skidder’s, Café Europa, The Village Inn, Mama’s Kitchen, Maggie Mae’s, Sea Salt Sunday brunch, Skyway Jack’s, The Metro Diner,  The Mill, Birch & Vine,  Noble Crust, The Wooden Rooster and Better Byrd.  (Check Yelp for the location nearest you; hours and menu items may change.)

Stay tuned for a tour of our favorite coffeehouses to cool off and kick back coming this summer, a breakfast alternative that can last all day.

The Annex: The Westphals’ newest venture is a casual, walk up cafe serving breakfast, waffles, home-made muffins, desserts, Cubans, milk shakes, coffee, hot dogs and soft-serve ice cream the family will enjoy plus art and gifts from 8 am – 8 pm.

400 Beach Dr. DTSP; 727-896-4400

Banyan Café: Kahwa coffee, amazing latte and chai tea and a laid-back San Francisco vibe. The hickory smoked bacon or spinach burrito, vanilla bean Belgian waffle and smoke salmon benedict wow me every time. 689-D Dr Martin Luther King Jr St N., St. Pete; 727-896-6100  

701 Central Ave., DTSP; 727-896-6600

Ciccio Cali: Best of show include the San Fran pretzel sweet cream cheese French toast, border wrap, Tex Mex egg bowls and piggies in a bowl, best consumed with a mango mimosa. Weekend brunch 10-3.

190 37th Ave N., St. Petersburg; 727-898-8226

Chill’s Restaurant & Bar: This is a PN favorite hangout, thanks to the gourmet muffins, shrimp and grits, light-as-a-feather crepes, bananas foster waffle and my ultimate, the Sedona scramble (lightly scrambled eggs, onions, mushrooms, Angus shaved steak, and topped off with an amazing smoky chipotle hollandaise sauce, over roasted potatoes. There’s also a Sunday brunch that stretches lazily into the afternoon, thanks to the ultimate Bloody Mary, crab Benedict or ham and brie crepe that beckons me every weekend.

Don Cesar Hotel, The Sea Porch: In addition to an amazing Easter Brunch both here and in The King Charles Room, breakfast with a view of the Gulf is always a treat here, especially for the Sunday champagne brunch from 11 am – 3 pm. Daily breakfast features malted waffles, Cuban bread French toast, banana nut muffins, skillet cornbread and a Gulf Coast breakfast skillet with shrimp and poblano hash.

3400 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach;  727-360-1881

Frog Pond: With a second location in St. Pete Beach, it’s been a family favorite forever from the banana Foster Belgian waffle to the ginormous omelets served with an army of fresh fruit.

16909 Gulf Blvd., North Redington Beach; 727- 392-4117
7390 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach; 727-363-7205

Harvey’s 4th St. Grill: This Florida-style bar and grill serves up Sunday Brunch and Saturday breakfast. Much of the décor came from several historic St. Pete hotels, including the Vinoy, the Soreno, and the Albermarle. All of Harvey’s food is fresh, made from scratch. We love the poached eggs with tenderloin filet, the Swiss broccoli quiche, corned beef hash, waffles and omelettes.

3121 4th St N., St. Petersburg;  727-821-6516

Hollander Hotel’s The Tap Room: On Saturday and Sunday, the big breakfast is $12 all you can eat but Sunday is Funday at the pool 1-5 pm with music and events. This artsy casual and friendly eatery has amazing craft beers, beer cocktails, a delectable to go dessert counter and some of the best food downtown. Breakfast daily tantalizes, from the Boston Cream French Toast to the Greek and veggie omelettes.

Nueva Cantina: From the Bloody Mary/Maria bar to the bottomless mimosas, Sunday at this Southeast downtown St. Pete regional Mexican restaurant is oh so unique. The Egg Benedicto is a jalapeno cheddar biscuit topped with ham, poached eggs, Tabernero Hollandaise, served with Cantina Potatoes. The tableside guacamole, Eggs Ranchero bowl, corned beef and chorizo hash with eggs and Chilaquiles rate a wow as the does the apple pie with cheddar and bacon for dessert.

1625 4th St. South DTSP; 727-851-9579

Stella’s: Fun people watching and yummy dishes make for a good start of the day, especially when dining on ham stack and eggs, quiche, lox and bagel, shrimp and grits or traditional biscuits and gravy.

3119 Beach Blvd. S, Gulfport; 727-498-8950

Sweet Sage Café: An adorable gift store and pet-friendly garden patio dotted with kitschy found objects enchant diners and there’s a breakfast brunch bar as well as delectable smoothies, mimosas and breakfast delights. Crepes, a Southern chicken biscuit, quiche, apple crisp French toast, eggs Benedict (California, salmon), scramblers and jumbo muffins will not leave you hungry.

16725 Gulf Blvd., North Redington Beach; 727- 391-0453

Trip’s Diner: Southern family-style farm fresh dishes entice, especially the corn bread, eggs benny, country-fried steak and eggs, a breakfast Cuban, white cheese grits, a pancake as big as a hubcap

10555 Park Blvd., Seminole 727- 623-0907
2339 Dr Martin Luther King Jr St. North, St. Petersburg; 727 – 498-8980

Article by Nanette Wiser

St. Pete Beach Mediterranean Produce & Deli and Mirela’s Salon 

Odise Armata and his wife Mirela are a remarkable young couple, raising a growing young family together, each running a small business of their own. We had written about Odise (Odissay) a few years ago, when his fledgling St. Pete Beach Produce store next to Scoops attracted Andrea, a volunteer, to help his business. He’d shop at the farmers market in Tampa at3 am to get the best pick of fresh local produce, then deliver orders to restaurant clients on his way back to his shop. Starting out with a counter and triple sink, he made salads and sandwiches with his fresh produce.

Since then, Odise expanded and moved St. Pete Beach Produce and Deli into a free-standing building between the Basil Leaf and Fetishes, at 6355 Gulf Blvd. in St. Pete Beach. His passion is to provide fresh, healthy food and wider ethnic options at affordable prices. Their hand-sliced gyro made with fresh onions, tomatoes and homemade tzatziki sauce for just $5.99 is a good example. So is the Boar’s Head cooler full of premium meats and cheeses for dollars under the closest competitor. His real passion lies in selling the fresh salads like Tabouleh made daily. Odise waves off my praise of his accomplishments.

“Any young person with perseverance and a positive attitude can do what I did if they stick to it”, says Odise.  “It’s my wife Mirela who is truly amazing”  he continues. I went to my native Albania looking for a woman to join me in Florida and we fell for each other. She came here to join me, almost strangers.” In five short years she learned English and followed her passion to get a cosmetology license from Lorraine’s Beauty Academy. Oh, she also became an American citizen, is raising their son, now 3-years old, who in May expects a baby sister. For all these several years, Mirela also prepared most of the desserts sold in the pastry case and some in the freezer. ”

Many locals will find a copy of the menu in this issue of Paradise NEWS. Otherwise, see www.StPeteBeachProduce-andDeli.com for a menu & more details about the restaurant. Mirela also just opened Mirela’s Talent Salon in January at6365 Gulf Blvd., adjacent to St. Pete Beach Produce and Deli.

Since hair is her passion, Mirela has a lifetime of experience and the fresh professional training one needs to be licensed in Florida, so she knows all the newest services people want today.  A current printed menu of services with general pricing is available from Mirela’s Talent Salon. Mirela is seeking a talented local stylist to cover the shop while she bonds with her daughter this summer, and to stay on afterward. If your stylist is not happy where they are, you might suggest they contact Mirela. Her phone is 727-564-3645. Email is mirelaarmata73@gmail.com.

Article by Peter A. Roos

Birch & Vine New Chef – Luke Decker!  

Lauded as one of the top restaurants in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, The Birch & Vine at  The Birchwood has a  new executive chef, Luke Decker, who has been with the restaurant since its inception and knows the menu’s global-inspired and inventive dishes well.  Chef Luke’s plates will  feature seasonal influences, locally sourced meats, fish and vegetables with unique twists on favorite dishes.

Decker was only 24 when his brother Chef Anthony convinced Decker to leave his retail career and work at Bella Brava, siblings joined by a love of cooking.

After three years training under Chef Mario Maggi and his brother Chef Anthony Decker (now Chef de Cuisine at NYC’s Felidia), Decker started working under Executive Chef Jason Cline at The Birchwood when it opened in 2013.

The rest is magic. For the next four years, he honed his skills as a grill cook, sous chef and finally chef de cuisine. Chef Luke jokes that he was, “a late bloomer, ”but his work ethic, technical skills, drive and desire to be great at what he does while delivering memorable meals make him the perfect choice for Executive Chef at The Birchwood.

Chef Luke’s brother still inspires him, and he’s not afraid to experiment with new dishes and trends. Creativity is central to good cooking as is a well-trained staff that understands the ingredients and techniques used to prepare dishes.

At home with his wife and two sons, Chef Luke loves to cook steak or shrimp on the grill.  At work, seafood is his passion as is using locally sourced ingredients. He also loves using port and sherry wine in his dishes and believes that a seasoned palate and a good chef’s knife is essential for preparing a great meal. PN

Article by By Nanette Wiser

Discover The Roost

If you like chicken, you are gonna LOVE the Roost! For locals & visitors alike, this is a terrific alternative.

The Roost serves delicious ‘Northern Style’ chicken and homemade sides that change daily; from fresh veggies, mac n’ cheese and cornbread to homemade desserts. The Roost uses a fast pressure-frying method of preparing chicken that incorporates very little oil and results in the healthiest, crispiest, juiciest chicken you’ve ever tasted and their crispy coating is completely gluten free!

All entrees include cornbread or biscuit, a chicken breast plus choice of 1-3 legs, thighs or wings. With two pieces you get two sides, three or four pieces, you get three sides (for really hungry folks!). If you want to trade dark meat for white, it’s only $2.  Add a side for another $2 or get a 4 Sides Only Meal for $7. Everyday there’s a choice of six homemade side dishes from a tantalizing menu that includes farm favorites such as sweet coleslaw, carrot raisin salad, collard greens & black eyed peas, tangy cole slaw, potato salad, Waldorf salad, corn pudding, broccoli rice casserole, cheesy potatoes, ginger carrots, squash souffle’, mashed potatoes & gravy, baked beans, sweet potato pie, cauliflower bake, mac-n-cheese and served with homemade cornbread or biscuits fresh daily. Save room for the delicious home-made bread pudding, crisp, cobbler or cake of the day.

The kitchen is open from 11 am-10 pm daily except Tuesday. Real sweet tea made daily or order a cocktail from the full liquor bar (where you can stay and party even after the kitchen closes). Bar snacks served in the bar after 10pm.

You can dine outdoors at the old-fashioned picnic tables, inside in the quaint, updated dining room, or at a high top or on a tractor seat in the bar. Wooden tables seat parties up to twelve people and the pale blue walls feature rustic art, tractor parts, plow discs, curio shelves, and nostalgic lighting. With free wifi and a kid-friendly atmosphere, The Roost even allows your leashed dog on the patio with you. Water bowls and treats provided!

Friendly servers deliver your chicken hot and your beer icy cold. You can also order to-go meals or boxes of chicken. It’s tastier, healthier, ecologically packaged (all biodegradable and no plastic), Local, and the same price as the Colonel’s! Where else on the beach can you dine for under $10? Come home to The Roost!  The Roost 7141 Gulf Blvd. @ 72nd Ave., St. Pete Beach www.theroostspb.com 727-317-3629

Neptune Grill Turns Six: Zeus Dines Here; So Should You!

Opened on January 11th, 2011 by Gus Vartsakis (you know him from Skidders), Neptune Grill is one of eclectic Gulfport’s star dining attractions, serving some of the best Greek cuisine this side of Mykonos. His lovely daughter Dia Vartsakis is co-owner, managing the restaurant with grace, humor and wit.

Across from the Gulfport Casino, this family owned and operated restaurant just celebrated their sixth-year anniversary. With a beautiful view of Boca Ciega Bay, you can enjoy casual dining indoors and out (dog-friendly), sports on TV, cocktail bar, craft beers, good wine & happy hour 1-6 pm ($3 wells/house wine; $2.25 Bud Light draft); Margarita Monday ($3 house/all day), ½ price Wine Bottle Thursday and Sunday happy hour prices all day ($3 Bloody Mary/Mimosa).

Check out the kid’s menu, build a burger Tuesday, Taco Wednesday, Sunday brunch 11 am – 3 pm (crab benedict, Greek omelet) and an early bird special daily (3-5:30 pm, except holidays) and live music Friday/Saturday with Hector on Thursday.

Executive Chef Tony Papantoniou prepares every dish cooked to order, using the freshest and finest ingredients to purvey delectable Mediterranean/Greek dishes (saganaki, gyro, pastitio, moussaka, chicken souvlaki, Greek salad, hummus, spinach pie) seafood, filet mignon, lamb chops, pastas and chicken plus gluten-free and vegetarian options. Save room for baklava and rice pudding.

With great service, you’ll feel pampered and well-fed and welcomed by the local patrons. Kind of like Florida’s cheers, Neptune Grille is the “the restaurant & bar where everyone knows your name.”

If you want an authentic and enjoyable meal, refreshing beverage, and an amazing time, Neptune Grill has a stool waiting for you!

Who knows, you may become a regular too and meet Zeus, the king of canines.

Article by Nanette Wiser

Neptune Grill, 5501 Shore Blvd. South Gulfport, FL 33707
727-623-4823  www.neptunegrillgulfport.com/

Monday – Thursday   11:00 am- 9:00 pm
Friday & Saturday 11:00 am- 10:00 pm
Sunday 11:00 am – 7:30 pm

February is Looking BERRY Delicious at Rumfish Grill

Rumfish Grill is berry excited to announce that we’ve teamed up with the Florida Strawberry Growers Association to bring you a special menu featuring Chef Aaron’s amazing dishes, inspired by none other than locally grown Florida strawberries! Sample a strawberry spin on ceviche, chicken wings and more. You definitely don’t want to miss out on their incredibly popular Strawberry Mojito Martini either!

New Strawberry Menu!

Blue Point Oysters
Strawberry Minonette|Cocktail Sauce
$2.65 Each

Chicken Wings
Strawberry Tears Hot Sauce | Celery | Carrots

Strawberry Ceviche
Fresh Fish|Bay Scallop | Gulf Shrimp | Strawberry | Jalapeno Lime

Local Fish
Strawberry & Red Chile Glaze| Smokey Creamed Corn | Wilted Spinach

Strawberry Mojito Martini
Coconut Rum and Vanilla Vodka infused with Fresh Pineapple and Strawberries,
mixed with Fresh Lime and Mint

To learn more, make reservations or view full menu
call 727.329.1428 or visit RumFishGrill.com.

Downtown St. Pete’s Most Romantic Restaurants

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, plus there’s almost always something to celebrate; like birthdays, anniversaries… or a “just because” romantic dinner, maybe a second or third date. (Don’t get too romantic on a first date. It’s creepy.)

So, how do we define a romantic dinner? A picnic in the park with wine and cheese can definitely be romantic, but for this list we’re going with the more elegant as most people do when they’re celebrating a special occasion like Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays, or even Mother’s Day. You might want to bookmark this list for future reference guys (and ladies). That’ll help you to score points with your better half when future romantic dinners are required.

A romantic dinner or restaurant can have different meanings to different people.

What makes a restaurant romantic? Some things could be; warm, low lighting, candle lit tables (fake candles work), pleasant décor, harmonious colors, elegant furnishings, a good wine list, ambience, good view, low background music, and of course, great food and service.

What did we leave out? Raise your hand if you guessed it. If you did get it, you might be a local. What’s the romantic requirement not on the above list?  Low noise or no noise. It’s a fact of life, especially in Downtown St. Pete, that it is nearly impossible to find a good restaurant that doesn’t get noisy when they are busy, and they’re often busy. We had to remove noisiness as a disqualifier or there would only be one or two restaurants on the list.

In case you’re wondering, Valentine’s Day is on a Tuesday this year. All of the restaurants on the list offer outdoor seating, which can still be nice in February.

Rococo Steak:  In a 1920’s manse, this baroque-chic steakhouse serves grass-fed beef, seafood, small plates & wine. A member of our FB group, Lindsey Foss said, “We are big fans of Rococo. They really go out of their way to make you feel special and create a beautiful ambiance.” We’ve found the same to be true. They also do a lot of weddings in their elegant, grand setting, and they are one the only restaurants on the list that we’ve never heard get noisy.

655 2nd Ave. South  (727) 822-0999 http://www.rococosteak.com

IL Ritorno:  IL Ritorno has an intimate setting with rustic brick walls and a view of the new/temporary park across the street. The setting and the amazing food remind us of being in Manhattan. The service is impeccable and you won’t find food like this anywhere else. It’s old country Northern Italian with a modern twist. The wine selection is not huge, but it is unique and high quality. They have some small batch wines from Italy that you can’t get elsewhere.

449 Central Ave., #101  (727) 897-5900 http://www.ilritornodowntown.com

The Birch & Vine: Choice New American kitchen featuring a seasonal menu & cocktails in a modern interior with a patio. In the Birchwood boutique hotel on Beach Drive, the main restaurant is The Birch & Vine. They also have a rooftop lounge called The Canopy that has a smaller menu, drinks and spectacular views of the water, parks and Beach Drive.You could arrive early, start at The Canopy for the daytime views. (You do need to be early for this as the sun sets at 6:21 pm on Valentine’s Day in 2017.) Either way, you can finish the evening with a nightcap at The Canopy with the night time views.

340 Beach Dr. NE (727) 896-1080 http://www.thebirchwood.com/birchandvine

Sea Salt: Sea Salt St. Pete is one of the grand anchor tenants of Sun Dial Shops in the heart of Downtown St. Pete. They are an excellent 5-star gourmet restaurant with the freshest fish (most of it local), largest selection of oysters and great steaks with several dishes having unique eclectic twists that us foodies love.

183 2nd Ave. North (727) 873-7964 http://seasaltstpete.com

Brick & Mortar: Rustic-chic nook with seasonal, New American fare, unique wines & craft beers, plus outdoor seating. It’s a little more casual, but quaint with amazing food creations that you’ve never heard of, nor can you get anywhere else. They usually do not take reservations. This is the first Valentine’s Day they are going to be opened, and at press time, they were considering taking reservations just for this day. We will update when the info comes in.

539 Central Ave., (727) 822-6540 https://www.facebook.com/brickandmortarkitchen

Gratzzi Italian Grille: Who knows food and romance like the Italians, eh? Fuhgettaboutit! Gratzzi Italian Grille is a long established favorite right in the heart of Downtown St. Pete. On nights that other restaurants have half of their tables empty, Gratzzi has a wait around the block. They have something for everyone with all the Italian classics covered, to exotic specials like Gambas, (Gigantic Mediterranean Prawns that could beat up a lobster – their lobster dishes are amazing too), Rack of Elk and the Veal Ossobuco is to die for! Mama mia!

211 2nd St. South (727) 623-9037 http://gratzzigrille.com

Parkshore Grill: Refined space for steaks & seafood paired with fine wines served inside or on the sprawling patio. Parkshore Grill is another long-established favorite that was here long before the restaurant boom and still stands tall with excellent cuisine, professional service and an elegant setting in the scenic heart of Beach Drive. Try the Beef Wellington, The Parkshore Filet Mignon & Lobster Tail, Parkshore Salad and the Blue Cheese Stuffed Meatballs. The Parkshore Martini is a favorite as well.

300 Beach Dr. Northeast  (727) 896-9463 http://www.parkshoregrill.com

Cassis American Brasserie: Not quite as old as Parkshore or Gratzzi, they have evolved nicely over the last 7 years and have really upped their game. Not only do they have excellent cuisine, but a professional staff in the front and back. They bake their own bread and make all of their desserts in-house as well. They are in the heart of Beach Drive with great people watching and beautiful views of the park and Tampa Bay.

170 Beach Dr. Northeast (727) 827-2927 http://www.cassisab.com

Article by Kevin Godbee • www.StPetersburgFoodies.com
Photo credit: Barry Lively

Editor’s Note: We asked StPetersburgFoodies.com founder Kevin Godbee if we could share his recent online posting on downtown’s romantic restaurants with Paradise News. Be sure to read our Romantic Interludes which features two of their favorites, The Pearl and Castile.  We are HUGE fans of how he and his partner Lori Brown know EVERYTHING about dining and spirits. Visit www.StPetersburgFoodies.com and like them on Facebook. – Nanette Wiser

Health & Wellness: Dining Out Tips/Picks

2017 debuts a svelte new you and it begins with knowing how to find healthy choices at restaurants. Lucky for those who live in Paradise, we can let our tongue loose at juice bars, vegan bistros and ethnic adventures. Whether you have dietary restrictions (gluten) or just don’t want the extra calories, here are some of our favorite spots plus some health tips for dining out.

Order Healthy: While you don’t want to be too pesky or demanding, you can request that items be cooked a certain way, grilled instead of fried for example. Why? Researchers affiliated with the Harvard School of Public Health found that people who ate fried food at least once per week had a greater risk of both type 2 diabetes and heart disease than those who avoid fried foods, and that their risk increased with each additional fried meal they consumed.

Reduce Portions: Eat only half the meal and take the rest home.  You can also ask if there is an appetizer size portion of your favorite entrée. Why?  The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says food portions at restaurants have doubled or tripled over the last 20 years.

Supersized Salads: Is your salad really healthy? If it’s loaded with bacon, cheese and creamy dressings, probably not.

Where To Go: Health-conscious diners will enjoy dining out at these local spots. Share your favorite on our Facebook!  You can pick up healthy take-out for a picnic from Locale Market, Fresh Market, Nature’s Patch and Earth Fare. When in Gulfport, Mangia Gourmet is the place to dine. In St. Pete Beach, Chill serves up tasty vegetarian alternatives.

Researchers say that a Mediterranean diet enhances health and longevity. Lucky for us, you can grab and go garden veggie or chickpea patty and veggie pitas at The Pita Pit as well as lean grilled meat and falafel. 2991 66th Street N, St. Petersburg; 727-345-0900.

O’Bistro serves elegant Mediterranean fare, succulent seafood, amazing salads (pecan-crusted chicken), veggie alternatives (eggplant, portabello and boursin  ciabatta sandwich), home-made soups and more at breakfast, lunch and dinner.  6661 Central Avenue N, St. Petersburg; 727-381-1212

Want a healthy hamburger? Burger Monger serves 100% American raised Kobe Beef, a healthy meat with no antibiotics, steroids or hormones on its sandwiches and signature BurgerMonger Chop Salad. 1325 4th Street N., St. Petersburg; 727-592-4206. Visit www.burgermonger.com.

SIP SIP HOORAY: Start your morning off right with a mega dose of raw fruits and veggies made fresh at these local juice bars:

  • Soho Juice Co. 2200 4th St N, St. Petersburg; (727) 767-0547
  • Kama Juice Bar & Eatery 209 1st St. NE, downtown St. Pete; (727) 896-4000
  • Squeeze Juice Works 675 30th Ave N, St. Petersburg; (727) 821-1095
  • Leafy Greens Café 1626 Central Ave., downtown St. Pete;  (727) 637-0712
  • Micky’s Café & Organics 318 Central Ave., downtown St. Pete; (727) 851-9833   PN

Article by Nanette Wiser