By Java and Dune

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Hurricane

809 Gulf Way St Pete Beach, FL 33706
Tel: 727- 360-9558

The Hurricane restaurant stands stalwart and majestic amid the calm breezes of the cozy neighborhood of Passe a Grille in St. Pete Beach.  With views of the beach across the street, it is the spot to take yourself for a brief getaway from the stressors of real life.  The food is pretty typical seaside fare, but it is a good value for the quality and quantity. The grouper sandwich is surely something to write home about and no doubt a lasting memory for out of towners. We went there this weekend and just to be different, I tried the Shrimp Po Boy. Other entrees we sampled were the tilapia Fish and Chips and the BLT.  The Po Boy had a chipolte mayo that gave it a little zip, and the shrimp was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.  The fish had the same qualities and both dishes included cole slaw.  The cole slaw wasn't dazzling, but my son's choice of fruit was fresh and sweet.  The BLT was awesome with plenty of bacon. The cuban bread elevated this layered trio to a whole new level. A street music festival called "Pop Goes the Beach" was cranking up as we arrived.  It was fun, but I prefer walking along the beach, checking out the side street shops and relaxing with a cocktail at the Hurricane as a salty breeze wafts by. Prices are reasonable at the under $10.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Jazz Jamm

Vinoy Resort, 501 5th Ave., St. Petersburg, FL. 727- 894-1000

Meet to hear the beat written by Guest SK

Fourth in the current Jazz at the Vinoy series and Rick picks a winner! Multi-talented Valerie Gillespie and her group, with guest trumpet player John DePaola, wowed the crowd. Billed as a night with Dizzy and Charley Parker, they played signature songs from both jazz geniuses, starting the first set with Cotton Tail and moving seamlessly into Ornithology. Amazingly, Valerie manages to both blow a mean horn and educate the ear: reminding us at one point to listen for chord changes, and giving us a lesson in counter melodies, as she and John each played a separate number together, asking us to listen for the common chords in both. They played old favorites, like Billy’s Bounce as if they had been working together for a life time. Joining them in the quartet were two seasoned players, Dave Randolf on drums, and Rick Steuart on keyboard. Rick took some solo riffs and really jammed.

At the start of the second set, Valerie showcased her other instrument, a wonderful voice, as she did a slow, sensual Round about Midnight. Rick Gee joined the group on flute with a subtle rendition of “Coming Home,” accompanied by great horn backups. Pushing her talent and synchronicity with John on trumpet, Valerie “scatted” a la Ella Fitzgerald to How High the Moon, while John blew an upbeat Ornithology. A+ to all for a great evening! Keep watch for the next Jazz Jamm at the Vinoy, with groups like the Jazz Juvenocracy scheduled in coming months. Signing off and flying off to northern climes, SK.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Larry's Olde Fashioned Ice Cream

6595 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, FL. 33706 Tel. 727-360-4259

Here's the plan for a lovely evening. Peel out of your driveway no later than 4:30pm, you're going to catch the sunset. It's dinner time so head for a favorite take out. Oddly enough our choice that evening was Publix for their salmon and avocado Maki rolls, seaweed salad and, no we didn't forget to pick up a few pieces of their delicious fried chicken. A chilled bottle of white wine and you're on your way to a sweet evening on Pass-a-grille beach.
As we all know, this is the perfect time of year in St. Pete. It's not too cold, not too hot and if you crave peace and quiet, the masses have left the beach. Only seagulls and a few kite flyers remain. It's a beautiful time of day.
So, we ate our food, had good conversation, laughed, took some photos and then as it cooled and the sun began to dip we craved a little something sweet. Larry's is the place. Dozens of homemade flavors to choose from, some old and some new creations. Ask the servers to fill a chocolate dipped waffle cone above the rim with a selection of gelato. A beautiful looking chocolate cake sat on the counter along side a yummy apple pie. I immediately decided on a slice of the apple ala mode. We also tried a favorite hot fudge sundae with lots of whipped cream.
Even though we visited midweek this very popular parlor and the little tables inside and out fill up fast. Service is excellent though, no long waiting lines. You too will feel happy in no time at all.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jazz @ Studio 620

620 1st Avenue So., St. Petersburg, FL.

Meet to hear the beat
Review by Guest SK

On the evening of April 5th the Nate Najar trio performed the second in a three month series of concerts at Studio @620. Nate is gaining an international reputation as an inspirational and eloquent master of the jazz guitar, and we're lucky to have a chance to hear him locally. With the gifted bassist John Lamb and Steve Bucholtz on percussion, they moved seamlessly from bebop standards, to bossa nova to down and dirty blues.
An audience favorite was Nate's bluesy original, dedicated to Bob Devin Jones' mother Ola Mae, which had the audience on their feet.
As an added treat, Nate introduced a young jazz vocalist, Lisa Casalino, who could have been channeling the front singer in a 40's jazz band. With a lovely, soft voice, and just a bit flirtatious, she won over the trip and the audience easily. Nate's last gig at the Studio@620 for the spring is scheduled for May 11. I recommend getting your tickets early as last night seemed almost sold out, and well worth it!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Clearwater City Grill

401 Fort Hariison, Clearwater, FL
Tel: 727-408-5160

My friend invited me to see the renovation of this landmark restaurant across the street from the Clearwater Courthouse. Apparently, there have been many incarnations of this place over the years. It started out as one of those silver bullet diners years ago and oddly enough the bar of the Clearwater City Grill is still housed in its shell. Exposed brick and comfy booth seating round out the interior.  A lively professional crowd from the Courthouse and surrounding offices make up the crowd. I decided to try the Amazing Sedona Taco which are touted as the best fish tacos on the coast, maybe in the world. They were delicious and plentiful. Served on a long board reminiscent of all things California, these tacos start with grilled flour tortillas and are topped with cabbage, guacamole, tomato and cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, salsa is served on the side. The fish is well seasoned but not overdone, and they're shredded making them super easy to eat. At  $7.95, you couldn't ask for a better deal. Other menu choices show great creativy, offering classic diner food with a twist. The next time you find yourself in downtown Clearwater, I suggest you give this place a try.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jazz Jamm

Vinoy Resort, 501 5th Ave NE, St. Pete., FL. Tel. 727- 894-1000

Meet 2 hear the beat
written by guest SK

Rick Gee offered up a change of pace Friday night at his monthly Jazz Jamm at the Vinoy. The Celestial Orchestra is a 10 piece Latin jazz group with a beat and a message: 'tropical music with a message to honor our supreme being'.
The group's co-founders, Andrew Maldonado, Dr. Frankie Bermudez and Juan Santana gave a spirited performance, mostly Latin swing wtih a strong horn section and a wide variety of drums, maracas, grourds and other percussion instruments. Early in the set they changed the beat to a be-bop standard called Green Dolphin Street then returned to their Latin roots. The first few numbers seemed excessively loud limiting the subtlety of the thythm. But once they toned down the amps, the beat was contagious.
A highlight of the night came with the three solo riffs by the very young, very talented keyboardist from Columbia, David Cubilos, whose tight chords and changes delighted the audience.
Thanks once again to Rick Gee, who is working hard to bring good jazz, with a variety of sounds and moods to St. Petersburg. Bring it on, Rick, we're just getting warmed up.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

E & E Stakeout Grill

100 N. Indian Rocks Road, Belleair Bluffs, FL 33770
Tel: 727-585-6399

I hadn't been to E & E Stakeout Grill for dinner until last night, but have alway loved lunches there. It is a bit of an extravagence for lunch. The dinner menu is slimmer, but the fare is still quite good. I took some out of town friends there last night in an effort to procure some decent seafood for them without the traffic and chaos of the beach in Springtime. The lure of seafood had me for a moment and there were many fine choices however, it was the steak special that drew me in. I  usually like to try the chef's special and Chef Erwin's choices didn't disappoint. Filet mignon medallions perfectly cooked and topped with roasted tomato and Bernaise sauce, what's not to love?  I chose to double the veggies and forgo the potato.  All was delicious but slightly tepid. I blame that on our outdoor seating, surely a trek from the kitchen. Also, my friend ordered something off the menu, almond crusted grouper which the chef was happy to make. My friend was pleased, in fact he said he loved it, so it was worth asking for something special. My other comrade had a decent steak, but I don't think he'll write home about it on postcards of Florida. E & E Stakeout offers a full bar and the crowd takes their mixed drinks seriously. This affluent area among the "Belleairs" has a dearth of restaurants, so the joint was jumping. The owners have a hand in great dining experiences around the county including, Guppy's on the Beach in Indian Rocks Beach and Mystic Fish in Palm Harbor. Under $20 for lunch, dinner under $30, and a 15% gratuity is added for you.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Verducci's Pizzeria Trattoria

7736 Blind Pass Rd., St. Pete Beach, FL. Tel. 727-363-790

The old Fortunato's was recently renovated to become the new Verducci's on St. Pete Beach and it's a definite improvement. The bigggest change is a very creative and appetizing new menu, thanks to it's Neapolitan owners. A welcome addition to the beaches. Listed under each category on the menu; appetizers, entrees, salads, pizzas, subs, strombolis and calzones is a large selection.
Of course, there's still work to be done. What's the saying....Rome wasn't built in a day? The servers, though pleasant, are obviously in training. One of our inquiries that needed confirmation from the boss was...Do you serve Pellegrino or Perrier? The answer was no, but after a minute or two the answer was.. Yes, we do! A definite desire to serve, but still learning.
Our three entrees, Gnocci, Shrimp, Eggplant Parmesan were consumed without hesitation. The salad was large so that went with us. The wine list is a good one and our choices were excellent. We spent a little more, but you could probably get a nice meal for under $20.
One thing the owners must think about improving is the entrance. A large take out counter with lots of paper cups and supplies greet you at the door occupying most of the first room, but you'll be asked immediately where you'd like to sit, so don't be put off. Stay and choose the second room and you'll be fine. A restaurant in St. Petersburg recently closed because it had an obvious take out counter at the door concealing the wonderful ambiance and delicious dining further inside. Very sad.
Oh, and try the pizza. I've been told that it is authentic.
I like their slogan too... Cuciniamo con amore. I think it's true.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Marchand's Bar and Grill

501 5th Ave. NE, St. Petersburg, FL Tel. 727-824-8072

Enjoy what the wealthy enjoy when they visit your hometown St. Petersburg.
Currently, the Vinoy Renaissance Resort is celebrating the opening year of the original Vinoy Park Hotel in 1925 with a 3 course dinner for only, you guessed it, $19.25. every evening from 5-6:30pm.
The Classic Dining Menu offers a choice between two starters, two entrees and two desserts every evening from 5pm to 6:30pm. Good eating and we ordered a bottle of a nice chardonnay at $30. Split 4 ways, it was a little cheaper than by the glass.
The service, however, was lacking. I'd best begin at the beginning......our party of 4 arrived at 6PM, one of the first to be seated. No waiting. We were swiftly shown to a table in what I considered to be Siberia. We were quickly moved to a table in the main area, much more lively and the AC was eventually turned up. Arriving early we thought there'd be plenty of time for us to catch the JazzJamm show in the ballroom at 7:30pm. However, our entree arrived exactly one hour after being seated. That left a half hour to eat the entree, dessert and pay the bill. Silly me paid in cash so waiting for change put me another 15 minutes behind my friends who dashed off to make the 7:30 performance.
Would I do it again? Ummm... maybe if I sat on the other side of the room there might be servers who served. I don't know.

Friday, February 25, 2011


2631 4th St. No., St. Petersburg, FL. Tel. 727-571-evos

Evos claims to serve fast food that's healthy and, therefore, guilt free. How, you ask? Well, for one thing their hamburgers, chicken and fries are Airbaked (that's with a capital A) instead of deep fried. They don't offer technical explanations for Airbake that I might pass along but that's their spiel. Add to that, no hormones or antibiotics have been added to the beef. Organic milk and real fruit and fruit juices are used in their shakes.
I stopped by yesterday for lunch and had a turkey avocado wrap and a bottle of water, I'm just not into those shakes no matter what they're made of. There was alot of ground turkey in the wrap but I couldn't seem to find the avocado, except for a smooth green buttery substance throughout. Not to say it didn't taste good. With tomatoes and lettuce this generous portion on a spinach wrap totally satisfied my hunger. Just a little more flavor please. It's odd how every supermarket has aisles of herbs and spices but they can be so hard to find in restaurant food.
Anyway, for slightly less than $6 I did feel that I'd just eaten a relatively healthy lunch. Well, the best I could expect that hadn't been prepared by me in my kitchen.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Jazz Jamm

Vinoy Resort, 501 5th Ave NE, St.Pete., FL.

Meet 2 hear the beat
written by guest SK

Thanks to Rick Gee's Jazz Jamm, Friday night at the Renaissance Vinoy was a blast and the Grand Ballroom was jumpin'.
John Lamb, virtuoso bassist, brought together a stellar group of musicians to celebrate the official release of his newest CD, 'Conversations North of the Border'.
From the very first number he had the crowd rapt, at times on their feet. They began with a percussion trio of Lamb, Stephen Buckholtz on drums and Tony Castellano on keyboard and the rhythm was set. Tenor sax man Austin Vickrey played a riff on one side of the room and trumpeter Greg Nielsen responded from the other side and the musical conversation continued as they reached the stage. The talent and synergy of the group was consistently great for the entire evening. Their range was incredible. From a slow and romantic rendition of Willow Weep for Me to the upbeat jazz of New Orelans, each musician had a chance in the spotlight. Castellano out did himself channeling Louis Armstrong and Nielsen, gave it his all from the deep throat of his trombone. His right leg joined in the fun, but you had to be there for that. Throughout the night, Lamb allowed his bass to accompany his group but then at times took center stage to show his mastery. Rick Gee joined Lamb in a duet whose subtle tones gave a nice contrast to the horns. All in all, a truly great evening. We even got an encore.
Look for this great venue next month at the Vinoy or check out the JazzJamm website for future performances. More than worth the price of admission.....a mere $20.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hooker Tea

300 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL. Tel. 727-894-4832

This was my second visit to Hooker Tea and I was suprised to learn that there is a second shop on Howard Ave. in Tampa. Hooker claims that tea is the new coffee and that you will get 'hooked'. I beg to differ, but the experience was a truly relaxing one. The one employee there on a Sunday afternoon was very friendly, helpful and really couldn't do enough for us. The menu is divided into different varieties of teas blended with fruits and spices. All with enticing names so it's not easy to make a choice. Oddly enough the little cafe doesn't smell that rich. However, the pomegranate blend, Pom Panda, that we both chose turned out of be very enjoyable. Served in generous tall paper cups and very HOT it tasty good and felt wonderful going down. I asked for a little honey and that made it even better. There were a couple of pastry choices so we split a scone, which tasted very fresh, but light. More cakey than sconey, if you know what I mean.
The decor is warm with lots of dark wood shelving and recessed lighting with orange paper chandeliers that hang from the ceiling. The walls lined with colorful boxes of teas, mugs and teapots for purchase are more interesting than the furniture which is, in a word, sad. Uncomfortable tiny chairs and tables and not enough of them. There's seating out on Beach Drive which I'm sure is used in the summer, but for the winter months it's a little too chilly even with a hot cup of tea. There's also a stack of board games to play because, unlike with coffee, when you're sitting down for tea you've got plenty of time.
If you are a coffee drinker who pays for coffee on the go you'll find these prices comparable. Here, however, it's the different levels of teas that will determine the price per cup.
Hidden between Paciugo's gelato shop and the Nola Cafe you could miss Hooker's so look for the horse and carriages that stroll around Straub Park. Their resting spot is just in front of Hooker's.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ringside Cafe

2742 4th St N, St Petersburg, FL 33704
Tel: 727-894-8465

The Ringside Cafe serves up an electric mix of Blues, delicious food and libations from a full bar. I was there on a Thursday night about 9:00 o'clock and found the band tuning up and the place packed. The atmosphere is comfortable, a little clausterphobic but not in a bad way. This may have been how the fans of The Beatles felt at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. Well, that may be overstating things, but if you keep your ear to the ground, you may uncover some new talent. We ordered an array of bar food that pleased everyone at our big table. No surprises here, just a fun place to hang out and enjoy top notch music. The food is under $10 and there are drink specials nightly.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Frog Pond

16909 Gulf Boulevard, N. Redington Beach Tel. 727-392-4117

The Frog Pond is more than just a local hangout. Snowbirds soar in from far and wide to have a great big breakfast, brunch or lunch for less than $10. The food is good and it should be. Their specialty is breakfast and it's what American wives have been cooking for their families since eggs, bacon and pancakes became our Sunday morning specialty.
Service is good, maybe the boys are a little silly, but that goes with the whole beach, vacation atmosphere. Not to mention the frog decor. Every size, shape and color created from every material you can imagine is crowded on the dark green walls or sitting on the shelves.
The coffee isn't hot enough and one of my friends traded hers in for a tea, but our meals were fine. We all ordered scrambled eggs with different sides: corned beef hash, turkey bacon and real bacon on the side. Grits were okay and the toast was toast. The homemade strawberry jam, on the other hand, was very flavorful.
Always crowded, except maybe around 2pm on weekdays, but the wait is never a long one so take a drive up the beaches one Sunday morning, stop at this wellknown restaurant and experience a little Americana.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Burg Bar and Grill

1752 Central Ave., St.  Petersburg, FL
Tel: (727) 894-2874

The warmth of this small establishment drew my friend and I in on a rainy night recently. The Burg Bar and Grill is known for its "Cheers"esque atmosphere and juicy burgers, it is bound to become one of your favorites. The menu offers not only burgers, but cheese steaks, and Greek specialties including soups, salads and spinach pies. A good selection of craft brews and less routine wines. The crew that started this place originated at the Hangar Restaurant (reviewed here) and brought to it a healthy dose of attentive customer service. Not that I struck up a conversation with anyone, but the atmosphere made you feel like you were a part of something. I had the Angus burger which was juicy and well seasoned. It was served with homemade potato chips. I felt happy and satisfied when I left there, sure to return. Prices range from $3.50 - $7.99

Hours: Daily 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


5035 34th St. South, St. Petersburg, FL. Tel. 727-864-2800

Portofino claims to be an Italian Ristorante! And serves a wide range of italian dishes. The menu is extensive so it's been divided into Antipasti, Zupppe, Pizza, Pollo, Vitello, Steak, Casseroles, Pasta, Fettucini. And that's just the dinner menu. Lunches are more of the brick oven variety: stromboli, calzone, subs. and different forms of parmigiana. I think you get the idea.
The decor is old world charm. No, not many restaurants in Italy look like this anymore.
I had dined at Portofino many years ago and never returned. Now I'm here to say, I think they've gotten their act together.
A close friend told me to give it another try but I didn't. However, last week I was feeling a little under the weather and this same friend was ordering Portofino take out and telephoned to ask what I wanted. What a sweetheart! I politely resisted at first but then let her order for me and the meal was so good. Delicious Homemade Vegetable Soup, definitely homemade with a delicious broth. The entree was Chicken Piccata, with a sauce of butter, lemon and white wine. It seemed a little light on the white wine, but because my stomach wasn't feeling that great it felt just right. A small, very fresh tossed salad and I was happy.
Portofino is a small neighborhood restaurant, with a lunch menu that is very reasonable. One can have a delicious lunch for less than $20. Not so for dinner. That's going to cost you at least $30.
I'm indebted to my friend. I've been lucky with friends lately.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Healthy Hut

595 Corey Avenue, St. Pete Beach, FL. Tel. 727-363-4488

What do you think about beer and wine in a healthfood store?
Let's see...healthy alcohol? Could that be considered an 'oximoron'?
I think so.
Anyway, I was over on the beach yesterday getting some sea air and decided to drop by the Healthy Hut to buy some ginger, the candied kind. Of course, I should have headed straight for the register but didn't. Silly me. Anyway, you know how it is when you're in a food store and it's almost dinner time, you're hungry but you don't really know it. So by the time I'd finished strolling around I was $18 lighter. My mistake was walking to the rear of the store where the prepared foods and cafe are located. If you haven't experienced the Hut and like to eat (doesn't everybody) the store is a short stroll or shorter ride on Corey west of the Beach Theatre. It's a good place to drop in for a healthy breakfast, lunch or dinner. The food is tasty and more than that, interesting.
What did $18 buy? A very small container of tabouli, a Napoleon (yum), a
3"x 3" square of vegetable lasagna for $6.87 and some ginger. That's it.
Out of my mind? Well, it was fun.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Queens Head Restaurant and Eurobar

 2501 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL 33713
Tel: 727-498-8584

Pumpkin Risotto

Shepherd's Pie
  People streamed into the Queens Head Restaurant and Eurobar Saturday as we sat, anxiously awaiting our gourmet pub food. Every conversation buzzed about a recent article in the St. Petersburg Times that touted the Fish and Chips they serve here as the best in the area. Many plates full of the infamous dish breezed through the black drape kitchen door. Since we were there to try it ourselves, we ordered the fish, the shepherds pie and the pumpkin risotta. After being told the shepherd's pie was freshly baked, not microwaved and to expect a 15 minute wait, we said, fine with us and ordered some devils on horseback to keep our stomachs from growling.  The devils are a stuffed prune wrapped in bacon and were a nice prelude to the meal, the size not encroaching on the dinner to come. The entrees tasted very good, but they are served in euro portions. What's that you say? Not exactly filling, but flavorful. If you are hungry, order soup to nuts to ensure satisfaction. And be prepared to pay over $30 per person. For that you get a top notch dining experience. Nice touches abound, from crispy greens atop traditional entrees to the haphazard sprinkling of feta cheese cubes on the risotto and pickled pumpkin on the shepherd's pie. The decor is playful and a tongue in cheek representation of British culture. The owners are the real deal, so they know from whence they came. The bar area and the outdoor seating area is a great gathering spot for friends. On the rather cold evening we were there, everyone opted to eat inside.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Beef O'Brady's

34th St. South, St. Petersburg, FL. Tel. 727-

Okay, it's a chain, I'm getting desperate, but all I wanted was a local take-out. I didn't feel like cooking the usual chicken or fish so I beat it over to the neighborhood Beef O'Brady's. Somehow I can't seem to break that fish and chips in a basket habit, but honestly I hadn't been there in so long that I was shocked at the price increase.... $8. Now that's not right.

Yes we've all eaten there. Come on, 'fess up. The food is good, ordinary, but fast, flat screen TVs are everywhere, the staff is friendly enough and if you arrive before 6pm there are always tables or even a cozy booth available.
People, let's think SuperBowl..there must be some male readers out there too...I hope.
This could be embarrassing but if you haven't been invited to a Super Bowl Party think O'Brady's. I'm sure lots of fans will be enjoying those flat screens. Better yet, throw a party of your own and choose take out or let them cater it for you; Award Winning Wings top the menu, Steak Burgers, baskets of shrimp or chicken tenders. and lots more. You could just go
wild and your friends will love you for it. There are 4 locations in our
area alone.
Relax, it doesn't always have to be 'cuisine'. Think change.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Restaurant News

I'm sad to report that one of our favorite downtown eateries has closed. Emilio's Bistro, a trendly little spot on Central Avenue, offered tasty food, jazz music on Sundays, and laid back service. The pastry counter was an amazing sight. The layout of the restaurant is narrow, so if potential customers didn't make it past the entryway they may have been put off by a perceived lack of available seating. It is a loss for those Sunday afternoon treks to St. Petersburg.

Monday, January 24, 2011

St. Petersburg Yacht Club

11 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL. Tel. 727-822-3873

Most of you will say....why is she writing about a private club?
And, what good is that to me?
Well, here's why. First of all, it's sometimes good to know what you're missing. And no, I am not a member of this very old and prestigious institution but I have dined there several times. I've even celebrated Fourth of July on their balcony overlooking Tampa Bay. How? I've had the good fortune to have been invited by friends who are members, of which there are approx. 25oo.
Not every member sails, some just enjoy what they refer to as 'on shore activities', socializing and eating. The decor is early American with lots of memorabilia dating back to 1909. Members are treated as if they had just come into port after a long sail. In other words you are warmly welcomed.
Yesterday, after (once again) leaving the Dali museum I was invited to lunch with four friends, only one of whom was 'the member'. We sat at a generous round table in front of the French doors that overlook the Bay. The food is what you'd expect at a historical American yacht club. There are no surprises. Choices on the menu are items that Amerians recognize and love; Club sandwiches, tuna, chicken salad and of course the hot dishes include omelets, burgers, expensive cuts of beef, shrimp, and the occasional Florida invention. For example, two of my friends enjoyed the Mahi Mahi Tacos.
Now, if you've ever been a member of a club anywhere you know the meal prices are set to keep the members happy and coming back for more. After all, they're paying an annual fee so let's show a little gratitude. Lunch for $6 and you're out the door? If I were a member I don't know if I'd ever eat at home.
My advice reader? Make friends with a St. Pete Yacht Club member, have some fun and see what you're missing, then thank them profusely.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Salt Rock Grill

19325 Gulf Boulevard, Indian Shores, FL. 33785

This very impressive looking restaurant sits on a narrow strip of land in the Gulf of Mexico just west of the city of Seminole. If you arrive by car you can't miss it. It's large and totally our of place and you can't help but admire the elegant entrance. Inside you'll walk past a usually crowded bar with tanks of swimming sea creatures. If you arrive by boat you'll step onto a large wooden deck. The aroma of wood fired steaks, a cozy bar and happy outdoor diners will greet you. Fine dining and service await whichever way you enter. The wine list is admirable.
Meals can be pricey here, anywhere between $13 for Meatloaf and $40 for Alaskan King Crab Legs. But if you're seated by 5:30pm your dinner will cost only $20. The early meal includes salad, sour dough bread with olive oil and herbs and dessert. Early drinks, beer and house wine sell for $3 and well drinks for $3 and $4. The house specialty is a Mojito for only $4. You can't beat those prices, especially on the beaches.
The Grill claims that they are continuing the tradition of Native Americans who built huge fires here, grilling their food on salt rocks. An added plus.....the fires keep the mosquitoes away.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

R.G.'s Bookmark Cafe

120 Central Park Drive, Largo, FL 33771
Tel: 727-586-7390

Located in the Largo Public Library, this satellite site of R.G.'s Restaurant of Clearwater is a great little spot for a snack, breakfast, lunch or early dinner. If you have a county cooperative library card, you can pick up a book or dvd and get a cup of coffee and a scone. The breakfast choices include pancakes and waffles, breakfast sandwiches and bisquit and gravy. At lunch, they bring in a "hot" special that varies from meatloaf to stuffed peppers and includes one side and a salad, all for $6.95. It's a great deal. R.G.'s offers soups and salads too, I had both and they were fresh and tasty. Recently renovated, this cafe is a cozy spot to sit and read or meet a friend. The coffee is good and the atmosphere is very friendly.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gatsby's of St. Petersburg

At Grayl's Hotel
340 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL
Tel: 727-896-1080

You may have felt the same curiosity I did as you walked or drove by this quaint spot on Beach Drive. Certainly it's within a stone's throw of the Museum of Fine Arts and the new Chilhuily Gallery, but I often overlook it as a place to stop. I always seem to have something else on my agenda when I'm in that area, until that is, I made it a point to meet Java there recently. Gatsby's is part of the Historic Grayl Hotel which is reminiscent of the boutique hotels I stayed in during my travels in Europe. It was built in 1922 and a quick trip inside (we chose to sit outside on this lovely afternoon) takes you on a little time travel excursion. The bar looks like a great place to hang, advertising several trendy drinks I want to try. The lunch menu is comprised of sandwiches, salads, soups and pizza. I labored over the menu, which is plain site of anyone driving by, ending up with the pulled pork wrap (wet.) This good and plenty sandwich was stuffed with well seasoned meat and slaw, peppered with caribbean flavors and kidney beans. I enjoyed the macaroni salad, but not the potato salad that accompanied it. There was plenty of food for a noon meal. The prices were normal for this stretch of Beach Drive, appetizers start at $5.95 and entrees from $7.95. Dinner offers steaks and seafood, as well as pastas and classic American dishes, such as meatloaf, with a new twist. Dinner prices range from $8.95 to $29.95. The wait staff is among the friendliest in downtown and is one of the reasons I wanted to stop in. Someone always greets me as I walk by the hostess station. Make no mistake about it, the owners of this unique restaurant want you there and expect you to stay a while.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Jazz Jamm at the Vinoy

Meet 2 hear the beat st. pete

written by guest SK

Even on a too cool

Wednesday night, St. Pete downtown was the “in” place to be. The new Dali museum setting for a thank you buffet for docents, volunteers, staff and invited guests was a feast for the eyes.

The building mirrors the soaring grace and imagination of Dali; a perfect home for his works. Then on to the Vinoy to see and hear Rick Gee’s newest venue located in the downstairs ballroom with great acoustics and enough seating to hold a few hundred. It was close to full.

Tonite's show on stage, 'The Duke Meets Jobim', with Violinist Rebecca Zapen and renowned bassist John Lamb with solid back ups on sax, drums and piano. They moved smoothly from the breathy rhythms of Bossa Nova to the cool sounds of the Duke; “the Girl from Ipanema” meets “Satin Doll.” John Lamb is a virtuoso performer bassist who performed with the Duke Ellington Orchestra for more than ten years. He was, as always, mellow and in the groove, and Rick even joined the group on flute for one number. We found Rebecca’s voice and take on the music a bit too country, or 50’s girl band, without the sexy off-beat of Jobim, but John and the backup group more than held their own. Entree fee was $20 with wine and beer available for purchase.

See Rick Gee's Jazz Jamm website for more details including next month's venue, John Lamb’s CD 'Conversations North of the Border' release party on February 18, 2011.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Panera Bread

Two Locations in the Burg
1908 4th St N or 2420 66th St N, St Petersburg, FL

This blog actually started because of Carrabbas and Panera. These were two of my crutch restaurants that I relied on for familiar and consistent service. One of my son's friend recently asked me why I hadn't reviewed Panera for the blog. He loves their macaroni and cheese (as does my son and the rest of our family) made with Vermont white cheddar cheese. A zingy, but fattening treat for the boys. My standby meal at Panera is breakfast and more often than not, coffee. I know its upscale fast food, but the price and quality keep bringing in the customers, as does the free wireless (in limited doses during lunch 11:30-1:30) and the cozy feel of the place. The acoustic perfume (piped in classical music) is almost as good as the smell of baked goods. Although to be honest I don't know how much is baked on the premises. Breakfast sandwiches start at $2.95 and go up to $3.95. A piping hot souffle will set you back $3.95 and coffee starts at $1.59. The best deal of all is to bring your own travel cup for a "coffee refill" for a buck. This economic choice reduces paper cup waste too. Their hazelnut coffee, when executed properly, is the best and the other varieties are satisfying with half and half in ample supply. I stopped in McDonalds the other day since getting out at Panera meant getting rained on. A coffee (which that day wasn't up to par) and an Egg McMuffin cost me the same as a breakfast sandwich and coffee at Panera. I have to say, if given the choice again, I might forsake my hairdo.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Savannah's Cafe

1113 Central Avenue. St. Petersburg, FL. Tel. 727-388-4371
After an exciting dinner at the Dali Museum's Grand Opening last night my buddy Dune and I had a taste for something sweet. We put our heads together while still inside the museum (it was freezing outside) and decided on Savannah's Cafe. I'm ashamed to admit that this was my first visit to such a popular local restaurant. What a warm environment (and they had the heat up too). It was just past 8pm when we arrived and our maitre 'd
and server were both friendly and helpful. Sometimes you can get one nicety without the other.
This southern cafe boasts the usual Fried Green Tomatoes, Jambalaya, Fried Catish and so on. But Fried chicken stuffed with Goat cheese? Sounds more southern Greece to me.
Desserts are not printed in the menu which suggests a revolving selection. Last night the choices were Key Lime Pie; a small square of very creamy filling a thick layer of crust. No hesitation on my part, I had to have it. Mama D's Bread Pudding and Pineapple upside down cake also sounded very enticing. Dune ordered the last but hardly least, chocolate bomb cake. The exact name escapes me at the moment, but I do recall the liqueur the waiter insisted on serving with it.....Chocbloc. Very tasty....and strong.
The price of 2 outstanding desserts and 2 brewed coffees, $20.
To read more about Savannah's scroll down the right side of this page to Blog Archives, November 2010.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dali Museum

One Dali Blvd., St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Tel: 727-823-3767

 It's been party, party, party for Dali afficienados from all over the world this week and Java and Dune were part of the action. We were lucky enough to attend the ribbon cutting yesterday afternoon and a lovely dinner in the stunning new facility last night. Didn't get to try the Cafe Gala, the on site restaurant that I'm told will serve some Spanish hertiage dishes, but will mostly stick to soups, salads and sandwiches. We feasted on chicken paella, roasted potatoes, salad, and rustic olive bread. A bevy of appetizers was available too and the cava (a rosey champagne) flowed freely. The collection has never looked so good. If you've been to the old museum lately, you know this architectural endeavor was sorely needed. There are a myriad of Daliesque touches to discover throughout the interior space and outside in the surrounding landscape. The museum store is one of the best I've seen for artsy merchandise, books not so much. This is just one more development that puts our humble burg on the map as a worthwhile destination.

Cafe Alma

260 1st Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL. Tel. 727-502-5002

Cafe Alma is a very classy restaurant with a mediteranean theme and it's NOT located on Beach Drive. Imagine that! A winding staircase takes you down to a quaint brick courtyard. The ambience inside is charming and warm. A long bar, low ceilings wonderful lighting, crisp tablecloths and lots of art.
The staff would like you to begin your evening with a Tapa and there are almost 30 to choose from with each sounding better than the last. Maybe order a few and share. Prices range from $8 to $10 each.
Your first visit could be for a less expensive meal or Early Fixe, as they call it, from 4:30 to 6:00 and costs only $15. This includes salad, entree, dessert and soft drink. After 6:00 you can still get a Prix Fixe menu but it will cost $25. Considering the average entree is $20 this is a deal. Wines, and the selection is a good one, are not included.
I've never been disappointed at Cafe Alma, but last weekend I joined 2 friends there for dinner after visiting A Taste for Wine (stay tuned for their own review at a later date). Anyway, that night I had my best meal ever at Cafe Alma....the risotto of the day. Yes, that's its title. This particular day the risotto was the richest I've ever tasted, with red peppers, sausage, and a blend of veggies that I can't remember. I split my meal with my friend who ordered the Baked Chilean Sea Bass that came with roasted red potatoes, cubed parsnips and feta with a balsamic reduction. Delicious. The three of us shared a bottle of wine. A wonderful meal. Very fine dining.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Munch's Restaurant

3920 6th St S, St Petersburg, FL
Tel: 727-896-5972

I returned to Munch's Restaurant as promised to try their famous Munch Burger. I've been trying get there on a Tuesday to try the also famous fried chicken, but unfortunately, haven't been able to do so yet. I made it on a Wednesday instead, which turned out fine since I was treated to that day's special, Munch's Cuban sandwich. My husband and I split the sandwich and a lip smacking  cheeseburger. Order your burger any way you like, with or without cheese, dressed in lettuce, tomato, onion and something a little different, relish. Of course, ketchup, mayo and mustard are available too. We enjoyed the sandwich with the homemade chips that accompany it and added fries to the burger for a little more pocket change. The Cuban sandwich was full of delicious meats, piled high on authentic Cuban bread. The whole lot was pressed into crunchy submission and had just the right mustard/mayo component. The burger was a good sized portion, juicy and flavorful. Prices for lunch are less than $10 and who knows? You may find something fabulous in the "Sundries" section started by one of the legendary owners years ago. Munch's is a classic experience for locals and visitors alike, and worth the trip to Southeast St. Pete. Testing burgers is something Java and I take seriously, look for our article on the best burgers in St. Petersburg coming soon. We will be looking for your input on this!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cool Moose Cafe

Okemo Marketplace, Ludlow, VT. Tel. 802-975-0041

A Vermont Outing

If you've ever skied in New England you'll be familiar with Vermont's Okemo mountain. The Cool Moose Cafe sits right at the entrance to Okemo. Lunch, dinner and most recently a buffet breakfast for $8.95 can be yours to warm those insides before you take to the lift. Oh, you don't ski?That's okay because this small town has its busiest season in the summer. Fishing, hiking, swimming, it's definitely an all-around family vacation sitting high in the Green Mountains. The views are spectacular.
Now the menu at the Cool Moose is very unusual....too many items have the word Moose in them like Flying Moose Wings and Pointless Moose Fingers. No, the Blue Moose Burger isn't really moose but beef, chicken or veggie. Different sizes too. Of course the Cool Moose sandwiches are just about whatever you want them to be.
Prices are very reasonable for these items. Anywhere between $5 and $8.
Let's not forget Happy Hour everyday from 4 to 5 in the saloon. Oh, you thought those were only out West.

Accomodations vary in Ludlow and the regulars seem to have their favorites. We stayed at the Pointe Castle Hill Hotel that comes equipped with hot tub, indoor pool, game room and a large welcoming fireplace as you enter. The Resort and Spa are located behind the hotel. Two beautiful facilities, very upscale. I had a facial in their Spa but alas, it was just ordinary.
Chances are you'll find a room here without too much advance notice, but know that this is one of Vermont's most popular vacation spots so be sure to phone ahead.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Marketplace Express

284 Beach Dr NE, St Petersburg, FL 33701

The Marketplace Express is all about location. It's situated across the street from the St. Petersburg Fine Arts Museum and snuggled into a multi-million dollar condo facing the harbor. If you are strolling on Beach Drive or going to the museum or the Chihuily gallery, this is a nice place to stop for a coffee. Take a load off and enjoy your beverage and/or snack inside or outside the shop. They serve a variety of sandwiches and pastries in the under $10 range.  Coffee is $1.59 for a small, with refills costing $0.98. It's proximity to so many downtown features, events, and attractions make this a popular spot. Outdoor seating allows for people watching and such. Inside are high top tables to sit with friends or on your own. Classical music is piped in creating a very nice ambience. The movie theater at Baywalk is just a stone's throw from this location, making it a wonderful meeting place before or after the show.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Salvador Dali Museum outing

One Dali Blvd, St. Petersburg, FL. Tel. 727-823-3767

On January 11, 2011 the new Salvador Dali Museum will open to the public. I was able to tour the museum's beautiful and exciting new home during it's construction and again just before the paintings were transferred. The entire experience reflects both Dali's life and career and is, therefore, a fascinating place to visit. It's very different from the original site.
The cement and glass exterior is sure to be a St. Petersburg icon. The structure, its landscaped exterior and surrealist interior were all carefully designed to reflect the man and his art. As for the art work, it is still the most comprehensive collection of Dali's work in the world.
At the moment, it's best to go to the Dali website to see the list of events planned for the opening celebrations. Tickets for individuals and groups are currently on sale online.
If you plan to visit often it's a good idea to become a member for the unlimited free admission and other discounts available.
BTW can now dine at the museum either indoors or out. It you're feeling more adventurous we do offer alternatives....
Dining Out

After enjoying the Dali you'll be ready for either lunch or dinner so here are a couple of suggestions. The first is Cerviche's a tapas bar and restaurant located at 95 Central Ave. where you can continue the Catalan experience. The food and sangria have both won awards in the Tampa Bay area. The second is The Hangar located at tiny Albert Whitted Airport within walking distance of the museum. You'll be able to eat either indoors or out while watching the planes come and go. A fun place for the kids too. The food is good and you can read a past review on this blog, just look up The Hangar.