By Java and Dune

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.