Pulpo Kitchen + Lounge from Brick & Mortar and Sea Worthy Team Opens in June 2024 (2024)

  • May 17, 2024

    Chef Jason Ruhe and wife Hope Montgomery are opening their third restaurant in June 2024. Their first two eateries have consistently been given high marks – Brick & Mortar Kitchen + Wine Bar in downtown St. Pete, and Sea Worthy Fish + Bar in Tierra Verde have been open nine and four years respectively. The new Pulpo Kitchen & Lounge is located in the hip Grand Central District at 2147 Central Ave. Pulpo Kitchen + Lounge will serve Latin-American inspired cuisine in an indoor-outdoor atmosphere with two full-liquor bars and live music. The menu will include, “childhood favorites that I grew up with from my Spanish Cuban heritage”, said Ruhe. There will be raw dishes such as ceviche and crudo and the cuisine will be inspired by the cultures of Peru, Mexico and more. Paella, grilled octopus, and grilled meat skewers are a few of the dishes. Dylan Ruhe, Jason’s cousin is the GM and Beverage Director with Hope in charge of the wine program. Chef Marcos Bernal from Sea Worthy will be the Chef de Cuisine. The live music and co*cktails will fit the theme of the venue. Pulpo will be open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.

  • Recently Kevin, Lori and I had a St. Pete Foodies night out, eager to explore one of the newest additions to our city – Little Philly. Located at the corner of Central Ave and 21st St N in the Grand Central District, it’s a great spot for various occasions, whether it’s a pre-game meal before a Rays game, a casual lunch spot, or a quick bite after a busy workday. Little Philly is co-owned by Renaud Cowez and Chef Sean Ford, who have previously partnered on other restaurants in the St. Pete area, including Tryst and Tropez. Chef Sean is originally from Philly and wanted to share his home town food with St. Pete. Ordering at Little Philly might initially confuse those unfamiliar with Philly cuisine, but the staff is more than happy to assist, making the process simple. The “Plain Cheesesteak” and “Cheesesteak” are essentially build-your-own options. The menu does not clearly state that, which is apparently how it is in Philly too. From there, you can pretty much choose anything you want to put on it; from building a classic (or at least what I would consider a classic… honestly, I am questioning my knowledge of a Philly Cheesesteak after visiting) with peppers, onions, mushrooms, and whiz to ordering, as I like to call it, a Lindsey Cheesesteak (more on that later). They do have a little sign that can help guide you through the basic options. Pizza sauce anyone? We were lucky enough to have Renaud help us decide on our meals and tell us about the restaurant. One of the most important things that caught my attention was Little Philly’s dedication to quality. All meats are sliced in house from the deli meats for the hoagies, to the ribeye for the cheesesteaks—sliced fresh off of a full ribeye sub-primal. (Some places use frozen, pre-sliced beef for their cheesesteaks.) The hoagie rolls, which are a crucial part (possibly just as important as the meat) of the authentic Philly Cheesesteak experience, are exceptional. It took many hours of tweaking and experimenting to get them perfect. Chef Sean is working with a bakery in central Florida. He started with his family recipe, but with the differences in the Florida climate and water, several tweaks had to be made to get them perfect. The rolls are soft and pillowy on the inside, have an awesome chewy crust on the outside, and are packed with flavor. Fresh baked rolls are delivered everyday. You will never get a day-old roll here. The Texas Tommy Hot Dog is served with crispy bacon and American cheese. Despite its humble appearance, this large hot dog, nestled in the same soft bun as their sandwiches, boasts a rich smoky flavor that delights the palate. I quite enjoyed the combination of the smoky hotdog with the salty, fatty bacon and the American cheese. I am a believer that Phillies should be messy to be delicious. It shows that without even having your first bite, you already know that it’s going to be moist and satiate your taste buds. We ordered the Philly Cheesesteak with peppers, onions, mushrooms, and whiz. And let me tell you this one came out messy and delicious, to the eye and the mouth. The South Philly Cheesesteak is what I would say you should order if you want to *pretend* to be healthy. The South Philly comes with ribeye or chicken, spinach, provolone, and peppers. The combination of toppings really makes you feel like you are eating a fresh healthy meal while also indulging. I think I preferred the toppings with the chicken, but that might just be my bias on wanting a gluttonous cheesesteak when using ribeye meat. Little Philly’s Loaded Chicken Cheesesteak is a surprising delight, blending chicken, mushrooms, American cheese, pizza sauce, peppers, and fried onions. While the combination may seem unconventional, the result is a symphony of flavors that surpasses expectations, leaving taste buds tingling with delight. The Italian Hoagie comes with capicola, soppressata , salami, prosciutto sliced in house, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, oil, and vinegar, and served on their soft hoagie bread. I realized later that this didn’t have mayo or mustard on it and the fact that I didn’t realize it or miss it really stands as a testament to the restaurants commitment to quality. I enjoyed my meals so much the first time, I decided to go back a week later. I ordered what I’ve dubbed The Lindsey Cheesesteak – my special way of getting it extra messy with extra provolone, mayo, peppers, and onions. It came out just perfect, maybe the best I’ve ever had. I didn’t want Kevin and Lori to have to deal with all the extra cheese and mayo, so I kept it to myself. The macaroni salad at Little Philly is a classic favorite, offering a tasty and satisfying side dish that perfectly complements their hearty sandwiches. Not too heavy, yet full of flavor, it’s the ideal accompaniment to any meal. While it might not normally be at the top of your list when visiting a Philly Cheesesteak restaurant, the chicken tenders are a not-to-miss menu item. They are juicy, tender, crispy, mouthwateringly perfect chicken tenders. I think Lori may have mentioned they were at the top of the list of items we tried and maybe even some of the best tenders she’s had in St. Pete. Little Philly’s menu is a delightful exploration of Philadelphia’s culinary heritage, with a dash of innovation thrown in. As we wrapped up our meal at Little Philly, I couldn’t help thinking about what I would order next time. With promises to explore their ribeye burgers and upcoming specialty items, we left with full stomachs and eager anticipation. Little Philly had won me over with its dedication to quality, variety of menu offerings, and welcoming atmosphere, ensuring that it would become a restaurant I frequent for many years to come.

  • May 14, 2024Pleasing Palates for 30-Years, Caribbean Cafe is a True Local’s Favorite

    The Caribbean Cafe is a second generation family owned St. Petersburg staple serving up Caribbean and Cuban inspired sandwiches, bowls and more for 30-years. Their Cuban Sandwich has remained on our Top 10 Best list since 2022. Caribbean Cafe was doing fast-casual way before it was cool. The restaurant opened in 1995, and was bought by long-time owner Jimmy Abel in 1997. Jimmy’s daughter, Cassi Abel took over the establishment after her father’s passing in January 2023. They are still using all of Jimmy’s original recipes, but Cassi is making her mark with a new recipe for a Honey Mustard Jerk Chicken bowl. This recipe went through four months of testing to reach its level of perfection. The seasoning is a well balanced mix of sweet and savory between the honey mustard and the rice and beans. I tasted the black beans alone and they are excellent. I recommend getting a side of beans with anything you order. This Honey Mustard Jerk Chicken Bowl works best when you mix everything together before eating so all of the flavors can work together to create the perfect balance. You can also consider a Honey Mustard Jerk Chicken Sandwich with a side of rice and beans. Cassi has also put her personal touch on the building with a new mural and updated signage, while still keeping the friendly quaint feel to the place. (Above photo courtesy of I Love the Burg. Check out their recent profile for more background information on the Caribbean Cafe here.) As mentioned above, the Cuban Sandwich has been on our best list since I first tried it in 2022. If you love Cuban Sandwiches and you haven’t had this one, you should. Their Cuban sandwich is so scrumptious that the first bite will have you closing your eyes in pleasure and dreaming of being on an island where you can hear the waves and seagulls. It has ham, salami, “Cuban” pork, Swiss cheese, dill pickle, mustard and mayo on fresh Cuban bread. The bread is delivered fresh daily from La Segunda Bakery, the oldest and longest running Cuban bread bakery in Tampa Bay. Now we embark on a journey of Cuban sandwich inspired gastronomy. All of these sandwiches were packed with flavor, and craveable. My favorite of the three that I had after the Cuban Sandwich is the humble comfort food delight, the Chicken Melt – chicken salad and white American cheese pressed on Cuban bread. All of the full sandwiches are on pressed Cuban loaves that are nine inches long. This is the standard length for Cuban loaves for over 100 years. There are two other options though. You can get a half sandwich with a side of rice and beans for the same price, (currently under $10 for most, which is a steal), or you can make it a foot long for $1.50 more. My next favorite was the Buffalo Chicken Melt. This starts as the chicken melt, but then gets transformed with cream cheese Buffalo sauce. It has a nice kick while still being approachable for most. Our final delight is the Jerk Pork Sandwich. This one is loaded with wonderful medium-sliced pork, melted white American cheese, dill pickle chips and then topped with the housemade jerk sauce. The sauce is sweet, smoky, and tangy with just a touch of spice that makes it delicious and palatable for all. Check out the Caribbean Cafe menu below and pick some things to order before you go. (Click or tap to enlarge.)

  • May 9, 2024Restaurant Insider: Who Keeps the Wine Flowing and Specials Cooking at Sola Bistro?

    On this sunny Tuesday morning in late April, Tig and Art walked past the blue patio umbrellas of the Italian bakery and head straight inside, greeted like family by the owners. La Casa Del Pane is a well-loved, homey spot on St. Pete Beach for pastries, coffee, and slow coastal mornings. For Tig and Art, the owner-chef duo behind Sola Bistro and Wine Bar, the bakery is also their go-to for the baguettes they serve at their restaurant. Art and I settled down at a table as Tig walked purposefully to the back, selecting the bread for the day. On his way back, he asked me for the seventh time whether I’d like a coffee or a cannoli. He reminded me of an uncle of mine, or rather, anyone in my huge Indian family, and their insistence on feeding me. It’s how they showed love, and although I politely declined Tig’s offer, I already felt welcome. Finally, settled at one of the high-top tables with a shared bottle of sparkling water, I explained to Tig and Art what I am about to explain to you. This is the first installment of my debut column here on St. Petersburg Foodies, where I will be profiling the most interesting and exciting individuals in our city’s food scene. Although you can find more about me in my author bio at the bottom of the page, I still wanted to say hi! So, hi there, my name is Mahika, and I was recently invited by Kevin to join the St. Pete Foodies team. I am a Journalism student at USF St. Pete, and food and writing have always been two of my greatest passions. When Kevin offered me a column, I knew I wanted to do some sort of human-interest writing. What better, I thought, than to give our readers a behind-the-scenes look at the people behind our beloved eateries? That brings me to Tigran ‘Tig’ Kachaturyan and Artem ‘Art’ Kucherenko, the duo behind one of St. Pete Beach’s most respected and loved restaurants, Sola Bistro & Wine Bar. I wanted this column to be personal and exclusive, to deliver a perspective that would be impossible to have unless you were actually with the chefs as they worked, shadowing them as they went about their days. When I asked Tig and Art if they’d be up for exactly that, they were incredibly welcoming. And that’s how I found myself chatting with them on this Tuesday morning. I spent almost eight hours at the restaurant with them, split over two days, learning all the ins and outs of their story. “The restaurant business doesn’t discriminate, whether you speak English or whether you have certain skills or not, you can still get started,” said head chef Art. “The restaurant business invites everybody.” And that’s how Tig and Art met in 2006 – working at a now-closed Russian restaurant that was not far from Sola’s current location, unsure of exactly where their lives were going but figuring it out while picking up restaurant shifts. Art did everything from bussing tables to washing dishes to cooking, while Tig bartended on the weekends and stuck to front-of-house tasks. When the owner introduced the two to each other, they quickly realized that they were from the same city in Russia and had attended the same university just at different times. ‘Small world’ moments never cease to amaze me, and the three of us had a good laugh about this one. “It’s funny because by degree, we’re both teachers,” said Tig. Both he and Art hold degrees in education of foreign languages from Piatigorsk Linguistic University, Russia. “But in a way, we’re educating people when it comes to some foods, why you should eat them and the way you should eat them.” Once they’d met, Art and Tig began going to markets together and testing recipes in the hopes of starting their own place someday. Food wasn’t in the cards for them previously, but it was something that just sort of fell into place once they moved to Florida. “We wanted our own place, our own restaurant where we would do things the way we think is right,” said Art. This chance came in 2015 when Café Luna, the restaurant that used to be where Sola stands today, closed. It was the perfect size and location, and Tig and Art grabbed the opportunity. Today, Sola Bistro and Wine Bar is widely considered a gem of Gulf Boulevard. While it may not be the most aesthetically appealing to the Instagram-age, Sola’s classy wooden tables, dimly lit and wine-stocked bar and quaint patio seating lends itself to a different demographic. Namely, to those seeking the elegant dining experience of a long European dinner affair. You will find inviting people, food made with care, and an impressive wine list at this restaurant. “From day one, we’ve tried new things. But here’s the thing, there’s normal stuff on the menu for normal people, but we take pride in doing it right,” said Tig, when asked if they’ve always been known for their daring dishes. Like he said, the regular menu includes classics like a Carbonara and a Filet Mignon, but what they’re known for is the rotating specials. “The specials, here’s where we will play. We’ll go from brains, testicl*s, bone marrow, whatever we can get our hands on,” Tig said. The restaurant is only closed on Sundays, and Wednesday is the duo’s designated shopping day. Mazzaro’s for various items, local produce stands and Restaurant Depot are top spots. Here, at around 1pm on a Tuesday, Art is prepping some freshly delivered triggerfish for the specials. “It depends on my projects, because a lot of times we do time-consuming projects like terrines or braising lamb, so for those things I come like 8 a.m. or 9 a.m.,” said Art, when asked about when his days typically start. He usually focuses on the specials as they’re his brainchild, and the 2-3 other cooks on the […]

  • May 8, 2024Shiso Crispy Fans Celebrate as the First St. Pete Storefront Opens

    Famous for their posse of food trucks serving up Japanese and Asian Fusion around the Tampa Bay area, Shiso Crispy’s first brick & mortar is here. The soft opening was two weeks ago on April 26, and even though there were equipment failures (that’s what soft openings are for), this team led by Ronicca Whaley have their craft honed to perfection. They should. Ronicca and crew have been slinging gyoza, baos, and rice bowls since 2019. As of this writing they are technically still in soft open phase, and still awaiting their beer and wine license. Shiso Crispy has built up a fiercely loyal following with their creative takes on Japanese-Fusion dishes, Ronicca’s magnetic and energetic personality, and their surprise specials that pop-up, disappear, and then return to unexpected delight. For the animal proteins, Shiso Crispy has always used meats broken from their whole source. They process their pork, beef, and tuna from primal and sub-primal cuts.Many of the most popular items are also available in vegan-friendly form. This new location is a brick and mortar for diners with indoor and outdoor seating, and a food truck for the chefs. There is no kitchen inside. There is sidewalk seating, backyard outdoor seating by the truck, and indoor seats which will come in handy in the “Florida summer”. We made a nearly full sampling of the menu, and some of the specials. Shiso Crispy is well-known for their gyoza (the Japanese word for dumpling) and their “dirty rice” – more on that name when we come to it. The Truffle Gyoza has potato, oyster mushrooms, black truffle mushrooms, Manchego cheese, and truffle cream. The outside has a nice chewy bite with some crispness and the inside is creamy, melts in your mouth and is full of umami. This was a previously discontinued item that has been revived exclusively for the St. Pete location. A delicious vegetarian option is the Szechuan-Mandu with cabbage, vermicelli, sweet onion, crushed pea, and garlic chili oil. They are aromatic with a sweet and savory taste. I’ve heard that all of the vegetarian items are so good that even non-vegetarians love them. Something that is smart and efficient when it comes to food service is to have ingredients that can be used across several dishes. Some of these that we had at Shiso Crispy are ahi tuna, short ribs, sticky rice, gyoza and some of the sauces. The ahi tuna was Lori’s favorite protein. It is just so fresh and light, but savory at the same time. The short ribs are my favorite protein. They are slow-braised for eight hours. They are super moist, fall-apart tender and packed with flavor. They have such a great smokey taste that I asked if they are braised on a smoker, but the answer was no. Had Ronicca said yes, I would have believed her. The Ahi Tuna Bao and the Short Rib Bao are each topped with gochujang sauce, toasted sesame honey slaw, scallions, mint, and sesame seeds. They are a little bit messy, but that is half the fun. The buns are made fresh every day, and they have the pillowy softness that you would expect. The contrast between the puffy buns, crunchy toppings, and chew of the meats is just delightful. Next we had the quite substantial servings of Ahi Tuna and Short Rib Dirty Rice – sticky rice with gyoza sauce, gochujang sauce, fried onions, scallions, and sesame. These are of course luscious, and I dare you to try to eat the whole thing. I had to ask Ronicca about the name “Dirty Rice” because it is different than what one normally thinks of as dirty rice, which is usually dark and greasy, and Shiso’s seems quite clean and healthy. In this case, “dirty” is being used as slang to describe it as amazingly good, similar to lit, dope, rad, or bangin’. I wish you could have been there as it was a laugh-out-loud moment when Ronicca answered in her mock street voice accent saying, “I was testing out some recipes and I tried this, and I was like, ‘Damn! That rice is DIRTY!'” The dirty rice dishes are craveable, and you can’t stop eating them. Do you know how when you are eating a bag of chips and you can’t eat just one? You just keep going and keep having more and more. The food industry’s little secret on that is MSG. When something has that ingredient, it makes it hard to stop eating. So I had to ask. The answer was, “No! People freak out about that.” “The reason you can’t stop eating it is because everything is sweet and salty, and perfectly balanced out to hit every area (of your palate)”. On my next visit I also had the Bang Bang Chicken option for the dirty rice. The chicken has a glazed, crunchy coating where the texture reminds me of the Chinese dishes orange chicken and General Tso’s chicken – just the texture, not the flavor. Contrasted with the moist and juicy meat on the inside, these are addicting. Other options for the dirty rice are BBQ Jackfruit and Vegan Bang Bang Chicken. You can also have it without a protein. How do you make Crab Rangoon better? Make it with lobster! TheLobster Rangoon at Shiso Crispy has cream cheese, lobster, dijon, key lime juice, garlic, chive, honey, and white pepper. Lori said it was the best rangoon she ever had in her life. I have to agree. There is also a Vegan Garlic Chive Rangoon. I got real excited when I saw on Shiso Crispy’s social media that French Onion Soup Dumplings would be on special the day I was going for my second visit. I love soup dumplings and I love French onion soup. These include house sausage, cabernet, beef stock reduction, caramelized onions, and torched gruyere. My first thought was “what a great idea!” However, the Soup Dumpling experience gets lost when the torched melted cheese is added to complete […]

  • Pulpo Kitchen + Lounge from Brick & Mortar and Sea Worthy Team Opens in June 2024 (2024)
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