West St. Pete Central
Central Avenue cuts straight across St. Pete, and while Downtown may shine brightest with the glare of restaurants packed tightly together in one area, to the west is where you’ll find all the hidden gems. We’re talking authentic cuisine like D’Mexican, the daring bakery Craft Kafe, a darling culinary intersection in Alesia, and neighborhood-centric haunts like O’Bistro or Jungle Prada Tavern. A stroll through West St. Pete will unravel many different worlds, but with a uniquely Sunshine City twist.
Stop 1: Drink, Don’t Throw, the First Punch !
Start your night off with the house made sangria at D’Mexican, an unassuming, tucked away restaurant in a nondescript strip mall known for its fresh, authentic Mexican cuisine and consensus as a hidden gem. You’ll find many reviewers on sites like Yelp extolling them for their virtues, “They only use fresh local fruits and veggies. Everything is prepared day of, they don’t even own a freezer.”
This makes the difference in their sangria of course, too. The potential health benefits of a glass of red wine are widely known by now and sangria is a Spanish punch that combines these heart healthy attributes with the power of fresh fruits and juices. That means you can get vitamins, potassium, and fiber (but only if you eat the fruit, which soaks up the other fun parts, so why wouldn’t you?). Furthermore, the happy hour is a steal, as one TripAdvisor user points out, “$2.00 sangrias from 3–6 — who could ask for anything more?”
Stop 2: Go Against the (Gluten) Grain !
Usually gluten-free is only offered as an exception to your regularly scheduled menu items, but at Craft Kafe it is the rule; they’re exclusively gluten-free! Craft Kafe goes against the (gluten) grain in more ways than one, as a space described by Tampa Bay Times food critic Laura Reiley as “big-city ambitious.”
Reiley also points out that the organic greens used in their salads are handpicked from a wall of hydroponics. So for an appetizer that’s truly fresh, give their vegan ricotta beet salad a go. Maybe take it from this TripAdvisor review, compelled to use “love” two sentences in a row, “I love their vegan ricotta beet salad. This is a lovely spot!” You might just fall for Craft Kafe too, but pick yourself up from their comfy couches because there’s more tastes to tour.
Stop 3: Pho Ga About It !
“Alésia is utterly charming, with a menu of casual French and Vietnamese cafe classics,” declares the Tampa Bay Times review of this beloved Central Avenue restaurant. That makes for a tough choice, where do you set your culinary compass for, Europe or Asia?
Start neither here nor there with the Couscous Salad. While couscous is traditionally a staple of North African cuisine, the salad half of this dish is a Mediterranean mix of roasted vegetables, tomatoes, red onions, olives, fresh mint and cucumbers, with grilled shrimp and a light citrus dressing taking it over the top.
Then, pho it and go with the Pho Ga (that’s chicken). A staple soup of the Vietnamese culture, it gets the vote of patrons on Yelp with reviews such as this, “The pho was the best broth I have ever tasted.” The balance of yin and yang as a principle in Vietnamese cooking makes their food especially nurturing — and delicious too! Rich broth, fresh vegetables, and lean meat combine to offer plenty of vitamins and minerals, like iron, that are good for the body and soul.
Stop 4: Get the Skinny on This Dessert Pancake !
Thought we’d forgo France so easily? S’il vous plaît! We were just saving Europe for dessert, for which the Chocolate Mousse Crêpe at O’Bistro beckons. Everyone’s favorite flattened pancake, crêpes come from a Franco origin, the name being derived from the Latin word meaning curled, and the best part about it is always the filling!
O’Bistro’s crêpe is a rolled up blanket filled with fresh berries and contrasted by a light and airy chocolate mousse. Described on Yelp as incredible (with all caps and exclamation points), one reviewer says, “The crepes and fruit were fresh and perfectly done.” It’s a decadent, but dainty dessert. Still, if you’re really looking to crack the whip, just ask to withhold the whipped cream.
Stop 5: A Cocktail a la Al Capone !
Thankfully the prohibition era is over and we can enjoy our libations without the strong-arm of organized crime, but Jungle Prada Tavern still has ties to that era. The historic location of this neighborhood bar provides lots to talk about. Once a nightclub called the Gangplank, legend has it that Al Capone was a part owner.
What drink do we recommend, then? Certainly something iconic. “Here’s another Capone connection: the Chicago South Side, a Prohibition-era gin drink made with house-grown fresh mint,” reads Tampa Bay Times correspondent Justin Grant’s review. Make it a South Side Fizz, adding club soda cuts out some of the unwanted syrup and juice.