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24.12.2014
For much of the past couple of years, growth on Beach Drive has been explosive, its restaurants consistently among Pinellas County's toughest reservations to nab.
Perhaps more important than the many construction projects on the horizon is this factor fueling Central Avenue's restaurant revival: critical mass. In September, it was announced that Sushi Inc., sister restaurant to Tampa's popular SoHo Sushi, will take over Ratchada's at 270 First Ave N. The key to robust growth in these areas is the right balance of retail, restaurants and bars, Curran said. Orsino thinks the time is ripe for an upscale, contemporary steak house, partly because downtown doesn't have an iconic steak house. Jeff Martin, founder of the Brass Tap, will launch a new location next door to Rococo Steak at 653 Second Ave.
It's a lot of friends at this point: Adding to downtown's World of Beer, Ale and the Witch and other craft beer bars, in the past few weeks Green Bench Brewing opened right off of First Avenue N at 1133 Baum Ave. John Cullen, who with partner Zoie Torres will open the Amsterdam, a European-inspired beer and wine bar at 1049 Central Ave.
Bill Helwig started his Moscato's in a microscopic storefront on Fourth Street N, moving to a larger space at 449 Central Ave. Cuisine: Barbecue Restaurants, Bars, Coffee and Tea, Steak RestaurantsView more restaurants at exit 151 on I-40.
Golden Corral Steak House ReviewsAdd your review for Golden Corral Steak House.Greeter at check in was a blast! TAMPA a€” Waiters at Tampa's most iconic restaurant, the venerable Bern's Steak House, tell diners about the 8-acre organic farm on which Bern's grows its vegetables. This part of Bern's story has captivated the media as well as the dining public, drawing U.S.
Such a revelation is particularly embarrassing to Bern's, whose near-mythical status among Florida restaurants comes with the burden of heavy expectations from diners. In the early 1970s, Bern Laxer set about transforming a plot of land in Tampa's Town 'N Country neighborhood into an organic farm to service his enormously popular steak house. Acknowledging in an interview that there has been a hiatus in production, owner David Laxer estimates that less than 5 percent of the produce Bern's uses has come from the farm recently.
And Laxer estimates that of the total produce used, sourced from mega-distributors like Sysco, 20 percent is organic. Laxer said delivering fresh organic produce has "always been a struggle because of the volume we do. After Bern Laxer's death in 2002, the farm was overseen by staff gardeners until Sweetwater Organic Farm took over in 2007.
The first community-supported agriculture farm in Florida, Sweetwater had outgrown its original 6-acre suburban property along Sweetwater Creek in Town 'N Country.
The relationship ended in February, Martinez says, when Sweetwater began farming a 7-acre site near the Children's Home in Tampa. The nation has seen a dramatic uptick in the number of restaurants touting a commitment to serving seasonal, local and organic food.


The irony is that Bern's sister restaurant SideBern's, led by executive chef Chad Johnson, has spearheaded efforts to purchase food products from local farms and purveyors. Before it became a tuxedoed-waiter, red-draped bastion of luxurious excess (21 choices of caviar), Bern's was a bar on Howard Avenue called the Beer Haven. David Laxer says his father's motivation was to exert control over more of the restaurant's variables. He tells the story of one year when watermelons were so plentiful on the farm that diners all went home with free melons at the end of their meals. At dinner last month, a waiter went through the Bern's Steak House legend, walking diners along the many-paged menu, describing the wine cellar, the dessert room and Bern's 8-acre organic farm.
Yes, microgreens (which are seedlings harvested when the first true leaves appear) are from there, but public relations director Palmer says the waiter misspoke: no hearts of palm or mushrooms. If from January to November of this year Bern's farm is in a "fallow" period, is it disingenuous for the menu and servers to continue telling the story? David Laxer likened the hiatus to having a disruption in a supply of Madagascar vanilla beans a€” it would be silly, he said, to reprint a dessert menu to reflect this. But now the rest of downtown, centered on that long stretch of Central Avenue, is reinventing itself.
Set to open at the end of October with lunch specials, an extensive sushi menu and a full bar, Sushi Inc. It is this balance, coupled with the Central Avenue Trolley, that will increasingly draw pedestrians west from Beach Drive. Caledon will debut Rococo Steak at the end of October, having sunk $3 million in the historic YWCA building at 655 Second Ave. N, and Doug Dozark's Cycle Brewing, based at Peg's Cantina in Gulfport for several years, opened in mid August at 534 Central Ave. Everyone seems to mesh and work together and there's a sense of family," he says, stressing that these newcomers are small independents.
Most of the restaurant's produce comes from major food-service providers, and just a small portion of it is organic. In the meantime, aside from dirt and an empty greenhouse, all that can be seen on the land at 5711 W Waters Ave.
According to Martinez, the 8-acre Bern's farm site is scheduled to be turned into youth soccer fields and a gas station. According to Harry Balzer, who researches food trends for the NPD Group, the farm-to-table movement is largely about marketing. Teaming up with chefs from restaurants like the Refinery and Cafe Dufrain, and working with distributor Suncoast Food Alliance, Johnson has forged relationships with farms in Hillsborough County, Manatee County and beyond. Bern Laxer, a stickler for details, oversaw every aspect of the business as it grew, adding a machine shop, 1,200-gallon tanks in the kitchen for live, local fish and, eventually, the farm.
Still, Laxer estimates that even during its heyday, the farm produced only 20 percent of the restaurant's produce.
He told how waiter trainees must log 40 hours on the farm before they can begin serving guests.


Still, when asked about the future, Laxer said, "Once we get through the first growing season, we'll adjust the story appropriately. The Tampa Bay craft beer craze is catching fire big time, and by the end of the year diners will see a throng of new names and faces. There are some good reasons: New apartment projects like Beacon 430 and Modera Prime 235 will likely bring greater resident a€” and diner a€” density downtown, as would rumored corporate projects like the new worldwide headquarters near Tropicana Field that Jabil Circuit is considering. N in mid to late November (around the same time Bella Brava co-owner Mike Harting debuts his 3 Daughters Brewery tasting room in the Grand Central District). Success has meant growing pains: By the end of the year Moscato's will move into the Kress Building, which most recently (but fleetingly) held Banana Joe's and Margarita Mama's. The promise of house-grown organic vegetables has helped to cement Bern's place in the pantheon of the nation's top steak houses. Even the most discerning customer must take on faith that the fish is what it is advertised to be, the meat is the USDA grade claimed and the provenance of the produce is as described.
Laxer's farming efforts predated most of the nation's restaurant farms, but perhaps he never intended it to produce all of the veggies for the restaurant. When pressed, he mentioned menu items he said had come from the farm (microgreens, oyster mushrooms and hearts of palm). A ground floor of the Fusion 1560 apartment building across from Tropicana Field will soon house the Flying Pig Tap House (craft beer with 50 taps) and a Celtic bar called the Bearded Thistle opens at 48 King St.
Going from 55 seats to 130, Helwig is obviously bullish about the future of Central Avenue.
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And as for the January ad in Local Dirt, Laxer says neither he nor his staff were responsible for the text. Despite announcing its closure at the end of September, owner Justin Chamoun was still optimistic about the area, citing the new breweries and projects like Rococo Steak as proof of a vital future for Central Avenue.
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