If there is one thing that brings me peace, and jump starts my energy, it’s traveling. So far, I feel blessed to have traveled to Nashville, Kentucky, Las Vegas, Austin, Myrtle Beach, and Florida. I have been to Florida five times so far. I know what you’re thinking, that there is more to the world than just Florida. I will say that over these past years of visiting Florida, I have been very impressed with their expanding craft beer scene, and their innovative, Instagram worthy food scene.
It’s Florida! So, when you visit Florida, you have to think tiki drinks, beaches, and lot’s of sand. I was pleasantly surprised of some of the unique locations that St. Pete has to offer since the last time I visited.
My tip for finding cool and unique places to visit while you are visiting somewhere new, is to always find fellow food bloggers on social media. When in the area of Tampa and St. Petersburg, I recommend you follow Food Instagrammers @thisbabeeats, @stpetefoodies, @stpetefoodeats, and @stpetersburgfoodguide.
Before we decided to travel to St. Petersburg and Tampa, we stayed in Fort Myers, Florida. While staying on the beach, you have your average, typical beach bars with not so great food. Looking for something new and exciting, we checked out a bar called Downtown Social House. We fell in love with the outdoor fire pits, picnic tables, and soft patio furniture to sit on, and enjoyed three of their signature cocktails:
- Cucumfortably Numb: Aviation Gin, St. Germain, Agave, Cucumber, Dill, and Lime ($10)
- Bubbly Soiree: Tanqueray, JP Chenet Brut, Rosemary, and Grapefruit ($8)
- Strawberry Daiquiri: Bacardi Superior, Lime, Agave, and Fresh Strawberries (8)
I highly recommend the Buffalo Chicken Dip and the Charcuterie Board. The drinks ranged from $7 to $10, which is really cheap in my opinion. Considering, I have paid between $10 to $18 for a good cocktail. Next door to Downtown Social House, is a bar called the Firestone Grill Room and Martini Bar. On the 3rd floor, an electric club awaits for club goers. Bouncers can be seen blocking off the entrance to the Sky Bar, which overlooks Downtown Fort Myers.
The next day, we made our way to St. Petersburg, where we checked into our favorite hotel called, the Hollander Hotel. Every time I stay here, they do not disappoint. The Hollander Hotel provides a free shuttle service throughout the Downtown St. Petersburg area, an outdoor pool with a tiki bar, their own cafe and barista, and their outdoor patio that wraps around the hotel, perfect for sitting outside and taking in the scenery.
Feeling hungry, we decided to take a shuttle to this new location called No Vacancy. When we first arrived, we were greeted with a DJ playing the best mixes from the 90’s and early 2000’s. Fellow 90’s babies, where you at?! It was as if I was stepping into a 90’s pool party! The patio was decked out in everything pool themed. Funky, bright outdoor patio furniture was filled with patrons enjoying lunch and tiki cocktails in fancy fish bowls. Lawn games of Jenga and Connect 4 were available. Their tiki hut themed bar was covered in neon lights and pink flamingos.
First off, their drinks and the names of their cocktails were totally relatable and fun. You can really appreciate a bar for having fun with the names on their menus. Names like: Peach, Don’t Kill My Vibe, A Shore Thing, Hot in HERRE, Basic Beach, Aloha Felicia, Rock Out with Your Conch Out, and Sea Ya Later. Or, maybe I am just a sucker for bad puns.
After grabbing a bite to eat, we stumbled across Beans and Barlour. This cute, vintage creamery is not your average ice cream parlor. Think Willy Wonky and the Chocolate Factory, but not for kids. Beans and Barlour serve boozy ice cream cocktails, shakes, and sundaes. I could not decide what I wanted, so I splurged and ordered the Boozy Flight.
This Boozy Flight consisted of a Key Lime Pie ice cream, the Chocolate Chocolate ice cream, and a Champagne Sorbet Float. To pair with the boozy ice cream they give you, wait for it, more BOOZE! From left to right is a shot of Baileys, Chocolate Liquor, and an Irish Whiskey infused whipped cream. I may have been extra and ordered a chocolate spoon on the side.
My favorite was definitely the chocolate and chocolate liquor, second was the strawberry sorbet champagne, and third was the Irish Whiskey infused whipped cream. The Key Lime Pie ice cream was a little too sour, but overall the flight was amazing. Highly recommend it. If I didn’t order the Boozy Flight, then I would have ordered the Chocolate Wishes, which is a chocolate concoction that is served with your choice of ice cream, served in a chocolate teacup with a chocolate spoon, on a chocolate saucer.
One would think that after eating three cups of ice cream that I would be done eating chocolate. Not this girl! After checking out Cigar City Brewery, think Florida’s Founders, we decided to visit Bern’s Steak House and their Dessert Lounge. I could have sworn I had seen Jared Leto, only to find out that John Cena had dined at the famous steakhouse the night before. Famous for their desserts, Bern’s Steak House is an upscale location in Tampa to have prime steak cuts. Their menu is a little intimating, as they offer a bottle of wine that is worth $2,500.00. I stuck with their famous Taste of Bern’s dessert flight and coffee. The flight included sample size portions of the following signature desserts: Macadamia Decadence Cake, King Midas, Banana Cheese Pie, Chocolate Cheese Pie, and Vanilla Cheesecake.
The next day we drove to Madeira Beach. We walked along the boardwalk and watched as multiple boat tours left the channel, including a 90 minute tiki hut tour. As we walked off of the boardwalk, we ran into a brewery called Mad Beach Brewery. I will admit that the outside of the brewery does not do it justice. As we walked in, we were greeted with a huge restaurant with lots of seating, a wrap around bar, and TV’s. The outside patio for seating overlooked the boardwalk, and views of the water could be seen in the distance.
This place has some of the best beers that I have ever tasted in Florida. Their Juicy IPA called JUICED UP was one of my favorites. Not only do they have beer, but they partner with the winery downstairs and offer different flavors of sangria, which you can also include in your flight. For $12, there were over 10 or more beers to choose from (ciders, beer, and sangria).
After talking to a few locals, it was clear that while Madeira Beach is a fun beach to explore, there are other beaches that are worth visiting such as, Postcard Inn On The Beach, and Shepherds Beach Resort.
Did you know that St. Petersburg has over 20 different breweries? Me neither! That’s why it was so difficult to only choose two new breweries to explore during our time in St. Pete. We decided to check out Cage Brewing and Pinellas Ale Works. Both were highly recommended to us by representatives at the hotel, and had something to offer for everyone. The locations of all of the breweries was convenient. Near Cage Brewing, there were three or four others breweries that were walking distances from each other.
Not feeling up for walking to the nearest brewery? The Brew Bus Brewery offers several public and private brewery tours options throughout the Tampa area. On Sundays, the “Local Loop” shuttle bus offers a continuous loop to visit bars, restaurants, breweries in Ybor City, Seminole Heights, and Downtown Tampa. Hop on and hop off when you please for only $10 presale ($15 walk-ups).
While working up an appetite, we read about a famous “comfort with a modern twist” restaurant, Maple Street Biscuit Company, featured on the Food Network’s Guilty Pleasures. Of course, we had to check it out. I have been to Nashville and have had many chicken sandwiches in my day, so I was a little apprehensive about the Food Network calling it a guilty pleasure. Boy, was I was wrong!
Move over Popeye’s Chicken and Chick-Fil-A, the Food Network describes it “as its name suggests, this comfort food joint has a fixation with biscuits. The buttery, maple-laced beauties come stuffed with delectable fillings like the spicy fried chicken breast used in The Squawking Goat. A seasoned, crisped layer of goat cheese and jalapeno-spiked jelly finish the creation”.
The biscuit was light and flaky, the chicken was so moist, and the outer layer was not too thick, but just right. The jelly was not too overpowering, so if you do not like spicy food, you could handle this jelly. The creamy goat cheese on top just softened the jalapeno jelly to the right heat and texture.
What “put the icing on the cake” on our already amazing experience was when the owner greeted us, and explained that first timers get a FREE order of their famous iced cinnamon biscuits. Warm, gooey cinnamon biscuits, topped with warm cream cheese icing. After stuffing our faces with fried chicken and biscuits, we took a stroll down Central Ave. Stated as the “Coolest Block in St. Pete“, visitors on Central Ave can visit local boutique shops, cool off with a summer Popsicle from The Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops, and take a couple selfies in front of the locally made murals. After a long day of laying on the beach and exploring, we called it a night. Of course, I would have to start my planning for the next day a head of us.
After waking up the next morning, I knew exactly where I wanted to go. Cassis in St. Petersburg has some of the freshest baked goods that I have ever had, but what really sets them apart is their freshly squeezed orange juice and their stand-alone artisan bakery. The restaurant’s happy hour was also voted Best Happy Hour in Tampa Bay.
After enjoying our brunch on the patio, it was time for us to hit the road and be on our way back to Fort Myers. Our flight was leaving the next morning, and we were sad to leave. St. Pete is the perfect area to explore, eat good food, and sunbath at more than one beach. Until next time Florida.
Other restaurants and venues to explore:
- The Canopy at the Birchwood – Creative Roof Top Bar on top of hotel.
- Saigon Blonde – Crafted Tiki Cocktails with Instagram worthy internal design.
- PJ’s Oyster Bar
- 400 Beach Drive
- Oxford Exchange – Champagne Bar
- Pastry Art Bake Shop – Known for their famous mini cakes
- Chocolate Pi – Creative Coffee Drinks
- The Getaway Tampa Bay
Want to learn more? Please click on VisitFlorida.com