NEWS: Hidden Star Tiki Bar opening June 28th in Downtown Tampa

Hidden Star Tiki Bar is opening June 28th in Downtown Tampa inside Anise Global Gastrobar. Anise has been serving high-quality cocktails as well as gastronomical food fare with an Asian twist in Tampa for years and is the creation of Xuan Pham Hurt.

This is her fourth creation in Tampa following her North Star Eatery at Hall on Franklin and her Stinky Bunz food truck that started it all.

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When asked what inspired this tiki bar to be created, Hurt told me, “It never fails that whenever I travel to different cities, I always seek out their best tiki bars. We felt that the residents and visitors of Downtown Tampa would appreciate their very own tiny oasis in the middle of the city. Tasty tropical beverages with whimsical garnishes can make any day feel like a vacation. We are fortunate to have the space to provide an intimate setting for the creation of innovative and playful cocktails made with our highest standards”.

Hurt will work with Sean O’Connor, who she describes as a local tiki trademan, Christina Gilson, Anise Beverage Director, Justin Gray, United States Bartenders Guild Veteran, and the rest of the Anise bar team to develop the cocktail menu. They want to provide modern rifts on classic favorites that Hurt feels will exceed everyone’s expectations.

Hidden Star will only be open Friday and Saturday nights from 7PM to 2AM. Guests will check-in at the Anise host stand and will be escorted to the hidden entrance once seats become available.

Due to the limited space, reservations will not be taken nor will estimated wait times given. Random chances for expedited entry will be announced via email newsletters and social media pages.

Hidden Star guests can expect an original menu of 7 to 8 elevated tiki cocktails and a few bar snack that they can enjoy in an intimate setting while surrounded by other enthusiasts. Beer, wine, mixed drinks, and a full dining menu will continue to only be offered in the main dining room at Anise.

Service is expected to start on the weekend of June 28th.

Find more information and sign-up for updates at aniseglobal.com.

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NEWS: Inside the Box closing at Armature Works on June 23rd

Inside the Box cafe’s outpost at Armature Works Heights Public Market is permanently closing down this week. You have until Sunday, June 23rd to enjoy their food at Armature Works.

Metropolitan Ministries will shift the focus of the social enterprise concept to catering. Inside the Box was given a year and a half lease at no cost from Armature Works to raise money for programs at Metropolitan Ministries and has used the lease to raise money at one of Tampa’s busiest spots in town.

Inside the Box served fresh sandwiches and fresh deli meat to visitors at the food hall. Metropolitan Ministries says this lease was helpful to “gain many valuable lessons while providing a rich learning experience for our clients and culinary students”.

Fans of the concept can still enjoy their food in the future at the Tampa International Airport and Orlando International Airport as well as at the Times building. Catering will be available for businesses or events.

Inside the Box has a Culinary Arts Program that helps train culinary students and pull them out of poverty. Their culinary program is growing and expanding and will soon open a second training location in a partnership with the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Over 250 students have graduated in the first 6 years. All graduates are now employed.

Inside the Box as a social enterprise made $1 million revenue in 2017 and grew that to $2 million in 2018 with Armature Works and Dough Nation added to the enterprise. Metropolitan Ministries has plans to continue growing and helping others through their social enterprise in the future.

Find out more about Inside the Box at itbcafe.org.

NEWS: King State grand opening in Tampa Heights set for June 21st

The highly anticipated King State will finally open their doors next week and have their Grand Opening on Friday, June 21st in Tampa Heights according a report from local newspaper Creative Loafing.

Their cafe will be located at 520 E. Floribraska Avenue, minutes from Lee’s Grocery and Shuffle. The location has been in the works since at least 2016.

The cafe will feature craft beer, wine, and bites as well as their popular coffee roasts. The owners were early proponents of the third wave coffee scene in Tampa which has exploded over the last few years and landed Tampa on many lists for best coffee towns.

The owners were quoted by the Tampa Bay Times in 2015 saying, “If you have two roasters, then four roasters open up next year, and then those four roasters talk to friends, and eight roasters open the next year. All of a sudden, five or 10 years from now, there’s going to be a third-wave coffee shop in every neighborhood.”

The new King State cafe is a major development for the Tampa Heights neighborhood which was bolstered in recent years by food halls such as The Hall on Franklin and Armature Works.

Early investments by Ulele and Foundation Coffee have brought many business interests into the area. The loyal social media following of King State is sure to bring many people into the neighborhood.

With Bay Cannon Brewing coming soon to North Hyde Park, it seems like Tampa is heading into a major next phase of development.

Meet the Chefs 2019: Meet and Mingle with Tampa Bay Chefs

Creative Loafing‘s annual food event, Meet The Chefs, is approaching quickly at The Vault in Downtown Tampa and will occur on Wednesday, June 12th, 2019 from 7PM-10PM. VIP is already sold out and GA is selling quickly as well.

General Admission includes small plates by each chef and more as well as an opportunity to meet them at the event (hence the name). The event is for ages 21 years and older and is rain or shine.

Some items on the menu include Gnocchi alla Vaccinara, Tete de Moine Rosette with lavender honey, Scallop Crudo with meyer lemon and dried herbs, Burnt End Arepas, Southern Lump Crab Cakes, Beef Tartare, and more.

Tickets are $55 in advance and will increase at the door. This event does sell out though so make sure you buy your tickets early if you want to attend.

Participating restaurants:

Event Name: Meet The Chefs 2019

Venue: The Vault

Date & Time: Wednesday, June 12th, 2019, 7PM-10PM

Address: 611 N. Franklin St., Tampa, FL 33602

Ages: 21+

Buy tickets: https://tampabayeventtickets.com/events/93356217/meet-the-chefs-2019

Maroon 5 and Adam Levine to headline Hard Rock Hollywood opening October 25

South Florida has plenty to look forward to this fall with Maroon 5 and Adam Levine coming down to headline the opening of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood on October 25th. Tickets are now available.

The 35-story building has been a huge development with over $1.5 billion spent for the “world’s first-ever guitar hotel”. New additions to the casino include a new spa, 13.5 acres of recreational waterscape, top-of-the-line meeting and convention space, a state-of-the-art entertainment venue, retail shops, and more.

Find out more information at www.seminolehardrockhollywood.com/the-new-hard-rock.htm

Foodie Photoshoot / St. Pete Lunchpool Takeover Recap

Lunchpool + Carlos Eats Foodie Tour Downtown St. Pete

I joined forces with a new food startup called Lunchpool on Sunday, May 19th for a Foodie Photoshoot / St. Pete Lunchpool Takeover. The idea was to eat our way through a section of Downtown St. Petersburg and connect people over food while trying some new places or outposts of businesses I have seen around Tampa.

Food has always been a passion of mine and a huge part of my life and this was another new avenue where food can make a difference.

The event was sponsored by Carlos Eats and also Rising Tide Innovation Center, a cowork space located in Downtown St. Pete that works to connect like-minded collaborators.

We made several stops throughout the day at popular restaurants, cafes, and shops in Downtown St. Pete. Some of them I was familiar with, but many of them I had never heard of as a citizen of Tampa across the bridge.

What I found is that there are plenty of awesome spots just waiting for people from Tampa to try. We cross the bridge for Rays games, Rowdies games, concerts at Jannus, and for First Friday. These are spots we should know and so I want to share them with you.

Stop No. 1: Intermezzo Coffee & Cocktails

I love coffee and Intermezzo has to have one of the most beautiful shops I have seen in the Tampa Bay area. The espresso pours are excellent, the staff is friendly, and it is conveniently located next to plenty of restaurants on Central Avenue.

During this visit with Lunchpool I also tried the matcha for the first time through a friend and it was obvious that Intermezzo does its best to provide a quality product to all its customers. They have cocktails for those looking for a chill venue in the evenings after a long day working on your laptop.

1111 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL 33705. (727) 873-6664. http://intermezzo.co/

Stop No. 2: Ford’s Garage:

Ford’s Garage has exploded in growth as a franchise in recent years. I still remember the first location in Brandon and how crazy packed it gets compared to its predecessor. Ford’s Garage has a wide-variety of burgers on the menu and an option to build your own as well.

We mainly shared appetizers and one thing that was surprising was how good the wings were. If you love craft beer, Ford’s Garage also has a very expansive beer menu with tons of local options which is how it should be everywhere in this town.

200 1st Ave S., St. Petersburg, FL 33701. (727) 295-3673. http://www.fordsgarageusa.com/locations/st-pete/

Stop No. 3: Pacific Counter

Poke has been absolutely on-fire in Tampa and across the bridge it is also taking hold of St. Petersburg. What I really like about Pacific Counter is the different options for their poke bowls and sushi burritos, but also the atmosphere which has a surfer ambiance.

So many places across the bridge fail to make an ambiance that is enjoyable and I notice St. Pete is especially good at this. During a second recent visit on another food tour I had the noodles and salmon and it was excellent. Also: try the Dole whip ice cream. It’s excellent and perfectly refreshing in this horribly hot weather.

660 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. (727) 440-7008. http://pacificcounter.com/

Stop No. 4: Fabrica Pizza

This spot originally from across the bridge in Channelside has long been a favorite of mine and is on my Top 7 Pizza List. The owners hail from Italy and they do everything they can to put a quality experience into their product.

I love almost all their pies, but my sinful favorite is their Nutella Pizza which is something you have to treat yourself to after a long week of work! Their wines are actually also imported from their own vineyard in Italy if I’m not mistaken. The Downtown St. Pete location is just as beautiful inside as the Tampa spot.

101 7th St S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. (727) 290-9643 http://www.fabricapizza.com

Stop No. 5: The Hyppo / Swah-Rey

Dessert was a fun-filled affair with Lunchpool. From the torch-roasted cakes at Swah-Rey to snapping photos of popsicles at The Hyppo, we were having a blast. I actually needed a coffee to keep myself going so I grabbed an espresso shot at Swah-Rey and it was quite enjoyable. The staff was super friendly as well.

Swah-Rey 625: 625 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. (727) 767-0527.

The Hyppo: 627 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. (727) 498-6536. http://www.thehyppo.com/

Stop No. 6: The Canopy at Birchwood  

After a long day of walking, making new friends, and seeing so many things that St. Pete had to offer, we ended up at The Canopy at Birchwood, a rooftop bar in Downtown St. Pete that overlooks The Vinoy and the upcoming St. Pete Pier. The views from The Canopy are great and our server was a delight. The Canopy is the perfect way to end any day in Downtown St. Pete and it is probably one of my favorite places in the neighborhood.

340 Beach Dr. NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. (727) 896-1080. http://www.thebirchwood.com/thecanopy

It was a great day in Downtown St. Pete and I had a blast with the Lunchpool crew. Lunchpool is working to change the world through food. You can find out more about them at letslunchpool.com.

15th Annual Wheels of Success fundraiser happening May 31st in Tampa

The 15th Annual Wheels of Success Road Trip fundraiser is happening Friday, May 31st, 2019 at Bryan Glazer Family JCC. Tickets cost $85 per person and are now available. The event’s “Mistress of Ceremony” will be Deiah Riley from ABC Action News. The goal of the event is to provide 16 more cars to keep working families working. Lunch will be served to guests.

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Wheels of Success was founded in 2003 to help families obtain or continue working by providing them with reliable transportation through access to car repairs, vehicle replacements, licensing services,car payments, and more in the Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties.

Low-income workers spend nearly 40% of their income on transportation in the Tampa Bay area versus 24.6% for the average citizen.

The bus system in these counties have suffered devastating budget cuts in recent years and does not run in many areas throughout the counties where people work including on the weekends when many working class people are working. Wheels of Success aims to attack these issues head on.

Clients of the non-profit “pay it forward” by paying for services and goods based on their ability to pay and by contributing time back working at Wheels of Success.

Wheels of Success helps their clients in their daily lives so they can arrive at work on-time, take their children to school, shop for groceries, and participate in community activities.

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Tickets can be purchased online at wheelsofsuccess.org.

The event is sponsored by GTE Financial, Metropolitan Ministries, ABC Action News, Tampa Bay Times, TECO, AAA, Doubletake Marketing & PR, and more.

Follow Wheels of Success online:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/wheelsofsuccess/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/wheelsofsuccess

Instagram: http://twitter.com/wheelsofsuccess

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Event Name: 15th Annual Wheels of Success Road Trip Fundraiser

Venue: Bryan Glazer Family JCC

Date & Time: Friday, May 31st, 2019, 11AM-1:15PM

Address: 522 N. Howard Ave., Tampa, FL 33606

Cost: $85 per person

Website: http://www.wheelsofsuccess.org/

Al’s Finger Licking Good Soul Food now serving up tasty southern eats

Most people have heard of Al’s Finger Licking Good BBQ in Ybor City, but a few months ago they opened Al’s Finger Licking Good Soul Food while I was out of town and the buzz has been muted since then. The online footprint of the new spot is not too big and Google seems to confuse the listings, but if you make the trip along 7th Avenue to 23rd Street there is a surprise waiting for you with great food.

Swee Tea from Al's Finger Lickin' Good Soul Food

From fried chicken and baked chicken to pork chops, turkey wings, fried green tomatoes, and boiled peanuts with neckbones, Al’s Soul Food is offering eats you won’t find easily find around Tampa Bay. I was personally happy to enjoy a great sweet tea with my food after spending far too much time out of the south.

Collard Greens from Al's Finger Lickin' Good Soul Food

Mac and Cheese from Al's Finger Lickin' Good Soul Food

Fried Chicken at Al's Finger Lickin' Good SOul Food

I ordered a quarter of fried chicken during my visit (all white for a $0.99 upcharge) which came with two sides and cornbread. I went with mac and cheese (+$0.99) and collard greens as my sides of choice.

You can also find black-eyed peas, fried okra, green beans and potatoes, potato salad, french fries, white and yellow rice on the menu. Fridays also have an offering of cole slaw and grits. Daily specials are offered on the menu from Wednesday to Sunday and they have lunch specials as well.

Soul food isn’t my specialty since it is so uncommon here, but what I do know is good food and that is exactly what I enjoyed at Al’s Soul Food. The chicken was perfectly cooked and the attention to detail was exact. The collard greens were flavorful and the mac and cheese was unlike a mac and cheese I have enjoyed anywhere else and completely satisfying. Not super cheesy, but just enough.

Corn Bread at Al's Finger Lickin' Good Soul Food

Menu at Al's Finger Lickin' Good Soul Food

The best part was that this all tasted like home-cooking, it wasn’t overly greasy or acid-inducing. The corn bread was absolutely delicious and a perfect started to the meal. I enjoyed every last lick of my fried chicken down to the last piece of fried goodness. I was in a happy place, I looked around at the somewhat empty dining room during my visit and thought to myself how has nobody reviewed this place? There are still two major publications left in town.

Then I remembered I am a writer and I can do that myself. So here’s my thoughts: Get in your car and drive to Al’s Finger Licking Good Soul Food as soon as possible. You won’t regret it. Places like this deserve all our love and cash. Tell a friend. For as much as this town claims to love chicken, here is a spot doing it right.

Al's Finger Lickin' Good Soul Food

Restaurant Name: Al’s Finger Licking Good Soul Food

Neighborhood: Ybor City

Cuisine: Soul Food

Address: 2302 E 7th Ave. Tampa, FL 33605

Phone Number: (813) 405-8920

Hours: Wednesday-Thursday, 11:30AM-6PM, Friday/Saturday 11:30AM-8PM, Sunday 12PM-6PM, CLOSED Monday and Tuesday

Florida Brewers Conference coming to Orlando in August, tickets now available

The 3rd Annual Florida Brewers Conference is coming to Orlando this August at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld. The event is organized by The Florida Brewer’s Guild, a non-profit trade association committed to preserved the rights and interests of all craft brewers throughout the state. The target audience is brewers, brewery owners, and industry workers.

Over 1,373,558 barrels of craft beer are produced every year in Florida. Florida craft beer is ranked 5th in economic impact in the state and at least 285 breweries operate in Florida (2018 Brewers Association data).

The conference aims to “provide brewery personnel and industry trades with a high-quality educational experience, plus an opportunity to network and share delicious Florida craft beers during the two-day trade show”.

Some highlights include:

  • Insights from Brewers Diversity Ambassador Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham
  • Florida specific educational workshops from industry experts
  • Discussions with regulators, including representatives from Florida AB&T
  • Networking with over 300 FL craft beer industry members
  • Commemorative tasting glass
  • Beer receptions, luncheon & trade expo

Sensory training will be available as an additional component to the conference and cover a variety of aromas found in beer. Organizers are expecting at least 500 guests.

Renaissance Orlando is located directly across the street from SeaWorld and close to Disney World, Universal Studios, and Discovery Cove. Sponsorship packages are now available for those interested.

Hotel accommodations are available to those attending the conference at just $149 a night, including the resort fee and self-parking.

Tickets to the Florida Brewers Conference are now available and start at $185 for Florida Brewers Guild members.

Event name: Florida Brewers Conference

Venue: Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld

Date & Time: Monday, August 5th, 2019 to Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

Ages: 21+

Buy tickets: http://fbgcon2019.eventbrite.com/

Website: http://www.floridabrewersguild.org/florida-brewers-conference

Facebook RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/events/453368742076200/

NEWS: HART bus driver fatally stabbed this past weekend in Tampa

HART bus driver, Thomas Dunn, was fatally stabbed by a passenger this past weekend in Tampa on Nebraska Avenue. The passenger involved in the incident has been charged with one count of murder.

According to Fox 13 News this incident “comes roughly 5 months after Dunn spoke at a December 3rd  meeting where he raised concern about the safety of bus drivers after he says a woman who was a passenger assaulted him by spitting in his face and trying to break his arm”.

The CEO of HART, Ben Limmer, released a statement:

“We are devastated by the tragic events that took place today involving our HART bus operator. We are working with the Tampa Police Department as they conduct their investigation into this horrific matter,”

“We offer our thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of the bus operator, as well as to all of our HART colleagues.”

Local transit advocate and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe responded as well to the incident: