Armature Works, Tampa’s largest food hall and event space, is joining forces with Rooftop Cinema Club to launch “The Drive-In at Armature Works”, a contact-free drive-in event in Tampa Heights District.
Audiences can enjoy a mix of modern and classic films every day of the week, two showings per night, including a full week of Halloween and Horror favorites.
Family-friendly screenings will take place at 7:30PM followed by a second screening for the night-owls at 10PM.
Tickets will start at $22 per vehicle, regardless of occupancy. Parking will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis depending on ticket type, and audio can be picked up through local FM stereo.
Guests can order concessions or food and drinks online from their vehicles and will be notified for pick up.
Tickets and programming will be released this coming week. Locals are encouraged to sign up to Rooftop Cinema Club’s email database via rooftopcinemaclub.com/armature to be the first to know when tickets and programming are released, and to receive 10% off their first purchase. One lucky subscriber will also win unlimited drive-in movie tickets for the first two weeks of screenings.
There’s an exciting new concept coming Friday, June 12th, 2020 to the Hall on Franklin food hall called Chef & The Baker from Chef Rosana Rivera and Chef Ricardo Castro. I had a chance to ask them a few questions about this new initiative and how things have changed since the pandemic began.
CARLOS EATS:First off – How have you guys been getting by during the pandemic?
Chef Rosana: We pivoted early on in the pandemic through R2 Provisions, our ghost kitchen in Pinellas Park, to do delivery of products, Xilo Mexican favorite food items, bakery items like bread, and provisions like eggs, flour, sugar, yeast, and toilet paper. The response was phenomenal and we are so grateful that Tampa embraced the concept, no questions asked.
Chef Ricardo: We continue to service via delivery from R2 Provisions. Customers can order through r2xilokofe.square.site.
CARLOS EATS: Chef & The Baker is a highly anticipated project considering your past with Piquant. How will this project be different?
Chef Rosana: The recipes have been tweaked and perfected. Chef Ricardo, over the past couple of years has really honed in on his talent and craft to become an even better baker.
Chef Ricardo: We will have artisan breads, more viennoiseries (pastries), and a higher quality of patisserie items (cakes and European tortes).
CARLOS EATS: Who are some people you look up to in the baking world and is there any pastry or bakery chefs who inspire you? What are your favorite bakeries around the world?
Chef Rosana and Ricardo: Belinda from B Patisserie in San Francisco, Eric Kayser from Maison Kayser in NYC & Paris; Antonio Bachour from Bachour Miami; and the quintessential Francois Payard from around the world. However, there are a lot of up and coming pastry superstars that we are always following and trying to learn from like Johan Martin.
CARLOS EATS: When it comes to ingredients – What makes a quality baked good different? Does water make a difference?
Chef Rosana and Ricardo: Best quality of ingredients is crucial and yes – water quality makes a huge difference. There are some things we have little control of – but buying the best ingredients is something we can control, especially when it comes to baking ingredients. We buy flours that are unbromated, we use cage-free eggs for baking applications, all-natural products, European chocolates, filtered water, and butter with a higher fat content. It all makes a difference in the quality of the product you bake. We never cut corners, you can taste the quality.
CARLOS EATS:Food enthusiasts have been making their own sourdough starters at home during the pandemic as people tried to find a way to get through being home constantly and still enjoy the things they love. What trends do you see emerging in the baking world and how will it change in the future?
Chef Rosana and Ricardo: More at home baking for sure! Our plan is to launch a virtual cooking kitchen class in which we are able to share our knowledge with our audience on a digital, but interactive format. I think the love for the art of baking is going nowhere, on the contrary its getting better and better.
CARLOS EATS:Industry experts say the pandemic has changed how goods are bought and prices of food seems to be going up. How are you dealing with that?
Chef Rosana: We are sticking to our prices as much as we can, and if we can’t do that – we try to minimize the impact by increasing the price by 25 or 50 cents. Our margins are taking a hit and are reduced, but at the end of the day we want to be conscious of how people spend their money. We don’t want or need to abuse.
CARLOS EATS: Which menu item would you say is the most complex or time-consuming dish you make? Can you tell us more about it?
Chef Rosana: Anything croissant, which is easily a 72+ hour process, but we love it and our guests love anything croissant that we do. My favorite item is the Kouign Amanns.
Chef Ricardo: That is how I make the croissants, not everyone follows that. It creates better flavors as the dough ferments slowly. My favorite item is The Morning Buns (citrus crispy laminated dough) is my favorite item on our menu.
CARLOS EATS: What made you both fall in love with baking?
Chef Rosana: I fell in love for baking because of Ricardo. Every day I see him bake I am in awe of him!
Chef Ricardo: I fell in love with baking when my Mom AKA Chef Cookie, would teach me how to bake things since I was 9 years old. Later, Chef Rudy from Austria took me under his wing and taught me everything European pastries. The right way and the best way!
Don’t forget to check out Chef & the Baker when it opens on Friday, June 12th at 11AM at the Hall on Franklin at 1701 North Franklin Street Tampa, Florida, 33602.
The annual parade has become one of Tampa’s signature holiday events featuring hundreds of festive aquatic vessels as the make their way down the Hillsborough River.
Guests are welcome to bring lawn chairs and blankets. The event is also pet-friendly.
Note: outside food, drinks, and coolers are not permitted at Armature Works.
Parking: Parking at Armature Works is free Monday through Thursday and Friday before 4PM, Saturday and Sunday mornings before 11AM. Parking at all other times is $5. In addition, there are over 400 street-side parking spots available. Valet is also available most event nights and weekends. For more information please visit armatureworks.com/parking.
The first hotel is coming to Tampa Heights with The Moxy Hotel, a project from Marriott International. The hotel will feature 153 rooms and occupy 7 floors inside a new 25-story tower.
Construction will begin in 2020 with expected completion and opening by 2022. It will be located between West Oak Avenue, West 7th Avenue, North Highlands, and North Tampa Street.
The hotel will occupy the first seven floors of the tower and the remaining floors will be developed as a multi-family residential apartment community and will include its own lobby, separate from the Moxy Hotel lobby.
The Moxy Hotel will have a smart interface that allows users to seamlessly check-in, park, and lock their room doors using their mobile devices.
Planned amenities include a club room, fitness center, co-working spaces, event spaces and retail space. An art program called “Moxy Blank Canvas” will be a part of the hotel, that “connects emerging artists to their hotels to literally make their mark on the spaces”.
“Over the past few years, I’ve been watching the evolution of the up and coming Tampa Heights District as it becomes a trendy place to work, live and play”, said Tim Sponsler, Vice President Marriott Lodging Development for Florida.
“The development of Armature Works it a great example of the edgy vibe of the neighborhood and their development of the Moxy Hotel will have synergy with the overall vibrant lifestyle experience of The Heights District.”
The Moxy Hotel is part of a larger plan for The Heights District, a 50-acre mixed-use urban district located along the Hillsborough River.
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.
The minds behind Armature Works, Ciro’s, Boca, and Ichicoro have joined forces to create M. Bird, a rooftop bar and lounge, on top of Armature Works Tampa, a historic building that has been recently restored and opened a mixed-use space in Tampa Heights.
The bar program features a tropically-driven craft-cocktail menu with VIP bottle service and a selection of rums and other sugarcane spirits. Some cocktails on the menu include Mai Tai ($13), Hemingway Daquiri ($10), Singani Sour ($11), and Daisy de Santiago ($13).
Small plates will be available for visitors including vaca fritas tostones ($16), citrus glazed branzino ($28), jerk chicken egg rolls ($15), and a bite-sized version of mofongo ($15).
Taryn Buck, co-owner of Armature Works, shares: “M.Bird’s origin comes from the Florida State Bird, the mockingbird, with live greenery and pops of color, guests will feel as if they are stepping into another city…it will be a completely different and unique experience.”
Decor-wise the bar and lounge with have a mod-dec design with unique seating options. The rooftop bar offers unobstructed views of the skyline in Tampa and waterfront views of the Hillsborough River. Guests must be 21+ to access M. Bird and reservations are required for parties of 6 or more.
It has been exactly one year since Armature Works opened its doors to the City of Tampa in Tampa Heights.
The historic building and food hall changed the city for the better and gave many restaurateurs and food brands and opportunity to shine on Tampa’s waterfront just outside of Downtown Tampa.
The venue has also served as a coworking space, event space, wedding venue, and more.
One of the owners and operators of Armature Works, Taryn Bruck, reflected on the past and future of the facility:
“We have learned a lot over the past 365 days and look forward to making your experience at Armature Works better than the last. Our success is attributed to our incredible vendors, hard-working team, and most of all our loyal AW fans! We can’t wait to show what we have in store for 2019!”
I talked to a few of the businesses inside the Heights Public Market. Heights Public Market, HPM for short, is the food hall portion of Armature Works. The hall has thousands of customers walk through every week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I spoke with Stephanie Swanz, owner of Empamamas, and she told me:
“This past year has been one of the most rewarding times of my life and I am forever grateful to Chas, Taryn, Adam, and Frank for the opportunity and believing in Empamamas. Not only has Armature Works become one of the most desirable places to visit in Tampa, but it has completely changed the landscape of the neighborhood and I’m so excited to see their future projects unfold over the next few months”.
Graze 1910 has served over 90,000 eggs to hungry diners in the Heights Public Market according to owners, Ray and Lauren Menendez. If you haven’t enjoyed a mimosa and avocado toast with an egg for breakfast, you should. I did for Valentine’s Day 2018.
Clifford Barsi, Vice-President of Social Enterprises and Food Services at Metroplitan Ministries, reflecting on the past year:
“Metropolitan Ministries is very thankful for the opportunity to expand our Social Enterprise concept, ‘Inside the Box Cafe‘, through the generosity of Armature Works owners/developers: Chas Bruck and Adam Harden. They have given us a platform for our Culinary Program to get exposure for our students and to gain foodie acclaim for our in-house brined, cured, roasted, and smoked meats. That’s Good Food, Doing Good with the help from Good People! #Training+Jobs+Hunger Relief = Good Food Doing Good!”
Felicia “Phe” Lacalle , owner of Hemingway’s, told me this:
My experience at Armature Works has been nothing less than extraordinary, to be in such a spectacular place and to open a modern Cuban restaurant that instills nostalgia in such a beautiful city with amazing history is a blessing! We couldn’t have done it without the support of Armature Works, our amazing guests, and my fabulous staff.
“It’s been an amazing year at Armature Works, and we are so proud to be part of the wonderful space they’ve created here! For Cru, it’s been a great opportunity to engage with guests about wine – helping them to find that perfect glass of wine to enjoy, while also introducing them to new things. The Show & Tell space has been a hit for our Cru U wine classes and walk-around tastings”
Here are some upcoming events at Armature Works:
Saturday, February 9th from 9AM-1PM – Heights Morning Market: Shop around for locally sourced and grown produce, meats, seafood, artisanal food items, packaged jams, sauces, and more on the Armature Works lawn.
Saturday, February 9th from 2PM-4PM: Chinese New Year: Armature Works will celebrate Chinese New Year. It is the Year of the Pig! Watch live performances and enjoy some great from Asian vendors inside the Heights Public Market.
Wednesday, February 13th from 5:30PM-9:30PM – Heights Night Market: Live-music and local vendors will rock the night away in front of the Hillsborough River. This event occurs every 2nd Wednesday of the month.
Thursday, February 14th from 7PM-9PM – Valentine’s Movies on the Lawn – Hitch: Looking for something low-key on Valentine’s Day. Celebrate the day outside at Armature Works with a free public screening of Hitch. Don’t forget your lawn chair or blanket. Popcorn and drinks will be available for purchase as well as food from the 14 vendors inside Heights Public Market. First-come, first-serve. Arriving early is recommended.
Wednesday, February 20th from 6:30PM-9:30PM – Sushi Battle Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay’s hottest sushi competition is back and this year it’s at Armature Works. Restaurants will compete for who makes the best sushi, while attendees will feast on all the sushi they can eat. 21+ event. Tickets are now on-sale.
Saturday, February 23rd from 3PM-8PM – One Year Birthday Bash: Armature Works will celebrate its one year anniversary as Tampa’s largest food hall and historic venue.
Full disclosure: Chef Gia Tran and I are personally acquainted and have collaborated/worked together. He is a mutual friend through an old friend and we were first introduced at the first Sushi Battle in Ybor City. We have gone on to see each other around town at different restaurants and businesses. I reached out to him for this story when Armature Works opened. All opinions expressed are my own and do not represent him.
The writing scene in Tampa often captures restaurants opening and closing as well as menu items and new trends. However, we don’t cover the chefs in the city that often and although some events try and make up for this – chefs are busy people and so are writers in this growing city.
The main reason for the lack of coverage is because chefs are always in the kitchen cooking (go-figure) and many of them aren’t really people-people (laughs).
Chef Gia Tran is a unique chef that I thought would make a great article when discussing the new Armature Works – so I reached out to get his story.
I initially met Chef Gia Tran at the first Sushi Battle in Ybor City. Surrounded by Godzilla costumes and Taiko drummer group, Tampa Taiko, as well as thousands of hungry people, we were quite busy and did not get to talk much besides talking about the sushi burrito I ate (he was a vendor competing in the competition). I was a Judge at the competition and was impressed.
Chef Gia was doing sushi burritos long before anyone in Tampa probably knew what a sushi burrito was (alas many people still do not know). As a food writer myself, I had not seen sushi burritos anywhere besides on popular food websites such as Eater in 2015.
Over the years I saw him and his staff at the Margarita Festival, Rum Festival, and other drink festivals organized by Big City Events, whose leadership (Ferdian Jap and Monica Varner) are now a partner in his two new ventures inside Armature Works: Zukku Sushi and Astro Ice Cream Co.
Years passed and then I was a Judge again at the Sushi Battle – this time in St. Petersburg. I wandered the booths consuming plenty of sushi. The best booth? Ocean Prime. I was a little shocked because I was previously unaware that sushi was even on the menu at Ocean Prime. Apparently, Chef Gia Tran pioneered this successful menu at Ocean Prime and it is still served there after his departure and a top seller.
The rolls were simply superb and I could not resist going again and again for a bite until Ocean Prime eventually was sold out. The rice, fish, and composition was all excellent. I wasn’t accustomed to Tampa sushi restaurants getting these things right (sorry I’m from San Francisco). Ocean Prime won the Audience Choice Award that year.
I was initially unaware that Chef Gia Tran was behind this menu. I just knew it was delicious.
Years passed again and then I heard about a new place opening in Brandon called S Bar from Chef Gia. This restaurant was a new project by a few original management pieces of The Rack. Although a short-lived venture due to the owners relocating, this project lead way to what is arguably the biggest project Chef Gia Tran has to date: the opening of Zukku Sushi and Astro Ice Cream Co. at Armature Works.
Chef Gia Tran has saved since his first sushi job 10 years ago at Sushi Alive in Carrollwood (now in Westchase) for this business venture at Armature Works.
Many of Tampa’s local head sushi chefs had their start at Sushi Alive, which was one of the busiest places in town thanks to an excellent dollar sushi deal and happy hour specials.
Ask anyone about Armature Works in the food business and they will tell you it represents a change for Tampa and hopes for the future of our city.
It’s forward-thinking, historic, and diverse. People might argue about different facets of the venue, but can anyone deny that this undertaking is a huge risk? Restaurateurs have embraced it in a move for something different. I respect that as someone who covers the food scene on the other side.
Zukku Sushi has a variety of poke choices and sushi rolls on the menu.
What makes it different? A sharp attention to fish quality. Chef Gia Tran is clearly using his background at other restaurants to decide the menu items and to source higher quality fish. The price does reflect it, but fish is one of those things where you get what you pay for.
Prices are comparable to nearby Poke Rose at The Hall on Franklin, but here you can pick your toppings and customize your bowl which is definitely one of my gripes about Poke Rose. Also – Poke Rose seems to lean towards Poke Salad while Zukku is clearly connect more to the sushi side of things with sushi rice being carefully prepared.
Zukku Sushi is open at Armature Works in Tampa Heights 7 days a week. Astro Ice Cream Co. will also provide nitrogen ice cream to the public. Chef Gia Tran is on the move in the City of Tampa.
Surf & Turf Truck and I go back a few years. We met during a food truck rally blitz in Seminole Heights and Ybor City. Always friendly at the register and humble about their food and vision.
I met the owner of Empamamas, Stephanie Swanz, at Surf & Turf Truck when she was working their front window while her food truck was being finished up. She perfectly matched their chill and friendly attitude – something not to be missed in a business where most of your business is done at an ordering station.
Surf & Turf always came ready to serve and would knock out order after order at each event they were at. The truck remained creative with themed events, while also serving seafood staples on the regular.
Now they have landed at the new Armature Works building as a vendor in the Heights Public Market. This lucky break came through their network of business contacts. I am sure the owners of Armature are pleased with what they found at Surf & Turf. As a vendor they are a great contrast from the other options at the market.
Genuinely good seafood in Tampa is harder to find than one would think. Way too many places stick to just grouper and tilapia and charge too much. There are only a few places that you can enjoy seafood in a casual setting. Surf & Turf took risks on lobster rolls before it was hip in Tampa. During my chat with the owner, Adam, I took a look at some other menu items including the Blue Crab Roll and Salmon Burger.
The Blue Crab Roll is at a much friendlier price point than the Lobster Roll at $12 and still packs tons of flavor. I have to say that for a small amount of time restaurants in Tampa were throwing Old Bay seasoning on everything and doing it incorrectly (much to my disappointment), however the Old Bay Mayo in this blue crab roll is superb. The bread is perfectly done as well. Is there anything better than a delicious sandwich? I think not. A scrumptious side of brussel sprouts completes the order.
Surf & Turf’s Salmon Burger also did not disappoint and left me licking my fingers in joy. Quite buyer friendly at $8 – this burger is both filling and delicious inside and on the healthier side. I would order this Salmon Burger any day of the week and it was indeed sold out that day after customers gravitated to it.
Surf & Turf is on The Daily Meal’s Top 101 Food Trucks for 2016 at #42 and it deserves more recognition in Tampa. It is great to see gourmet food trucks on the move in our city. You can now visit Surf & Turf daily at Armature Works for the time being and I highly recommend heading over and giving them a try.
Local food truck Empamamas has joined the vendor list at Armature Works for the Heights Public Market today. Several empanadas have appeared on the soft opening menu and it will expand with some time.
This is a huge deal for local food trucks and shows their gourmet power, especially after Surf & Turf is already doing great inside Armature Works. Today I had the signature dish, Tampa Girl Empamama, which is pretty much like a Cuban sandwich inside an empanada.