Chef Melissa 'Melly' Gardner previews Coasis, her new Seminole Heights bar and restaurant

It's opening out of the former London Heights British Pub space later this month.

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click to enlarge Co-owners Brandi Gergle (L) and Melissa Gardner (R). - c/o Brandi Gergle
c/o Brandi Gergle
Co-owners Brandi Gergle (L) and Melissa Gardner (R).
Chef Melissa “Melly” Gardner is no stranger to the Tampa Bay food scene. In fact, her name alone should induce hunger pangs and visions of the fried catfish, lamb chops and cheesy grits that her Three Generations food truck is known for.

But this week marks the beginning of a completely new era for Gardner and her business partner Brandi Gergle, as they get ready to open their first bar and restaurant, Coasis.

Gardner’s debut brick and mortar will open out of the former London Heights British Pub in Seminole Heights, but it’s been rendered unrecognizable by renovations and brightly-colored decor.

Located in the former home of The Ox at 7701 N Nebraska Ave. in Tampa, the bar, restaurant and late night hotspot will host an exclusive Valentine's night dinner on Feb. 14, and a grand opening party on Saturday, Feb. 25.

RSVPs for Coasis’ intimate Valentines Day event can be made via Eventbrite, although the links haven’t been made live yet. More information can be found on Coasis’ newly-formed social media pages, where you’ll also see sneak peeks of its pink and purple accented decor and gold-plated private dining room.

While Gardner’s massive, 4,000 square-foot space seats about 160 patrons, she doesn’t think they’ll have a problem filling out the dining room (or its wraparound porch) on Coasis’ debut night.

And although Gardner has a sizable foodie following from Tampa Bay and beyond, Coasis is a joint venture with her girlfriend, business partner and beauty entrepreneur Brandi Gergle. Known for her local salons and international wig business B Blaze Hair Boutique, Gergle is the mind behind Coasis’ sleek decor, while Gardner helms its kitchen alongside Executive Chef Kendall Ivy.
Social media pages for Gergle’s businesses and the Three Generations food truck have collectively garnered over 100,000 followers. Needless to say, neither Gardner or Gergle have any issues appealing to their audience—whether it consists of foodies, influencers or anyone else in between.

After this weekend’s soft opening, the new bar and restaurant will be neighbors with other Seminole Heights institutions like Three Coins Diner and Gangchu, although Coasis is just a stone's throw away from Sulphur Springs, too.

“We’ve watched a lot of restaurants open in Seminole Heights, but none to this magnitude…we honestly want to take over the entire block,” Gardner says. “We’re bringing the energy of downtown Tampa and Ybor City to Seminole Heights.”

When Coasis celebrates its grand opening in a few weeks, customers can expect extravagant weekend brunch fare paired with a modern steakhouse menu. Appetizers include chargrilled oysters and ceviche with mango puree, while entrees range from filets and massive tomahawk steaks to surf and turf, whole snapper, and freshly made pastas. Coasis will offer a full spread of beer, wine, bubbly and craft cocktails to match its decadent food menu.

And on the weekends, Coasis will host what Gardner describes as the be-all and end-all of brunches.

Gardner says her brunch menu at Three Generations helped put her on the culinary map, and Coasis’ offerings will certainly do her reputation justice. Pound cake french toast with salted caramel whipped cream, surf and turf deviled eggs, soft shell crab toasts and grilled caesar salads are just a few of the dishes that will be offered on Saturdays before dinner service and all-day Sundays.

On the weekends, the new bar and restaurant will also offer a late-night small plate menu of lamb chops, crudo, oxtail empanadas, marinated olives, chicken wings and crab-stuffed shrimp.

Gardner has known Ivy, Coasis’ executive chef, for a decade, since the two worked at St. Pete’s now-closed Farm Table Cucina together. He recently relocated to Tampa from Los Angeles for the opportunity to helm this kitchen. She says that having an executive chef will allow her to take the apron off from time to time, interact with her customers more, and continue to grow as a business owner.

Her first endeavor, Three Generations food truck, debuted in the summer 2018 to almost an instantaneous following—and her lines still continue to wrap around the block. After a few successful years slinging her Southern comfort fare, the debut of a second food truck, and a brief stint inside St. Pete’s 22 South Food Hall, Gardner initially thought that her first standalone restaurant would be an extension of the Three Generations brand.

But she wanted something bigger—a business that reflected both her and Gergle. “I love my street food people, but I know my audience wanted something more at the same time. They wanted elevated food in a nice atmosphere,” Gardner says.

Notably, the power couple was able to purchase their Seminole Heights restaurant space last year. It was already wet zoned for alcohol consumption, but Gergle and Gardner put about eight months of remodeling into it.

“I have to brag on her a little bit because it was totally her idea to buy a restaurant space,” Gardner says about her life and business partner. “I've looked to rent for so long, but it's because of Brandi’s entrepreneurial success that we were able to buy our amazing building.”

Soon, their patrons can sip on craft cocktails like “Cracks Kills”—complete with black rum and pineapple juice—or lavender gin martinis throughout its glossy dining room, its 100-seat porch or outdoor “oasis” under the trees.

Gardner draws a parallel between Coasis and her friend Khalilaa McDuffie’s restaurant 7th + Grove, as both establishments pride themselves on great food and cocktails, a lounge-like vibe and the ability to cater to both the LGBTQ+ and straight crowds.

She names other friends and peers like Sarah Fludd from Pop Goes the Waffle and Chef Ashley Suttle from Main Course, stressing the importance of supporting Tampa Bay’s other Black restaurateurs.

Unfortunately, both Fludd and Suttle’s concepts recently closed, but Gardner is thankful that she was able to purchase a majority of Main Course’s kitchen equipment to use for Coasis.

When asked if she had any advice for folks who would like to follow in her entrepreneurial footsteps, she paused before answering.

“You know what— this is what I tell my friends. As Black businesses, we don’t have to cook just Black food. It’s easy to limit yourself to soul food because it’s familiar, but there’s so much more out there,” Gardner explains. “Choose your location wisely, be a chameleon, and make sure to create a menu for all people.”

Gardner, who earned a software engineering degree before launching Three Generations, also says that knowing how to utilize social media is another vital factor in running a successful business.

Head to Coasis’ Facebook page or Instagram at @coasistampa for the latest updates on this new Tampa hotspot. Gardner says that her bar and restaurant will open around 11:30 a.m. daily and offer late-night hours on Friday and Saturday nights, although they could change as it transitions out of the soft opening phase.

The upcoming restaurant is currently hiring chefs, servers, bartenders, and hosts; folks interested in these positions can send their information to [email protected]

About The Author

Kyla Fields

Kyla Fields is the Managing Editor of Creative Loafing Tampa Bay who started their journey at CL as summer 2019 intern. They are the proud owner of a charming, sausage-shaped, four-year-old rescue mutt named Piña.
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