Counter culture: Kings Street Food plans next-gen diner fare for St. Pete

Hot dogs, shakes and other diner-style items to be offered at St. Pete's Kings Street Food Counter.

click to enlarge Owner Stephen Schrutt with his English bulldog King, who the new restaurant's named after. - Kings Street Food Counter
Kings Street Food Counter
Owner Stephen Schrutt with his English bulldog King, who the new restaurant's named after.

It's been more than three years since Stephen Schrutt's flagship eatery the Avenue opened its doors to downtown St. Pete with casual comfort foods, and the restaurateur's ready to unleash another dining concept in the city's EDGE District featuring more perennial favorites: diner-style street grub.

The spot won't be slinging bagels or omelettes, though, he told CL.

When the Everything Dolce dessert bar left 937 Central Ave. (where Cafe Bohemia operated until 2012), relocating to St. Pete Bakery on Fourth Street, Schrutt couldn't pass up the vacant indoor-outdoor space. He said he's always been interested in the building's patio, as well as its location in the EDGE. Steve's Tavern and The Edge Lounge & Tapas are among the new project's neighbors.

"I see a lot of foot traffic here on weekends," Schrutt said, adding that he thinks the district's becoming a foodie destination but needs a "dinery" place. "[The EDGE] has a cool neighborhood feel."

Schrutt, who dubbed his next-gen diner Kings Street Food Counter, said he plans to showcase items like hot dogs, poutines, grilled cheese, milkshakes and homemade ice cream sandwiches with a modern twist. Only five items will be breakfast-inspired.

"Doing something different (from the Avenue) meant looking this way," he said.

A few cookies and ice cream flavors could be on hand for build-your-own shakes, and a weekend brunch menu may also be introduced alongside later hours. Kings, which Schrutt is looking to debut in four to eight weeks, won't open up at 8 a.m., but the food will be available on weekends at least until midnight. He's not opposed to operating late during baseball season and the like, either ("You never know what the business will dictate").

With Avenue chef Ryan Kelly overseeing the cuisine at both restaurants, Kings will offer a grab-and-go dining experience. Take-away and sit-down orders will come in disposable containers, whether patrons decide to nosh on-site or elsewhere.

A 27-foot-long laminate counter is planned for one half of the classic-meets-contemporary diner's interior. Smaller than the Avenue, Kings' other side will be lined with tables and chairs to accompany black booths, which will rest against a large graphic mural. Behind the counter, mint green glass subway tile will match the mint-colored floor and in-the-ground barstools.

Though no cocktails will be served, the craft beer selection, made up of drafts and 16-ounce cans, will be locally driven. The dog-friendly patio, set to be more of a "chill spot" than the inside, according to Schrutt, will feature a bar with around 16 taps and live music in the afternoons. Schrutt said he's also putting in AstroTurf, communal tables and lawn chairs out there.

"I want people to enjoy local beer and have fun," he said.

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