Five Courses: A lively lounge bar, whiskey & more

Five spots in St. Petersburg and Tampa top the region's latest food and drink news.

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click to enlarge LOUNGE CROWD: Alvin's draws patrons seeking live tunes with their libations. - Meaghan Habuda
Meaghan Habuda
LOUNGE CROWD: Alvin's draws patrons seeking live tunes with their libations.

In the vacated DeLucia Italian Bakery Cafe space, Alvin’s offers downtown St. Pete revelers a sophisticated drinking hub with live music. Patrons can choose from high-tops or the roomy bar and a range of entertainment, including karaoke and Latin music-themed nights, contemporary jazz and DJs.

On Thursdays, musician Carl Fuerstman turns the lounge spot at 119 First Ave. N. into an intimate piano bar, and the daily happy hour highlights martinis, wines and more. Alvin’s, which premiered Jan. 8, operated in soft-opening mode until its grand opening celebration last week.

Ferg’s Live — which will differ from Mark Ferguson’s 23-year-old Ferg’s Sports Bar and Grill in St. Pete but will retain sports bar elements — is slated to open later this month in the Channelside area of Tampa.

Located across the street from Amalie Arena at 490 Channelside Drive, the 8,000-plus-square-foot Ferg’s Live, headed by Irish 31 founder Jay Mize, will function as a restaurant, live music venue and sports bar.

Retrofitted shipping containers will frame the outdoor patio and house a kitchen and bar; a second-level stage and VIP balcony will overlook the patio. Other features include flat-screen TVs, three large projector screens and a food lineup that puts its own spin on the St. Pete flagship’s offerings.

• Formerly La Cubanita Cafe and under new ownership, Dine-Or-Dash at 19040 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. is a fast-casual Tampa concept from partners Becky Kail, Andrew Kail and Sal Ventimiglia, showcasing Italian- and Greek-inflected eats accompanied by a few Cuban classics.

Becky is the chef, and sources ingredients like San Marzano tomatoes and basil for her breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes.

With a fresh look and new kitchen equipment to match, the 70-seat Dine-Or-Dash offers weekly specials like $5 Cuban sandos and a $13 oxtail dinner. The signature Steak Siciliano (ribeye topped with Sicilian amogio sauce) and the mojo pork sandwich are among the menu’s highlights.

• Alex Gahhos and Dan Wing’s Blue Goose, a downtown St. Pete whiskey bar, has been in the works since last year, but it’s aiming to open next month at 48 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N.

Near other popular EDGE District haunts like Engine No. 9 and The Bends, The Blue Goose design integrates mounted taxidermy, industrial-style lighting and dark wood, with seating around a U-shaped bar and church-pews-turned-booths.

• On the heels of Sea Salt’s debut, another Naples-based restaurant called The Cider Press Café will open its doors to downtown St. Pete sometime in spring. 

Replacing the Sunspot Fresh Bar at 601 Central Ave., Cider Press will serve raw vegan offerings, a concept similar to Denise Rispoli Becknell’s Leafy Greens Cafe. The new restaurant’s website describes the food, also gluten-free, as “Florida-inspired, plant-based, modernist cuisine.”

Menu items such as pineapple kimchi dumplings, mock ceviche (abalone mushroom, passion fruit and more) and walnut-sweet potato picadillo tacos will be featured as diners nosh in a casual setting. The St. Pete location is Cider Press’s first foray outside Naples, where co-owners Johan Everstijn and Roland Strobel launched in 2011.

And nearby, the downtown St. Pete building at 8 Fourth St. N. where Nathalie Creuzet’s Apropos used to be bears a “coming soon” sign from its new tenant, Pipo’s To Go. Get excited. 

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