Five Courses: Holy hot doggeries! edition with Portillo's & more

Franks from Portillo's and Detroit Coney Island, Asian fusion and other juicy food and drink news.

click to enlarge Every Portillo’s, including this one in Bolingbrook, Illinois, has its own theme. - Portillo's
Every Portillo’s, including this one in Bolingbrook, Illinois, has its own theme.

Chicago’s beloved Portillo’s , an iconic peddler of Chicago-style franks, Italian beef sandwiches and a chocolate cake that we’re told is very famous, will launch its first Florida location during the first half of 2016 in Tampa. According to Portillo’s Director of Marketing Nick Scarpino, the restaurant chain is keeping the address under wraps since it’s in the final stages of negotiating a lease.

Tampa residents were persistent about requesting a Portillo’s in the area, Scarpino said, and the 52-year-old brand, which originated as The Dog House hot dog stand, listened. Like the other 39 locations, the Tampa site will carry a distinct theme, though that theme hasn’t been announced yet. Some Portillo’s have a ’50s diner feel, while others resemble 1920s-era Chicago.

In other hot dog news, the Clearwater-based Detroit Coney Island is close to opening restaurant No. 2 inside a baby blue Largo building at 11500 Walsingham Road, which formerly housed an ice cream shop and, most recently, The Nook barbecuery. The wiener joint serves offerings such as pastrami burgers, four kinds of Coneys and house-made cream puffs filled with ice cream, alongside beer and wine.

• Downtown Clearwater’s Daddy’s Girl Deli closed at 623 Cleveland St., and an eatery called Basil will take its place. According to a banner displayed above the door, Basil will offer “a fresh culinary experience” and specialize in Asian fusion fare, which seems to be the region’s newest food obsession (see Souzou or The Mango Tree in St. Petersburg and Seminole Heights’ Chop Chop Shop).

•  Old Southeast Market will be St. Pete’s latest neighborhood quick stop. At 1700 Third St. S., where the Gita Food Store used to be near Thrill Hill, the market and delicatessen will cater to the area through a collection of wines and craft brews, produce, coffee and other grocery store finds.

• On the beach, Keel & Curley Winery — known for true-to-Florida wines like strawberry and sweet blueberry as well as its craft beer endeavor, Two Henrys Brewing Company — is set to open its first Bay area franchise in Treasure Island this month. The spot at 9641 Gulf Blvd. is called Keel & Curley’s Vino-n-Brew , and will pour the Plant City winery’s complete beer and wine portfolio.

• This month will also bring a new location for downtown Tampa’s Taps Restaurant Bar & Lounge . At International Plaza, Taps will premiere its upscale-meets-laid-back American brasserie concept to Bay Street. The menu, led by executive chef Jason Dame and focused on classic cuisine with modern flair, plans to accompany Taps signatures with entrees (a first for the brand), including short rib ragu and cauliflower-and-portobello-stuffed tacos.

Meanwhile, La Fondita de Leo opened at 528 Cleveland St. in downtown Clearwater a couple months back. The South Tampa BurgerMonger debuted at 3838 W. Neptune St., while Chop Chop Shop at 6605 N. Florida Ave., mentioned earlier, held its grand opening in Seminole Heights. And in downtown St. Pete, Urban Comfort launched at 2601 Central Ave., and 224 Beach Drive NE welcomed Stillwaters Tavern .
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