New to Gulfport, The Artisan shaping up to be first food hall for Pinellas

Highlights include a bakery and a sushi and raw bar.

click to enlarge The Artisan is coming together on Gulfport's Beach Boulevard, where Boca Bay Grille formerly operated. - JENNA RIMENSNYDER
Jenna Rimensnyder
The Artisan is coming together on Gulfport's Beach Boulevard, where Boca Bay Grille formerly operated.

Last week, seasoned restaurateur Tom Golden penciled CL in for a quick interview at his downtown St. Pete eatery, The Lure, where we talked about his next project: The Artisan. This "art and food collective" is targeting a premiere in Gulfport at 2832 Beach Blvd. by mid-September.

Opening three new restaurants in three months — a kitchen and bar with an expanded menu at Safety Harbor's late Green Springs Bistro, a Gulfport wine lounge called Vintage and now The Artisan — has been somewhat chaotic for Golden. Things became especially tough when his business partner and close friend, Richard Alday, passed away unexpectedly while wrapping up some final details ahead of the The Artisan's debut.

Alday played a big role in front-of-house procedures at The Lure, Golden says, as well as the other ventures he and the team have been working on.

"Richard was juggling a lot of plates in the air. Now I'm running around trying to pick them off," Golden said.

A celebration of life was held for Alday in July, when locals gathered to toast to the St. Pete legend.

Moving forward, Golden and his other business partner, Michael Stewart (of Tampa's 717 South and Ava), will complete The Artisan according to plan — as Pinellas County's first food hall. The 6,600-square-foot building is set to house a high-end art gallery and a bookstore, plus two kitchens servicing a bakery and a sushi and raw bar with oysters, crab and shrimp. There's a colorful shiplap bar on the back patio, too.

Seating ranges anywhere from 150 to 180 spots throughout the food hall and patio, and guests will choose from a selection of what Golden calls "glorified bar food," aka pub grub with a twist.

The Artisan expects to further fulfill Gulfport's remaining culinary and creative needs. Local artist David Boyd has the latter covered; the gallery, located in the front portion of The Artisan, is dedicated to whatever Boyd dreams up (patrons of The Lure St. Pete have seen his handiwork firsthand).

Other highlights include giant palm trees on each corner of the food hall; walls painted with 3D black light art, which should provide an atmospheric transition from day to night; and ideally, live local bands in the evenings and on weekends. In addition to the food, guests can also partake in a round of pool, or enjoy a quiet evening by the patio's waterfall.

Although the final menu remains in development, Golden will bring over The Lure St. Pete's chef, Kevin Bell, to help launch The Artisan, as well as local caterer Kim Bailey to assist with the bakery. The kitchen staff is limited, but luckily, Golden has called in some additional backup: a sushi-rolling machine to ensure those spicy tuna morsels are executed correctly.

"Our plan is to always make the best neighborhood restaurant you can get," he said, "and that's what we're hoping to do for Gulfport."

Golden wants to get the patio bar open as soon as possible; it's anticipated hours are 11 a.m. to midnight six days a week. Once the bakery is up and running, it'll likely operate 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., while the sushi and raw bar do 4 to 10 p.m.

The Artisan crew is hopeful that Gulfport will accept them with open arms — and empty stomachs.

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