Welcome to GastroTown: Gulfport gets D.C. chef with Boca Bay Grille

The new Boca Bay Grille will bring Persian influence to Gulfport's food scene.

click to enlarge NEW CHEF ON THE BLOCK: Sebastian Oveysi, formerly of Amoo's in D.C. - Ethan Sahlin
Ethan Sahlin
NEW CHEF ON THE BLOCK: Sebastian Oveysi, formerly of Amoo's in D.C.

Gulfport, a place known for an eclectic mix of artists and fishermen, a passion for wild ducks and a mayor who’s also the local bartender, can add one more thing to its not-your-father’s-small-town vibe: food. Hello, GastroTown!

Perhaps that’s not news to locals and fans of the ‘port, but Boca Bay Grille, the newest addition to the neighborhood’s cadre of restaurants, is. Joining haunts like O’Maddy’s Bar & Grille, Backfin Blue Cafe and Stella’s that carve out slices of the neighborhood’s foodie pie, the 180-seat eatery plans to open mid-August at 2834 Beach Blvd. S., and marks an evolution in Gulfport’s gastronomic history.

Alamos Investments owns Boca Bay’s building, formerly one of the last vacant spaces downtown, shuttered since the ill-fated La Fogata closed in 2011. When someone told the partners about Persian-American chef Sebastian Oveysi, they headed to his old stomping grounds, decided “Gulfport needs this” and made it so, luring Oveysi away from his family restaurant Amoo’s in Washington, D.C.

Known as Seb for short, Oveysi, who grew up in a warm kitchen filled with the spices of his homeland and was recently named one of five D.C.-area chefs to watch for by Washington Magazine, returned home to D.C. after working as a chef in Miami. The Boca Bay Grille executive chef transformed Amoo’s from a carryout kabob joint to a finer Persian fusion dining spot, and is leaving the restaurant’s day-to-day operations to his family for the shores of Boca Ciega Bay.

“I’ve always wanted to open a big restaurant that was near the water,” Oveysi said over sugared grapes, shaved Parmesan and panini at the nearby Pia’s Trattoria. “It’s a dream come true for me.”

Boca Bay Grille won’t be a replica of Amoo’s, Oveysi said. The menu will showcase less Persian fusion and more New American cuisine. However, expect dishes laced with the flavors of Persia. Oveysi, who also has an organic food truck in D.C., plans to offer grilled meat and an abundance of fresh vegetables, some of it on skewers.

Burgers will be available as well. Alongside the “American-style” (think almost every burger you’ve ever eaten), diners may choose the variation topped with a pomegranate-saffron hickory barbecue sauce, flavors that also show up in menu items like the watermelon wedge salad with pomegranate and goat cheese and the saffron-pomegranate sweet and sour wings.

Oveysi asked to chat with CL at Pia’s, crediting chef-owner Pia Goff with offering insight and community when he came into town. According to Oveysi, he wants Boca Bay to incorporate that same sense of fellowship.

“We’re going to be welcoming to everybody,” Oveysi said. “You’ll still get the five-star feel coming in, but it’s not going to cost an arm and a leg.”

About The Author

Cathy Salustri

Cathy's portfolio includes pieces for Visit Florida, USA Today and regional and local press. In 2016, UPF published Backroads of Paradise, her travel narrative about retracing the WPA-era Florida driving tours that was featured in The New York Times. Cathy speaks about Florida history for the Osher Lifelong Learning...
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