Thursday, June 23, 2011

An Ode to St. Pete...

...and all it's delicious eats! (and things to do, and places to stay!)

Regardless of if you have been reading my blog for 2 years or 2 weeks, you have likely picked up on the fact that I adore, love and cherish St. Petersburg, Florida. St. Pete is my "birthtown" -I can't call it my hometown, because my parents moved when I was one, so I don't actually remember living there as a child- and I moved "back" in the fall of 2008 to work at the Children's Research Institute. That is also the time when I made my blog public, after writing it's predecessor over at Zanga all through college.

I honestly loved living in St. Pete. The local, vintage vibe of the downtown and old northeast regions, mixed with the nearby beaches and hustle of Tampa, all washed with sea salt laden breezes is truly a "perfect fit" for this gal. So, when I moved back to my actual hometown to start my new career of teaching, it was very bitter sweet. I knew I was going to miss my gem of a condo, my yoga studio, my favorite bars, and all the wonderful dinning establishments and other random eateries, but I reminded my sad self that it was all only 2.5 hours away, just waiting to be visited.

In May, nearly 2 years after I moved away, I finally made good that promise to visit, as bestie Christine and I took a girls weekend away to celebrate my 25th birthday. Here is a rundown of our adventures, plus a few of my other St. Pete suggestions.


Seeings as my condo is now rented by someone else, Christine and I opted to stay downtown and got a great deal at the Ponce de Leon Historic Hotel. This hotel is a "boutique" hotel, and each room is done slightly differently. I loved our tiny little room, with it's quirky mix of vintage and modern finishing.


Other suggested lodging: The Vinoy on the Bay 

Speaking of the bay, walking along the bay and Beach Ave, taking in the harbor, marina and wildlife is one of my favorite St. Pete past times.

After strolling the harbor, you will need Gelato:

My favorite gelato shop in the whole state just happens to reside on Beach Ave. So we stopped in. 

Thank you Paciugo, thank you.

If strolling isn't enough of a "workout" for you, please swing by my home yoga studio: Yoga Moves. I dragged Christine to the 10am Saturday class, and it was totally worth setting the hotel alarm clock. If you love Iyngar style yoga, and getting in touch with the roots of all yoga poses, go take a class with Denise, you will not regret it.

If you are looking for Beach Time here are my suggestions:

For easy (paid) parking and "beach amenities" (aka showers, restroom, water fountains) and a more "family friendly" vibe the public St. Pete Beach is a great option. Gulf Blvd- across from the Dolphin Shopping Plaza

If you are looking to spend more time with young professionals than young families while soaking up the sun try hitting up Treasure Island instead. Parking can be more tricky (you likely will have to "valet park" in one of the two nightclubs that are closed during the day-obvs- and walk the few blocks to the beach access), but you can bring coolers (be subtle....the signs say "no coolers" but it's not enforced), there are public volleyball nets and most people set up cornhole, etc. Everyone is friendly and it's a good time.

But you guys know me by now. I'm really only here for the food. And my, my does St. Pete have some wonderful eating options. The following are all located downtown, walking distance from either the Ponce or Vinoy (or any of the other lodging options downtown).

The Eats and where to get them:

The Garden If you can, sit out on the patio, even in the heat of summer, the lush garden patio is cool, green and tropical perfection.

Z-Grille Oh Z, I love zee. Seriously, all cheeseballin' aside, Z-Grille might be my hands down favorite restaurant. They have a modest menu that changes frequently and hello, daily deviled eggs. Which I've raved about before.

Cafe Alma is another local favorite. They have a wicked good Sunday Brunch with a Bloody Mary bar. Oh and they also have great late night tapas and a wonderful beer selection.

Lucky Dill Deli is another favorite, for both locals and tourists alike, thanks to it's Dagwood Challenge. I wasn't down for copious layers of meat and cheese, but breakfast sounded good. And it was.

Kahwa Coffee is another great place for a quick breakfast or lunch. My panini sandwich went unphotographed, as I was fighting off seagulls for it. Bold, feather boy, but not very smart. You don't mess with this gal's sammy.

Other great food/drink establishments:

Red Mesa and The Cantina are owned by the same family and they are both fantastic. The Cantina turns into a "club" scene later at night, if you want to dance the night away. Cantina (link is my previous review) is also downtown, but Red Mesa (link is an older review I did, no pictures though, sniff) is in northern St. Pete, closer to where my condo was and I frequented this wonderful restaurant very often.

The Independent also holds a very special place in my heart. This beer and wine bar (link is another old review, with few pictures) is where I first cultivated my love for imported and craft beers, not to mention a great many conversations at the central table, super conductive for meeting people!  

And honestly that is just the tippity, tip-tip of St. Pete's cultural world. I miss my beloved 'burg quite a bit, but as of right now have no plans that would have me returning to live there, sadly. Until then, I can dream of salt breezes, yoga bliss and food heaven, all served on cobble stones and lapping bay waters.

Love to all,
~the "home is where the heart is, or maybe even where you were born" gal, Jess

PS. Yes, it is only a 2 hour drive from Gville, but food oriented gals that Christine and I are, we couldn't "road trip" with empty stomachs. That and I really shouldn't go Fresh Market hungry.


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