Monday, February 15, 2010

Gimme Seven! New Restaurants Rolling into the Urban Corridor.

Old location of Big John's Alabama BBQ.

URBAN CORRIDOR – The new year appears to have brought with it a flurry of restaurants for downtown Tampa and its nearby, Urban Corridor neighborhoods. Seven dining establishments, some with names familiar to the area, some not, have either opened or are expected to open by the end of March.

West Tampa: Green Iguana Bar & Grill, a local’s hangout on Ybor City’s Seventh Avenue, is taking over the old Stadium Bennigan’s Bar & Grille location (2520 N. Dale Mabry Hwy.). This will be the company’s seventh Bay Area location with a full bar and open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. According to its website, the new location will “open soon;” however sources indicate “by the end of March.” Updates are available on the Green Iguana Twitter site:

Downtown: The Urban Cantina is set to open in downtown Tampa (200 E. Madison Ave.) by the end of February. The owner is reported to be Christopher Rivas, who is a resident of nearby SkyPoint Condominiums, where he was once reported to be opening a Mexican restaurant called Azteca. Those plans fell through, but from visual inspection of the new location, it clearly appears to be built out, fitted with tables and dining ware, and days away from opening.

Sono Café will open February 6 inside the new Tampa Museum of Art. It will overlook the banks of the Hillsborough River and be accessible by everyone through an admission-free entrance. The café will seat 75, including waterfront tables, and offer menu items in accordance with the “Slow Food Movement.” The owners of downtown’s Mise en Place Restaurant will operate the café.

Already open is International Café, a lunchtime eatery open five days a week at 601 E. Twiggs St.

East Tampa: Big John’s Alabama BBQ is set to open at nearly the same spot (5707 N. 40th St.) as its old, demolished location (which happened because of a city road expansion project). For the many fans of the 40-year-old establishment, their wait will be over early February.

Ybor City: Gallery Rasika has opened on Seventh Avenue in the former location of L’Olivier Cabaret. It features modern Indian fusion dishes inspired from an “age old approach to dining,” according to its website. Much like tapas bars, guests are encouraged to choose a variety of appetizers and entrees and share them with their dining companions.

Heights Areas: Greg and Michelle Baker, the owners of Cooks-n-Company (the personal chef service), are planning to open a brick and mortar restaurant in Seminole Heights. Although a verbal agreement has been made for the couple to take over an existing “turn key” location, a contract has yet to be signed.

Once official, the Bakers hope to open The Refinery by the end of February, which will feature a large selection of small, “bigger than most tapas” plates made from locally grown ingredients when possible.

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