Family-owned Pin On Café serves vibrant Asian fare to the Edge District

smith and associates

Pin On Café, the newest restaurant concept by the minds behind Downtown’s Pin & Wok Bowl, has officially soft-opened for lunch and dinner service at 1101 Central Avenue in the EDGE District of St. Petersburg. From Japanese sushi staples to Thai curry bowls, this Asian-fusion newcomer’s got a massive menu that’s ready to combat all of your oriental cravings. Today, I was invited into the vibrant space for a sneak-peek.

Upon entering, I was met by Som Rattanachane, who co-runs the restaurant with her husband, Roger. As I relaxed into my chair at a polished table for two, she sat nearby, giving me the rundown on how Pin On came to be.

“I always wanted to have my own restaurant” she recalled, “but I thought, ‘Could I really do that?’— And people always told me how hard it would be. Now they’re saying, ‘I can’t believe you have your own restaurant!’”

Japanese comfort food arrives in the EDGE District

She dropped her head with a subtle laugh, failing to hide a pink blush of pride, “So, I guess we’ll see how we do!”

I glanced around at the floral-wrapped candles on the wall, sipping liberally from an iced mason jar of mango-lychee soda. Something about the warm atmosphere and chefs bantering behind the sushi bar gave me a real feeling of home. I turned back to Som, curious about the family vibe of the spot, but she had already risen from her seat.

“We’re going to make you some sushi appetizers now!” she shared enthusiastically, heading for the kitchen.

Well—I thought—I guess those questions were going to have to wait.

A home-cooked oriental feast

“Everyone who works here is family”

Before I knew it, Som was back, accompanied by two other servers. She introduced the pair as her aunt and a close family friend.

“Everyone who works here is family,” she said, setting multiple plates on my cozy wooden table, “Either they’re related to me, or they’re my good friends.”

Ahh—so I was dining in a true “mom-and-pop” shop. That why it felt so homey.

But good vibes aside, I looked down at the plates-upon-plates the chefs placed front of me, realizing I was in for an authentic oriental feast. As I dug in, the generous team delivered dish after dish, each raising the bar from the last.

Stacks, noodles, and deep fried “pizza”

Though all the plates were tasty, there were definitely a few items that stood out as necessities for first-time visitors.

Here are a few of my top picks, and why you need them on your table:

The “Red Towel” Sushi Stack: Tuna lovers—unite! This is the dish for you. Featuring both spicy and regular tuna, this tower of raw fish is separated by vibrant layers of mango, cucumber, and sushi rice. Topped with jalapeno and kimchi sauce—then finished with an ample dousing of tempura crunch—the plate delivers a spicy-yet-sweet, soft-yet-crunchy juxtaposition that makes it as fun to eat as it is to look at.

Pad Thai- A classic comfort dish, Pad Thai is the perfect option for “picky” eaters not quite ready for the raw bar. Pin On’s take on this international staple is especially delicious, with sweet notes of ginger, scallion, and finely ground peanuts all lying beneath 6 exquisitely grilled shrimp.

Indulge in Korean Spicy Wings 

Korean Spicy Gochujang Wings- There are two sets of wings on Pin On’s extensive menu, but these are the ones you need. Deep fried in a Korean spice-infused batter, this poultry platter comes out steaming under a drizzle of bright orange chipotle mayo. The chef recommends an extra side of the mayo sauce for dunking, though I disagree. Judging from experience, you’re gonna need at least two.

Takoyaki- There are no accurate words to describe how good this dish is. If I were to shoot in the dark, maybe I’d call it heavenly? Perfection? Foodgasmic? Do yourself a favor and order these ridiculous fried squid bites, and—if you find the words to describe them—please hit me up with the answers.

Sushi “Pizza”- A once-innovative melding of two American favorites, the sushi “pizza” has quickly turned into a widespread millennial favorite. Never tried one before? Then Pin On’s is a great place to start. With a delicious blend of cold sashimi served over a golden “crust” of crispy rice, this saucy, sloppy treat is a sure to get you on the bandwagon.

Comforting dishes with heart

In a district known for its top-notch Asian cuisine, a newcomer hoping to survive in the Edge needs more than just good food. Pin On Café, with its “mom’s love” ingredient that only true passion can produce, has that special it-factor.

And, with that type of culinary heart, they’re certain to thrive.

Pin On Café is located at 1100 Central Avenue. For more information on their current hours and grand opening date, diners can call (727) 329-8510, or follow their official Instagram; @pinoncafecentral.

Kara VanDooijeweert is a current journalism student at Rutgers University. If you can't find her in the Bay's best restaurants, she's probably off exploring the wilderness. Catch her on Instagram, @karanicolev.