GCD Eats is St. Pete’s ultimate foodie hole-in-the-wall

GCD Eats is a hidden restaurant gem in St. Petersburg, and serves up a fried peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwich you need to try. The restaurant is located at 101 34th St South, inside the Mobil gas station.

Ever wonder what would happen if you put a peanut butter and jelly on fresh baked bread, stuffed it with banana, doused it in homemade batter, and deep fried it to perfection?

If you answered yes, I like your style. But, if you answered no, don’t worry—St. Pete’s newest hidden food gem, GCD Eats, has already thought about it for you.

Bringing “pub grub” to St. Pete

6 months ago, longtime friends, Nathaniel Carter Jr. and Howard Bright Jr., approached Michael Perry with a proposal for the ultimate new “pub grub” restaurant. With ideas of cheesy steak fries, loaded burritos, and deviled eggs with a twist, the culinary newcomers needed a seasoned gastronomic mind to help propel their innovative recipe ideas into a brick and mortar reality. Michael, who had spent decades working in the restaurant/hospitality business, seemed like the perfect fit.

Fast forward to today and Michael, who is generally only involved in the early opening process, is still on the team. In fact, you can catch him on the daily whipping up tasty menu favorites (like creamy clam chowder and crispy dill pickle chips) right alongside the others.

His reason for staying? “These guys are just so much fun.”

Searching for the next great hole-in-the-wall

Ok, so now that I’ve introduced the players, let’s jump back in time again.

Early last week, I was doing one of those “I really don’t want to do normal human functions right now” internet scrolls when my perpetual hunger landed me in a deep-web abyss of Buzzfeed food quizzes. As the millennial site bluntly told me my spirit animal was a meatloaf, I couldn’t help but notice my stomach begin to rumble with a low growl. Determined to shake my discomfort, I switched tabs, opting instead for Facebook. What I found, however, only magnified the problem.

At the top of my newsfeed, a foodie friend had posted a picture of that gooey, sloppy deep-fried PB&J I mentioned earlier. The caption read, “GCD Eats,” which a quick Google search revealed to be a new hole-in-the-wall spot on 34th street. With a sheer passion for discovering the unsung heroes of the food industry—and a level of hunger that was quickly reaching ravenous—I set out to explore the humble, no-frills joint.

Upon arrival, I realized that GCD wasn’t exactly the hole-in-the-wall spot I was expecting—it was more like a hole-in-the-hole-in-the-hole-in-the-wall that was completely off the beaten path. Nestled in the corner of a Mobil gas station, the cheat day grub counter had taped-on paper menus hanging from its ever-so-slightly fogged service windows. In the front of the store, a small, 90’s-reminiscent seating area of colored wooden booths was separated from the rows of unassociated convenience products by a metal railing. A local trucker sipped a Mountain Dew, while quiet rap music emanated from a distant TV monitor. To a girl who grew up on Anthony Bourdain specials, the unassuming space was pretty much a page out of a nostalgic fairytale.

Blackened shrimp deviled eggs and deep-fried sandwiches

Within a few minutes, I was nose deep into an order of blackened shrimp and serrano pepper-stuffed, deep-fried deviled eggs. Following those, I was presented with that long anticipated PB&J.

From the second the glorious sandwich hit my tastebuds, it was clear that I had my hands on a culinary masterpiece. Hot, crispy, and dripping with indulgent sweetness, this was a human-to-sandwich match made in gastronomic heaven, and I totally devoured it.

As I worked my way through battered coatings and flavorful sauces, I could hear Howard and Nathan’s playful banter drifting in and out from behind the distant counter. Though the food on my plate was mouthwatering, it was this light hearted atmosphere of joy that had me longing to return. By the time I headed out for the evening, I vowed that I would.

Hearty, soulful, scratch-made food

Yesterday, I was finally able to make my second visit. Fortunately for me, co-owner, Michael, was present, and treated me to loads of delicious treats. From thick cheddar grits, to hand-cut fries dipped in house-made “Carolina” sauce, everything I ate was hearty, soulful, and exceptionally tasty.

The “Chicken Sammich,” which features juicy fried chicken breast, avocado, ghost pepperjack cheese, and multiple hand-mixed sauces (like Chipotle ranch and “Witch Doctor” barbecue) on a toasted, baked daily brioche was a particular standout, but the entire menu is pretty darn good. If you’re a first time diner, I’d recommend ordering the “Elvis Monte Cristo” (the deep fried PBJ) and either the “Chicken Sammich” or the “Tavern Burger,” and just eating half of both.

“We just want to feed people”

Sitting across from Michael as I chowed down on multiple plates, I finally got to ask the questions that had been on my mind since my first GCD visit. Why, I wondered, did the team choose to set up shop in a gas station? And where did that amazing, harmonious sense of rapport come from?

“We wanted to create high quality food that was also affordable and accessible,” Michael answered regarding the former question. “We didn’t want any fancy stuff. We just wanted to feed people and this location was laying vacant. It was perfect, so we locked it down.”

And as for the camaraderie, “Nathan and Howard love each other like brothers, and they love this community,” Michael continued. “Every day they come into work, I can see the heart and excitement in their eyes.”

Back near the stoves, the pair of lifelong friends laughed over a steaming pot of raspberry reduction. If this truly had  been an Anthony Bourdain special, I’d bet the charming set of goofballs and the passion that characterized them would be the centerpiece of the episode.

Because, at the end of the day, the perfect hole-in-the-walls aren’t just defined by their food—they’re defined by their people.

GCD Eats is located at 101 34th St South, inside the Mobil gas station. To view a complete menu of offerings, diners can visit the restaurant’s official website; www.gcdeatssaintpete.com/. For takeout or delivery service, the team is reachable at (727) 321-1025.

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.