For the most part, 2018 was a banner year for Burg businesses and cultural institutions. Some of our favorite new foodie spots made their local debut (looking at you, Pacific Counter) and a new museum absolutely captured our imagination.
With all that praise in mind, we thought we’d provide a quick list of our favorite new spots in the Sunshine City. They were the coolest things about 2018, and you definitely need to visit them in 2019. This list reflects our own personal feelings and is in no way meant to be a definitive list.
We invite your candor! What was your favorite debut of the year? Let us know in the comments so we can give it some love.
This poke bowl and sushirito spot opened in the fall of 2018 at 660 Central Avenue — and it’s a sushi lover’s dream.
Pacific Counter features 10 ready-to-order poke bowls and sushirritos designed to please your palate and your appetite when you’re on the go. Do not sleep on the sweet potato noodles, they’re a revelation.
You can also indulge some unique desserts like Sake Slush, Dole Whip and a Frostee Kirin.
The bright pink facade of Pacific Counter is the tip of the aesthetic iceberg. Inside, diners will find art that pays homage to Florida, Japan, Hawaii and California. All of the pieces are by acclaimed artist David Williams.
Not a single item on the menu costs more than $12, which means relatively cheap eats with super rich flavor.
When is Pacific Counter open? Hours of operation are 11am-10pm daily, with late night hours extended to midnight on Friday and Saturday.
Damn good. That’s the best way we know how to describe the menu items at Dr. BBQ. The soulful concept from the legendary Ray Lampe is fiery, kitschy, bombastic and brimming with southern flavor.
We kicked off our first visit to the EDGE District’s new hotspot with spit-roasted pineapple and the addicting tower of pork rind nachos submerged in slow smoked certified Angus beef brisket, aged cheddar queso and arguably the best pico de gallo we have ever had.
Then came the delectable Go-Chu-Jang sticky ribs. The Kimchi fries that come with it are kindling for a flavorful fire. The menu is as sprawling as the two-floor restaurant space.
It’s a meal your tastebuds won’t soon forget. And as for the decor, well, it’s indelible to say the least.
Dr. BBQ’s is located at 1101 1st Avenue South.
The James Museum
We’re giving are stomachs a rest and digesting something a bit more abstract. The James Museum is a marvel downtown.
There’s 30,000-square-feet dedicated to Tom James’ massive collection of Western and Wildlife art. Visitors will see brilliant bronze sculptures and transfixing paintings hearkening back to the frontiersman days all in an expansive, alluring venue.
“Its more than 500 works of art evoke the spirit of a wide-open frontier and the beauty of life in the wild,” according to James Museum staff.
This museum is anything but dormant. It consistently activates the community, young and old, through live entertainment, guest speakers and hands-on art lessons.
Honestly, this concept could ride the coattails of its flawless aesthetic, but it doesn’t. Tom and Mary James have created a wonderful artistic legacy, and are passing down thousands of years of art to an eager and engaged Burg community.
The James Museum is located at 150 Central Avenue.
Paint Nail Bar St. Pete
Paint Nail Bar St. Pete is a new sponsor of the blog, and one we were eager to partner with. The local business is an absolute oasis featuring 5-free products, and some polishes that even meet vegan standards.
5-free means the polishes don’t contain formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, camphor, or DHP. So if you have skin sensitivities or allergies, these products are completely safe to use.
The zen-like atmosphere is irresistible. Also, with a slew of holiday parties coming up, and ample photo ops arising, we could use with some nail therapy. It’s not your cookie cutter nail salon. It’s an experience.
Also, for those apprehensive to visit a nail salon because of the overwhelming smell, you won’t have that problem at Paint. The nail bar’s products and services are totally fume free so you can breathe deep while you luxuriate.
Their wide swath of services range from $10 for a 15-minute soak off, to $86 for a two hour gel mani and gel pedi.
One service that seems tailor-made for the St. Pete professional is The Lucky Split. It takes less than an hour and includes polish removal, cuticle treatment, nail maintenance, and the client’s choice of polish or a high-shine buff.
Cheers to more beer in the Burg. Don’t worry, Avid Brewing isn’t your basic spot for IPA’s and giant Jenga, it’s a home brewer and gardener’s warehouse.
That’s right, in addition to have something the most flavorful craft beers on tap in this city, Avid also has mini shops that supply you with the tools necessary to brew your own beer at home. They also have a garden section for those looking to add a breath of fresh air to their apartment or home.
The space is filled with the party games you’ve come to expect from most breweries and is also an extraordinarily active events venue. The brewery’s BYO Vinyl Nights with Hello Darlin’ Records remain one of our favorite staple events in the Sunshine City.
The owners have some major renovation plans for the space itself. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Avid Brewing, and the entire Tampa Bay beer scene as a whole.
Avid Brewing is located at 1745 1st Avenue South.
Beans & Barlour
Stop. You had us at boozy desserts. Beans & Barlour is the closest we’ll ever come to entering Candy Land, and owner Story Stuart is the proverbial Queen Frostine.
At this super sweet new drinks and dessert concept you can literally eat the dishes. Seriously, sink your teeth into a chocolate mug, you won’t regret it.
Beans & Barlour’s menu is unlike any we’ve sipped on before. Don’t worry, you don’t have to booze it up to have a good time here. The orange clove vanilla latte is a caffeinated gift. The campfire is basically just Christmas morning in a cup — it’s made with milk chocolate, torched marshmallow, vanilla and hickory smoke.
Need more reason for a pit stop: Try the creme brûlée latte, no explanation required.
Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty, we’re talking about the spirited scoops. The 100% scratch made tiramisu ice cream is a mix of Amaretto & marscapone ice cream layered with warm espresso-soaked lady fingers.
The St. Pete Irish Car Bomb is a mix of whiskey and Irish cream ice cream, with St. Pete Brewing Co.’s Chocolate Porter poured over.
Want to get transported back to summer ASAP? Get yourself a scoop of the Pina Colada Pineapple Dole Whip Float. This flavor feature silver and coconut rum, cream of coconut, pineapple juice and pineapple Dole Whip soft serve.
We could go on and on about this boozy ice cream bastion, but it’s best you get a first hand experience.
Beans and Barlour is located at 538 1st Avenue North.
The Cross-Bay Ferry
OK, technically this doesn’t count as an “opening,” but we’re still pretty darn excited about it. The Cross-Bay Ferry is a concept brimming with potential. In its sophomore run with St. Pete and Tampa, it’s taken lessons from the pilot program and given residents what they want.
What did they want exactly? Weekend hours, later hours and more frequent trips. These have all been addressed for the most part. While it isn’t exactly a portal for daily commuters, it’s a super fun ride for a weekend outing to Tampa.
Plus, there’s a small selection of booze on the vessel, and you can bring your bike. It’s a win-win in our opinion.
You can see the full ferry schedule, and browse tickets on their website.