It makes sense that a restaurant located in a 1920s mansion would have a secret house-infused gin and tonic inspired by Prohibition-era bathtub gin. Rococo Steak’s G&T for two is only available at the bar, and you have to make friends with the bartender to get it. ‘
If you’re successful, you’ll get to watch what is essentially a science experiment as the bartender uses a Bunsen burner to meld citrus, juniper berries, white peppercorns, coriander, rosemary, and thyme together with a neutral spirit. The resulting gin-flavored liquid is allowed to cool before the bartender adds a large tonic-water ice cube containing a frozen piece of lime to two glasses. Finally, some dry ice is added to the gin, and the final mixture is poured over the ice cubes inside the glasses.
The Instagram-worthy experience is a big enough of a draw to Rococo, but you’d be remiss if you missed out on the fantastic steaks, including a whopping 40-ounce, 45-day dry-aged porterhouse.
St. Pete has something a lot of the country does not have, a kava bar. Bula Kafe is one of only about 100 or so kava bars in the entire country. What is kava, exactly? Kava is a plant made from the roots of a tropical shrub called piper methysticum, a native of the western Pacific islands. Studies have shown that kava can ease anxiety, decrease stress, relax muscles, and treat insomnia. Pacific Islanders have been using kava for centuries as a medicinal plant. Bula serves its kava in coconut shells.
Patrons enjoy kava at the all-outdoor bar, which turns up the fans during hot months and warms its barstools with space heaters and tiki torches during the winter. They can also play table tennis, darts, and board games, or simply read a book while enjoying their beverage.
Kombucha, which can also be found at Bula Kafe, is technically a tea drink. Specifically, Kombucha is a fermented mixture of green or black tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast.
During fermentation, a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, also known as SCOBY, transforms these ingredients into kombucha, a liquid that contains vinegar, B vitamins, and several other chemical compounds. Its taste can best be described as vinegary with some sweetness.
And technically speaking, this liquid is slightly alcoholic due to the fermentation, but most bottles contain less than 0.5% ABV, which allows them to be sold as nonalcoholic beverages. Certain brands do sell a hard version of kombucha, which sits at about 3% ABV, similar to a light beer or cider.
To create really great pasta, you have to start with some really great flour. And Il Ritorno uses some high-quality flour, a combo of finely milled “00 flour” and semolina. The 00 flour yields super silky noodles, and the semolina helps sauces cling to the noodles. The result is some of the best pasta in the area.
Il Ritorno is also known for its modern, creative takes on Italian cuisine. Dishes include a summertime corn risotto with squash blossoms and pork campanelle with shishito bolognese, crispy pig ear, grana padano cheese, and lime.
Mazzaro’s isn’t a restaurant so much as a food destination, complete with a patio on which to enjoy Italian deli items and baked goods. One of the best things about Mazzaro’s is that you never know what you’re going to get as the deli and bakery changes its offerings every day. Mazzaro’s sandwich menu, on the other hand, continually offers a tried-and-true selection of hot and cold sandwiches.
The parents of triplets Libby, Will, and John opened their diner on March 12, 2012, and since then, St. Petersburg residents have been flocking to Trip’s for simple, yet tasty, comfort food. People especially love the french toast, the cheesy shrimp and grits topped with an egg, and the eggs Benedict Arnold, with a biscuit, pork drizzled with barbecue sauce, a poached egg, and hollandaise. Trip’s also has locations in Tampa and Seminole.
When we heard this from Brad Garoon, the burger-loving blogger of Burger Weekly, and the author of the e-book Burger City, we slowly blinked. But he insisted. "Ketchup has no place on a burger, much like it has no place on a steak. You're doing disservice to the meat if you put something as sweet as ketchup on a burger, unless it's terribly dry."
He argued that tomatoes should be kept off a burger, too, not because he hates that particular nightshade, but because they're too slippery and cause the other toppings to fall off. He does think that lettuce and onion are totally acceptable. Phew.
Casita keeps expanding in St. Pete, much to the delight of Mexican-food fans. The simple Mexican joint is known for its housemade tortillas and salsas, authentic tacos, and tortas on locally made telera bread. And with its bright orange facade, Mexican sugar skull art, and painted palm trees, Casita Taqueria is particularly good for Instagram photos.
We asked celebrity chef Rick Bayliss how to make a great margarita. Here were some of his best tips:
Experiment with different liquors. Try cointreau, orange liqueur, and even mescal to make a smoky version of a margarita. “The differences are lovely.”