Normally, I don’t put together “where to eat” posts after just a few short days in a new destination. Who am I to think I know the best local eats after such a brief trip? But dang, guys — St. Pete was so delicious, I just can’t resist.
St. Pete has a true passion for all things local — and that extends to their bar and restaurant scene. While I was staying at a cute beach hotel, I ate most of my meals downtown, less than twenty minutes away. They were well worth the drive!
Here were my favorite finds of the trip.
Best Healthy Choice: Karma Juice Bar and Eatery
If left to my own devices, I may have eaten every single meal (aside from dessert, of course) at Karma Juice Bar and Eatery. With a menu made up of cold pressed juices, green smoothies, kombucha, açaí bowls, and beautiful salads, it was hard to pick just one item. I popped in for breakfast one morning before yoga and debated between the pitaya and açaí bowls before finally landing on the latter.
If only I’d had time to try both!
Best Latin Street Eats: Bodega
I almost didn’t get the chance to try Bodega — which would have been the crime of the trip. Tiny Bodega is so popular it often has a line snaking around the corner. Normally, I wouldn’t let that dissuade me from coconut marinated grilled chicken, but the rain meant outdoor tables were a bust and the limited indoor seating was a too-hot commodity.
Finally, after two unsuccessful lunch attempts, my Aunt Linda and I drove in for dinner — and finally understood what those lines were about. Normally I just pick at rice and beans, but even those were so flavorful I finished them off. I seriously would go back to St. Pete just to eat at Bodega.
If you drop by in the daytime, don’t miss next door Bodega Juice, which serves delicious sounding juice and batida concoctions.
Best Guilt-Free Pizza: The Lure
While The Lure specializes in sushi and seafood tapas, they also have a pretty impressive flatbread menu. The best part about it? Each one was specially designed by a local chef, and a dollar from each sale goes to a charity of their choice in their name, as listed on the menu. From the Tampa Bay Estuary Program to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, charities benefit from you putting pizza in your mouth!
They also sell pitchers of champagne sangria soooo… I feel like we really can’t lose here.
Best Sweet Treats To Go: The Hyppo
Technically, The Hyppo was born in St. Augustine. But this Florida-favorite business has expanded across the state, bringing its fresh pops sourced from local, in-season fruits with it. My aunts and I popped in here for a quick cool down after our mural tour, and we seriously struggled to land on just one flavor each — I went for hazelnut and was not disappointed. I can’t wait to try more.
First runner up? Twistee Treat, a nostalgic dessert destination literally shaped like an ice cream cone! Normally I’m not a soft-serve girl, but with flavors like root beer, how could I resist? If you’re treating for the whole group, snag the 15% off coupon on their website.
how cute are these two?
Best Easy Lunch: Red Mesa Mercado
The casually trendy counter service restaurant Red Mesa Mercado serves up three meals a day to hungry guac-addicts who can chose between indoor and outdoor seating. Affordable prices meant I scored a pork tamale, a beef empanada, beans and rice for less than $8, and quick service and ample seating meant we didn’t waste a minute waiting.
Best Coffee or Cocktail Date Spot: Intermezzo
That age old conundrum — do you meet for coffee or cocktails? At Intermezzo, you don’t have to choose. The minimalist coffee shop recently expanded their menu to offer craft cocktails, served up by a full-bearded bartender with the hipster look down.
There’s no small bites on the menu or pastries on the counter, but there is occasionally an Empire Oyster’s Shuck Truck slinging seafood outside.
Best Fine Dining with a Local Twist: FarmTable Kitchen at Locale Market
Frankly, I wasn’t too fussed with doing any fine dining in St. Pete. But when I read about FarmTable Kitchen and Locale Market, I knew I had to make an exception. Locale Market is like a hyper well, local Whole Foods, with shelves overflowing with produce and dry goods curated by the onsite chef, plus specialty grab-and-go counters for lunch. Don’t know where to start? The complimentary Shop With A Chef program allows overwhelmed shoppers to meal plan and ingredient search with an expert. I love that!
After a drool inducing spin through Locale, my Aunt Karen and I met upstairs at FarmTable Kitchen for one of the most memorable meals of the trip. Creative cocktails, stellar service, and fresh, fun versions of classic American favorites — burgers, mac n’ cheese, garden salads — were perfection. I already can’t wait to come back for dinner someday.
Check the events calendar for happenings like live music every Sunday, and $5 Movie Tuesdays, where you get $5 off your check with a movie ticket.
Best Coffee and Coworking: Bandit Coffee Co.
I dropped by Bandit Coffee Co. one day in desperate need of a green tea caffeine jolt — and was surprised to find what appeared to be a full-blown co-working space. Join the sea of laptops here for a sense of community while plugging away on that work grind — with plenty of fuel to keep you on point for hours.
Best Drink with A View: Level 11
On this trip I primarily ate and drank in downtown as opposed to the beach. But a rooftop bar overlooking the ocean is worth an exception! Level 11, located in the Grand Plaza Florida, is one level below the hotel’s revolving restaurant — but thanks to the open-air seating, feels even higher. My key lime martini made me feel like I was having a dessert before dinner, and dang did I ever toast to my one blue sky of the trip, which miraculously appeared just in time for sunset after a long day of rain.
I’m not exaggerating when I say there was more I wanted to eat in St. Pete than there were meals in my trip. I left with quite a few spots on my list untapped — chiefly Hawkers Asian Street Fare, Red Mesa Cantina (not to be confused with Red Mesa Mercado!), and Key West-inspired The Getaway.
And I’m sure I missed a dozen more! Here’s hoping you all flood my comments with suggestions so I’m more than prepared for next time.
St. Pete fans, did I miss any favorites?
One thing I’ve been hearing from you guys is that you want to hear more about my current travels right after they happen. Well, ask and ye shall receive! I’m jumping in to start sharing some posts from Florida and Tennessee, a trip so fresh I just unpacked from it.
This post is brought to your by VISIT FLORIDA. I maintain full editorial control and as always all thoughts, opinions, and declarations of love are my own.