FOOD & DRINK
STATION HOUSE, ST. PETERSBURG
If not for the aroma of charred wood embers and caramelized bacon seeping from street-level vents, you might walk past the glowing lights of 260 First Avenue South without the slightest of hesitations.
And what a shame that would be for you.
Station House, the 2014 restaurant endeavor of owner Steve Gianfilippo and Chef Justin Sells, delivers the best combination of craft cocktails and bar fare you’ll find West of Tampa Bay.
Like its local competition Timpano’s and Ciro’s, this basement hideout fuzzes together cool jazz bar vibes with a progressive palate of New American cuisine. But unlike its Tampa cousins, Station House leaves no room for pretension.
Inspired by the Manhattan landmarks SoHo House and The Ace Hotel, this rathskeller adds dimension to St. Pete’s superfluous South Beach vibe, making it an evening destination rather than a stop along a bar crawl.
During my last visit, bar manager Jason Miscione prepared some exceptional signature drinks for me to try, like the reviving gin and lemon Corpse Survivor and the floral Viuex Carre. Both sip rather well and refresh the taste buds without drowning them in liquor.
He also suggested some new-to-the-menu items for my next round.
“My cocktail preferences change with the seasons,” Jason said. “But with the current temperature, presently, I prefer our Tiki cocktails. The Jet Pilot and the Mai Tai both deliver refreshment while packing a punch.
To complement our spirits, I chose some of my favorite small plates: oysters on the half shell, caramelized bacon-wrapped dates, and chilled tuna tar tare with crispy wontons.
“The Dark Lacquered Pork Cap is my favorite plate on the menu at the moment,” Jason added. “The combination of the sweet tamarind glaze on the pork with the tangy slaw makes my mouth water. I can’t get away from it.”
Aside from the dangerously indulgent spread before me, the atmosphere of this handsome space is unlike any you’ll find near Central Avenue.
With the help of brand and design consultant Richard Hughes of ClearPH, builders stripped the restaurant of its former self to expose the raw brick and original wood floors that hid below layers of remodeling. They demolished walls that closed off the space and designed secret rooms for private parties, including a twelve-person meeting and dining room hidden off the prep kitchen. They layered the space with tufted orange velvet sofas and deep aqua wainscoting to accent the building’s history, and added succulents and brown butchers paper to the many heritage wood tables for a familiar setting.
To further heighten the senses, Station House relies on in-house music guru Drew Goodwin to curate killer groove and jazz sets. Myriad speakers pulse tracks of modern masters like Mark Ronson and Sylvan Esso and classics like Stevie Wonder and The Who.
“Our focus from concept to completion at Station House has been providing a consistent and complete experience,” Jason said. “A successful restaurant has to provide exceptional food and beverage, service and atmosphere. If any of the three fail it detracts from the overall perception the guest has of the establishment.”
You said it, brother.