What. A. Week. Tampa Bay Yelpers, you are one crowd who knows good food, good service, and good entertainment. Yelp’s PASSPORT To Downtown St. Pete has been a whirlwind adventure! We ate, drank, and were merry through eight events in eight days, including our first-ever Secret Cash Mob, live entertainment, plaid, pampering, blowtorches, and much, much more.
The inaugural evening for Yelp’s PASSPORT To Downtown St. Pete at Bella Brava on November 4th set the bar high with homemade cheeses, micro-brewed beer, handcrafted specialty drinks, wine, and a full three-course Italian meal. A cucumber-cilantro martini made with your choice of vodka or gin and a vanilla panna cotta dessert with balsamic-glazed strawberries were crowd favorites.
Marinda H exclaims, “When the home-made ricotta with honey and sea salt served on grilled Ciabatta bread with drizzled garlic oil showed up, I could not control myself. The creamy-salty-sweet-crunchy combo was brilliant. The smoked pork belly rigatoni was also amazing – loved when I could get the perfect bite including crispy pork crumbles, thick slice of Romano, smoked pork, and noodle: perfection! And the dessert, a creamy vanilla deliciousness combined with sweet/sour balsamic strawberries, was another perfect combo! Every server was wonderful and personable and the manager that spoke to us is a class act! Bella Brava – thank you!”
During our second trip to the ‘Burg, Yelpers headed to MacDinton’s on Tuesday, November 5, where we enjoyed fresh sushi, succulent sliders, and the active atmosphere that the bar is known for. Bethany M notes, “A super chill event, just as promised! The music was awesome. The food was also fantastic! I especially loved the Donegal Baked Goat Cheese and the sushi – an unexpected yet delicious find in an Irish establishment. The Irish Egg Roll was sinfully delicious! Drinks, food and music were a perfect combination for an evening with friends. This was not my first, nor my last, night out at MacDinton's!“
Next, Yelpers were transported to a wintertime wonderland at Florida Craftsman Gallery on Wednesday, November 6. After exploring the large, cozy store, Yelpers were invited to head upstairs for a tour of the 18 studio spaces where local artists work. From sculptors, to painters, to photographers, to mixed materials, the amount of creativity in one space was inspiring to all who attended.
Cece C raves, “real art, real artists: the full experience. This event featured an open bar with beer, wine, and soda, and some delectable food from Eat This! The dessert, yum! The best part of this event was the glimpse into the artists' studios. I got to check out most of them and speak to some of the people, all of whom were very gracious and friendly… not to mention talented! We stumbled into the studio of photographer Brian James, who is quite well-known (and deservingly so!) Thank you to the Gallery staff and members as well as Yelp for a great event. 5-stars for something different, educational, and inspiring!”
Passports ready! Before we knew it, it was time to travel to the rooftop bar at The Birchwood, The Canopy, for our next soiree in downtown St. Pete on Thursday, the 7th. This event was all about the view and the drinks. Over 75 Yelpers enjoyed exotic drinks like the Dragonberry mojito and the Pumpkin Cheesecake martini… with a graham cracker rim. Yum! Beer and wine was also flowing as servers passed trays of lobster BLTs, crab fritters, open-faced empanadas, and fried spring rolls. We dressed to impress in “50 Shades of Plaid.” From the fifth floor balcony, downtown St. Pete looked lovely.
Hillary V tells us, “the view is just breathtaking. There's quite the variety of sitting/standing choices up there. It seems like a good happy hour stop. The food… my favorites were the lobster BLT, the crab fritter, and beef empanadas. I enjoyed two complimentary drinks – two glasses of red wine. I also had a sip of the pumpkin cheesecake martini – delicious. Loved all of it. While enjoying a beautiful view and glorious weather, I'd say the odds were ever in my favor.”
The night of Friday, November 8th, brought Yelp’s PASSPORT to Downtown St. Pete to a different kind of destination: Painting With Fire Studio. At this family-owned and operated small business on Central Ave, art is a passion. Between learning to create wire-wrapped necklaces with sea glass from the Chesapeake Bay, and getting a first-hand tutorial on torch-firing enamel, Yelpers were treated like VIPs. Along with hands-on activities, the food aimed to impress. Created with ingredients from local St. Petersburg shops, everything from Doc Jim’s crab dip to Mazzaro's bread to chilled asparagus with Kalamazoo Olive's olive oil wowed Yelpers.
Dianna B reveals, “The studio is a great little crafty venue where you can learn to enamel beads with a technique that's both unique and easy to learn. The family that runs the establishment is warm and caring; they're all really involved with the studio and you can tell they're all passionate about what they do. It was truly the events of the evening that made this an excellent time. First, we were treated to a demonstration that was instructional and fascinating to watch. The flame was mesmerizing. It was very much like a meditation. From there, I wandered into the sea glass metal wrapping class. We were able to make our own necklaces! Every bit of material was provided, along with instruction. Each one of us was able to make one (or more) masterpiece! My favorite among the food offerings were the Caprese salad and the steamed asparagus. The spread was excellent: both gourmet and delicious. Amazing hospitality!”
Can you keep a secret? Yelpers kept ours until Saturday, November 9th, when our Secret Cash Mob struck at Sweet Diva’s Chocolates! We met in North Straub Park, cash in hand, and swept employees off their feet when we walked in, ready to spend. Soothing teas, luxury chocolates, sweet syrups, gelato, coffee, and fresh-baked goods are all available at this little local shop. Yelpers raved about the cupcakes and gifts they were able to find during our outing.
Caroline C shares, “So fun! The look on Janice's face when she realized that the store had been invaded by 30+ Yelpers was priceless. I loved the shop! So many wonderful gift items including candy (of course), snacks, jams, teas, home decor, and accessories… total eye candy. The homemade ice cream looked amazing, also. I was able to get a teacher gift, a best friend gift, two hostess gifts, as well as a little gift for myself. My kids were thrilled that I bought them home a piece of chocolate dipped bacon! All of the Yelpers that came out to give back to an unsuspecting local St. Pete business were top notch. There were smiles all around. I will recommend Sweet Divas as a must-see downtown St. Pete shop! Thanks Yelp!”
At Yelp’s Black And White Ball, on Sunday, November 10, The Vinoy provided an elegant backdrop to Yelpers in black, white, and exactly one wedding dress and one sailor suit. “We listened to live music, mingled, and munched on the many selections of sliders, hummus, and food offered,” Michelle M reminisces. “It's hard to not be impressed with the gorgeous Vinoy Renaissance in St. Pete: the perfect spot for Yelp's Black and White Ball! We were facing the marina. We were immediately greeted at the entrance with Russian Standard Vodka House Infused cocktails, mixed with club soda and ice so that the vodka was the central focus of the drink. The hummus and tzatziki paired well with the crudités platter. We were also served a variety of sliders (lamb, chicken, kobe beef, and salmon)."
After a full week of daily activities, Yelpers were ready to take a load off at our final PASSPORT To Downtown St. Pete event on Monday, November 11. Pia Esthetics welcomed us with open arms – and chair massages. Yelpers were also welcome to enjoy complimentary services such as eyebrow waxing, brow and lash tinting, and polish changes. Along with services, we were invited to snack on sandwiches and macaroons from La Sandwicherie and tasty chicken, pork, or beef empanadas from Latin Lunchbox.
Bob B explains, “The folks at Pia's were extremely gracious and really nice. I opted for the eyebrow wax and the girl who did my brows was really nice and fun to talk to. Both Betty and Kathy got their toes done, color change, and both of them had time at the end to get their brows waxed as well, which was a nice bonus for people who stuck around to 'endure' drinking the beer, sangria, and wine that was available. The ample food that was provided was great: fresh baguettes filled with various meats and cheese, French macaroons, and spicy potato chips. The assortment of empanadas was great as well; icing on the cake for the evening. Overall, I was very pleased with the service at Pia's.”
And the Oscar for best week-o’-activities goes to … Yelp Tampa Bay!
We’d like to thank the eight amazing local restaurants and businesses who contributed to the success of the week with attentive service, unique entertainment, and delicious food and drinks: Bella Brava, MacDinton’s, Florida Craftsman Gallery, The Birchwood, Painting With Fire Studio, Sweet Diva’s Chocolates, The Vinoy, and Pia Esthetics. We’d also like to thank Gerardo Luna Photographs for coming out to capture several of the events, as well as the TapSnap Phototainment crew for fabulous keepsake photo memories on Sunday afternoon. We’d like to thank our exclusive beer sponsor, MillerCoors, for providing the beverages at seven of the eight events during the week, as well as Save Me San Francisco for bringing wine out to four of the festivities. Finally, we’d like to thank all of the dedicated Tampa Bay Yelpers for making Yelp’s PASSPORT To Downtown St. Pete possible!
Check out the full gallery of photos from Yelp’s PASSPORT To Downtown St. Pete here on Flickr.
Until next time, happy Yelping!