Where Do Locals Eat in Downtown St. Petersburg

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Last updated Jul 17, 2023

Saint Petersburg has come a long way from the sleepy little town it once was to the bustling metropolitan city with trendy restaurants, microbreweries, and cocktail joints. Located on Florida’s gulf coast, it is a peninsula surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. The award-winning beaches may have been the first thing that brought the visitors to St. Petersburg – Sunshine City – but what kept them coming back is its weather, world-renowned art museums, yearlong festivals, and top-rated restaurants.

Where Do Locals Eat in Downtown St. Petersburg
Downtown St. Petersburg | Where Do Locals Eat in Downtown St. Petersburg

2020 has tested the ability and longevity of a lot of the local restaurants and some of them did not come back from that, but the ones that did are worth the recognition. This is the list of the best restaurants in downtown St. Pete that we frequent and enjoy on a regular basis.



Engine No. 9

If you are looking for a delicious burger Engine No 9 is a place to go. There are tons of fantastic burger options here. Our favorite has been The Black N’ Blue Burger with bacon, blue cheese, and hot sauce – finger-licking delicious.

Fried pickles, spicy chicken wings, and Blue Fin Tuan Sashimi are some of our other favorites here. The beer list is plentiful, everything from local microbreweries to prominent national and international names.

Engine No 9 is also great for hanging out and watching sports, especially hockey games.

FULL BAR: No, beer and wine only.

ENGINE NO. 9
56 Dr. M.L.K. Jr St. N
St, Petersburg, FL 33705

Bodega

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Bodega | Where Do Locals Eat in Downtown St. Petersburg

Tampa Bay area is known for the Cuban population that has settled in this region over the years, most of them in Ybor City in Tampa. With that, there are many Cuban restaurants and Cuban sandwich options. But no Cuban sandwich comes even close to Cuban from Bodega to me. This is a local favorite.

It used to be a hole-in-the-wall shack, but it has now expanded to the location with a juice bar and indoor seating. And most importantly, the quality of food has not changed.

They also serve other sandwiches and plates, but we can never pass up on the Cuban.

FULL BAR: No, beer only.

BODEGA
1180 Central Ave
St. Petersburg, FL 33705



Lolita’s Wine Market

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Lolita’s | Where Do Locals Eat in Downtown St. Petersburg

UPDATE: Currently Lolita’s Wine Market is temporarily closed while they move to the new location – 420 22nd Street S. Expected to open by end of July, 2023.

Ah, Lolita’s! The gem hidden a block away from Central Ave became a sensation by word of mouth. Before we knew anything about food at Lolita’s, we were intrigued by their Wine Selection. Unlike many other restaurants in the area, they had a much more extensive variety of wines from around the world.

It is set up, so you can sip on a glass of wine in the lounge or outside while waiting for your seat. Before COVID, the wait used to be a minimum of an hour and they don’t take reservations for parties smaller than six ppl. However, the wait hasn’t been as bad since they have expanded and the business probably slowed down a little bit.

Their specialty is charcuterie boards with meat, cheese, condiments, spreads, and delicious bread. They usually have a couple of daily specials that are always fresh and delicious on the daily special board. The beet salad with goat cheese and almonds is another one of our favorites. But you will not go wrong with anything on the menu.

FULL BAR: No, beer and wine only.

LOLITA’S WINE MARKET
16 18th Street S
St. Petersburg, FL 33712

Nitally’s

Nit and Ally are a husband and wife, one from Mexico and one from Thailand, who started this delicious fusion restaurant. Patron warning here, Nitally’s is like potato chips, you can’t just go there once.

Their original location was on Central Avenue, but since they have moved to MLK across from iconic Hook’s. They also have a more efficient setup now, with order-at-the-counter service. Food is a delicious fusion of Mexican and Thai dishes. The spiciness varies significantly depending on who is cooking, but it is equally delicious.

The crab tacos, made with chorizo, black beans, and egg, are to die for. We have even tried to make them ourselves, and we come pretty close.

FULL BAR: Yes.

NITALLY’S
1163 9th Street N
St. Petersburg, FL 33701



The Left Bank Bistro

The Left Bank is a lovely French bistro and one of our favorite sit-down restaurants outside of downtown proper. Their burger, potato-crusted snapper and bouillabaisse are some of our favorites. They also serve delicious brunch on weekends.

The seating is available inside or outside. Craft cocktails, wine and coffee are served to accompany the delicious meal.

FULL BAR: Yes.

THE LEFT BANK BISTRO
1225 Dr. M.L.K. Jr St N
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

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The Left Bank | Where Do Locals Eat in Downtown St. Petersburg

Casita Taqueria

Casita Taqueria has multiple locations. The one we frequent is on Central & 26th. Tacos may be the perfect food ever invented, and they are heavenly at Casita Taqueria. Tortillas are made in-house and meats are braised for a long time. Barbacoa and Chicken Tinga are some of our favorites.

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Casita Taqueria | Where Do Locals Eat in Downtown St. Petersburg

FULL BAR: No, beer and wine only.

CASITA TAQUERIA
2663 Central Ave
St. Petersburg, FL 33713



Wild Child

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Wild Child | Where Do Locals Eat in Downtown St. Petersburg

Wild Child has tiny indoor seating with a bit of a larger courtyard and bar area outside. It can get “wild” here. This is an excellent spot for a group of friends to hang out before a night on the town. Cocktails are great! And so is the food.

Whipped ricotta with delicious bread and ceviche are great starters. But hands down, the best thing on the menu is the Korean Fried Chicken sandwich. I wasn’t sure what to expect the first time I ordered it, but I haven’t ordered anything different since.

FULL BAR: Yes.

WILD CHILD
2710 Central Ave
St. Petersburg, FL 33712

Baba Restaurant, Bakery & Cafe

Tucked away across from Wild Child, Baba is a Greek-Lebanese restaurant opened by Bodega owners. This restored mechanic shop has indoor and outdoor dining with an herb garden, café, and bakery.

Spreads and bread are delicious, and you can never go wrong with souvlaki and village salad. Lebanese and Greek wines made the wine list and some delicious cocktails.

FULL BAR: Yes.

BABA RESTAURANT
2701 Central Ave
St. Petersburg, FL 33713



Brick and Mortar

Rustic/chich New American fare with a rotating seasonal menu. It is not unusual to look at the menu and wonder if some of the ingredients listed there even go together, but believe us, they do. We have never had a bad meal here. Another appealing thing about this restaurant to us, the wine lovers, is that Brick and Morter often have wines you can’t find anywhere else, from Croatia, Slovenia, Portugal, and not as well know styles from Italy and France.

Brick and Mortar | Where Do Locals Eat in Downtown St. Petersburg

FULL BAR: No, beer and wine only.

BRICK AND MORTAR
539 Central Ave
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Tropez

When you first walk into Tropez, it has a club vibe and it’s no surprise for locals that have hung out at Tryst on Beach Drive. One of the original owners of Tryst is part-owner of Tropez. The other runs La V right next door. And as you can imagine, the menu is one big fusion of flavors, Italian, French, Spanish, Asian, New Orleans…you name it they got it.

It is a place where you come to hang out with friends and share food and cocktails. Portions are usually small and meant for sharing. This is one of the few places where we can generally find South American wine on the menu.

FULL BAR: Yes.

TROPEZ
437 Central Ave
St. Petersburg, FL 33701



La V

Right next to Tropez is La V – a Vietnamese fusion restaurant with fresh ingredients and delicious Pho, spring rolls, bowls, and endless fusion dishes.

They are known for smoothies and boba tea, not cocktails and wine when it comes to drinks.

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La V | Where Do Locals Eat in Downtown St. Petersburg

FULL BAR: Yes.

LA V – Vietnamese Fusion
441 Central Ave
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Red Mesa

There are three Red Mesa restaurants. It started with the family sit-down Red Mesa on 4th Street restaurant. Then it expanded to Red Mesa Cantina downtown with the most delicious, handcrafted margaritas and a rooftop bar/club. The final creation is Red Mesa Mercado, a walk-up counter service of delicious Mexican creations.

They are all different but consistently delicious. At Red Mesa Cantina, we are used to indulging in Taco Salad with blackened tuna, tacos and handcrafted margaritas.

FULL BAR: Yes at Red Mesa Cantina, only beer at Red Mesa Mercado, and beer and wine at Red Mesa on 4th.

RED MESA RESTAURANTS
Multiple Locations
St. Petersburg, FL



The Library

Tucked away from the main strip, next to John Hopkins Children’s Hospital, The Library was opened in collaboration with Oxford Exchange in Tampa.

Even though it is open for lunch and dinner, the best time to explore the menu is a weekend brunch. You will find everything from toast and bagels to fancy French toast and Pancakes. The craft cocktails will leave you wanting more.

FULL BAR: Yes.

THE LIBRARY
600 5th St S
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Mazzaro’s Italian Market

The Italian lovers’ dream market. When you walk into Mazzaro’s, even if just for a second, you will feel like you are in Italy. It has been around for what feels like forever. It doesn’t matter what time of the day or day of the week you go, it will be bustling with patrons.

You will find everything here, from raw ingredients imported from Italy to fully cooked Italian meals, hot sandwiches, and soups. The coffee bar is always packed, next to a bakery full of fresh in-house-made loaves of bread and desserts. There is an entirely separate room for cheese and wine lovers from all over the world.

It can be overwhelming for first-timers, but it is worth visiting.

FULL BAR: No, you can drink beer and wine from the store if dining at Mazzaro’s.

MAZZARO’S ITALIAN MARKET
2909 22nd Ave N
St. Petersurg, FL 33713

Cappy’s Pizza

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Cappy’s Pizza | Where Do Locals Eat in Downtown St. Petersburg

Cappy’s Pizza is a local chain pizzeria (with 5 locations in the Tampa Bay area) serving Chicago & New York-style pizzas, salads, and calzones. In our opinion, this is the place where you will find the best Chicago-style pizza in the Tampa Bay area, certainly in St. Petersburg.

You can pick a pizza from the menu or create your own and they usually have a great selection of local beers to go with their mouthwatering creations.

FULL BAR: No, beer and wine only.

CAPPY’S PIZZA
2900 1st Ave N
St. Petersburg, FL 33713



Mangosteen

Mangosteen is one of the newest additions to the dining scene in St. Petersburg. It is a trendy, hip Asian-inspired restaurant. The menu features dumplings, tacos, tapas, sushi, stir-fry and creative craft cocktails.

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Mangosteen Sushi | Where Do Locals Eat in Downtown St. Petersburg

Everything we’ve tried here is delicious, flavorful and fresh. Highly recommend visiting this place and just recently, the same owners opened Green Pagoda, another Asian-inspired restaurant on the north side of the town. In the area hungry for good dining options. It is as equally good.

FULL BAR: Yes.

MANGOSTEEN
656 Central Ave
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

You may have noticed that St. Petersburg has no shortage of good restaurants. As this area is growing exponentially, so is the dining scene, but some of the restaurants mentioned here have been around long before St. Petersburg was an incredible hip town to move to. They’ve stayed consistently excellent and unique in what they do.

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