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Blake’s Great Cakes

No, it’s not Cathy’s Rum Cakes.  These are crab cakes. Cakes on the savory end of the “cake” spectrum. 

Made with Baltimore style jumbo lump crab meat.

Made with minimal filler.

Made with a hint of secret seasoning and Old Bay. 

Blake is from the Baltimore ‘burbs.  He started helping his dad in the kitchen when he was 5.   He worked for two well-known Baltimore seafood restaurants. He visited St Pete, fell in love with it and moved here a few months later. 

Pretty much the entire menu

What to Get

Really?

Crab cakes!

It actually says on the menu, underneath “Blake’s Cakes”, “this is what you came for”. 

Perfectly blended, so that the freshness and flavor of the crab shines through.  Just the bare minimums of seasonings and bindings to make the cake.  Perfection in a little golden ball.

The perfect complement to the crab cakes are the French Fries. These fries lightly dusted with Old Bay are on my top 5 French Fry list, which was unexpected. In a restaurant focused on crab cakes, it would be easy to “go easy” on the sides.  But it is clear that Blake has artfully crafted every single item he puts on his menu to the delight of my taste buds.  And Blake’s Yum Yum sauce (homemade Siracha mayo) was perfect on the fries. 

The Yum Yum sauce is in one of these

What To Know If You Go

They do sometimes sell out, so call if you’re coming late in the day or coming from a distance. 

They also don’t stay open very late.  Blake has a life.  As he should.

The place is very small.  You won’t be having your large birthday party here.  The size also means that it is easy to miss in the strip center if you’re not paying attention.  Put the address in your GPS and believe it when it says “you have arrived”.  You have indeed.

Where

7224 Central Ave St, St Petersburg, 727-289-2322

www.blakescrabcakes.com

Links to stories

https://www.tampabay.com/things-to-do/food/dining/restaurant-review-blakes-crab-cakes-offering-a-real-taste-of-maryland-in/2318756/

Red Mesa Restaurant

My mom and I started dining at Red Mesa for over ten years ago.  We used to go for the Sunset Menu, which is a fixed price & set selection menu available from 4-6 pm Mondays through Fridays. I still love that menu option and the pricing is very attractive.  However, the Sunset Menu is very popular so this can be a very busy time slot!  The only thing missing from it is dessert.  Which you can always add if you have room in your waistband.

One of these days I’m going to make it for weekend brunch.

Why You Should Go

Guacamole

Chorizo fundido

Black bean soup

The desserts

Chorizo Fundido Served
Chorizo Fundido ready to eat

The Guacamole(s)

One food that makes my heart go pitter-patter Is guacamole. And Red Mesa Restaurant has 4 variations of guacamole. There’s a traditional guacamole made with fresh avocado, onion jalapeno, cilantro and lime. And a guacamole made with blue crab. If you’re feeling a bit spicy, you can choose the chorizo and corn guacamole or the Chipotle chili guacamole.

Or if you’re like me and can’t decide?  Opt for the guacamole sampler where you get a choice of 3.

Chorizo Fundido

Guacamole love aside, the fundido is why you’re really here.  I fell in love with Queso Funddo at a Rick Bayless restaurant, so I’m always looking for one to match that experience.  Red Mesa’s Chorizo Fundido never disappoints and is itself a meal.  It seriously just melts in your mouth.

The Desserts

Red Mesa doesn’t overwhelm you with a million choices for dessert. There are usually only a handful and I’ve had every one of them. While they are all delicious, if you have to choose here are my recommendations, in order: the guava empanada, the chocolate spoon cake, the churros and the creme brulee cheesecake.  Of course, if they ever have flan, get it.

The Red Mesa Restaurant Family

Red Mesa Restaurant is one of 3 Red Mesa dining experiences. The others include Red Mesa Cantina and Red Mesa Mercado.  These other two include more expansive menus and both larger restaurants with more outside dining space. If you have been to either one and would like to let us know what you thought, please leave your feedback in the comments section below.

Alcohol

Noteworthy: At one time the restaurant did not have a hard liquor license so all drinks including margaritas were made with wine. That has now changed and the menu for drinks includes an assortment of tequilas and spirits such scotch, whiskey, rum, vodka and gin.

Red Mesa Restaurant is located at 4912 4th St N in St Petersburg. Phone 727-527-8728.

Website here.

Craft Kafe – Gluten-Free Goodness

Have you ever had two different people tell you that you should meet someone, and then you met that someone in a totally random situation?

That happened to me in early December, and that’s how I came to learn about Craft Kafe.  The someone (Keith) turned out to be an invaluable source of food recommendations, second only to my friend (and sometimes-guest) Rita. 

So far Keith is batting 1000. 

I can just feel the microfoam on my tongue

Still, I’m sort of surprised that I didn’t just sense somehow that Craft Kafe existed.  It is the sort of place I pine for when I’m not in New Zealand. Which is 11 months out of the year. 

Craft Kafe just has “it”.  And you can tell by the loyal patrons showing up again and again.

How to choose, how to choose

It’s an easy shot from Gulfport (just head up 58th St and hang a left on Central) or from Treasure Island (head down Gulf Blvd to Central, hang a left and head to 6653 Central Avenue.

Everything we’ve had was delicious.  Check out the our pics and their website for ideas.

Raspberry turnover
Crafty cups

Oh and super bonus for some of you? It’s gluten-free.

http://www.craftkafe.com/

Two locations: downtown and the one on Central Ave.  The Central Ave will be more convenient to Treasure Island, St Pete Beach and Gulfport guests.

Impossible to resist display case
Quiche

Chili Verde – Mexican Paradise Found Right Here in St Petersburg

This Newcomer is Getting Attention

The food at Chili Verde is awesome. Awesome as in I think about it even when I am not there. Awesome in that I think about it even when I have leftovers in my fridge.

Awesome in that I check my leftover container multiple times to make sure no one in the household is stealing bites. (Or worse, eating all of it!)

Just go knowing there’s no memorable atmosphere, no famous chef, no killer margaritas and no hour-long wait. Just authentic food you may never forget.

You can get your tacos crispy

How I Found It

Ironically, my journey to Chili Verde started at VIP Lounge in Treasure Island.  After yet another trip to VIP where the wait was an hour or more in the middle of a weekday afternoon, Terry and I took to Yelp and Google. We were starving and we wanted Mexican. Now.  Deciding that both Agave and Chili Verde sounded like solid options, we let the direction the car was already headed make the decision for us. Chili Verde it was.

We drove onward, me chattering on about how it must be new because I drive that way all the time and I couldn’t place it.   We arrived at the appointed location and turned left into…a former gas station?

You know what I’m talking about.  Once a gas station in appearance, always a gas station in appearance. And not what I was expecting.  But my stomach, 170+ reviews on Yelp and almost 700 – yes, seven hundred – reviews on Google with an average rating of 4 1/2 stars suggested we give it a shot.

My Trifecta – Enchiladas Verdes made with ground beef, steak and chicken quesadilla and those beans!

And what a shot it was.  I had the Enchiladas Verdes made with ground beef. I love enchiladas – chicken enchiladas, cheese enchiladas, spinach enchiladas, seafood enchiladas – you get the idea.  If you love enchiladas you’ve probably tried them every way imaginable.  Enchiladas to me always seem decadent.  Lots of cheese, usually.

The Enchiladas Verde

Chili Verde’s Enchiladas Verde are different.  Maybe it is the delicate corn tortillas that seem as though they were made seconds before moving on to the their enchilada destination.  Maybe it is the generous smothering of the light verde sauce. Maybe it is the delicate unmelted grated cheese on top of the mound of shredded lettuce piled on top.  After almost a dozen servings of this same dish, I’m still not sure.  But trust me, it’s good.

Accompanying the enchiladas are rice and beans.  I’m not a huge rice fan, but I usually end up eating it all.

Now for the beans.  I love beans.  Whole, refried, churro-style, black, pinto, you name it.  These are quite decadent and I have taken to ordering an extra side.  I want to know and don’t want to know how they’re prepared. I’m afraid my nutritionist might not approve…

Close-up of the enchilada goodness

The Quesadillas

Equally delicious but definitely heavier and more filling are their quesadillas.  We usually get the steak-chicken combo, and get an extra to take home nosh on.

This is the combo steak-chicken quesadilla with everything

Steak combo quesadilla – In case the first photo didn’t snag you

The Tacos

The tacos are little bits heaven.  Traditional Mexican street tacos with tortilla, meat, onions and cilantro.  If you want tomatoes, lettuce etc you can ask for it American style.

They’re sold individually, but I bet you can’t eat just one.  Order 3 and try the Barbacoa.  It is truly moist, flavorful and tender.

St Pete Foodies named Chili Verde one of the 10 Best Places to get tacos in St Petersburg Florida in 2018.  https://stpetersburgfoodies.com/restaurants/best-places-in-st-petersburg/10-best-taco-places-in-st-petersburg-fl-2018/

Barbacoa Tacos – looks pretty healthy to me!

 

Insider Tip: Yep, it used to be a gas station

Whatever you do, don’t let that deter you.  

Hmm. I wonder what this used to be?

In 2018 St Pete Foodies included Chili Verde as a notable newcomer on its list of the 10 best St Petersburg restaurants list.  Since my personal favorites Red Mesa Restaurant and VIP Lounge are on that list I knew they were on to something.  But I was already on to Chili Verde.  And so were a couple of my friends! When I was so gracious to share my Chili Verde discovery with a couple fo so-called friends, guess what? They already knew.

My dream at present is to make it there some day before 10 am, so I can try the Chilaquiles.

I don’t believe the Cydesdales are real

The Details

Chili Verde, 2801 22nd Ave N, St Petersburg, Fl 33713-4248.  They’re open late.

Yelp

Facebook page

Trip Advisor

It’s a small Mexican market too

Insider Tip: Second location coming to the Skyway Marina Village shopping center!

Stay tuned for more info