Discover Edgy St. Pete by staying in its Edge District. I came to this West Coast Florida city looking to soak up the sun on its beaches, which straddle the Gulf of Mexico. I found a funky St. Petersburg neighborhood where local businesses—including coffee shops, restaurants, book shops, and galleries—cluster.
We are an award-winning Florida Main Street and Main Street America™, collectively working to keep our district vibrant and preserve our historic character.”The Edge District
For trip research, I turned to this association. The Edge District described their neighborhood as a “historic, award-winning Main Street district.” Check out a Google map to see the district, which is located between Dr. M.L. King Jr. and 16th Streets, and 1st Avenues North and South.
From the instant I left my AirBnb condo to walk one block up to Central Avenue, I felt at home. Brand new apartments and condos featured rooftop pools, gardens, and super safe sidewalks to walk Fido.
I get the sense that this is a neighborhood where residents want to live, work, and play. If you lived here, you want to frequent the locally-owned independent businesses and get to know their owners. And clearly at night, the Edge District comes alive.
My daughter Claire and I were in search of a Central Avenue coffee shop where we could linger on a patio to sip our morning brew. The Florida sun was warming every inch of my body. Even at 9 am, the temps already topped 70 degrees. Back at my home in Washington, DC, the thermometer wasn’t budging past 25 degrees.
We stopped at the first coffee shop we saw—Intermezzo Coffee & Cocktails. The regulars were seated at small tables, lingering over chubby beige cups of brew. The artful menu featured one-of-a-kind coffee concoctions.
There is nothing that compares IMHO to the first morning of your vacation. You sip your coffee or tea. There is no rush to get to work. Your job on vacation (especially in St. Pete where its logo is “Feel the Warmth”) is simply to slow down, sip your cafe latte, and stare at the people walking past your table.
Waterfront Museum District
After our coffee started to grow cold, we decided to explore the neighborhood. Central Avenue snakes toward the Waterfront Museum District. This is the home of St. Petersburg Pier as well as numerous museums, including the Dali Museum, St. Petersburg Museum of History, Museum of Fine Arts, and Renaissance Vinoy Resort’s History Gallery, along with the Duke Energy Center for the Arts.
But the Dali Museum may be the most famous. It features the works of renowned artist Salvador Dalí, including “iconic melting clocks, imaginative visual illusions, and avant-garde symbols. Through its virtual reality exhibit, visitors can travel inside and beyond the art, what the museums calls dreams of dalí. The museum features more than 2,000 works comprising nearly 100 oil paintings; over 100 watercolors and drawings; and 1,300 prints, photographs, sculptures and objets d’art.
If you don’t have time to tour the museum, stop to see the building. It was designed by architect Yann Weymouth. The Dalí’s building combines the rational with the fantastical. There is a grotto with large boulders, plants growing sideways on the wall, and a butterfly in flight.
Surreal landscaping (Dali Museum)
The Edge District signs can be seen everywhere as we roam Central Avenue. This neighborhood stretches seven blocks from 16th Avenue. The low-rise buildings seem to hold hands like kindergartners in line at recess, waiting for the locals and visitors to fill up the tables outside the cafes and restaurant.
Using my downloaded map, I began a walking safari to discover the historical buildings. At the Publix grocery store, there is an outdoor photo gallery showing scenes from St. Pete’s past.
From a historical perspective, I am most intrigued by the Florida Social Club. Housed in an old theater, the venue programs musical acts as well as jazz on Sundays.
“Our mission is to connect the Tampa Bay community with local artists and nationally touring musicians.”Florida Social Club
It also books aerial acts, contortionists, cabaret, and burlesque. The theater is located at 687 Central Avenue. Shows are free Tuesday and Thursday.
Book + Bottle
No vacation is complete without finding a local bookstore to spend a morning and afternoon. Claire & I discovered the Book + Bottle store located off Central Avenue. This cozy hideaway is filled with shelves of books, cozy chairs, and a walkup bar.
Be sure to schedule time to just hang out and sip your cafe latte while you browse through the book collection. Or better still, head outside to soak up St. Pete’s sunshine and read your book purchase.
For this article, I wanted to sample breakfast, lunch, and dinner at three different Edge District restaurants. My one criteria was locally owned.
For dinner, I recommend the German Knoodle at 951 Central Avenue. I ordered the Jager Schnitzel with a stein of German beer. The outdoor patio allows you to people watch as well as eat. Well-behaved dogs are permitted.
The blonde owner/hostess was so friendly and helpful in describing the entrees. I will definitely return to sample the bratwurst, currywurst, and sauerkraut on my next trip to St. Pete.
For breakfast, we wanted to eat omelets. This disqualified the Maple Street Biscuit Company but I would definitely like to try it in the future. We chose City’s Bistro (695 Central Avenue), which is a family-run restaurant. The owner came out to visit with us. I love that Southern hospitality!
Their California omelet includes tomatoes, avocados, peppers, cheese, and sour cream. Plus you get a side order of stone grits and a homemade biscuit. This huge breakfast supercharged us for our 12,000-step walk.
Claire and I ate lunch at Bodego at 1180 Central Avenue. It won “Best New No-Frills Dining in the ‘Burg” from Best of the Bay. The all-day menu specializes in burritos stuffed with beans, chicken, pork, ground beef, steak, or shrimp. I highly recommend it “enchilada style.”
Go half and half so you can try both the verde (green super hot) sauce and the salsa (red medium heat) sauce. The cocktail menu features different Margaritas as well as beers. The open-air restaurant offers seating under a roof. Or there is a jungle-like patio to linger with a drink at picnic tables. Dogs are welcome.
St. Pete Brewery
Be sure to visit Webb’s City Cellar (Green Bench Brewing Company).
Run by three locals, it is St. Pete’s first microbrewery. The owners are Steven Duffy, Nathan Stonecipher, and Khris Johnson.
“What started as a hobby for them evolved into a full time, professional business of passion.”Webb’s City Cellar
Green Bench Brewery offers such one-of-a-kind brews, as Sunshine City IPA, Florida IPA: Lemon Meringue, Dark Tannin’ Oil, and Lampshade (Pre-Prohibition Style Pilsner).
The bar also serves cider, single varietal cider, and mead.
St. Pete is home to the SHINE “Street Art Festival” as well as an arts district. So it is no surprise that the sides of buildings feature oversized murals and street art. According to the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, SHINE is responsible for more than 100 murals throughout St. Pete and the surrounding arts districts since 2015.
In the Edge District, my favorite is the big cat mural that features a yellow striped feline. I couldn’t resist posing.
His green eyes seemed to follow me as I walked toward him. The gigantic white whiskers sloped over his broad diamond-studded body.
This mural adorns the wall of the animal hospital in the Edge District. It was painted by Florida artist Matt Kress.
“My mission is to make you look twice.”Matt Kress
According to the St. Petersburg Art Alliance, Kress is “best known for his intricate style that often combines figures with overlaid geometric designs in multiple layers.”
There was also a painting of a diminutive white cat that only showed its teal-colored eyes, grey whiskers, and orange nose. Its perky ears were framed by a thick splash of the painter’s yellow brush stroke.
The city obviously loves its dogs as well. Nearby is a mural of a wide-eyed psychedelic Chiwawa pooch. I don’t know why he would be sad if he lived in this neighborhood. His pal is barking a message to the neighborhood.
Finally, you don’t want to miss Cartoon Alley. There are multiple toons running amuck, including a faux Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. It’s edgy, just like this St. Pete neighborhood.
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