Go for the Food: St. Petersburg, Fla.
A typical St. Petersburg itinerary might include seeing the Dali Museum, having a drink at the storied Vinoy hotel and checking out nearby beaches. As in any good-sized city, the downtown and waterfront areas have plenty of restaurant options, from seafood and Italian to Asian and Mexican.
But just west of downtown along Central Avenue, in St. Pete’s emerging Grand Central District, a funkier, somewhat less grown-up array of eateries is bubbling up. Here, amid a dozen antique and thrift shops, just beyond Haslam’s enormous book emporium, you’ll find bars and cafes with unique themes. The clientele ranges from hipsters and tattooed 20-somethings to middle-aged couples and groups of friends out for a fun evening.
One area of note begins around 23rd Street with Taco Bus, a bright-yellow food truck that looks like an overgrown toy, with outdoor tables shaded by colorful umbrellas. The menu of standard tacos and burritos also offers items like tofu fajitas and vegan steak strip quesadillas. At night, the spot is brightly lit along an otherwise dark stretch, giving the truck, tables and line of customers a moody look reminiscent of the lit-up diner in Edward Hopper’s "Nighthawks" painting.
A block away, Nitally’s offers Thai-Mex cuisine - reflecting the owners’ dual heritage - along with bi-cultural decor, like decorations for the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead at Halloween alongside Buddhas. There are Thai dishes on the menu, Mexican dishes and some fusion dishes that combine the two (though truth be told, panang mole is more entertaining as a concept than as reality).
Across the street, Beak’s St. Pete has a fun, laidback, Old-Florida vibe complete with shell art decor and twangy guitar music. (Beak’s refers to a parrot, in case you were wondering.)
The real gem here for serious foodies, though, is a slightly more upscale place across the street from Beak’s and Nitally’s called Queenshead. The interior decor is vaguely British, with a Union Jack and a bust of Queen Elizabeth, while the spacious outdoor seating is Florida-style with lounges and cabanas. But there’s nothing standoffish about these Anglophiles: If you choose to eat at the bar, friendly bartenders will keep you company while other patrons recommend their favorite dishes.