THE SWEETEST STREET IN ST. PETE

Most of my time in St. Petersburg, FL was spent on Central Ave, the heart line of the city. The street is scattered with a plethora of shops and boutiques, restaurants, bars, and cafes. I occupied myself for hours walking along Central, popping in and out of the local owned businesses.

St. Pete is considered an artistic mecca in south Florida. I can hail it as one of the cleanest and friendliest cities I've visited lately. Seriously, during my three days here, I received more hugs from strangers than I've ever had in my 27 years on earth. Let's just say, it wasn't just the heat that melted this NYC ice queen, it was the warm spirits I encountered.

VERVE BOUTIQUE


This clothing boutique is a new addition to Central Ave, and I can tell it's here to stay! Verve makes a striking first impression before you even set foot inside, due to the elegant flower exhibit literally bursting from the window. Locals say Verve filled a void, offering women and men brands that are underrepresented on this side of Tampa Bay, meaning "No more long-distance trips to Nordstrom!" says employee Jenique Hendrix. Verve offers upscale, yet hip and attainable streetwear. This includes premium denim and not-so-basic basics, like T-shirts, blouses, and button downs. The easygoing and chill Floridian demeanor is complimented by NYC swagger with a loft-like ceiling and Biggie Smalls details — just take a close look at the wallpaper! Merchandise is aesthetically pleasing, and each product displayed on mannequins with style and intention. Verve offers accessories as well as apparel. Their sunglass and jewelry collection is unique, and in my opinion absolutely necessary. In fact, a few items featured in Goop are available here. The fashion is fierce and the employees are warm. "I want to create a really personable experience for my shopper," says the owner Susie Wheldon. Stop by, say hello, and get something special!

Verve Boutique | 1235 Central Ave St. Petersburg, FL 33705 | 727.521.7253

GRASSROOTS KAVA HOUSE


Before I delve into the amazingness of GKH, I'll give you a quick background on some of their specialties, kava and kratom. I personally cannot stomach the taste of kava, so I was ecstatic they also served kratom tea (and after the night I had — the timing was too perfect). Kratom crash landed on me a few years ago when I was in Bali tasting teas. It is a leafy plant (mitragyna speciosa — if you want to get technical), in the coffee family native only to Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Used in Asian traditional medicine for centuries, Kratom can be a relief to many, especially those suffering from anxiety, mild pain/discomfort, lethargy, or social unease. Packed with alkaloids, Kratom drinkers usually experience a calming, euphoric, and a focused mentality.

When I entered GKH, before I could make my way to the bar, I was taken aback by the live music — an acoustic cover of Snoop Dogg's "Drop it Like It's Hot." I stood still, enamored and transfixed. It took me a moment or two to realize I'd stumbled upon the coolest freaking place on St. Pete. Grassroots handed me my life. Okay, time for kratom.

The tea can be infused with a flavor (I chose mango) and can be iced. They take their brewing seriously and all the baristas are knowledgable and will recommend a strain of kratom. I had a green strain, versus red; which is more euphoric and soothing. The bar is fixated in the back of the ground level, behind many chairs and tables occupied by hipsters (ahem, people) working on laptops, socializing, and sipping. On my way to the rooftop deck, I discovered a zen, quiet room that was inviting and so necessary at the time. It exuded minimal Nordic decor and their concept of "hygge," or simplistic comfort. Just off this room is a balcony that overlooks Central Ave. Grassroots is one of those places you wish you had in your own neighborhood.

Grassroots Kava House | 957 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL 33705 | 727.220.3041

BUYA RAMEN


Like I stated earlier, Central Ave is bursting with various dining options. After a night at the Amalie Theatre to see The Weeknd perform, let's just say I needed some nourishment. Despite the temperature pushing 85 degrees F, I was craving a hot bowl of ramen to soothe my soul. Buya has an excellent vibe and interior. It's a ramen, izakaya, and whisky house. An izakaya is a type of informal Japanese gastropub, you can liken it to an America tavern or Irish pub. The lunch special is great, you get a half portion of any type of ramen you'd like, along with a small appetizer for $13. What a delicious bargain! I opted for the crispy duck ramen and chilled ramen salad (I told you I was in the mood for ramen!) that was my last meal before my flight home, and it was a damn good one.

Buya Ramen | 911 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL 33705 | 727.202.7010

STREET ART


Just around the block, behind all the Central Avenue shops and restaurants, there's intricate and eccentric display of street art. I was meeting a friend behind Verve and stumbled upon this row of murals. You can't simply call this graffiti, it's expression with a meaning and purpose. Many of the artists are local, but a good number are international and are featured globally. The St. Pete art scene is vibrant and bustling. These murals literally embody that spirit. In fact, so many murals and various forms of street art have been springing up, there are now mural tours available. My only regret is not seeing more art! To find a compete list of murals and tour information, click here.

PIZZA BOX


This pizza joint is right next to Verve Boutique and has five stars for a reason! All pizzas are hand tossed and baked in an organic wood fired oven. You can try Saint Michael's Supreme, which has shredded mozzarella, red peppers, caramelized onions, pepperoni and mushrooms. #nom. Or the LoverBoy with house made meatballs, cherry peppers, and fresh basil. Oh, it gets better. A personal fave is Karlyn's Beer Garden - house made beer cheese, shaved fingerling potatoes, herb whipped ricotta, bacon, and chives. Add quail eggs if you' want to live it up. Their delicious creations will have you licking the grease off the pizza box when you're done, that's for sure.

Pizza Box | 923 Central Ave. Saint Petersburg, FL 33705 | 727.623.0444

FURNISH ME VINTAGE


This is Florida's top mid-century modern, vintage, and contemporary furniture store. They also have an impressive collection of Scandinavian furniture; in fact, one of the finest in the nation. I had the pleasure of meeting the owners, Jackie and Todd — and they are the epitome of a power couple. It's evident they care about their merchandise and customers. The store is huge, a showroom and decor that spans over three floors, and you'll see them hands on, everywhere. There is house-wide decor as well, like art and lighting. On the second floor, there is an extensive vintage vinyl record shop, featuring music from the 1950's to current hits. Oh, and there's old school arcade games, like Pac-Man, if you're not into records. FMV also has a retro rental property in Tennessee's Smoky Mountains called Groovy Getaway! Be whisked back in time at the mountain condo retreat. There's way more that Furnish Me Vintage offers than can fit in their 30,000 sq ft showroom!

PS - Check out the Mustang they managed to fit in.

Furnish Me Vintage | 1246 Central Ave St Petersburg, FL 33705 | 727.898.8740

ST. PETE PIANO


According to it's Facebook page, the Public Piano Project is "Enhancing visual and auditory arts in St Petersburg, one piano at a time." I stumbled upon this piano outside of Buya. There are many in Downtown, and a few others on Central (at Daddy Kool Records, Lucky Dill, and Evil Don Tattoos). Anyone and everyone is welcome to play!

HAWKERS ASIAN STREET FARE


This pan Asian restaurant has crafted cocktails that are as flavorful and as the food. Cuisine choices range from Malaysian to Chinese, Korean to Vietnamese, etc. There are specialities like baos (Chinese steamed buns filled generously with BBQ meats) and char kway teow (Malaysia's most popular street noodles) — even Indian roti! Be adventurous and try something new. But make sure you get their signature wings, like we did. The sauces are delicious, I recommend spring onion ginger. I came here with a friend and there are plenty items on the menu that are served tapas style - perfect for sharing!

Hawkers Asian Street Fare | 1235 Central Ave St. Petersburg, FL 33705 | 727.521.7253

ST. PETE BEACH


Okay so the beach isn't technically on Central Ave, but it's not far! A 15 minute drive southwest will lead you right to pristine beaches and the cooling sea breezes. I started my vacation on St. Pete Beach, at the Tradewinds Resorts. Whether you want to relax in a cabana, go paddle boarding, or just chill and watch a movie in the pool, you can do it here. Oh, the drinks are big and strong. Something about those big, cheesy plastic cups you get on the beach bar that scream, "I'm on vacation, I deserve to drink a quart of alcohol!" Yeah, I had one of those days. Tradewinds also has a gym, several restaurants, convenience store, and clothing stores. So you really don't have to go downtown. Heck, you don't even have to leave the resort if you don't want to. With the beauty of the beach and sunsets, I barely did!

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