After just a year, The Refinery received a James Beard Award nomination and the new title as the hottest restaurant in town
There’s a boundary in South Tampa that keeps most residents south of Kennedy when it comes time to shop and dine. But with its recent James Beard Award nomination, The Refinery in Seminole Heights is about as much a hidden gem as South Tampa residents can get—and foodies from all over are venturing north to try owner and chef Greg Baker’s unique weekly menu items.
The restaurant opened just one year ago in April and the accolades and publicity have charged in, bringing some unanticipated but much-appreciated attention to this little restaurant located in the former home of the Bungalow Bistro.
It’s the first restaurant for Seminole Heights residents and Tampa Tribune recipe columnists Greg and Michelle Baker. They may not look like your typical restaurateurs—both are covered in tattoos and could easily double as a punk rock duo—but with food this creative and this good, even the most conservative diners don’t seem to mind.
On any given night, the place is filled with hipsters, business professionals, families and everyone else who wants to see what the chefs have concocted. The menu changes weekly and features foods grown on local farms, the names of which are written on the dining room chalkboard.
Yes, they’re proud of the James Beard nomination (they didn’t end up winning an award) and if you ask, they’re stunned and honored for the mention. But the modest owners of the hottest restaurant in town are prouder yet of their ability to feed people healthy food farmed right here in Florida.
“We believe we received the nomination because we care,” Greg says.
Adds Michelle: “We’re trying to bring back real food.”
By handcrafting a new menu every Tuesday, The Refinery literally reinvents itself each week. The process is one part ingredients and two parts random food fetishes of Greg and the sous chef. Michelle says the three sift through the produce and meats that come in that week and decide what combinations will be palatable. By Thursday, the menu is released to the staff and introduced to diners. With a few tweaks here and there, the dishes are fine-tuned and perfected by Friday night.
Call it attention deficient disorder or creative genius, but these chefs have everyone in town curious as to what they’ll come up with next. But if you’re not prepared to touch beef bone marrow or citrus herbed tofu, check out “Craig’s list”—a special menu named after a certain picky eater/friend— for the weekly steak and burger options.
5137 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33603