On Thursday, Mar. 3, The Salty Nun was too new to even pop up on Google maps. Nevertheless, people found a way.
The restaurant at 2501 Central Ave., St. Petersburg (formerly Swingers) hosted a full house for a preview.
It wasn’t foolproof; people had to order at a food truck instead of the tables and they were short staffed.
But the menu was delicious. The seafood was fresh and the menu items colorful and creative. I’m looking at you, espresso-rubbed beef.
I ordered the #10 Can Nachos and the Bang Bang Shrimp. Co-owner Barbara Banno told me not to over-order if I decided on the nachos, because, well, they’re huge. She wasn’t wrong.
When the nachos hit my spot at the bar, the server slapped a giant upside-down tin can twice and lifted it to reveal a mountain of tri-colored chips, queso, chili, pico, and sour cream.
They were crunchy and cheesy and made better with $3 beer and live music from Steph Callahan.
The shrimp was a beach bar favorite in the middle of downtown St. Petersburg with spicy, fried prawns atop white rice.
But the real draw is the sense of family the constantly changing Grand Central District often lacks.
The Salty Nun’s the brainchild of Stella’s in Gulfport owner Barbara Banno and former Salty’s owner JP Brewer. The business duo formed the concept for the bar and restaurant over drinks one night, and the opening saw that dream come to life.
It was hard to miss both Banno and Brewer zig-zagging through the signature Stella’s green decor. In between restocking paper towels and aiding swamped bartenders, the Gulfport women stopped and said hello to what felt like everyone in the restaurant.
“It’s very exciting, and scary at the same time,” Banno said.
Oh, and they left a handful of leftover swings from the shuttered Swinger’s Bar hanging out front.
The concept wasn’t lost on enthusiastic bar-goers.