The Tampa Bay food scene is awesome. It’s constantly growing as new establishments pop up and now diverse food concepts are everywhere. So for this coming season, we thought we’d give The Gabber Newspaper’s food section a little facelift. In addition to restaurant reviews, I’ll be on a months-long campaign to sample specific dishes at various locales and then ranking my favorites. Follow along as I sample everything from salads and sushi, to Cubans and coffee in St. Pete, Gulfport, and the Gulf Beaches. This is a collection of food comparisons from a small sampling of area restaurants. By no means have I dined at every establishment that serves every category of food in this competition. If you disagree with my rankings, that’s totally fine, but please be civil about it. And lastly, you won’t see me writing about Stella’s or the Salty Nun. It’s not that they don’t deserve the love, but my wife owns Stella’s and is part owner of Salty Nun, so in the interest of fairness (and marital harmony), those eateries don’t get to play.
For our first Top Taste, we thought it was appropriate to begin our competition with coffee. After all, coffee is the liquid magic that jump starts our day, pushes us through that weekend hangover and keeps our motors revving throughout our work week. I sampled 20-oz, morning lattés in Gulfport at Annex Coffee House, SumitrA Espresso Lounge+, and GulfPerk Coffee Bar and I was definitely sufficiently caffeinated. While I had the same drink at each location, the roasts varied as did their quality, add-ons, and prices.
Least Favorite: GulfPerk Coffee Bar ($5.50)
GulfPerk Coffee Bar is bright and spacious with lots of seating both inside and out. However, of the three coffee shops I sampled, it was my least favorite (and the most expensive). I love that they use beans from Black Crow Coffee Co. (local to St. Pete) but I found the brew too mild and underwhelming for my taste, even with an extra shot of espresso ($.75). However, for someone like me who drinks soy milk lattés, I appreciate a coffee menu with milk multiple alternatives like oat, soy, almond, and coconut (only $.75 each). They have a decent food menu that includes fresh bagels (priced as marked) and they offer cool cream cheese spreads ($.30 each) like bacon horseradish and honey cinnamon. Overall, GulfPerk is a cute shop but personally, I wish they had a bit bolder coffee.
3107 Beach Blvd. S., Gulfport. gulfperkcoffee.com
Decent: Annex Coffee House ($4.85)
Annex Coffee House is one of the newest additions to Gulfport’s restaurant scene. This adorable drive-thru coffee shop is both convenient and quick. They serve Tampa Bay favorite, Kahwa coffee, so you know it’s a bold roast with full-body flavor. While the menu is smaller than your average coffee shop, they still offer all of the classics: drip coffee, iced coffee drinks, teas, smoothies, and more. Of the three coffee shops, Annex has the smallest selection of flavored syrups and their milk alternatives (oat, almond, and soy) are the most expensive ($1 each). They do have a modest food menu with pastries, bagels, and sandwiches that locals are already raving about. (We’ve heard their Cuban sandwich is to die for.) High fives to Annex for super friendly and quick service!
5133 Gulfport Blvd. S., Gulfport.
Best Coffee in Gulfport: SumitrA Espresso Lounge+ ($4)
SumitrA Espresso Lounge+ is a totally different vibe from your average coffee shop. With all of the tapestries and ornate wall hangings, it reminds me of a Moroccan hookah bar I used to frequent when I lived in Philly. SumitrA has an exotic flare to it and their menu features drip coffees, iced beverages, teas, kombucha, steamers, and even French press. It’s also one of the only Gulfport coffee shops that offers add-ons such as CBD ($4) and espresso protein powder. They roast their own beans from Central and South America, and the coffee is bold (without tasting burnt) but smooth. In the evenings, they serve wines by the glass and bottle and there’s always a hefty selection of sweets food items, including bountiful gluten-free options.