Raise a glass to beer, art and some of St. Petersburg’s most celebrated restaurants in the Edge and Central Arts districts, a bustling eight-block showcase of the city’s past, present and future.
Stroll along Central Avenue between Fifth and 13th streets, where everything is local.
You won’t be alone. The neighborhood is a hot spot for walkers.
For lunch, try King’s Street Food Counter for grilled cheese, Buya Ramen for rich Japanese noodle soups, Engine No. 9 for the best burger of your life, or the oldie-but-goodie Bodega for a hearty Cuban sandwich that rivals anything Miami can offer.
Next stop, the Green Bench Brewing Co.
Green Bench Brewing Company
Named after the city’s once-iconic green benches, Green Bench Brewing (1133 Baum Ave., a block north of Central Ave. off 11th Street in The Edge) was the first to open on St. Petersburg’s craft brewing scene in the fall of 2013, but it was quickly followed by the nearby St. Pete and Cycle breweries.
Green benches – some 3,000 of them -- lined St. Petersburg’s streets and avenues during the boom years of the 1920s through ‘60s. As the city’s population aged and the benches needed maintenance, they were gradually removed, but the image of a city friendly to tourists, visitors and locals is kept alive at Green Bench Brewing.
Green Bench has a small indoor tap room with a window into the brewhouse and a covered patio and a grassy lawn where “Yoga on Tap” is offered on Sundays.
Most of the brewery’s beers are named after local attractions. The Surrealist IPA, offered in rotation, is a nod to the city’s Dali museum. This spring, a German wheat beer named “American Stage in the Park Hefeweizen” honored the popular outdoor musical staged by the city’s local professional theater company.
Other recent offerings included Oaty McOatface, a New England style session IPA; Tangerine Creamsicle, a New England style sour with notes of tangerine, vanilla and cream; and Pinellas Peach, a dry-hopped peach cider.
The bartenders are knowledgeable and enthusiastic beer lovers who will be glad to help you choose. Most brews are $5 or $6 for 12 ounces, also available by the pitcher or a take-home 32-ounce growler refill for $11.
There’s often a food truck parked next to the patio, or you can order excellent tacos and burritos next door at the Red Mesa Mercado. Brewery tours are offered on Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m.
From Green Bench, walk east toward the bay about three blocks and duck into the Chihuly Collection in its new space at 720 Central Ave. This small-but-astounding collection contains pieces from each of Chihuly’s signature styles – huge hanging chandeliers, a boat filled with glass balls and the garden of glass delight.
Next to the Chihuly, visit a showroom of work by sculptor Jon D. Hair, whose monumental bronzes you’ll probably find familiar. You can sit on a bench next to Mark Twain.
Across the street is the Morean Art Center, where local and student artists show their art. Don’t miss the Morean Glass Art shop, where you can buy art glass at affordable prices and watch local glass artists at work in the adjacent hot shop.
Continue down Central and explore boutiques and shops selling everything from St. Petersburg T-shirts created by local artists, antique and vintage collectibles, boutique clothing and, yes, more art galleries.
Cycle Brewing Company
By the time you reach Cycle Brewing (534 Central Ave.), be ready for some serious beer. This bicycle-themed brewery has no cider and no fancy tasting flights, but you can order a half-pint of most beers for $3 and enjoy a generous 10-ounce pour.
The small tap room feels like a cave with gray walls decorated with steel cut-outs of bicycle-themed images. Cozy high tops for two are tucked into cubbies along the wall. It’s a nice spot to cool off from the heat, or warm up in winter’s chill.
Most customers go for the Crank IPA (6% ABV), made with citra hops, or the Cream and Sugar Porter, a creamy coffee porter. Cycle also makes a delicious red ale, Ryerish Red (5% ABV), and, for the truly serious, an Imperial stout called Rare Dos with 11% ABV, available only in an 8-ounce pour. Most beers are $5 to $7 for 16 ounces. You can take home most of the Cycle beers in a Crowler – a 32-ounce aluminum can.
Across the street from Cycle, at the corner of 5th Street and Central, you’ll find the Florida CraftArt Gallery. This shop is filled with crafts and artworks by local artisans, many of whom have studios upstairs (open to the public the second Saturday of every month). Stop in to browse or buy on your way around the corner to St. Pete Brewing Co. (544 First Ave. N.).
St. Pete Brewing Company
Lighter wheat beers and ales are the attraction at this unpretentious brew pub, where dogs enjoy hanging out, kids play Connect-Four at picnic tables on the sidewalk, and there’s free popcorn from an old-fashioned popper in the back.
The favorite beer here is St. Pete Orange Wheat, an American wheat beer that’s fresher but otherwise not too different from Blue Moon or Shocktop.
Riptide Rye, an APA (4.6% ABV), has a pleasing rye finish.
If you’re there when Put Me In Kolsch is on tap, get it. It has a crisp, clean taste, not too bitter, not too fruity. Also, the McCracken Scottish Ale (6 % ABV) is billed as a “Scottish Heavy,” but don’t let that fool you. It’s creamy and smooth. Grateful Stout, named after the hippie jam band, is lighter than a typical Irish stout.
If you are into American sours, there is a small brew pub a few doors to the west of St. Pete Brewing that only serves sours.
By the time you are done, you’re probably ready to try one of the area’s other restaurants for dinner, or you could head back to Green Bench and get some of those Red Mesa Mercado tacos.
Shopping, art and beer. Heaven on Central Avenue.
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