I had a chance to chat with Niki Austin from 3 Sheets Events today.  She brought by some of the food creations as well as some microbrews and wines you’ll see at the first Annual Backlot Wine & Beer Weekend.  The event happens May 20 and 21 in the lot between 3 Daughters Brewing and the Old Train Station in St. Pete. The weekend raises funds for two important local non-profits: Hero to a Child which advocates for children of abuse and neglect as well as Operation Craft Beer Deployment which is a new foundation with a mission to provide craft beer to our soldiers and provide them with a taste of home.

There are two nights… with totally different vibes.

Friday 6-9pm, May 20 is Wine & Jazz night. Guests may sample up to 50 wines in a sip and stroll atmosphere with live music by Hot Tonic in a night market setting with over 25 arts and craft vendors. VIP entrants can enjoy special pours in the tent sponsored by Bogle Winery along with a special catered menu.

Saturday 1-4pm, May 21st is Beerfest  (Q105 will be there)with live music by local favorite, the Spazmatics. With sampling cups provided by Visit St Pete Clearwater, guests can sample over 100 craft brews. VIP guests will enjoy a beer-inspired menu (attached) from Toasted Associates along with unique local craft brews along with a special visit from Horse Soldier Bourbon.

Breweries featured include Sea Dog, Bayboro, 3 Daughters, Cigar City, Motorworks and more. Many have made special and rare donations that will be up auction at the event including a Keys Weekend Giveaway Islamora Brewing.

Geno Weighs In On The "Best Of The Bay" Tampa Restaurant Winners

  • Pizza: Madison Avenue Pizza

    I’ve heard great things about this place.  Haven’t had a chance to try it yet in person. They brought a box of enormous slices to the station for us to try and even cold it was excellent. Most big oversized slice pizzas are a gimmick to get you to not notice the pizza isn’t that good. Not Madison Avenue.  Gotta try one fresh and hot to see if they can dethrone Cristino’s on Fort Harrison in Clearwater. That’s my go to for New York style. For deep dish, you can do no better than Cappy’s in Riverview or St. Pete.

  • Fried Chicken: King of the Coop

    This looks tasty, but there are so many great fried chicken spots around here, it may take a while before I get to try this. But Guthrie’s was one of my 2 favorite chicken finger spots when I lived in Tallahassee and they’re now in Tampa.

  • Wings: Ferg's

    I’ve been to Ferg’s many times but it’s usually just for a drink.  If they can beat Hattricks or Abe’s Place, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.  The big place I miss is EATS American Grill in Riverview.  They had great burgers too.  Sorely missed.

  • Lobster Roll: Mazzaro's Italian Market

    What an odd category for Mazzaro’s to win.  I LOVE Mazzaro’s.  When I walked in for the first time, I knew Florida would be home for good.  I’ve had their lobster roll.  It’s good and priced reasonably.  But The Hot Italian (Number 20) is the sandwich to get at Mazzaro’s.  My spot for a legit Maine lobster roll (I spend 25 years of my life in Maine) is sadly now closed.  Cousin’s Maine Lobster in Clearwater is going to be sorely missed.

  • Mexican: Casa Tina

    When your selling point is being a healthy option, you already lost me.  Senor Taco in Pinellas Park for me please. It’s not fancy so it’s not an ideal selfie spot for the hipster crowd. But the Mexican food is seriously legit… and I lived in California for 6 years. It was the one big perk… discovering great Mexican food.

  • Steaks: Bern's

    Well duh.  I remember the week before I moved to Tampa, my mechanic in Boston was raving about Berns when I told him where I’m moving to. I have to cheat for my personal favorite spot for steak though… it’s not in Tampa, but in Fort Lauderdale. Chima… I love you.

  • Italian: Bella's Cafe

    Another place I’ve been meaning to try but just haven’t gotten around to it.  It’s not a fancy place where hipsters need food that looks good on Instagram, but my spot for Italian is Italia Mia in St. Pete.  Simple.  Basic. Delicious.  The best chicken parm in the area.  Bernini’s in Ybor (if you get there early before prices double) is also a pretty solid choice.

  • Doughnuts: Hole In One

    Never been.  I don’t think you can do better than Dough.  Even though it’s part of that South Tampa hipster scene, their doughnut case is my favorite place in Tampa.  I’ve tried Fray’s, which is usually what listeners tell me tops their list.  I like Fray’s but Dough is just on another level. And of course there are the Amish doughnuts at the Florida State Fair. But that’s a limited time thing.

  • Chinese: Yummy House

    Oh the hipsters finally got one right!  But you can’t really deny Yummy House’s dominance.  There’s not a lot of great Chinese food in Tampa.  I did a podcast for “Geno Ate Tampa” recently with my 4 picks… and Yummy House definitely made the list alongside Zom Hee in Seminole, China Wok in Brandon and Shang Hai in Tampa.

  • Cuban Sandwich: Brocato's

    For sandwiches in general, I’m way more of a Wright’s Gourmet House guy.  But Brocato’s is a very acceptable choice.

  • Breakfast: Oxford Exchange

    Oh of course the South Tampa hipster crowd loves Oxford Exchange.  It’s the best place to take a selfie for Instagram.  I’ll stick with Lenny’s in Clearwater off Highway 19.  There’s a long line every Sunday morning for a good reason.  Skyway Cafe is a close runner up.

  • Dunedin Restaurant: The Living Room

    Never been, but the only thing that gets me out of my living room to go to Dunedin is Delco’s.  No better place in the Tampa area for a legit Philly cheesesteak “wit Wiz.”

  • Burgers: Nebraska Mini-Mart

    Have never been, but looks decent.  I don’t know if they can beat Engine Number 9 in St. Pete, but again, this web poll is dominated by the South Tampa hipster crowd.

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