Best fine dining in Tampa
- Tampa Bay Food and Dining Quiz: Where should you eat dinner tonight?
6 Months Ago
- Drink, dine and recline at Tampa’s Villagio Cinemas
- Plenty of new dining choices on the Pinellas beaches
3 Months Ago
In Tampa Bay and nationally, nearly all of the exciting, high-profile restaurants to open in the past two years have been casual and moderate to mid-priced. At none of them are you required to wear a jacket. At none will you find tuxedoed waiters or red roses in crystal vases. In short, fine dining seems to be breathing its last rattly gasps.
This demise says a great deal — some of it good, some bad — about cultural shifts in this second decade of the 21st century.
And who is driving this shift? Millennials. These folks, ages 25 to 34, eat out more than anyone else. Many of them are employed and not yet saddled with kids and mortgages, and the restaurant industry is working double time to figure out what they want.
The Twitter generation wants good food, but they don’t want to spend three hours dining. Their mantras are customizability and choice. It is for these customers that so many restaurants have adopted the Subway/Chipotle “point and choose” strategy of personalizing orders. And the rise of small plates, tapas and “sharables” has rendered multicourse prix-fixe menus stodgy and constraining. A shared cheese and charcuterie board at Annata Wine Bar in St. Petersburg, or an array of whimsical small plates at Edison food + drink lab in Tampa have slowly squeezed out multicoursers like Dunedin’s Six Tables, which recently closed.
Increasingly, fine dining is too big a commitment in quantity, time and dollars.
“When I grew up in Bombay, fine dining meant eating at a five-star hotel where there were four waiters to each guest, ” remembers Hari Pulapaka, co-owner of James Beard nominee Cress in DeLand. “The audience for that kind of experience is diminishing. It’s a generational thing, and if restaurants don’t adapt, they will be obsolete.”
At the recent Florida Restaurant and Lodging Show, Pulapaka took part in a panel of Florida restaurant luminaries assembled to discuss the state of fine dining.
The easiest answer to why traditional fine dining has taken a nosedive is price. Since the economic crisis of 2008, millennials as well as older consumers have been more value conscious, with restaurants caught between rising food costs and customer pressures to keep prices low.