My husband and I have been on the prowl for cheap restaurants in St. Pete ever since moving here this time last year. We’ve discovered a few gems that I have yet to post about, but will soon. We recently discovered that a new diner opened up close to where we live, just down MLK from us and there was always a packed parking lot on Saturday and Sunday mornings, which is a good indication of how the food is.
Five Bucks Drinkery – St. Petersburg, Florida
We’ve recently been on the hunt for cheap food in St. Petersburg, Florida since moving here a few weeks ago. We’ve cruised around the downtown area a few times with friends to help us get acquainted with the area and on one particular visit we were showing around some friends visiting from Tennessee. After visiting the Saturday farmer’s market, we strolled down to Central Ave where there are some great restaurants and stores by the water.
We saw some places that weren’t screaming ‘cheap food’ at us, like the BellaBrava, but we thought we’d pop our heads in for a beer. I’m sure the waitresses at these places weren’t thrilled that we were ordering the happy hour Bud Light special and no food (we tipped well), but we were more interested in checking the places out and having a beer or two and moving on to the next place. This was our kind of tour of St. Pete and a chance to check out the menu at places that might pique our interest for a later time.
After a little bar/restaurant hopping, we walked into the 5 Bucks Drinkery and our world changed. It was around lunch time, so we were one of the first (if not THE first) customers of the day. The six of us bellied up to the bar and got quickly acquainted with the big-ass beers. While they aren’t under $5, they were just a dollar more and were 32oz of deliciousness.
They had all kinds of great beers on tap as well as an endless supply of bottled beers. I settled for the Magic Hat #9 and started to peruse the menu just to see.
That’s when I fully understood the name “5 Bucks Drinkery”. There wasn’t anything on the menu over $5. That includes everything from a patty melt (which I’ve had and is delicious, but isn’t as good as a Waffle House or Denny’s patty melt…sorry folks) to loaded tots and their ‘haute’ dogs.
Sometimes there is something on a menu that I just have to try, no questions asked, no buts, I just have to. The 5 Bucks Drinkery had that item on their menu that I knew I couldn’t walk out without having tried. Their broad menu touted a few ‘Favorites’ including deep fried bacon with a maple syrup dip. Um, hello? Fried BACON? Like, deep fried bacon? Yes! They call it ‘Chicken Fried Bacon’ but my guess is that the batter is the same as their chicken and they want to be clear that it’s not just traditional pan-fried bacon. So, for $2.99 we ordered a basket of deep fried bacon with maple dipping sauce never to be forgotten.
The bacon was cooked well-done inside, the way I like it, and had a crispy batter coating it around the outside. The whole experience was like dipping bacon into pancake batter and pouring maple syrup on it. It was as heavenly and intriguing as we had hoped. This 5 Bucks Drinkery gets a gold star for a great cheap beer menu and awesome deep fried bacon!
We hit another cheap food destination while on the Caribbean side last weekend. In case you didn’t see our other cheap breakfast post about La Botanica Organica, make sure you check it out. This particular Sunday was rainy on-and-off, which is typical Caribbean weather, but we didn’t care much. We had our sites on this little well-known breakfast nook in Puerto Viejo.
The restaurant and bakery is on a rustic porch similar to most restaurants in the area and unlike the usual weekend morning, there was a table open for us when we arrived. The place was filled with friendly faces and delicious food and coffee in front of most. To be honest, before even going in, our friends had told us the best part of the selection is the homemade chocolate brownies, so we were looking every which way to catch a glimpse before sitting down. And we found them, on a bamboo display not far from our table.
Our friends, whom we were visiting, work at a nearby hotel and thus know most other hotel and restaurant owners, so immediately upon arrival to Bread and Chocolate, the Maryland native owner came over. He was a great guy and being a born-and-raised Marylander myself, we reminisced about blue crabs and Old Bay seasoning before we ordered. The menu itself wasn’t huge, but it was full of meal descriptions that made me want to try them all. I was absolutely torn as to what I should order, so I of course asked my husband to split two (out of 6) of the dishes we were both curious about.
We settled on a fried egg sandwich (fried hard to my liking of course) served on a bagel with homemade home fried potatoes and an order of biscuits and gravy. Keep in mind we’re in Costa Rica here and biscuits and gravy isn’t something you can really find anywhere, so we were psyched about the prospect. The fried egg sandwich was served on our choice of an everything bagel, which was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, the way they should be. Not the way Bagelman’s makes them in the city. To our delight the potatoes were seasoned perfectly and while the biscuits were slightly dry, the unique mushroom gravy that topped them more than made up for it. My husband and I divided both plates in half and devoured our servings in no time flat.
So, after breakfast and another two cups of joe, we grabbed our brownies to-go. I chose the mint variety while our friends got the walnut type. When we got back to our friend’s Bali-style house on the beach we hung out with the dogs and later dove right into our mint brownies heated and topped with chocolate ice cream. It was bliss, I couldn’t believe I had never had a mint chocolate brownie before, knowing my affinity for mint chocolate chip ice cream, but this was awesome. The outside had a slight crust and the inside, extra fudgy. Heaven.
We can’t say enough positive things about Bread and Chocolate. We wished we could have tried everything on the menu and each dessert in the glass case, but our budget didn’t permit, so we’ll just have to wait until the next trip down there. Pura vida Bread and Chocolate!
La Botanica Organica
On our recent trip to the Caribbean side, we discovered that the best restaurants are the breakfast ones. There aren’t a ton open before 9am but there are a few that we went to and fell in love with. The first morning we were there our local friend brought us to a little place called La Botanica Organica (make sure you like their Facebook page), who has the freshest, most organic produce you can find around Puerto Viejo.
From their page:
Breakfast and Lunch Menu:
Super Goji Berry and Hemp Seed Granola…Whole wheat Pancakes.. Whole Wheat French Toast, Organica Eggs.. Organica Coffee and tea.. Lentil Burgers.. Hummus Sandwiches.. Fresh Salads.. Lunch Specails.. Vegan, Veggi and Raw and Gluten Free Options!
In the Shop: Everything from Tea Tree Oil to Natural Deodorants and Toothpaste.. tinctures.. natural Medicines.. Essential Oils.. Incense .. Crystals.. Special Ordering available
While most small farms in Costa Rica can’t afford the official certification for organic status, some are abiding by all best practices and with a tour of the farm you can see it for yourself. These small farmers are sought out by the owner of La Botanica Organica and they have an open and honest working relationship. One of the goals of the restaurant is to help the local economy so they don’t grow the food themselves, but rather support those in the area. It’s a great concept.
When we walked in we immediately noticed the concrete floors (mainly because my husband is now doing decorative concrete) with imprints of Costa Rican flora. It was rustic, yet modern, just how we like it and it fit in perfectly with the foliage creeping in from all sides of the place.
The rest of the charming decor included rustic wood benches and tables with centerpieces poised with local flowers and verigated leaved plants. They had their morning delivery of produce spread out on a back table which allows you to see just what your prepared food is made of. The kitchen is open where you can see a few locals running around putting together everyone’s orders. The macrobiotica on site is just off of the main patio for easy access after you eat.
We started off with cups of rich organic Costa Rican coffee and for me (a ‘coffee-only-in-case-or-emergencies’ drinker) a cup of hot herbal tea with dried tropical fruit, lemon grass and other local herbs. We quickly moved on to our breakfasts of organic whole wheat pancakes with fresh pineapple topping, a free-range egg scramble with broccoli, onion, bell pepper and feta cheese with fresh baked whole grain bread (amazing!) and a bowl of fabulous granola and local yogurt with goji berries. The three of us tried each others food and agreed that we picked a place that will become a regular stop for us. We live in San Jose, but plan to make it back to the Caribbean side more often.
When we were done we felt satisfied and reminded again why we live here. The owners are from California and have adapted well to living the pura vida life. They contribute to the local economy, make delicious food which is sometimes hard to find here, and have cheerful, attentive waitstaff. Thanks for a great start to an amazing weekend in Puerto Viejo, Talamaca, Cocles. You’ll be seeing us again soon.
After visiting the restaurant we moved on to visit the Jaguar Rescue Center just down the road to play with some monkeys! Make sure you support them, it’s totally worth the $15 per person for the tour.