Good news: The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club has finished renovating the Vinoy Tower and its 102 guest rooms, phase two of that $50 million redevelopment project you’ve likely heard about. Which means Paul’s Landing, the historic downtown property’s new marina-front, Florida-inspired restaurant, isn’t too far behind, yes? You got it. And if the Tower’s revamped look is any indication — it’s Art Deco-ed out; whimsical, with a coastal edge — locals should be pleased with where Paul’s is headed.

Since the restaurant is the redevelopment’s next undertaking, CL wanted to do a little refresher on Paul’s — which broke ground in March and shares a name with the signature Vinoy-3 Daughters Brewing collaboration beer — coupled with the latest updates from a super-early media preview of the Tower on Wednesday. Here’s one of our semi-regular roundups on the five things you’re gonna wanna know.

1. History drives this addition to the St. Pete food scene.
According to The Vinoy, the restaurant’s name is based on a story that dates back to more than 150 years ago, when William Paul, a U.S. Navy surveyor team’s carpenter, built a settlement where the pink hotel now stands. He later called that plot of land, of course, Paul’s Landing.

That’s why the idea is to pay homage to history, incorporating what Paul and his family would’ve come across at the time throughout the restaurant.

2. Especially its food. Mark Heimann, director of restaurant operations, is developing the menu for the modern-day Paul’s, which will replace Alfresco’s and service the resort pool. Locally sourced seafood and smokehouse components are the focus, as is fresh citrus. Paul brought 50 orange seedlings to the settlement back in the day, in addition to constructing the city’s first pier on record (from which fish like grouper and snapper were caught) and a log smokehouse (used for smoking mullet and quail).

Diners can look forward to a variety of sandwiches, salads, entrees and shareable plates with Sunshine State flavor and globally inspired ingredients, including orange wood-smoked fish spread with house-made pickle and hot sauce, a house-smoked brisket sandwich, tuna salad with avocado and microgreens that Heimann likens to tuna poke, and Paul’s Stew, similar to a Florida cioppino with gulf fish, shrimp, mussels, clams, scallops and a bit of orange.

“Paul’s Landing gave us lots to work with, with the oranges and the seafood and the smoking,” Heimann told CL. “So it was really easy for us to kind of think of how we could tie those things into the story of the restaurant.”

3. Drinks aren’t forgotten, either. Showcasing aged and fit-for-sipping selections from all over the Caribbean, a rum-forward bar is planned, as well as 24 tap heads for specialty cocktails, wine and several beers. One option is a mojito that calls for grapefruit, bubbles and mint, an aromatic, refreshing and ever-so-Florida combo this food editor sampled during the sneak peek.

4. The place is billed as totally casual. It overlooks the pool deck, for Paul’s sake (see what I did there?). With room for 200 — both hotel guests and the public — the restaurant will feature indoor and outdoor seating, fire pits on the patio and a vibrant-meets-relaxed environment not unlike the Tower rooms.
Three mood boards set up in the presidential suite gave us previewers a glimpse of what to expect from designer Miriam Torres: metals, woods and ropes that evoke a nautical feel, plus bright pops of color for some fanciful flair.The digs also allow for unobstructed views of the marina and downtown skyline.

“We’ll probably have the best view in the city,” said Heimann.

5. Now, about that opening… Previously announced as winter 2017, the launch date for Paul’s was pushed back, but not by much. The Vinoy’s new estimate is early next year.

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