After having been totally spoiled from my years in Tampa with access to China Yuan, one of the first questions I asked upon moving to St. Pete was, Where’s your most authentic Chinese restaurant. At that time, an extremely authentic St. Pete Chinese restaurant (Lucky Star) was still out of business after its kitchen had burned and I had no idea where to go. There are the usual Chinese take-out places, which are fun, but not authentic, and there are a few of the dreaded Florida-style Chinese buffets. But was there any authentic Chinese restaurant?
Fortunately there was: ABC Chinese Seafood Restaurant (2705 54th Ave. N. #3; 727-522-1888). As is often the case with culinary gems, its location and outward appearance is deceiving. Nestled in a long, strip-mall just west of I-275 with a tattoo parlor its next-door neighbor, you’d be more than likely to give the ABC a pass if you didn’t know it is extremely authentic.
Like the China Yuan, all its seafood is still live, swimming in tanks, for you to choose. The roast ducks hang by the kitchen. It’s filled with huge round tables with large lazy-susans in the middle for extended families to sit around, sharing dishes. The numerous times I’ve been there every dish has been perfect. My favorites are the spicy eggplant with tofu and the honey walnut shrimp, but their selections are much wider than that: more than a dozen different selections from each of the following categories: appetizers, soups, lobster & crabs, oysters & clams, frog & conch, seafood (shrimp, scallop & calamari), and various fish; plus, casseroles, poultry, beef & pork entrees, tofu & vegetables, and various rice and noodle dishes. It’s an enormous menu.
The authentic Chinese restaurant I’d mentioned earlier than had burned, Lucky Star, has reopened in a new location (4175 66th St. N., St Petersburg, FL 33709; 727-381-8888). I’ll be reporting on it soon. It’s as good as ever. Now that it’s open again St. Pete has two first rate, A++, authentic Hong Kong-Cantonese style restaurants. I recommend them both to you very highly. When you try the ABC Seafood, try to arrive a little early to enjoy nosing around the other shops. There are several of interest.
Joans Ann Bakery (2705 54th Ave. N. #14, St. Petersburg, FL 33714; 727-525-0632), just a few doors down from the ABC, has freshly made selections. I picked up a mung bean bun and a savory ham and corn bun (pictured here). If you’ve never had mung bean paste, it’s difficult to describe. It’s both sweet and savory at the same time. One quickly develops an addiction to it.
The ABC is only open in the evenings, but the Jung-Il Oriental Food & Gift (2705 54th Ave. N. #10, St Petersburg, FL 33714; 727-528-9010), another of its neighbors in the strip mall, is a Korean grocery and deli lunchery. The last time I was there it was advertising lunch specials of bibimbab, bulgogi (a dish I’ve written about before here and here), and hot fried squid.
It’s nice to know where you can get good Korean food. St. Pete has many excellent Thai restaurants and the two excellent Chinese restaurants mentioned here, but–other than the Jung-Il–I’ve yet to find a good Korean restaurant in St. Pete (Tampa has several). Authentic St. Pete Japanese restaurants also hard to find (I’m not counting sushi places, of which there are several, or Japanese steak houses).
The Jung-Il also has a quite respectable offering of Asian groceries including some that even the larger stores don’t carry, such as a wide assortment of Furikake, various mixtures of seasoned seaweed & sesame seeds used to flavor rice and to coat seared meat and fish. I made its acquaintance when living in Hawaii and it’s become a standard item among my spices right next to the garlic and ginger.
So, head up to 54th Ave. N., soon. You’ll enjoy your experience in this taste of authenticity of St. Pete’s small, but wonderful Asian community.
NOTE: I’ve upgraded the Index page (one of the tabs underneath the banner) to include a listing of all posts by major category as well as the reverse chronological order listing. I’ve also added my favorite restaurant listings, grouped by type, in a Restaurants page. For now, that page is just St. Pete, but I’ll eventually expand it to include Tampa. Where a restaurant has a corresponding Inkwatu article, I’ve given a link to that article from the Restaurant page.
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