Arielle Stevenson, 24, got her start in media as a teenager reporting for WMNF Community Radio’s newscast. She later moved onto hosting the station’s Artful Dodgings
program, a weekly musical grab bag that served as a platform for her rich and eclectic taste in artists, nurtured in part by her parents, longtime Bay area jazz musicians. A graduate of USF St. Petersburg, she worked as staff writer and food editor for Creative Loafing
from 2012-14, stalking strip malls and dark pubs in pursuit of good eats and good stories. She is now pursuing documentary film and video with her boyfriend, Charlie Diaz, and continuing her freelance writing career, which has included assignments for the Tampa Bay Times
, Huffington Post, and the New York Times
The best underground happy hour: The Bends.
“I go around 6 or 7, when there’s a quieter, chiller happy hour crowd. There’s always a smattering of young artistic people. If I want a Cigar City beer, I can get it. If I want an Old Fashioned with Bulleit Bourbon, I can get it. If I want a Framboise, I can get it. They have $2 wells and the bartender, Lynnsey, is cool as hell.”
The best place to be a regular: Bodega on Central.
“Everything is made from scratch and done correctly. You order at a window and then sit outside with a beer and a Miami-style Cuban. I usually get two Cuban sandwiches and two café con leches to go. They serve it all in a paper bag. I love it.”
The best place to order a brew: Cycle Brewing.
“The beer is amazing. It’s very chill, stripped-down and cash-only. I go there to get growlers. I love Cream and Sugar Please. I think it’s got coffee in it. If not, it certainly tastes like it.”
The best hump-day breakfast: Buddy Brew in Tampa. “I order a cortado and eggs on a big ’ol piece of multigrain toast.”
The best Sunday brunch: Yanny’s French Toast King in Clearwater.
“One piece of French toast is the size of a whole plate. I’ve gotten brunch there on my birthday every year since I was like 11.”
The best place to end an all-nighter: North Shore Park.
“The bay along North Shore Park just before sunrise is so peaceful. The birds are out. There’s a lot of aquatic life. I love that it’s at the end of my street.”
The best local random celebrity: Anthony Sullivan, infomercial pitchman.
“Whenever I get to see the ShamWow guy it’s a good day.”
The best place to party with a punk band: The Emerald Bar
. “It’s the quintessential St. Pete dive bar. After their show at Jannus Live, TV on the Radio came out and partied at The Emerald. [At the concert] I went up to the band’s road manager and suggested they all go out for sake bombs after the show … and they did!”
The best place to party with a jazz ensemble: Mandarin Hide.
“I like to go for jazz on Wednesday nights. My dad, Glenn Stevenson, plays their jazz jams. John Lamb, who played with Duke Ellington, sits in a lot. The venue is beautiful and you can get a perfect cocktail. My drink there is something called Taken. I think it has plum bitters in it.”
The best way for a tourist to pass as a local: Order German Potato Salad at Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish.
“My favorite part? They put my Busch Light in a frosty mug.”
The best reason to travel north on U.S. 19: Dunedin.
“Dunedin is delightful. Skip’s is a great little bar. Casa Tina’s serves the most delicious Chiles Rellenos and of course there’s the Dunedin Brewery. It’s a nice change of scene.”
The best excuse to blow your diet: The Cannoli Cake at Mazzaro’s Italian Market.
“It’s a cannoli-layered cake. Do you need any more description than that?”
The two best reasons to avoid the mall: Ramblin’ Rose and Revolve Clothing Exchange.
“I find the best stuff at consignment stores. At Revolve I immediately go to the half-off rack. Ramblin’ Rose is a little boutique inside the punk rock hair salon (Star Booty) next to the State Theatre. I found a vintage badass sequin top and yellow snakeskin stilettos there.”
The best place to score rare records: Bananas Music.
“We got a cool old record player from them for like 80 bucks. It’s in great working order. They know their stuff over there. I walked in one day and they were playing some old blues record from 1905.”
The best reason to turn up your FM radio: 88.5 WMNF.
“My favorite shows are Route 66
with Mike Vinyl (Humphries), Rhythm Vault International
with Jeff Stewart, and Surface Noise
with Laura Taylor. Laura’s shows are all vinyl and take some serious commitment on her part. One week she’ll do a whole Lou Reed show, or a whole David Bowie show or a whole Brigitte Bardot show.”
The best cult event: The St. Pete Pre-International Noise Conference at the Venture Compound.
“After Miami, St. Pete is known as a hub for noise music. People actually move here to make noise music. I love that we’ve become a place where things like this can happen, and I just love that The Venture Compound doesn’t censor their artists at all.”
The best reason to love gluten: Café De Paris on Indian Rocks Beach
. “There’s nothing quite as amazing as Xavier De Marchi’s fresh-baked French bread. He’s as French as it gets.”
The best Chinese takeout: ABC Chinese Seafood.
“That place is amazing. It’s traditional Chinese, like homemade wonton soup, whole flounder with lemon grass and ginger sauce. It’s so fresh your food was alive 11 minutes ago. The [fish] tanks are right in the restaurant.”
The best reason to wake up early on the weekends: Wat Mongkolratanaram of Florida.
“You’ve got to get on the road early if you want a place at the table. People start flocking there by 9 a.m. My boyfriend and I will fill up on $20. And they sell other random things, too. The last time I went I bought orchids. I always donate some money to their [Buddhist] temple. If I could go more consistently, I would. That’s a very beloved place.”
The best place to make out in public: Ciro’s Speakeasy and Supper Club.
“It’s a sexy place. You’re in a private booth with a sheer curtain and you’re all locked up with little bites of food.”
The best 70 acres in Pinellas County: Largo Central Park
. “I grew up in Largo, so the park has a special place in my heart. Going there every year to see the Christmas lights is the best. Largo is a very working-class community, so maybe it’s not on the radar as far as exotic destinations go, which is fine by me. I hope it never gets a good reputation because I don’t want it to change. I like it exactly as it is.”
The best place to eat like a world traveler: The 1300 Block of East Bay Drive in Largo.
“In this one unremarkable plaza you’ve got Thai Bay, which has the best Pad Thai I’ve ever found in the United States, a Latin market (Las Palomas), a Polish deli (Anna’s), a Cuban sandwich shop (Tampa Style Cubans) and a tiny little German restaurant (German Bistro 2) that gives you free beer or wine with your food because they don’t have an alcohol license.”