TARPON SPRINGS — The great food revolution in Tarpon Springs has been well documented here, with several establishments offering a wide variety of food and drink options having opened all over town the past few years.
Recently, a couple of new entries opened their doors. Backdraughts Maine-ly Delicious, a Maine-lobster-centric offshoot of the adjacent Backdraughts Pizza, opened on Hibiscus Street, and Groovy Smoothies, a juice bar that serves wellness bowls, vegan ice cream and sweets billed as Florida’s first cannabis hemp-infused nutrition bar, opened on Athens Street in early April.
According to Groovy Smoothies co-owner Candace Martins, she and her boyfriend, Anthony Hamrick, picked the vacant spot on the east end of the Sponge Docks because they felt Tarpon Springs was primed for something new.
“We’re trying to bring a new, trendy vibe to Tarpon,” Martins said in late May, pointing to the many colorful and eclectic spots, including a selfie mirror, dotting her shop at 610 Athens St.
“We want this to be a place where people can hang out and talk and socialize, listen to live music when we get the back patio open and just have a good time.”
According to Martins, a former bartender who lives in New Port Richey, Groovy Smoothies is not just meant to be fun, but to be good for you, too.
“We offer drinks and shots and cannabis-infused ‘mocktails,’ and almost all are my original recipes,” she said. “And we also serve food like acai bowls and pitaya bowls and avocado toast, and you can create your own ingredients that will help detox your body. It’s all good and healthy and everyone says they love it, it’s great, it’s just what Tarpon needs.”
New Port Richey resident Shane Millis agreed.
“I think it’s awesome,” he said from a Groovy Smoothies bar stool. “Everything is fresh, and the CBD (cannabidiol) is good quality. Every time I come here, I just tell the girl to make me whatever the special is for the day and it’s always perfect, always fresh and made to order, which is hard to find these days.”
Across town, Backdraughts owners George and Pamela Walts spent the bulk of the quarantine preparing to launch the sequel to their popular East Tarpon Avenue pizzeria.
While the couple said they pondered a variety of locations and concepts, including a speakeasy and a BD expansion, the Waltses ultimately decided to bring a beloved New England favorite to downtown Tarpon Springs.
“A lot of my family is from Maine and when we started talking about another concept, we looked into our family’s history and discovered lobsters, and it brought us back to our childhood,” George Walts said from the clean and cozy coastal style eatery at 20 Hibiscus St. “My wife has some phenomenal recipes, which was a big concern, plus we wanted to bring something different to Tarpon.”
Another concern, according to Walts, was limiting the menu to, well, mainly lobster, which comes a variety of ways at Maine-ly Delicious, including in a roll or a bisque, tempura style or baked in a pot pie.
To address those who can’t eat the delectable shellfish due to allergy or dislike of the crawling crustacean, the restaurant also offers Maine’s famous Red Snapper hot dogs, a New England style clam chowder, and a homemade mac-and-cheese that Pam Walts said she poured a lot of time and energy into.
“I’ve been working on recipes for a long time,” she said. The mac-and-cheese has been a hit since they had their soft opening in late May, she said, adding, “We wanted to do something different and we wanted to be prepared, and we also didn’t want to stress our employees.”
To that point, they plan to rotate Maine-ly Delicious’ hours of operation around those of the pizzeria.
“We decided to close Backdraughts for lunch during the pandemic, so we’re going to open this place for lunch from 11-3 Wednesday through Saturday,” George Walts said. “Our staff has been so terrific throughout the pandemic, and we didn’t want to lose them or put extra stress on them so we’re seeing how this schedule works for now.”
As for ultimately choosing to open a lobster spot right next door to their pizza place, Walts said the decision was all about staying in Tarpon Springs.
“People have been supporting us for five years, so we wanted to try to make something work here,” he said. The couple has been “really surprised’ by the reaction so far, “because it’s so different. We knew the food would be good, but we weren’t sure about the reception. But it’s been a pleasant surprise. Tarpon people are very loyal and supportive. You bring something to town, and they give back.”