For years, Tampa has arguably had a better selection of dining options than its brother across the bay, St. Petersburg. Jason Ruhe and Hope Montgomery opened Brick and Mortar to the public last week, simultaneously elevating St. Pete’s culinary game.
The restaurant and catering company is located at 539 Central Avenue in Downtown St. Pete, taking over the parcel previously vacated by St. Pete Brasserie in September 2013.
Holding 50 people inside and 17 on the patio outside, the space feels very intimate.The decor is flush with rustic charm.Raw unfinished wooden tables are lit up by vintage light fixtures hanging from the ceiling and natural sunlight spilling inside from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Succulents curated by Jamie O’Berry, owner of O’Berrys Succulents, decorate old wooden pallets that hang from the walls.
The menu also has a rustic farmhouse personality.Raviolis, veal meatballs, and house-cured salmon are just a few of the items on the expansive menu.“The signature dishes would probably be the carpaccio and the oxtail,” says Ruhe.Both dishes are served with a house ravioli stuffed with a soft poached egg, leek, and goat cheese mousse, with white truffle oil and shaved parmesan.Their burger is already being called the best in town, as well.In between a butter toasted pretzel bun is a ground chuck patty topped with a house-made bacon onion jam, roasted garlic aioli, spicy arugula, and sharp white cheddar.
Ruhe and Montgomery pride themselves on serving dishes comprised of ingredients from local farms.They also never seem to take the easy way out. “We are curing our own salmon, pickling our own vegetables, and making our own patte and rabbit rillettes,” Montgomery says.“The pastas and raviolis are made to order too.We are cutting and folding the ravioli within 20 minutes of you ordering it,” adds Ruhe.
The beer is also local.Brick and Mortar has six beers taps, four of which will always be occupied by locally brewed beer, from breweries such as Green Bench, Cycle Brewing, Cigar City, and St. Pete Brewing.For those who don’t prefer beer, each bottle on their wine list has been carefully selected by the owners themselves.
Brick and Mortar is a dream realized for Jason Ruhe and Hope Montgomery.“I’ve been cooking since I was a little kid.I cooked all of the meals for my family.I’ve always wanted to own a restaurant,” says Ruhe. The pair started In Bloom Catering nearly ten years ago in Tampa with no formal culinary training.“We’ve mentored under people and worked with other chefs, but neither of us have done culinary school.We’re from the school of hard knocks,” says Montgomery.
In Bloom Catering is now operating out of the same location as Brick and Mortar, but still serves all of Hillsborough and Pinellas county.Ruhe and Montgomery have grown a strong clientele over the years through their extraordinary food and highly customizable menus.“The catering we do is all custom.We can cook you anything.BBQ, Indian, Italian, paellas, etc.Everything is fresh, local, seasonal and from scratch.”
As for why they decided to pack up and move from Tampa to St. Pete, Montgomery says, “We would spend all of our spare time over here.We love St Pete and we are really excited to be a part of this growing, urban community as a small business and as residents.”