Restaurants raise profile of Seminole Heights

Restaurants raise profile of Tampa's Seminole Heights neighborhood

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Debi Johnson has called Seminole Heights home for several years now. While she's been renovating her home on the inside, on the outside, the neighborhood is also growing.

"It's getting a lot better," said Johnson, the President of the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association.

Wes Miller agrees. He's lived here since the 90s.

"There's all kinds of businesses moving in, and once again, it's due to the type of people that are moving and have lived in Seminole Heights," he said.

"We've had Ella's open up, the Refinery, Domani's, just tons of new restaurants and a lot on the horizon," Debi added.

One of those new restaurants is the mastermind of Refinery's Chef Greg Baker.

"I like to think of it as just my tiny little restaurant. Apparently it's grown into something much bigger than we ever expected it to be," he said.

Thanks to rave reviews by national media and a nod by the prestigious James Beard award for three years in a row, the restaurant has become a big deal.

"It's very flattering, very humbling. I still look at myself as a dumb kid who cooks," Baker said.

However, he's stirring up quite the excitement with new plans to open up a restaurant called Fodder and Shine early next year. The timing couldn't be better.

"This is the greatest neighborhood in Tampa. Nobody understands that yet," he said.

The Front Porch certainly gets it. It's the area's oldest restaurant.

"It was built in 1898 and there's a lot of ghost stories and mystique about the restaurant," said Front Porch Manager Lisa Ianniello, "It's the neighborhood bar, restaurant, if you will."

Although Fodder and Shine will open up just next door, there's a sense of community, not competition, between all these small "mom and pops'" that are making Seminole Heights the place to be.

"Oh, I think nothing but plus, plus, plus!" said Wes.

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