June 15, 2011
TaylorEason.com . . . For good food, good wine, and good health
Green Springs Bistro, reflecting the original 1800′s name for the Safety Harbor area, is also an original. Owners Kris Kubik and chef Paul Kapsalis have a close connection to patrons. They know their guests’ names. They know what their customers eat. They know where their customers’ kids went to school. They probably could name the roles their children performed in school plays. Such is the charm of this Cheers-like, cozy bistro housed in a 30s cottage off the main drag. The storybook setting boasts a cheery hearth, bright walls, vibrant murals, stained glass and work by local artists. The chef’s repertoire includes Gulf coast recipes for steak, shellfish, and other Florida catch.
“Fresh seafood always excites me because it was so important to me during my formable years growing up on Clearwater Beach,’’ says Paul. He is a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef, with a Greek mother and grandmother, both of whom taught him more than a few tricks in the kitchen. He remembers riding around in the back seat of their cars to ferret the best from butcher and baker for a family feast. He is nostalgic for the Old Florida produce stands, brimming with regional favorites. His Mediterranean heritage shows up such treats as the bruschetta-like, beneli, made with feta cheese, roma tomatoes and Portobello mushrooms. It’s the chef’s take on the pizza-like dish he discovered in a remote village in the Greek mountains.
Pleasantly-seasoned, lemon-kissed saganaki — the flaming kefalograviera Greek cheese starter — sizzles in an individual skillet, just waiting to be sopped up with the tasty bread. A spinach enchilada, wrapped with a sharp Vermont cheddar blanket, is doused with a spicy chile Colorado sauce.
The chef is happy with the number of guests who return for his seafood. “It makes me happy that I can bring in more and more favorites,’’ he adds. A shrimp and sausage creamy grits order nearly made me lick the plate. An herb mayonnaise adds zest to sesame-crusted mahi-mahi. A delicate risotto sings with fresh shrimp and scallops.
The soups are good, too. A sprightly sausage and chicken gumbo has a soul-satisfying mahogany roux.
Kris takes advantage of local berries to christen Black ‘n Blue cobbler, an excellent finale. Seasonal peaches or apples find their way into cobblers, too.
Green Spring’s wine list is carefully selected. “We spend lots of time tasting wines because we can’t store hundreds of bottles here. It’s no secret, this is where we try to make our money,’’ adds Paul.
“We are extremely consistent about food quality,’’ says the chef who says a memorable dining experience must also include great wine and service. Considering the good natured and courteous staff, it’s easy to understand why the restaurant has a loyal following. Some of the staff has been there all 11 years while local acoustic guitarist/songwriter Michael Rusch has also been entertaining patrons since Day One.
“He’s really diverse and can mix it up so we can listen to him five nights a week,’’ adds Paul. Considering the average Florida marriage doesn’t last 11 years, that’s quite an accomplishment.
June 15, 2013
About Travel ... by Ashley Grant, Tampa Bay Expert
To say Green Springs Bistro is my favorite restaurant would be going a little too far, but it is certainly my favorite restaurant in Safety Harbor! The food is delicious, the owners are awesome and I’ve never had a bad experience there. Things I would never think to put together always end up tasting great and I always find something new to see when I visit.
The last time I visited Green Springs I brought my husband. I figured as much as I’ve raved about the place it was high time I take him! He had a crab cake sandwich and I had the sausage, shrimp and grits. The crab cake sandwich starts with premium lump crab delicately tossed with seasonings and then is pan seared. The cake is then served on a country loaf with lettuce, roma tomatoes, red onions and Green Springs special herb mayonnaise.
The sausage, shrimp and grits features exactly what it sounds like! Creamy grits are topped with four sautéed pink Gulf shrimp and locally handcrafted sausage. The funny thing is I am not a fan of grits but the meat on top of them is absolutely perfect together.
Another thing I would never think of to mix is wine and grapefruit. What started as a competition for a new recipe with grapefruit has turned into one of the most refreshing drinks Green Springs has to offer and that’s their Graprefruit Sangria! Again, not a fan of grapefruit but the concoction they’ve created with white wine is delicious and leaves you craving more. The best part is there is no bitter after taste!
On this particular day my husband and I weren’t hungry enough for dessert but I strongly recommend the cobbler with ice cream. Its some of the best I have ever had!.
If you are ever in Safety Harbor I highly recommend you check Green Springs out. Local art fills the place and even the tables are decorated by locals. Green Springs also features live entertainment every day at lunch as well as Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Enjoy the original songs of singer/songwriter Michael Rusch who has even created a special CD that he sells on site.
October 29, 2014
Creative Loafing Tampa Bay
There’s something very comforting about a restaurant housed in a reclaimed bungalow. Perhaps its multiple, intimate dining spaces lend themselves to charming design. Or maybe it harkens back to childhood memories of visiting special relatives. For me, I can’t help thinking of the wonderful Brigtsen’s in uptown New Orleans near the river bend. Or, closer to home, the winsome Chef T’s Garden Grill in Lakeland. Just entering the front door piques your expectations for something special. At Safety Harbor’s Green Springs Bistro, colorful horizontal beadboard-lined rooms with beachy themes and works by local artists catch your eye. And the bar has a humorous ceramic fish practically engulfing a bottle of wine.
GSB celebrates Gulf coast cookin’ with a touch of the Mediterranean thrown in. A teasing demitasse of tomato-bean bisque prepares our palates. Then, chef Paul Kapsalis honors his Greek heritage with two terrific appetizers. Saganaki — oven-roasted kefalograviera (a firm Greek sheep’s milk cheese), bathed in olive oil in a sizzling cast-iron skillet (from whence the name comes) — arrives at the table with a golden brown crust, and our server squeezes fresh lemon and shouts “Oooopa!!!” with a flair, leaving the table to luxuriate in the warm, oozing cheese with fresh country bread.
There’s also beneli, a Greek flatbread (“pizza before it was round and covered with sauce”) topped with two types of Greek cheese, plus some portobello and tomato slices. The crust is crisp on the bottom, with a chewy soft center and plenty of flavor.
After swooning over gumbo a few weeks back, I can’t resist “Grandpa Pracka’s recipe from the Bayou Teche” from southwestern Louisiana. There are shreds of juicy chicken and spicy sausage with okra floating in a rich, dark roux over rice. It’s good, if not transcendent.
- CHIP WEINER
- A view of Green Springs Bistro's yellow bungalow.
The blue crab cakes are pan-seared to a golden brown, but the texture is of minced crabmeat. Just as I’m lamenting the lack of lump claw chunks, a dining companion waxes eloquent over the subtle flavor as she finds most versions overpowering and too fishy. So if you like mild crab cakes, this is your place.
Seared mahi mahi crusted with sesame seeds is cooked perfectly. The fish is moist and dribbled with a sweet soy and spicy sriracha sauce that adds some pop to the ginger jasmine rice.
Most of the entrees feature rustic buttermilk smashed red potatoes and seasonal roasted vegetables, in this case carrots. Root vegetables rarely serve as a springboard for excitement, but these are nicely caramelized and bring out the carrots’ natural sweetness. The potatoes are a hit with my pals, although mine can use a little salt (which is preferable to the opposite, which can’t be remedied at the table).
Tender chicken breast is stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese and bacon. Luckily, chef Paul has a light touch here. The breast meat is moist and balanced with the stuffing, where the assertive flavors could overwhelm. A pecan crust adds another dimension to the dish, a pleasant crunch with nuttiness that melds well with a touch of heat from the Cajun cream gravy.
- CHIP WEINER
- The pecan-crusted chicken had a pleasant crunch with nuttiness.
The wild mushroom ravioli are made with shiitake, cremini and portobellos. The filling is complex, but the pasta is cooked too long for my taste. Despite its softness, however, there’s good earthy flavor and some tang from a mild goat cheese sauce.
Bison chopped steak is essentially an 8-ounce lean meatloaf with grilled red onions and red wine glaze. The bison is lean but, thankfully, the meat is not dry, and the glaze goes nicely with the house potatoes.
My favorite from our entree choices is the creamy pesto risotto topped with seared Key West pink shrimp and sea scallops. The shellfish are succulent and the rice is perfectly creamy with just the right bite. The chiffonade of basil adds a proportional herbal note. Risotto is such a pleasure if it’s done well. Most often it’s a crap shoot; well, here we roll boxcars!
They’ve got a carefully chosen wine list with most selections available by the glass, refreshing white or aromatic red sangria with their special recipe highlighting zesty orange, green apple and cinnamon aromas. There’s also a ruby red grapefruit version for tart-o-philes; you know who you are. And my Guinness-swilling English visitor gave Clearwater’s Little Joe Oatmeal Stout from Pair O’ Dice Brewing Co. (which CL highlighted last week) a big thumbs up.
There's no printed menu of desserts, but two are regularly offered: a moist six-layer devil’s food cake that packs real chocolate flavor without being cloying and a warm, fresh blackberry-blueberry crumble with vanilla bean ice cream. The fruit is sweet and the juxtaposition of textures and temperatures is truly seductive. GSB also offers seasonal dessert specials on occasion, but I must say that even with the limited choices, my table was smiling from ear to ear. Both desserts are comfort food, adding the kind of luscious grace notes to a meal that send you into the night whistling a happy tune indeed.
Safety Harbor, FL 34695 7276696762
Open Tuesday - Saturday
Lunch: 11:30am - 2:30pm
Dinner: 5:30pm - 9:30pm
Closed Sunday & Monday
Reservations are suggested for dinner