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Interview: Executive Chef Lee Aquino of Birch & Vine at The Birchwood St. Pete

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I had the pleasure of sitting down with Executive Chef Lee Aquino of Birch & Vine at The Birchwood in Downtown St. Pete recently for an interview. Aquino is originally from Amelia Island. The restaurant and hotel owner, Chuck Prather, is also making moves to soon expand into the new St. Pete Pier that is opening in 2020.

Photo via Birchwood

Here is the interview:

Q: What’s new on the menu at Birch & Vine?

A: Birch & Vine is updating all facets of our menu. We’re updating the face of the building and our scratch kitchen with fun, awesome, but also approachable food. Our style is French rustic with an American twist.

Our diners are a variety of people: hotel guests, passerby customers, and people who see our menu in the front of the building on the first floor.

On our top floor at The Canopy, it’s a little different. We have retired folks and a variety of young people as well. Our menu is mainly bar food and we are looking to update the flatware and menu items. Lighter and fresh vibes. Food that is easy to eat.

No caviar here.

Q: What trends do you see coming in 2020?

A: Towers. I’m sure you’ve seen them in old school tea parties.

Smaller portions with more variety and more choices. Multiple appetizers and hors d’oeuvres with in-between price points.

Q: Do you think plant-based meat will join the menu in 2020?

A: We are not using plant-based meat at Birch & Vine. My main concern is cross-contamination issues, which has been a concern as some of the big concepts and chains that have deployed it.

We try to be as conscious as possible about our imprint at Birch & Vine.

Seasonality is a thing in Florida, even though there’s one season things don’t grow the whole year. If a party orders a fig salad – it can be a tough thing to find when a farm runs out of it. Sourcing can be difficult and we try our best to get ahead of it.

We never want to mislead the clients. Be honest.

Q: What’s your history and background?

A: I have been at Birch & Vine for 2 years as Executive Chef. I started at the Tampa Yacht & Country Club as an Executive Sous Chef for 6 years in the past. I bought a house in Downtown St. Pete and made it my home and that led me here.

Q: Where do you like to eat on your day off?

A: Somewhere I haven’t been. I like to be provoked and taste the town. I have no favorites though (laughs).


The Birchwood is located at 340 Beach Drive Northeast in Downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. The hotel features Birch & Vine restaurant, an 18-room boutique hotel on the second and third floor, conference, event, and entertainment space in The Grand Ballroom on the fourth floor and a rooftop lounge, The Canopy.

It is a Spanish Mission-style building originally built in 1922 and underwent historically correct renovations in 2013. It is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. 

Visit them online at thebirchwood.com.

Birch & Vine. 340 Beach Dr. NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. (727) 896-1080.

Carlos Eats

January 29, 2020 |

Coppertail Stein & Vine Kitchen now open

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Coppertail Brewing had the Grand Opening for Stein and Vine Kitchen (S &V Kitchen) last week at the brewery in Ybor City. The pub fare from S & V Kitchen will be available to guests daily from 11AM to 11PM when they visit the brewery.

Coppertail Brewing is located at 2601 East 2nd Avenue, Tampa, FL 33605 just outside Ybor City near IKEA.

Menu items are identical to what you’ll find at the Stein & Vine location in Brandon and includes the “Juicy Lacey” Cheeseburger, Pig Wings, and Tator Tots…to name a few. Food is also available for take-out with a special Monday special that includes a growler on the Coppertail Facebook page.

You can find the full menu for S & V Kitchen on Coppertail’s website at: http://coppertailbrewing.com/the-food-1/

Coppertail Brewing was founded in 2014 by Kent Bailey and Casey Hughes. The idea was to bring more hop-forward and Belgian influenced beer to the market. All their beer is brewed and bottled in Tampa for Florida distribution. Coppertail beer is available at tap rooms and restaurants, Total Wine, Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Publix, and at the brewery.

Stein and Vine was founded in 2012 by Ty and Lacey Mathis. The owners live within walking distance of their restaurant and pub and are friends with the owners of Coppertail Brewing.


Carlos Eats

December 8, 2017 |

The Independents: Birch & Vine

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  Birch & Vine at The Birchwood   There has been a lot of activity at Birch & Vine lately! Chef Luke Decker’s all NEW brunch, lunch & dinner menus feature locally sourced meats, fish and vegetables with seasonal influences and […]
Tampa Bay Metro Magazine & Blog

May 21, 2017 |
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