Restaurant preview: Park Square Cellars Bistro in FishHawk

park square cellars bistro bar

The Bar

Tampa Bay’s planned bedroom community FishHawk Ranch isn’t particularly the poster child for independent restaurants. Which makes it mindblowing that a sophisticated, fine dining place like Park Square Cellars Bistro hasn’t opened before now. The neighborhood teems with money and education, and MacDill Air Force Base even has a daily commuter shuttle from the town center. It’s like, “Duh.”

So it’s cool that FishHawk’s wine community came up with the brilliant idea of opening a bistro in the thick of things. Shawn and Mary Sarkisian launched Park Square Cellars wine shop in 2005 and business boomed until the recession hit. They briefly closed their doors but a friend (and now partner) Kevin Fulcher poured in some much needed cash. They reopened on September 12, 2009. And in May of 2010, the three decided that FishHawk was ripe for a non-chain restaurant with a full service bar. A cool-casual place where people could hang.

Park Square Cellars Bistro was born.

They hired Executive Chef Alex Knezevic, who has a background in some of Tampa Bay’s best restaurants, including SideBern’s and Blue Figs, to handle the menu and kitchen duties. I recently tasted his food during Park Square Cellars Bistro’s soft opening and although I don’t live anywhere near FishHawk, I can safely say it’s worth the drive from Tampa.

The menu is solid. It’s not particularly “cutting edge” but FishHawk isn’t New York or L.A. , so who cares? And it’s decidedly a refreshing alternative to Outback Steakhouse. The Seared Crab Cakes ($10) arrived loaded with meat and little “ingredient stretching” filler, served over a bed of fresh apple slaw and drizzled with spicy Romesco (a Spanish-influenced roasted red pepper sauce). Steamed and salted Edamame ($4) are one of the healthier starters, along with the crispy bacon-strewn Spinach Salad ($9), which could have used a little more of that creamy, homemade Ranch dressing. On the entree side, I heard rave reviews about Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin ($18), Goat Cheese Ravioli ($13) and Grilled Lamb Chops ($21). I chose the Pacific Rim Salmon ($16) which, although very fresh, could’ve used a little more flavor kick.

But the piece de resistance — and the reason I’ll return — is the Red Wine Braised Short Ribs ($17), served with dreamy, roasted garlic buttermilk mash, gremolata and a nest of salty, crispy fried beets on top. A generous portion of fork-tender, savory, succulent meat… this is comfort food taken to the nth level of fabulous. They could charge more but I hope they don’t. I also admire that Chef Alex included two vegetarian entrees: the Ravioli and Oven Roasted Tomato Risotto ($14).

bell's two hearted alePark Square Cellars Bistro features 24 craft beers on draft, 150 wines by the glass and bottle (from the shop). The best selections on the wines by the glass menu — they feature two levels of wines, $6 and $9/ per glass: Pennywise Pinot Noir ($6), Gruet Sparkling Brut ($9), Block 9 Pinot Noir ($9), Chappellet Mountain Cuvée ($9), and Morgan Chardonnay ($9). The beer list is extensive and obscenely affordable. A few gems: Bell’s Two Hearted Ale ($4.50), locally-made Cigar City Maduro Brown ($4.25), Dogfish 90 Minute IPA ($5.75), Lefthand Milk Stout ($4.75) and Stone Smoked Porter ($4.75).

I think Shawn and Mary have attained their goal of creating a comfortable, hip restaurant where FishHawk denizens can enjoy more creative fare. Since opening last week, they’ve been met with love from the local community, but I encourage Tampa folks to venture south and try some of Chef Alex’s solidly tasty creations.

Park Square Cellars Bistro
16132 Churchview Drive, Lithia, FL
(warning: sound you can’t turn off)

<a href=””><img alt=”Park Square Cellar Bistro Bar Wine Boutique on Urbanspoon” src=”” style=”border:none;width:104px;height:15px” /></a>

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5 comments to Restaurant preview: Park Square Cellars Bistro in FishHawk

  • We go to Park Square Cellars Bistro every Friday night. It’s a nice place to start the weekend.

  • I haven’t been there yet but plan to be in FL within the next 2 weeks and can’t wait to visit the Bistro … sounds wonderful!

  • Jessica

    Sounds like the perfect place for a “destination” evening with the husband! Thanks for the great review and marketing for Park Square Cellars.

  • sarah

    I just got back from the Fish Hawk Park Square Cellars. I sat at the bar with two friends and Kelly waited on me. She seemed to have no idea what was going on. I repeatedly had to ask for water. A couple next to us had arrived 10 minutes later and was given the 2-6pm happy hour even though they arrived after 6pm. We arrived at 6pm and were not even told about the happy hour. We ordered food and a bottle of wine. The burger slidders were reasonable for the money. My other party ordered the bacon wrapped pork tenderloin, it was the smallest “large plate” I had ever seen. Six thinly sliced pieces of tenderloin-dry, for $16! I ordered the $10 crab cakes. They came out: two of the saddess looking balls of food. They must have been precisley measured with the worlds smallest melon baller. In all, the service was poor, the food was way overpriced and lacked flavor, but on a positive note- the atmosphere was pleasant. I would absolutely NOT recommend this place. It truly was a shame, I had such high hopes. Their menu sounded unique and delicious. What I got was another story. It should only be a matter of time before this one goes out of buisness.

  • Karen

    Seven of us went to Park Square Cellars last night for a family dinner out, no children, just adults. It was fabulous! We tried a number of wines and beers and all were wonderful. Service was fantastic, even though the dining room was filled with several large parties, including one of at least 15 people. We enjoyed the charcuterie plate, crab cakes, various soups, the tenderloin, the slider plate, and mussels. The food is inventive and unique for way out here in the ‘burbs. My only complaint is that the sliders were too welldone for my taste (we mentioned this to Shawn before leaving). Everything else was just amazing! I would definitely recommend this restaurant and I will be returning.

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