South Tampa's Datz Keeps It Local, Opens Dough Bakery

Long before the opening of South Tampa's Datz on South MacDill Avenue, owners Suzanne and Roger Perry were retired foodies looking for a way to expel excess time and energy. With little to no restaurant experience -- other than traveling the world and welcoming cultural flavors -- the Perrys were looking for a local, casual food joint to become their home away from home.

"We've been around the world and have been to the best restaurants, but all we wanted was a place to go with our friends where we didn't have to spend an hour getting ready. We just wanted good food, good beer and a good glass of wine,'' says Suzanne Perry. "What we were looking for didn't exist in South Tampa yet. I'm not saying there weren't already great restaurants here, but there wasn't the niche we were looking for, so we decided to create it.''

Cue Datz's opening a little more than four years ago at 2616 S. MacDill Ave.

In 2009, the American gastropub specializing in comfort food favorites like mac and cheese, chicken and waffles and stuffed meatloaf, originally opened as Datz Deli, serving up an enormous sandwich menu and calling out orders ballpark style.

Since, Datz dropped the "Deli'' and has evolved into something much bigger than your average sandwich joint: A successful, thriving restaurant smack dab in the middle of the booming South Tampa scene. With a staff of more than 100 employees and now operating as a full-service restaurant, the Perrys often find themselves managing enormous brunch and dinner crowds.

"These are people that can go anywhere and get anything they want, but what they want is macaroni and cheese. They want pancakes, and shrimp and grits,'' Perry says. "Our menu kind of matches the mood of the country right now. They want familiar, comfortable and local.''

Now, Datz is expanding their much-loved concept with a newly-opened bakery, Datz Dough. Officially opening its doors on April 8th, Dough may look like your average bakery, but just like Datz, there's much more than meets the eye.

Datz, Before The Dough

At approximately 6,000 square feet, Datz has gone above and beyond what Suzanne and Roger Perry originally had in mind. Their time spent at the restaurant is now often joined by large crowds, long waits and a full parking lot.

Updating their menu every six to eight weeks, Datz has successfully carved out their niche, proudly offering creative takes on old classics and well-crafted versions of new trends made from premium, local ingredients.

"We're now baking everything for Datz next door at Dough,'' says Perry of the 300 loves of bread and 1,300 batards, hoagie rolls and buns the bakery has been churning out for Datz on a weekly basis. "We're as local as you can get.''

But don't forget, Datz's focus isn't just food.

As a gastropub, the restaurant has a full-service liquor license and features a generous selection of American wine; more than 100 varieties of bourbon, whiskey and scotch; and 37 on-tap craft beers chosen by the restaurant's craft beer specialist Kevin Reinhardt.

"We opened our doors thinking we would maybe have one chef, a sous chef and a couple of servers -- a staff of about five or six -- but we ended up with a huge space with great volume,'' Perry says. "We're packed all of the time.''

Don't want to spend time waiting? Download Datz's smartphone app featuring a menu, beer list, reviews, online ordering, social media and a convenient "text wait list.''

Baking Up Dough For Datz

Located directly adjacent to Datz at 2602 S. MacDill Ave., Datz Dough is welcoming customers with house-made pastries, doughnuts, cakes, breads, gelato, cupcakes, cookies and on-the-go breakfast items, just to name a few. Even the frostings, glazes and fillings are made at Dough, by Dough, with former Refinery pastry chef, Alex Flannery, acting as the bakery's executive pastry chef.

"Dough is completely the opposite of Datz. All of the food at Datz is huge and very masculine -- you basically have to unhinge your jaw to eat one of our burgers,'' Perry says. "Dough is delicate with smaller portions. It's feminine and visually appealing to women. You can eat everything with one hand and nothing is dripping down your arm. They're a good complement to each other.''

Before opening Dough, Perry says they were spending thousands of dollars per month on bread and desserts for Datz. Wanting to break even and improve a jam-packed parking situation, the Perrys bought the approximately $650,000, 3,000-square-foot space next door -- former home to Kalupa's Bakery -- as soon as it became available.

"I would love to say that Dough came about as a brilliant idea, but we've had a parking problem since the day we opened Datz and the worst thing that could have happened to us was another concept -- any type of concept -- coming in that needed parking and was fighting with us for the lot,'' she says.

The building underwent a nearly $350,000 overhaul inside and out, with interior design by David Jackson and carpentry work and finishes by Michael Chowning and a crew from Chowning Enterprises. New equipment, cases and furnishings were installed, and the eclectic Alice in Wonderland-esque ceiling was painted three times (yes, three!), showing just how much time and effort was put into making Datz Dough's new home perfect.

And yet again, the Perrys looked to focus on what customers crave. This time, the grab-and-go breakfast.

"Everyone from McDonalds to Dunkin Donuts to convenience stores is offering something small that you can stick in a bagel bag and eat in your car with coffee,'' Perry says. "At Dough, you're in and out. Our goal was to offer things people can pick up and take with them.''

Mini quiches, kolaches, doughnuts and fruit hand pies (house-baked Pop Tarts, anyone?) are all a part of Dough's grab-and-go menu with coffee and espresso custom blended by St. Pete's Kahwa Coffee.

Ultimately, Perry envisions transforming the 52-seat space into a dessert lounge at night, offering up a romantic atmosphere with low lighting and candles throughout.

"We have great cakes and a nice selection of after dinner wines and beers. You can enjoy a boozy milkshake and some house-made gelato,'' Perry suggests. "When people want to avoid the crowds and a potentially long wait at Datz, they can just walk over to Dough.''

What's In Store For Datz

In addition to Dough, Suzanne and Roger officially launched Datz's high-end catering company, Dazzle, in February 2013, looking to Laura Schmalhorst of Tampa's A La Carte Event Pavilion and Chefs on the Loose to head the newly-founded catering division.

And the Perrys have big plans for the Datz name in the coming years, envisioning additional Datz locations succeeding in thriving cities like Sarasota, Winter Haven, Naples or St. Pete.

"We have plans to expand, but aren't sure if we want to open more Datz locations or a collection of concepts, like Dough,'' she says. "We prefer the idea of various concepts, and if we do that, we'd like to stay in South Tampa.''

But for now, Dough will celebrate its grand opening on April 21st with an exclusive party to benefit the Children's Cancer Center.

Attendees will be treated to an evening of the best of the best from both Dough and Datz -- tasty bites, desserts and drinks. One hundred percent of the proceeds from "Raising Dough for Children's Cancer Center'' will go to the center.

Alexis Quinn Chamberlain, a Florida native and freelance writer, can often be found barhopping on South Howard Avenue, walking around her North Hyde Park neighborhood and daydreaming with her boyfriend and Chihuahua at Davis Island Dog Beach. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
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