Note: This is the final piece in a three-part series highlighting restaurants that received Bib Gourmand awards from Michelin during its first-time rating Tampa in 2022.
Awaken your palate at Rooster & the Till in Seminole Heights. Executive chef and owner Ferrell Alvarez curates adventurous dishes with international flavors served in an upscale, yet relaxed setting with an open kitchen. But don’t just take our word for it — Rooster has the approval of none other than the Michelin Guide.
The famed French publication recognized Rooster & the Till with a Bib Gourmand award in 2022 after completing its first reviews of Tampa. Rooster is one of three restaurants in the city and 3,407 restaurants worldwide to receive this Michelin award for good quality, good value cooking. (Read about Tampa’s other Michelin-recognized restaurants in the links at the end.)
Michelin’s writeup on Rooster reads in part, “Between the lively tunes and buzzy staff, the aura is anything but stuffy. The plates follow suit — freewheeling, frequently changing and shareable with elements from SE Asia, Latin America and the Levant.”
Alvarez opened the restaurant in 2013 in partnership with Ty Rodriguez, later joined by Chon Nguyen. Together, they make up The Proper House Group, owners of Tampa restaurants Nebraska Mini-Mart, Dang Dude, Lunch Lady, Ash (coming soon) and Gallito Taqueria (with a second location in Lakeland). But Rooster was the first.
“This restaurant is my pride and joy,” Alvarez shares. “I put everything I had into this. It’s part of my blood.”
Rodriguez dreamt up the restaurant’s name as a nod to Ybor City’s iconic wild roosters, as well as to farm-to-table cuisine. On a deeper level, the rooster signifies the start of a new day and a fresh beginning, while the till is analogous to digging up new culinary ground in Tampa.
“Our food program is different because we are a bit more progressive than most restaurants in our area,” Alvarez notes. “We are not scared to push the envelope and offer new, insightful ingredients and ideas.”
The menu is Alvarez’s constantly evolving playground where he delights in experimenting with unique ingredients. Here’s a glimpse of the intriguing descriptors speckling different dishes on a recent menu: Stone fruit champagne conserva. Duck yolk custard. Miso five spice butterscotch. Whatever you order, expect it to be meticulously and artistically plated.
Perhaps the most fun experience is the chef’s six-course tasting menu, which changes bi-monthly and delights hyper-adventurous eaters with high-end ingredients that they likely have never tried in quite the same way — plus an optional wine pairing; of recent, caviar, halibut cheeks, Wagyu and a cannoli with a burgundy truffle supplement were among the courses. Since opening, Rooster doubled its dining area, built out a full kitchen and recently added a liquor bar. The restaurant earned an impressive array of local and national awards, with James Beard recognition among them, but Michelin’s Bib Gourmand is the first to be displayed. The Bib triggered a flood of resumes and new patrons. It also lit a fire in Alvarez.
“We were hoping to get a star,” Alvarez says. “We’re staying hopeful that it is a possible, attainable achievement and we’re elevating everything slightly.”
From tweaking the service, food and drinks to little touches like adding drink coasters, leather menu bindings, chair cushions and custom pens, as well as remodeling the bathrooms – Alvarez hopes the cumulation of small touches will earn them that coveted Michelin star. But either way, he takes no greater joy than to awaken diners’ palates in new ways with every seating.