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St. Pete restaurant sees business boost from Yelp award

Ashley Morales

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Mio's Grill & Cafe, located at 119 2nd. St. N. in St. Petersburg and led by owner and head chef Bora Caliskan, has place #12 on Yelp's 2024 list of Top 100 U.S. Restaurants. Photo: Ashley Morales.

Mio’s Grill & Cafe in St. Petersburg has experienced a surge in business after being ranked number 12 on Yelp’s list of 100 Places to Eat in 2024

Mio’s is owned and operated by head chef Bora Caliskan. Caliskan was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey and has family in Greece. He brings together these two cuisines at Mio’s.

“I’m the connection between the Turks and Greeks,” Caliskan said, smiling. “You don’t usually see many combinations of Turkish and Greek food, but they’re very similar cuisines. The important part is our ingredients; I get them from Greece and Turkey to be able to pull out the authentic taste with spices, olive oils, garbanzo beans, chickpeas, red lentils.”

Caliskan spent 25 years in the hospitality industry before launching Mio’s in December 2019, just a few months before the onset of the Covid pandemic. He said Mio’s only survived those months thanks to “support from the locals,” which was enough to enable Caliskan to open a second, larger location in Clearwater last year. 

Mio’s Grill & Cafe serves traditional Greek and Turkish cuisine at locations in St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Photo provided.

Mio’s downtown St. Pete restaurant can be easy to miss, tucked away next to an optical shop on 2nd St. N. The intimate cafe seats about 30 people and is filled with Cycladic-inspired booths and traditional Turkish mosaic lamps above the bar. After placing number 12 on Yelp’s list of 100 Places to Eat in 2024, Caliskan said Mio’s is no longer the hidden gem it used to be.

“Now our weekdays are like weekends, and weekends are extremely busy. It’s a good problem, being busy, but at the same time, we are trying to manage it without lowering our customer service or our quality. The good thing is that a lot of people are calling for reservations, so that helps.”

Mio’s Grill & Cafe is one of three restaurants in the Tampa Bay area and one of 13 in Florida that placed on the 2024 list published by Yelp, a website that publishes crowd-sourced reviews about businesses throughout the U.S. To determine Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in 2024, the site’s staff aggregated data generated from public nominations and narrowed down the list with the help of its region-specific employees, called Community Managers. Restaurants are required to have a Yelp business page in order to be placed on the Places to Eat list.

Caliskan said he received an email from Yelp about a month before the list was published, letting him know Mio’s was in the running, but he had no idea where Mio’s would place.

“I was thinking maybe we were in the 70s or 80s, because there are hundreds of thousands of restaurants nationwide [that are nominated]. So that was good enough, for me to be in the top 100. But number 12? Wow, that is a big deal.”

Mio’s menu showcases a few of the restaurant’s nearly 20 accolades from various publications. Photo: Ashley Morales.

The notable uptick in business at the restaurant underscores the influence of online rankings like Yelp’s annual list in driving customer traffic and enhancing the reputation of dining establishments. Mio’s Grill & Cafe currently has a 4.9 out of 5-star rating with more than 1,200 reviews on Google. Caliskan said many people, especially visitors, find Mio’s simply by looking up popular nearby restaurants on online search engines. When hungry people see news about Mio’s growing list of accolades, which includes multiple awards from Restaurant Guru, Yelp, Tampa Bay Magazine and TripAdvisor, it solidifies the restaurant’s reputation as a must-visit destination for food lovers in St. Petersburg.

With all of his restaurant’s success, Caliskan said he remains focused on treating his employees well, keeping his menu dedicated to quality over quantity and maintaining an approachable atmosphere for all diners, whether they’re international food aficionados or trying Greek or Turkish cuisine for the first time. 

“I never want to be like a place that’s seen as overrated. If this award was from a company or a food critic, I would still respect it and be happy about it, but this [Yelp award] has more value because it’s from the community. We have a connection with all these guests who came here. I couldn’t get to number 12 nationwide without them, and my employees, my team. We did it together.”

Mio’s Grill and Cafe is named is named after head chef Bora Caliskan’s American Boxer dog. Photos of Mio the dog adorn the walls at the restaurant’s downtown St. Pete location. Photo: Ashley Morales.

These are all Florida restaurants that made the list: 

Click here to see the full list of Yelp’s Top 100 U.S. Restaurants 2024.

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    Andy and Donna

    January 30, 2024at11:19 pm

    What a great achievement for Bora and his friendly talented team. I discovered this place through a Turkish friends and it’s been our go to place. It was amazing how few people even knew of it. Inly down side its small and now its busy….going to have to make reservations! Well done guys Great food and where else can you get Anatolian wine

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