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Welcome to the jungle: Tulum-inspired concept to open

Veronica Brezina



Inside Concrete Jungle, a new restaurant concept from the Hunger Thirst Group that will debut at 475 Central Ave. Photos by Veronica Brezina, unless indicated.

Lush faux palm trees, boho-style decor and paintings of zebras and tigers line the walls inside the downtown St. Pete space where the Portuguese fusion restaurant Iberian Rooster once operated. 

Stephen Schrutt, the entrepreneur behind a string of innovative culinary destinations in St. Pete, has converted the 475 Central Ave. space into his latest concept – Concrete Jungle, a restaurant and bar inspired by the Central American cuisine of Tulum, a Mexican city on the Yucatán Peninsula. 

The first level of Concrete Jungle where the full-service restaurant operations are located. 

“There’s a new building going up around every corner, we are becoming a true city – and now I get to bring a jungle here,” said Schrutt, owner of Hunger Thirst Group. 

He acquired the space two years ago from Iberian Rooster owner Russell Andrade. Schrutt originally planned to breathe new life inside the historic Kress Building shortly after the purchase; however, his focus shifted on opening his Asian-fusion restaurant Good Fortune and ’70s-themed Lost and Found bar in St. Pete. 

Pink velvet seating in the main level.

“For me it was a great opportunity. I always loved the space,” said Schrutt. “I was really drawn to the basement. There are not many two-story restaurant buildings in downtown. We want downstairs to be an intimate experience, whether it’s for two people on a date who can share cocktails or a group of friends.” 

Schrutt hasn’t set a formal opening date for Concrete Jungle, but said it will “open soon.” 

The main level will operate as a full-service bar and restaurant, serving patrons Monday through Friday starting at 11:30 a.m. 

The stairs leading into the basement. 

Schrutt has hired Executive Chef Jason Gordon to curate the colorful menu. 

“It’s really about the light, healthy aspects. I wanted to do food that isn’t just bar food,” Schrutt said. “Chef Jason and I worked very closely on developing the menu and brought in Chef Nick Kadjevich and our sous-chef from Good Fortune.” 

Some of the dishes Concrete Jungle will serve. Instagram image.

The chefs will also serve whole fish on platters – a common dish served in the Yucatán Peninsula. 

Schrutt said Concrete Jungle will eventually offer a weekend brunch service from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. 

“You are going to see some of the same elements from dinner brought into lunch,” Schrutt said. 

In not straying from the coastal-influenced cuisines, the brunch menu will include dishes such as steak and eggs, chorizo and hash, salmon benedict and a seafood tower. 

There’s also a big emphasis on the tropical cocktails bartenders will serve at the upstairs and downstairs bars.  

The basement level, which has a separate bar and will only serve small plates. 

Concrete Jungle will have limited bottle service in the basement, offering tequila and champagne bottles for large groups. 

Schrutt worked with Niall McCourt, the current beverage manager of Lost and Found, and Bar Manager Scott Wenger in crafting the drink selections. 

The basement level also has a stage where artists will perform. 

The new concept represents the 12th restaurant Schrutt has opened in 12 years. 

The main dining area in the main level. 

His other HTG-owned and operated businesses include No Vacancy, a Floridian motels-inspired bar, and Park & Rec, which features an arcade and lawn games. 

“For lots of people, hospitality is an escape. I try to keep it simple and have a good time doing it,” Schrutt said. “Never allow yourself to be in a box creatively.” 

The restauranteur doesn’t have plans on slowing down. His team has started renovating the space at 2060 1st Ave. S. for another dining experience – Summer Camp. 

The restaurant and bar will have a “campground” with tents, fire tables/pits and an outdoor stage for live music in the Grand Central District. It will open later this year. 

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