Nestled within the Mahaffey Theater in beautiful downtown St. Petersburg you will find Sonata – a waterfront fine dining haven offering coastal cuisine. Sonata is an ode to the marriage of exquisite flavors and Southern hospitality. The restaurant offers more than just a meal though – it boasts a celebration of art in three forms: theater, culinary and visual. All forms blend together in the utmost harmonious way and create the foundation of the establishment. Welcome to Sonata.
The restaurant was founded by Bill Edwards and the talented Executive Chef Ted Dorsey, formerly of The Mill. Upon entering Sonata, you’re first greeted by the hostess stand. After checking in, you’re then lead to the elevator which takes you up to the main dining room on the second floor. The stunning views are likely to be the first thing that you’ll notice in the expansive space. The large windows allow for diners to take in all of the spectacular waterfront sights.
Perhaps the next visual to steal your attention (if it hasn’t already) is the large moon art installation by artist Luke Jerram. This incredible piece was brought to life using photos from NASA and has made appearances all over the world. It was supposed to only initially be displayed in Sonata for six months, but I was told that it will now be ongoing. The details on the moon are quite incredible and while it is quite impressive during the day, the real magic happens at nightfall when it illuminates.
The food at Sonata is deemed as “coastal cuisine with roots in southern hospitality.” The menu entices diners with a tantalizing array of options such as fine seafood, succulent steaks, delectable chops and more. Appetizers and oysters should not be overlooked as they exude a vibrant variety of unique fare and flavors.
To get to the restaurant, park in the same lot that you would if you were attending a show at Mahaffey Theater. Valet parking in the lot is also available. Once parked, begin to approach the theater and then you’ll notice clear signage for Sonata. Follow the signs until you find your way inside. Speaking of theater, Sonata is an idyllic spot to indulge in a meal before a show at Mahaffey – just be certain to plan ahead.
We visited Sonata on a Saturday evening recently with an early dinner reservation (5:00PM). When we first arrived, there weren’t many occupied tables, but by 6:00PM, the entire place was full, including the bar. Being that the restaurant is within the walls of Mahaffey, it makes sense for folks attending evening shows to dine at Sonata prior. We learned that there was an 8:00PM show that evening which explained why the place was so packed. That being said, I do highly recommend that you make a reservation at Sonata if you’re planning to visit.
Our dining experience began with a bottle of Tempranillo and a cocktail for my husband. He selected the Chihuly over Venice which is comprised of Ford’s gin, Campari, Combier strawberry, Contratto bianco vermouth and Regan’s orange bitters. This cocktail was quite similar in taste to a Negroni – which we love and drink plenty of. The Combier strawberry initially lead me to believe that this drink may lean more sweet, but that wasn’t the case at all as it was very well balanced. The cocktails are definitely worth experiencing. During our next visit, we plan to drink our way through the beverage menu a bit more. Our wine, as expected, was safe yet delightful – we enjoyed it throughout the duration of our meal.
As mentioned earlier, the starters and oysters sounded entirely too enticing to pass on. The Panko Crusted Pickled Eggs planted themselves on our radar from the jump. Whilst making our reservation for this meal a few weeks back, my husband and I glanced over the menu and he exclaimed that those were a non-negotiable. I, of course, couldn’t argue with their given description. Pickled deviled eggs coated in a Panko breading with avocado cream, spicy aioli and paprika – say no more. Each bite boasted the perfect amount of flavor and texture and the balance of it all was supremely above average.
In addition to the eggs, we also agreed upon an order of the Baked Oysters Bienville. These came highly recommended by our server. Presented with lump crab, piperade, worcestershire butter, sherry, parmesan, and panko, it was easy to see why lots of patrons order and adore these. Personally, I’m more of an oyster purist and prefer a varietal served raw (and typically something a bit smaller from the west coast), but these were definitely enjoyable. They were bursting in rich flavor and there definitely wasn’t a shortage of lump crab which was a pleasant surprise. Had we not brought a third dining companion with us (my sweet mother), I could have made a meal out of the appetizers alone.
The Lobster Bisque was an easy yes for the whole table. We assumed that it would be just enough for each of us to savor a bite or two with perhaps a little left to spare. However, when it hit the table, we quickly noted that this portion was enough to suffice as a light entree – and we had zero complaints about that. The bisque was full of traces of succulent lobster, including a solid amount of actual lobster pieces which was a pleasant surprise.
Choosing an entree was a bit of a challenge in the best way possible. Each selection was vying for attention with plenty of mouthwatering allure. I’m always enthralled by any dish that is centered around curry and even more so when there is a braised short rib involved. So, the Red Curry Coconut Braised Short Rib was the clear entree selection for me. Prior to our dinner, I read multiple positive reviews which praised this dish. The curry braised short rib was accompanied by a purple potato puree, haricot verts and natural jus. The combination of it all was simply outstanding. Each flavor note was bold enough to stand on its own, yet all of it melded together was totally divine without being too overwhelming for the palate. It should be no surprise that this was my favorite.
My husband had a hard time narrowing things down between the Pork Osso Bucco Bourguinon and the Pork Tomahawk. Ultimately, I expressed to him that Pork Osso Bucco is probably a dish that is least likely to appear on a menu and our server confirmed that that was probably the way to go. The presentation of this dish is an absolute show stopper. The pork is served with buttermilk mashed potatoes, maple-glazed baby carrots and red wine jus. Overall, the dish was pleasing, but I just wanted the slightest more bit of oomph in the overall taste. Nonetheless, it is a gorgeous dish.
My mom never can shy away from a burger (who can?!), especially when it’s made with Australian Wagyu. We were totally happy with this handheld rendition of the classic. She ordered it as is with everything on it – bibb lettuce, onion, bacon, aged cheddar and roasted garlic aioli. All of it is sandwiched between a brioche bun and seasoned fries are served on the side. The patty is not too thin, yet not too thick and is packed with juicy, savory characteristics.
We just couldn’t leave without ordering one of Sonata’s luscious desserts. We had our hearts set on the Bananas Foster Cheesecake, which is also one of the menu specialties, but sadly, they were sold out. Though, we pivoted and ended up with the Classic Florida Key Lime Pie with Chantilly cream. It served as an idyllic way to cap off a remarkable meal.
Not only is Sonata open for dinner, but they now serve an alluring brunch too. This would be the perfect place to dine to catch the early afternoon or evening views during the upcoming Grand Prix next month. Be sure to secure a spot sooner rather than later though.
Sonata certainly surpassed expectations. From the cuisine and ambiance to the service and beautiful atmosphere, it delivered in all categories and made our dining experience a memorable one.
- Readers Rating
- Rated 5 stars
5 / 5 (Reviewers)
- Your Rating
- Sonata Restaurant
- Coastal , Southern, Lounge
- Tue - Thu 11:00am - 10:00pm
- Fri - 11:00am - 11:00pm
- Sat - 10:00am - 11:00pm
- Sun - 10:00am - 10:00pm
- Take Reservations: Yes!
- 400 1st St. South, St Petersburg, Florida 33701, United States
Sonata Restaurant & Lounge at the Mahaffey Theatre in St. Petersburg, FL offers Coastal Cuisine rooted in Southern Hospitality.
PLEASE NOTE: Reviews reflect a certain moment in time. Some restaurants stay extremely consistent over many years, and some change for the better or worse. Some things that may change are: chefs, recipes, food suppliers, ingredients, philosophies, ownership, etc. We always hope that you have the same good, or great experience we had.