Barbecue restaurant adds spice to Midtown

Gillie's has been open since the fall, but held its ribbon cutting Tuesday.

Published January 10, 2007

Barbecue aroma drifted over the assembled crowd, and Deputy Mayor Goliath Davis drew a laugh when he suggested the occasion's speakers hurry so people could eat.

Gillie's, a barbecue restaurant at 2401 Central Ave., held its grand opening Tuesday amid tangy aroma and good humor. Owners David and Venita Gilstrap have been serving since early last fall, but saved the formal ribbon cutting until the new year.

"It has been going well, better than we thought," David Gilstrap said.

It is another business to come to the Grand Central District, which is a part of Midtown.

Gillie's is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. serving barbecue and the typical sides, plus collards, macaroni and cheese and dirty rice.

Also featured is GrillStrap Southern Spice, a sauce David Gilstrap developed.

Venita Gilstrap has been an employee of the City of St. Petersburg for more than 20 years, working in the fire and police departments and in internal communications.

It is the Gilstraps' first venture into the restaurant business, although the couple has a reputation for creating savory concoctions for family and friends.

"They've been doing this for years, and now they actually have a storefront," said Shrimatee Ojah-Maharaj, manager of the city's business assistance center.

The Gilstraps worked through the center and the Chamber of Commerce to learn about starting a new venture.

They also received plenty of help from Grand Central friends, Venita Gilstrap said. Business neighbors such as Spirit Graphics and Shirts of Bamboo helped out, and Gillie's wound up buying its face-and-hand wipes from the latter, which is across Central from the restaurant.

Venita Gilstrap's pastor, Alvin Lewis, did the restaurant's artwork.