The Huntsman, an upscale casual concept focusing on foraged, hunted, and farmed ingredients, will open at 200 Central Avenue in the space formerly occupied by The Mill, a popular downtown restaurant that closed last year citing damage to their building due to nearby construction.
Daniel Renninger, Skylar Stafford, and Ben Williamson, co-owners of The Huntsman, who have worked together at the restaurants operated by Renninger, joined forces several years ago to curate dishes from their worldly experiences.
In 2022, the partners opened The Huntsman restaurant in Tallahassee, where Stafford and Williamson were born and raised. Now the trio is bringing the concept’s second location to downtown St. Pete.
“We all have experiences in fine dining, and I’ve opened restaurants for celebrity chefs around the world,” Renninger said in a conversation with St. Pete Rising. “We decided we wanted to go into business together and introduce a new concept, straddling the line between semi-casual and refined with something playful and sustainable.”
The team ethically sources wild game, seafood, and seasonal produce from Broken Arrow Ranch out of Irving, Texas, which provides elk, antelope, and the majority of the venison cuts. The Huntsman also works with Atlanta-based Buckhead Meat and Inland Seafood.
“My dad was a hunter, so I grew up eating various game and knowing the taste difference in clean and tenderized meat,” Renninger said.
Although Renninger is not a hunter, Stafford and Williamson grew up hunting and still practice the sport today.
“We’ve found these niche purveyors of animal products and wanted to serve this type of meat. It’s also an economically driven decision. The market for beef prices is skyrocketing, but the protein market with wild game has remained fairly steady,” Renninger added.
The restaurant also caters to vegans and vegetarians with dishes such as the popular crushed chili cauliflower that’s tossed in a sweet and spicy citrus glaze, and black bean and sweet potato enchiladas.
Adventurous customers can also choose the “guided expedition” chef-led journey, selecting from either the “Hunter” or “Gatherer” five-course menu featuring game meat or plant-based fares.
Renninger, who has family ties in St. Pete, has been eyeing potential restaurant sites in the city for over a year.
“There’s this eclectic food scene here and nightlife that we can complement with something new,” Renninger said. “The 200 Central block is a prime site. The residents from Art House [Kolter’s 42-story luxury condo tower under construction] will be able to easily experience The Huntsman.”
Wendy Giffin, Executive Director at Cushman & Wakefield, represented the landlord in the lease negotiations. Erik Anderson with Commercial Partners Realty represented the tenant.
“We worked very hard to find a restaurant that offered a unique concept to the already expansive gastronomic options available in downtown St. Pete,” Giffin said. “The Huntsman adds to a wonderful mix of other restaurants already at 200 Central, serving several different types of breakfast, lunch, and dinner options.”
The Huntsman group is in the design phase for the 5,000-square-foot space, with the initial floor plans and electrical work completed.
Renninger said it will be a “massive facelift,” gutting it down to the studs.
Tallahassee artist Paul Tamanian, whose artwork is displayed in the existing restaurant, is leading the interior design for the St. Pete outpost.
Renninger expects The Huntsman to open in the late third or early fourth quarter.
The Huntsman team is reconfiguring the layout and bar, which will serve cocktails like The Remedy, a concoction with American single malt, ginger, honey, lemon, winter spice syrup, and soda.
Other drinks include the Black Gold, an Old Elk bourbon crafted with rye, lemon, honey, and blackberry jam, and The Frigid Honeybee made with pink peppercorn-infused gin, lemon, honey, pomegranate, and egg white.
The Huntsman will also offer domestic and international wines from South Africa, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Chile, France, and Germany.
Renninger and a bar manager will lead the beverage program in St. Pete.
Unlike the dinner-only Tallahassee restaurant, the St. Pete location will have a brunch and lunch service. The Huntsman will reopen at 5 p.m. for happy hour.
The lunch/brunch hours are to be determined, but it would likely run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dinner service will be available till 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends.
Following the dinner service, there will be a “late night” menu with half-off drink specials and small bites like buffalo chicken gnocchi and the Utah beast burger.
“The dinner menu will be the same as the one in Tallahassee, but we will incorporate the St. Pete head chef’s vision for the weekly tasting menu,” Renninger said.
“These tasting menus are a good research and development tool in considering items for the regular menu, which changes every quarter.”
The Huntsman will hire 80 to 100 employees, including the head chef.
They plan to establish relationships with Tampa Bay-based breweries, local micro-green growers, and seafood mongers.