Gulfport’s Smokin’ J’s BBQ and Backfin Blue Cafe have closed

Two beloved Gulfport restaurants have closed permanently.

BBQ favorite Smokin’ J’s served up its final dish of brisket and pulled pork on Sunday, capping a 13-year run at 5145 Gulfport Blvd. S

Related: John Riesebeck embraces a family tradition amid the coronavirus pandemic

Owner John Riesebeck, a butcher and pitmaster who opened the popular Texas-style smokehouse in 2009, made the announcement on the restaurant’s Facebook page, saying the decision to close and retire was made with ” mixed emotions”.

“It’s been a wonderful 13 years and we appreciate all of your support over the years,” the announcement said. “We have made many friends along the way and for that we are truly blessed, but now is the time to retire and enjoy the rest of our lives.”

John Riesebeck, owner of Smokin’ J’s BBQ, poses outside his smokehouse in Gulfport on March 22, 2020. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times ]

Smokin’ J’s shutter comes just weeks after another longtime Gulfport restaurant was permanently closed.

After 25 years, the Backfin Blue Cafe, a casual seafood restaurant popular for its crab cakes, closed on July 4. Owner Harold Russell opened the restaurant inside the cottage at 2913 Beach Blvd. S in 1997.

News of the two closures has brought fans to tears over the loss of two local restaurants while other long-running St Petersburg eateries – Kissin’ Cuzzins and Munch’s – are currently up for sale.

Last week, the iconic St. Petersburg restaurant Kissin’ Cuzzins at 951 34th St. N went on sale for nearly $2.5 million. In June, the building that houses the Old Southeast Munch’s mainstay and several surrounding properties at 3920 Sixth St. S went up for sale for $2.7 million. Both restaurants are still open for the moment. It is unclear whether either restaurant would close if purchased or remain open.

Related: Munch’s, a St. Petersburg icon, is for sale
Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement