Featured

Armature Works food hall now in soft opening

The long awaited Armature Works Heights Public Market is now in soft opening in Tampa Heights. The building opens at 7AM and most concepts are open by 11AM.

The food hall features over 10 different food concepts and bars throughout and is waterfront right off the Tampa Riverwalk near Waterworks Park.

I visited the soft opening preview last night and I’m back today trying out the menu at different concepts throughout the building. Everything has been delicious so far and you’ll find almost everything you might want to eat.

Visit them online at http://armatureworks.com/

Here are some photos:

Chicken slider samples from the all-day breakfast and lunch spot called Graze 1910.

Salmon Poke Bowl sample from Zukku Sushi.

Horchata Latte from Union Coffee (more popularly known as Commune and Co.).

Korean Philly Sandwich from BNB BBQ.

Pork Belly Bowl from Ichicoro Imoto.

Steak samples from Cru Cellars.

Delicious seafood from Surf & Turf Truck!

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Shula Burger now open in SoHo District

Full disclosure: I was invited to Shula Burger to try their food for my opinion and to do a story about their opening which I wanted to publish. The opinions mentioned are my own based on my visit and do not represent Shula Burger.

Shula Burger is now open in the SoHo District in South Tampa at 500 South Howard Avenue, Tampa, FL 33606. The Fort Lauderdale-based gourmet burger concept is part of the same family as Shula’s Steak House and similar Shula brands. Named after Don Shula, an NFL legend and Hall of Fame Coach who won back to back Superbowls in 1972 and 1973 with the Miami Dolphins.

Shula Burger

Shula’s Signature Burger is made from premium black angus beef, short rib, and brisket. The burgers are fresh and never frozen. Bread buns comes from Tom Cat Bakery, one of the original artisan bread bakeries in New York City. Tampa Owner and Operator, Zydrunas “Z” Rackauskas, seeks to bring something different to the South Tampa area that provides quality food and customer service to a busy and active area.

Another important factor for Z is turnaround time. New technology allows Shula to provide burgers made in less than 5 minutes to customers making it a good option if you’re in rush for lunch.

Those looking for something besides a burger can check out the Goodseed Organic Veggie Burger and Marinated Chicken Sandwich as alternatives.

I found the “Perfect Burger” to be more filling than I originally anticipated. It has a clean taste and pretty solid flavoring. This burger features two patties with Shula’s Special Sauce, cheese, pickles, tomato, and lettuce on a bun. The onion rings were flavorful and I think they were the kind of big onion rings I’d want to dip in some mayo in the future. The strawberry milkshake was a guilty pleasure. I still need to try the french fries in the future and other menu items.

Some toppings I am interested in checking out include their Korean barbeque sauce, Sriracha mayo, fried jalapenos, and tomato-bacon marmalade.

The new location is planning a Grand Opening on March 7th with the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Don Shula will be in attendance. The new location hopes to have beer and wine for sale in the next two months. Customers can enjoy nearly daily discounts leading into the opening day.

First-Responders and Military-personnel can enjoy 15% off with uniform or ID.

Shula Burger is open from 11AM to 11PM from Sunday to Wednesday and 11AM to 4AM from Thursday to Saturday making it an option for those hitting the bars and nightlife in South Tampa.

Restaurant Name: Shula Burger

Neighborhood: South Tampa

Cuisine: Burgers, American

Cost: $

Address: 500 South Howard Avenue, Tampa, FL 33606

Phone Number: (813) 867-8230

Website: http://www.shulaburger.com

Menu: http://www.shulaburger.com/menu/

CL Meet the Brewers this Saturday, February 17th!

The annual Creative Loafing Meet the Brewers craft beer event is this Saturday, February 17th at Brandon Harley-Davidson (9841 East Adamo Drive, Tampa, FL 33619) from 1PM to 4PM.

GA Tickets cost $30 in advance and $40 at the door. General Admission includes unlimited beer while you mix and mingle with local brewers. A portion of proceeds will benefit Ybor City Museum Society.

VIP costs $75 in advance and $85 at the door and includes an hour of early admission to the event and food provided by Mini Doughnut Factory, The Mill Brandon, beer from Slim Pickens Cider & Mead, and more.

Buy tickets: http://www.xorbia.com/e/cltampa/brewers/

The event is sponsored by Brandon Harley-DavidsonSmashburgerMini Doughnut FactoryFlorida Brewers GuildTampa Bay Beer WeekTampa Bay Brew Tours by Thirsty PelicanYbor City Museum SocietyThe Mill BrandonRoundhouse CreativeLyft, and UNATION.

Brewery list:

  • 3 Daughters Brewing
  • 7venth Sun Brewing Co.
  • 81Bay Brewing Co.
  • Big Storm Brewing Co.
  • Big Top Brewing Co.
  • Cigar City Brewing
  • Cigar City Cider & Mead
  • Crooked Thumb Brewery
  • Darwin Brewing Co.
  • Dissent Craft Brewing Co.
  • Dunedin Brewery
  • Escape Brewing Co.
  • Flying Boat Brewing Co.
  • Hidden Springs Ale Works
  • JDub’s Brewing Co.
  • Marker 48 Brewing
  • Saint Somewhere Brewing Co.
  • Sea Dog Brewery
  • Tampa Bay Brewing Co.
  • Tampa Beer Works
  • The Wild Rover Brewery
  • Ulele Spring Brewery

Check out the beer list here: https://www.cltampa.com/brewers

The Rez Grill now open at Seminole Hard Rock Tampa

Full disclosure: I was invited to The Rez Grill for a tasting of the menu in exchange for my opinion. These opinions are my own and do not represent Seminole Hard Rock Tampa.

I stopped by The Rez Grill at Seminole Hard Rock Tampa for a taste recently. The inside is a mixture between retro and modern decor – the seating was quite comfortable even in the communal area. The manager and mixologist take just as much care of the experience inside as the Executive Chef Frank Anderson. Chef Anderson is a transplant from Los Angeles and it shows.

Many of the menu items at The Rez are easily approachable American cuisine, but with culinary twists and additions that amplify the dishes to a more gourmet level. Chicken & Waffles and St. Louis Ribs aren’t anything new to people in Tampa, but I really enjoyed the consistency and moisture of the waffles and chicken. Bacon Jam was a nice touch. The ribs were also quite tasty.

One thing that was different was that many of their dishes invite you to share and trust me the portion is plenty for a party of 3-4 people or more depending on your appetite. I was surprised at the large portion sizes, but I think the idea behind The Rez is to offer some great food at a price point that can draw both older and younger diners with different amounts of cash to spend. Splitting entrees will lead you to spend around $10 per person in a party of 3-4 people for entrees.

A major winner to me on the menu was the appetizer options. They were all incredibly delicious.

The Benton’s Ham with Biscuits were fantastic. The oysters were probably one of the best I have had in Tampa – you must try those if offered the chance. The Chicken Liver Toast and Pimento Toast were also winners in my book. I would be happy to stop by The Rez sometime and grab a cocktail with an appetizer and share it with a friend or family member.

The dessert options were also excellent and my favorite two were the Espresso Creme Brulee and Chocolate Budino. Chef Anderson also created the dessert menu and executed it well.

There are quite a few things I didn’t try including the prime meats, burgers, sandwiches, and Florida-caught seafood. The price points of these dishes suggest different offerings between fine-dining and casual dining. Dinner entrees can range from $17 for Cavatelli Pasta to $85 for Wagyu A-4 Japanese Steak.

From the cocktail menu I tried the Improved G & T which features St. George Gin, Elderflower, Tonic Water, B’lure Ice and makes the cocktail turn blue. It was a fine gin and tonic drink, but personally I’m not a huge fan of Gin. I’m still waiting for my moment when I become a fan.

What did impress me was The Rez Cocktail which has house-infused pineapple tequila, mint, lime, and club soda. It tasted like a mojito and was incredibly delicious. I would order this drink anytime at The Rez. The wine selections that were poured during the tasting were also great. You’ll find quite a number of California wines on the list which may be a homage back to Chef Anderson.

Speaking of Chef Anderson, he was very hospitable and definitely not hard to talk to for a chef. His methodology behind each dish was explained well and I think he has lots of potential to create some great eats at The Rez Grill and at Seminole Hard Rock Tampa in general.

Overall, The Rez Grill has some great options and if you find yourself at Seminole Hard Rock Tampa, I’d recommend making a stop and giving it a try. Do bring a friend or two or three.

Surf & Turf Truck serving great seafood at Armature Works

Surf & Turf Truck and I go back a few years. We met during a food truck rally blitz in Seminole Heights and Ybor City. Always friendly at the register and humble about their food and vision.

I met the owner of Empamamas, Stephanie Swanz, at Surf & Turf Truck when she was working their front window while her food truck was being finished up. She perfectly matched their chill and friendly attitude – something not to be missed in a business where most of your business is done at an ordering station.

Surf & Turf always came ready to serve and would knock out order after order at each event they were at. The truck remained creative with themed events, while also serving seafood staples on the regular.

Now they have landed at the new Armature Works building as a vendor in the Heights Public Market. This lucky break came through their network of business contacts. I am sure the owners of Armature are pleased with what they found at Surf & Turf. As a vendor they are a great contrast from the other options at the market.

Lobster Roll

Genuinely good seafood in Tampa is harder to find than one would think. Way too many places stick to just grouper and tilapia and charge too much. There are only a few places that you can enjoy seafood in a casual setting. Surf & Turf took risks on lobster rolls before it was hip in Tampa. During my chat with the owner, Adam, I took a look at some other menu items including the Blue Crab Roll and Salmon Burger.

Blue Crab Roll at Surf & Turf

The Blue Crab Roll is at a much friendlier price point than the Lobster Roll at $12 and still packs tons of flavor. I have to say that for a small amount of time restaurants in Tampa were throwing Old Bay seasoning on everything and doing it incorrectly (much to my disappointment), however the Old Bay Mayo in this blue crab roll is superb. The bread is perfectly done as well. Is there anything better than a delicious sandwich? I think not. A scrumptious side of brussel sprouts completes the order.

Salmon Burger sample

*sample size

Surf & Turf’s Salmon Burger also did not disappoint and left me licking my fingers in joy. Quite buyer friendly at $8 – this burger is both filling and delicious inside and on the healthier side. I would order this Salmon Burger any day of the week and it was indeed sold out that day after customers gravitated to it.

Surf & Turf is on The Daily Meal’s Top 101 Food Trucks for 2016 at #42 and it deserves more recognition in Tampa. It is great to see gourmet food trucks on the move in our city. You can now visit Surf & Turf daily at Armature Works for the time being and I highly recommend heading over and giving them a try.

Rocco’s Tacos Grand Opening Sunday, February 11th

Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar will have its Grand Opening on Sunday, February 11th, 2018 at International Plaza & Bay Street starting at 7PM. Guests will be joined by Co-Owner, Rocco Mangel and Big Time Restaurant Group.

Guests can enjoy Rocco’s signature chips, guacamole and salsa complimentary, as well as live entertainment and a cash bar during the event.

When party goers hear the buzzword “Tequila!” echo through the restaurant, Rocco will take his spot on top of the bar with a bottle of tequila in hand, ready to pour complimentary shots for guests.

Rocco Mangel is the restaurateur behind Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar and has 7 restaurants in Florida and 1 in Brooklyn, New York. He is a New York native who began his start as as a busboy for Big City Tavern, another venture of Big Time Restaurant Group.

His first location in Florida was in West Palm Beach with co-ownership from Big Time Restaurant Group back in 2008. The brand plans another expansion to Hollywood/Fort Lauderdale International Airport this year. Additionally, you can find his “Rocco’s Spice” in the spice aisle of all Publix Super Markets.

Guests should regularly expect upbeat music, a spirited happy hour, Taco & Tequila Tuesday, and Bottomless Brunch on the weekend at Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar.

Over 300 varieties of tequila will be on the menu and can be enjoyed alone or mixed in their signature margaritas.

Dinner service in Tampa begins Monday, February 12th and lunch service will begin on Monday, February 19th.

Winter Whiskeyfest this Friday, February 9th, 2018

Do you love whiskey? I know I do. Winter Whiskeyfest is happening this Friday, February 9th, 2018 from 6PM to 9PM. The event is presented by I Love The Burg. It will take place at La Florida above Red Mesa in Downtown St. Petersburg (128 3rd Street South St. Petersburg, FL 33701).

Tickets are limited and there are only 250 tickets available. Tickets cost $75 per person for admission.

Use discount code CARLOSDRINKS for $10 OFF until February 7th.

Whiskey glasses.

This includes entry to the event, over 12 different whiskey brands to taste, a commemorative tasting glass, light bites such as steak crostinis and ceviche, as well as live entertainment by DJ Austen Van Der Bleek.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit METRO to support their LGBT, Transgender, and Youth programs.

Participating distillers:

  • Belle Meade Bourbon
  • Coopers Craft
  • Old Forester Signature 100
  • Old Forester Statesman
  • Jack Daniels
  • Michters
  • Whistle Pig
  • High West
  • Kentucky Owl
  • Hillbilly
  • Elijah Craig Small Batch
  • Pikesville Rye
  • Larceny
  • Evan Williams Single Barrel
  • Deanston
  • Bunnahabhain
  • Ledaig
  • Breaker Bourbon Whisky
  • Kozuba Distillery
  • Horse Soldier Bourbon
  • Amador
  • Kentucky Peerless Distilling

Buy tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/winter-whiskeyfest-tickets-41520523002

SPONSORED: Valentine’s Day Brunch at Keel & Curley Winery – 2/11

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Keel & Curley Winery. I have been compensated for this post.

Keel & Curley, Florida’s second largest winery, will celebrate Valentine’s Day early on Sunday, February 11th, 2018 from 11AM-3PM in a formal brunch. Reservations are required.

The Plant City winery, farm, and home to Two Henry’s Brewing Co. will offer a formal brunch atmosphere with live music and choices including Prime Rib, Shrimp Scampi, and Cordon Bleu as entrees. Sides include tossed salad, a roasted vegetable medley, baked potato, and rolls.

Brunch will include one bottle of wine per couple and may be substituted for 4 drink tickets for wine, beer, or cider. Individuals receive 2 drink tickets for wine, beer, or cider.

Tickets are now on-sale and cost $85 for couples and $45 for individuals.

To purchase tickets visit http://keelandcurleywinery.com/valentines-day-brunch-winery/ or call (813) 752-9100.

Keel & Curley Winery is located at 5210 Thonotosassa Road in Plant City located minutes off I-4 Exit 17 next to Dinosaur World. It is open 7 days a week from 11AM-9PM Sunday to Thursday and 10AM-11PM on Fridays and Saturdays.

Empamamas now open at Armature Works

Local food truck Empamamas has joined the vendor list at Armature Works for the Heights Public Market today. Several empanadas have appeared on the soft opening menu and it will expand with some time.

This is a huge deal for local food trucks and shows their gourmet power, especially after Surf & Turf is already doing great inside Armature Works. Today I had the signature dish, Tampa Girl Empamama, which is pretty much like a Cuban sandwich inside an empanada.

Here’s hoping to see more from them soon!

February Winemaker Dinner Series at Council Oak Steaks & Seafood – 2/15

Council Oak Steaks & Seafood restaurant at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa will host a winemaker dinner on Thursday, February 15th, 2018.

The event will begin at 6PM with a cocktail reception and proceed to a four-course dinner at 7PM prepared by the culinary team at Council Oak Steaks & Seafood in an open kitchen format that allows guest to witness their food being prepared.

Wines will be featured from Caymus, Mer Soleil, Conundrum and Red Schooner.

Menu items include :

  • Bay scallop anticucho (hors d’oeuvre)
  • Florida citrus poached South African lobster tail (first course)
  • Grilled American Wagyu skirt steak (second course)
  • Caymus infused-sous vide tomahawk short rib (third course)
  • Asian pear panna cotta (dessert)

Tickets cost $179 per person plus tax and gratuity. Get your tickets soon because tickets are limited.

For reservations, contact Seminole Hard Rock Tampa Customer Care at (813) 627-6630.