Orlando City SC and Orlando Health announce partnership renewal, training ground naming rights.

Orlando City Soccer Club and Orlando Health have announced the continuation of their long-standing partnership, agreeing to terms on a long-term renewal.

“We are thrilled to be able to continue our long-standing partnership with Orlando Health,” Orlando City CEO Alex Leitão said.

“A foundational element in our Club’s history, our friends at Orlando Health have been with us through both our happiest and most trying times. To have this level of commitment from our presenting partner and Official Medical Team is vital to our success both on and off the field and we look forward to all that we will accomplish in bettering the Orlando community for years to come.”

“Orlando City SC energizes this town and we’re very proud to be one of the original organizations to partner with the team and ride that wave of excitement,” says Andy Gardiner, senior vice president of external affairs and community relations at Orlando Health.

“In Orlando City SC, we have a partner with a winning tradition on and off the field, a passion for charitable work and a commitment to serving our community as strong as Orlando Health’s. We’re excited to see what the future brings for our growing partnership.”

Orlando Health, the longest-serving partner in Club history, will hold naming rights for the Club’s two training facilities, introducing the Orlando Health Training Ground at Osceola Heritage Park for Major League Soccer (MLS) side Orlando City SC and the Orlando Health Training Ground at Sylvan Lake Park for the Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). The naming rights deal at Sylvan Lake Park will serve as the first of its kind for a NWSL-exclusive facility in league history.

Both of the Club’s state-of-the-art facilities feature a gym, meal room, film room, players’ lounge and a locker room designed to replicate the teams’ locker room at Exploria Stadium. In addition, each facility holds two, Club-maintained grass training fields that are exclusive to the respective First Teams, while Osceola Heritage Park includes two additional fields that house the Orlando City Academy, with every field comprised of Latitude 36 Bermudagrass, the same playing surface found at Exploria Stadium.

Orlando Health will continue to serve as the presenting partner and jersey partner of Orlando City SC, Orlando Pride, the Orlando City Academy and the Orlando City Youth Soccer Network. As part of the new agreement, Orlando Health will also serve as the Official Jersey Partner of Orlando City’s eMLS player.

The Club’s Official Medical Team marked its 11th-consecutive year across the front of the Lions’ jersey with the unveiling of the Thick N Thin kit this past March, followed by the  launch of the Orlando Pride’s Ad Astra kit ahead of the 2021 NWSL season, commemorating six-years of partnership between the two parties.

Orlando Health will also remain the entitlement partner for the season openers of Orlando City and Orlando Pride, as well as the presenting sponsor of both sides’ regular-season schedules and starting lineups, continuing with years past.

Agreement additions in partnership

As part of the new agreement, all of the Club’s medical teams will fall under the care of the Orlando Health Jewett Orthopedic Institute, with Dr. Craig Mintzer serving as Chief Medical Officer and Head Orthopedic Surgeon, while Dr. Justin Mullner will serve as Head Primary Care Sports Medicine Physician.

In an effort to continue the Club’s community outreach initiatives through the long-standing partnership, the new agreement will see an increase and expansion in current charitable and increased grassroot efforts throughout the Orlando community, as well as the return of “Winning Women”, a panel event that features members of the Orlando Pride and focuses on topics centered around empowering women.

The Club will also continue its collaborative efforts with Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children as part of Kick Childhood Cancer Month with Orlando City and MLS Works, as well as with Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies for the Orlando Pride’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month events, among other community initiatives.

Over the airwaves, Orlando Health will continue as an integrated element into Orlando City local broadcasts, adding in an additional branding element on the home team bench at Exploria Stadium.

6 local Filipino spots to try in Tampa Bay

Filpino food is one of my favorite cuisines. The blend of Asian and Spanish flavors is a big draw for me and also the wide-range of different flavors from savory to sweet. The cuisine has long been predicted by food experts to be “on the rise”, but it hasn’t quite taken off the way it was predicted to. 

Regardless, several people have put effort into bringing their interpretation of the cuisine to the public in Tampa Bay. Since the Philippines has thousands of islands, no family recipe is the same, but you can count on the places around town to have some favorites such as lumpia and chicken adobo – the national dish of the Philippines. 

Mata’s Philippine Cuisine: This is a mom-and-pop Filipino spot in Town n’ Country. The food is served cafeteria-style with a focus towards take-out. I’ve only been there a few times, but each time was pretty good. I particularly liked my sisig (pork) and the chicken adobo was pretty good as well. 4350 West Waters Avenue #102, Tampa, FL 33614.

Filipiniana Philippine Café: This was one of the first Filipino spots to hit the Tampa area. The owners have been regulars for a long time at the annual PhilFest festival that draws thousands. They started off just selling boba, Halo-Halo, and bakery goods with food on the weekends, but expanded to include a full-menu of food in the last two years. Don’t miss the Ensaymada pastries if they have it. It is a soft, fluffy pastry topped with white sugar and usually fine-grated cheese. 3848 West Waters Avenue, Tampa, FL 33614.

Flip’n Tasty: Long-running Filipino food truck serving fusion food. They keep a regular rotation of business that can be found on their Facebook page. The name comes from their kids who called their food “tasty, delicious, yummy, so good”. Dishes on the menu include Pancit noodles, Lumpia, Sweet Chili Wings, Sisig Pork Belly, and Pork Adobo Tacos. (727) 709-3655

Manila Eats: This is a newish Filipino truck in Riverview and it is getting a big following behind it, especially on Facebook. They do take time to turn orders, so regulars recommend calling ahead before visiting if you’re in a rush. They also sell out of food, so watch their Facebook page for updates and go earlier in the day if possible. Michael B. says, “Amazing Filipino food, come here hungry and you’ll leave sleepy from food coma. Can’t go wrong with any of the breakfast items but my favorite is the topsilog with garlic rice and egg. But for the more tradition dishes I’d recommend the pansit bihon and lumpia, but if you really want to take a nap, get the lechon kawali!” 10621 Tucker Jones Road, Riverview, FL 33578.

Masarap Bowls: This food truck literally just opened over the weekend. The owner’s name is Carlina Rodriguez and she has been a member of the Tampa Bay community for over 30 years. She says she created the food truck to deliver the taste of the Philippines to the entire Bay Area. Masarap is a build-your-own bowl concept with some sides like lumpia and turon as well as daily specials, they are just getting started so the verdict is still out. (813) 370-7980

Pinoy St. Pete: A newcomer in St. Pete, serving Phillipinne cuisine. The food is inspired by Chef Raquel ‘Jingle’ Baluyut’s roots in Pampanga. Menu items include vegan Pansit, Adobo Chicken, Bistek Tagalog, Kare-Kare, Tapsilog, Pork Belly Kawali, Sisig, and more. They also offer family-style dining that can serve up to 4 people in a group with bigger portions and rice. For dessert they have Halo-Halo. 170 47th Avenue NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33703.

Happy eating!

Popular Florida concepts PDQ and 4 Rivers partner for new BBQ Chicken Sandwich

PDQ restaurants (People Dedicated to Quality) and 4 Rivers Smokehouse have teamed up to sell a BBQ-inspired sandwich starting June 15th that will benefit non-profit 4Roots. 

The 4 Rivers BBQ Sandwich, created by owner of 4R Restaurant Group and 4Roots John Rivers, features PDQ’s  crispy chicken breast dipped in a blend of 4 Rivers signature and mustard BBQ sauces, served on a buttered and toasted potato bun with guacamole, red cabbage and pepper jack cheese. 

The 4 Rivers BBQ sandwich is available for $6.99 at PDQ restaurants in North, Central, West and Southwest Florida from June 15th to August 2nd. 

Rivers worked with PDQ Executive Chef Michael Brannock to incorporate 4 Rivers’ homemade signature and mustard BBQ Sauces and ingredients into this collaboration sandwich for PDQ, appropriately named the 4 Rivers BBQ sandwich. 

This is the second time the two brands partner together, following the successful launch of the 4 Rivers Smokehouse sandwich in 2016, which raised thousands of dollars for local charities.

“We are thrilled to partner with PDQ on the 4 Rivers BBQ sandwich in support of 4Roots,” said Rivers. 

“Each of our concepts are founded on shared beliefs – we value giving back to others through charitable endeavors and pride ourselves on offering quality food to those we serve. The partnership is a natural fit and we are excited to spread the word about dining with purpose.”

4Roots is “an alliance of community stakeholders investing in a healthy thriving, sustainable, food system.”  They are “dedicated to unearthing the power of food to create healthy communities by improving access to fresh nutritious food and educating others about the connection between food choices and individual health, while also addressing the issue of food insecurity”. 

“Our PDQ team is honored to work with John and his team at 4 Rivers to offer this mouth-watering sandwich to our guests at PDQ while supporting the incredible work 4Roots is doing in our communities,” said PDQ Founder and Principal Owner Bob Basham.

The philanthropic partnership will also feature a food distribution event at Edgewater High School in Orlando on Wednesday, June 16th from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. At the event, being held in conjunction with One Heart For Women and Children, 4Roots will distribute fresh produce bags and PDQ will provide boxed meals. Both will be offered complimentary on a first-come-first-serve basis.

4 Rivers was established in 2009 in Winter Park, Florida.  4R Restaurant Group has 22 locations in Florida, including thirteen 4 Rivers Smokehouses, 4R Cantina Barbacoa at Disney Springs; four 4 Rivers walkup venues at ESPN Wide World of Sports; as well as eateries at Camping World Stadium, Spectrum Stadium, and Doak Campbell Stadium. In addition to online ordering, 4 Rivers also offers a variety of catering options for larger parties and special event occasions. 

PDQ was founded in 2011 in Tampa, Florida. Outback Steakhouse co-founder Bob Basham and MVP Holdings CEO Nick Reader are the two principal owners of PDQ. On October 30th, 2011, the original PDQ restaurant opened its doors in Tampa (FL) and the concept now has locations throughout Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Tampa Bay Bucs Champ Rob Gronkowski makes dish with Datz for Guy Fieri Restaurant Reboot Presented By LendingTree

Tampa Bay Buccaneers player and four-time Super Bowl Champion Rob Gronkowski partnered with celebrity chef and new Florida home-owner, Guy Fieri to bring awareness and help generate sales for Datz in Tampa tonight. 

Since the opening of Datz on January 28th, 2009, owners Roger and Suzanne Perry have sparked invention and reinvention in Tampa’s food scene. They have evolved Datz into the home of comfort food with a foodie flair. It’s a craft beer spot, a bourbon lover’s paradise, a food wonderland filled with bacon, cheese, and one-of-a-kind local dishes and is now located on both sides of Tampa Bay.  

Gronk joined the Guy’s Restaurant Reboot Presented by LendingTree stream live earlier and made a special “Gronkalo Chicken & Waffle” as a part of Off the Hook Celebrity Creations presented by Pepsi. 

He asked Datz owner Suzanne Perry about the story behind Datz and they both bonded over coming out of planned retirements to do something they love. They then discussed overcoming the challenges of the pandemic.

“We entered into what has without a doubt been the hardest year of the 12 years that we’ve had restaurants. So, the good news is we’ve come through, we’ve gotten help, and we’ve been able to get our staff back and we’re coming out of the dark.”, said Suzanne Perry.

“The restaurant businesses just took an absolute beating, so I want to give kudos to you for the adjustments you have made to keep this place open. I love what you guys do here.”, said Gronkowski.

He then joined Chef Richard Hudson to make his signature “Gronkalo Chicken & Waffle” dish covered in buffalo sauce. The dish be purchased both at Datz in South Tampa and on Grubhub via delivery.

The world’s biggest celebrities are streaming live from their hometowns as they partner with Pepsi to drive support for local restaurants as the pandemic winds down. Other celebrities participating include Shaquille O’Neal, Wale, Kane Brown, and Adriana Lima. 

Grubhub is serving as the exclusive food delivery partner of the event’s ‘Off the Hook Celebrity Creations Presented By Pepsi’ and will offer two separate promo codes surrounding the event.

Use the code OFFTHEHOOK for 20% off the Off the Hook Celebrity Creations in participating cities and GUYREBOOT for $5 off orders of $15 or more from June 12th to June 14th, 2021.

Rebuild Restaurants Grant program

Guy’s Restaurant Reboot will provide guidance and inspiration to the next generation of restaurant owners, as well as $300,000 in bottom-line financial support in grants and scholarships via the “Help Rebuild Restaurants Grant.”

Created in partnership between Guy Fieri and The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation & California Restaurant Foundation, the grants and scholarships will be distributed to 11 winners live on the show, generously funded by the event’s founding partners: LendingTree, Pepsi, SpotOn, AT&T, Grubhub, Cascade, Dawn, Twisted Tea, Gardein, Birdseye, Duncan Hines, Thermomix®, and Thomasville. 

The winners of the grant will “embody the promising future of the restaurant industry and use the funds to help kickstart their dreams of owning a restaurant”. 

New Belgium Brewing San Francisco launches Love Conquers Ale beer

New Belgium Brewing San Francisco, located near both the San Francisco Giants and the Golden State Warriors facilities and the Mission Bay neighborhood, has released its Love Conquers Ale beer in its first-ever collaboration with Sam Adams.

The in-house brewed ale is made with Sam Adams’s recipe with coriander and basil-infused lemon peel, but made with blackberry modifications you can only find at the in-house San Francisco New Belgium brewery.

The ale has a 5.5% ABV and will only be made in Boston, Denver, and San Francisco. The canned ale will be available only in those cities, along with New Belgium’s hometown of Fort Collins, in a four-pack of 16 oz. cans for $16 with a limited draft available.

100% of the proceeds will be donated to GLAAD. GLAAD “rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance”. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and aims to create a world where everyone can live the life they love.

The beer is now available in the taproom and is also available for online purchase.

New Belgium Brewing now open in Mission Bay

New Belgium Brewing San Francisco is a full-service concept in a modern, accessible space, with both indoor seating for over 110 guests and 60 outdoor patio seats, located at 1000a 3rd Street. It opened in April of 2021.

Guests can enjoy themselves at a table, bar side, or outside on the patio overlooking the canal, a great spot for warm days and nights before a game. Guests on-the-go can purchase canned releases at the convenient retail shop or sign up to join the Cellar Club and purchase from the DTC online shop.

“San Francisco has always been a strong market for New Belgium Brewing and is the second home of founder Kim Jordan. We are lucky to have access to an exceptional location in the heart of a growing neighborhood to launch our first New Belgium-owned restaurant in a city where New Belgium Brewing has always had a strong brand presence. We’re looking forward to growing our customer base in the SF market and building further loyalty,” says New Belgium CEO Steve Fechheimer.

The menu has been designed by husband-and-wife-duo Chefs Laura and Sayat Ozyilmaz. Chefs, restaurateurs and culinary advisors, who have won various accolades, including 2019 Rising Star Chefs “Game Changer Chefs” and San Francisco Chronicle Bay Area’s Rising Star Chefs.

For the New Belgium concept, they have been inspired by pairing their fresh and multicultural flavors with a menu inspired by traditional beer and ballpark experiences, showcasing the culinary diversity of neighborhoods in San Francisco. Fresh, local ingredients invite a range of flavors with a focus on shared experiences.

They say, “we created a menu that focuses on shareable plates, entrees, tartines, salads and house tacos that bring together an amalgam of inspiration from global flavors and influences that helps the NBB beer shine.”

The location underwent a massive design overhaul and showcases New Belgium’s vibrant brand voice and tone at every corner. It was designed in partnership with San Francisco-based ROY, the restaurant looked to create a fun, inviting and local atmosphere that invokes a warm and bright dining experience.

Walls are adorned by local mural artist John Thomas, showcasing playful designs that pay homage to San Francisco. Staying true to its “born on a bike” beginnings, repurposed vintage bicycles can be seen as hanging installations alongside framed artwork.

Foeder inspired wainscotting lines the massive pillars adjacent to a dynamic new seating layout, focusing on a convivial bar zone with multi-tiered light fixtures and colorful transparent acrylic panels, with views to the scoreboard stadium across 3rd street. Livening up the bathrooms, custom wallpaper shows New Belgium co-workers having fun on the job. Most importantly, sustainability and longevity was considered in all facets of the design process.

Founded in 1991 in Fort Collins, Colorado, the New Belgium Brewing expanded to Asheville, North Carolina in 2016 and Denver, Colorado in 2018 and is now the 4th largest craft brewery in the U.S. dedicated to proving that business can be a force for good, New Belgium is a Certified B Corp and was the first brewery to join 1% for the Planet.

The brewery has donated over $26 million to charitable causes since 1991. New Belgium is famous for its flagship beer, Fat Tire Amber Ale, along with year-round favorites like Voodoo Ranger IPA, Sour IPA, and La Folie Sour Brown Ale, as well as an award-winning wood-aged sour program and innovative limited release beers.

Royal Tea boba shop coming soon to Pinellas

Get your boba taste buds ready. A popular bubble tea chain called Royal Tea is coming soon to Pinellas County. The franchise location over in Orlando is absolutely delicious and quite popular so I cannot wait. 

Royal Tea joins other bubble tea concepts in the area including Ding Tea, Kung Fu Tea, and Got Tea. 

According to Allied Market Research, “the bubble tea market was valued at $2.4 billion in 2019 and is estimated to reach $4.3 billion by 2027.” Also, “growth in health consciousness and increase in adoption of healthy beverages, such as green tea, black tea, oolong tea, and white tea among consumers drive the market growth.”

Matcha Powder

This might explain the sudden spike in bubble tea concepts around the area, even in Tampa bubble tea shops continue to grow and expand and are now found in residential areas far from their college town stomping yards. The rise in bubble tea has outlasted the froyo trend which seems to have subsided for now and the COVID-19 pandemic does not seem to have caused any disruption for the business.

Mia R. says of the location in Orlando, “I have heard all the rage about this place & I must say that it lived up to the hype. They have a simple menu and if you’re craving the cheese foam teas that have been going viral, this is the place to try it. I’ve had cheese tea twice before and didn’t really get into it but this place definitely converts you! My usual order is a matcha tea. Now, this is a drink order that you think people can’t mess up but I’ve had my share of bad matcha drinks. This place was NOT one of them.On the contrary, it’s actual [sic] one of my favorites.”

Owners of Royal Tea Pinellas say they are currently still in the building process and are at least 2 to 3 months away from opening depending on how the permit process goes. They are also not owned by the same group in Orlando, but an independent franchisee location. Their website indicates that they are now hiring as well.

The address will be 7201 49th Street North, Pinellas Park, FL.

They will share more information as the opening date draws closer. 

Royal Tea has more than 130 franchise locations in China. Their specialty is making freshly brewed tea with modern technology. Teas are infused with natural and nutritious ingredients. Drinks are made-to-order, use real ingredients, and cost around $4 to $6 at the Orlando location which is about standard for today.

Cheese Cream Matcha.

Menu items include Cheese Teas, Matcha Teas, Milk Teas, and Fresh Fruit Teas. My favorite of all of them at the other location is definitely the Cheese Cream Matcha and a close second is the Fresh Fruit Teas, which are very refreshing especially in hot Florida weather. 

There is already a menu up at royalteapinellas.com.


Sources: Allied Market Research

Veza Sur in Miami debuts limited-edition Mangolandia design in celebration of Pride Month

Pride Month has officially kicked off and Veza Sur Brewing in Miami’s Wynwood is celebrating LGBTQIA+ and promoting inclusion in South Florida’s diverse community with a special release.   

Veza Sur is releasing its best-selling beer, Mangolandia, in limited-edition 12-packs with specialty Pride Month packaging and will donate $1 from every Pride 12-pack sold to Equality FL, the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQIA+) community.

A Mango Wheat Ale, Mangolandia is packed with fresh mango flavor that gives you a crisp, refreshing beer with a smooth mouthfeel, clocking in at 4.8% ABV and 20 IBUs. The limited-edition 12 packs will be available for purchase at Walmart, Whole Foods, and Total Wine.

“We could not be more excited to release Mangolandia in a limited-edition pride 12-pack,” said Marshall Hendrickson, Co-Founder of Veza Sur Brewing Co. 

“We have always been about bringing people together through beer and we never have and never will tolerate discrimination. We are proud to have the opportunity to use our voice to promote inclusion in our diverse South Florida community and celebrate our LGBTQIA+ familia. So, whether you’re heading to the beach, a backyard BBQ, or staying in, grab a limited edition Mangolandia 12-pack and enjoy with pride!”

“Veza Sur’s support through this special Mangolandia beer can release helps us continue our important work to make legislative change in Florida so that no one suffers harassment or discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression,” said Robin Schwartz, Miami Donor Relations and Program Manager for Equality FL.

Equality Florida is the largest civil rights organization in Florida dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community.

Equality Florida was formed in 1997 as Florida’s state government made a hard turn to the right. In an era of setbacks for progressive causes, Equality Florida has defeated or neutralized every piece of anti-LGBTQ legislation filed in Tallahassee since their foundation.

These bills included efforts to overturn all local anti-discrimination policies, repeal all “safe schools” policies, expand Florida’s anti-gay adoption ban, and prohibit domestic partnership benefits and protections.

Wynwood Pride Returns

Wynwood Pride returns from June 18th to June 21st, 2021 for their 3rd annual Pride Festival. 

Restaurants, bars, shops, galleries, and other spaces will work together with the Wynwood Pride team to officially welcome the LGBTQ+ Community and its allies back to Wynwood. T

They envision it as a new kind of Pride experience that will cement Wynwood as a top LGBTQ+ destination for both locals and visitors. The event will also benefit three organizations making strides in the fields of YOU, health, and justice: YES Institute, Planned Parenthood, and Equality Florida.

Find delicious Mexican food at Xochitl in Tampa Heights

Full disclosure: I was invited to Xochitl to try the food on the menu for a tasting. Any opinions are my own and do not represent the restaurant itself.

For Xochitl Cocina Mexicana owner, Jacqueline Gonzalez, opening her first restaurant has been a journey she never imagined. It all started on a trip to Europe, where Gonzlez witnessed a woman happily owning a cafe and thought to herself she wanted that life and to find that happiness. Gonzalez began looking for a location and a change in her life as a healthcare worker. 

Xochitl owner Jacqueline Gonzalez

She looked at Armature Works, but couldn’t sign a lease with a multi-year wait and then decided on a spot across the street after hunting all over town for a location. After years of planning she finally was about to open her doors fully staffed in March of 2020. Then the pandemic hit.

Suddenly, Tampa was flipped upside down and the entire world was plunged into the COVID-19 pandemic. The journey since then has come with many changes and adjustments as things evolve. Initially, Gonzalez wanted a bigger menu instead of tacos, enchiladas, and burritos, but the pandemic forced changes that she never predicted.

Thankfully – it works. The menu at Xochitl is simple and yet delicious. It’s pulse on all the Mexican flavors you know and love with an attention to detail is fine-tuned. Take the steak tacos, any place can have them, but the ribeye and delicious cheese and other toppings truly make it delicious at Xochitl. 

The carnitas blows my mind. Packed with delicious flavor unlike any other place I have enjoyed in Tampa. I almost forgot I was in Tampa for a minute. 

Strawberry Margarita

The margaritas are truly the winners on the drink menu and aren’t packed with sour mixes or tons of sugar and salt. My favorite is the passionfruit, but the watermelon and strawberry are also incredibly delicious. I also like the spiciness in the Mezcalina. 

Mezcalina

Gonzalez told me during my visit, that one thing don’t people don’t realize about the pandemic for businesses is how it has disrupted supply distribution and with the rest of the world still battling thousands of daily COVID deaths and overfilled hospitals, sourcing for restaurants has been an intense challenge. Not to even mention government instability around the world and driver shortages.

Something as simple as tequila or avocados has become difficult for local restaurants to obtain and Gonzalez told me that during Cinco de Mayo, she had to put her foot down to make sure her tequila arrived for her celebration after one of the most difficult years the restaurant industry has ever faced. 

Despite all the hardships and difficulties, you can tell Gonzalez loves what she does. She is prideful and clearly has a fighting spirit. No one can survive in this industry without that. She has no problem rolling up her sleeves with everyone else and seems to really love participating in every part of Xochitl from the Instagram page to the kitchen ideas bounced back and forth. 

Empanadas de Carnitas

The Empanadas de Carnitas were some of the best I have ever enjoyed locally. The sauce was phenemonal and a home recipe inspired by the kitchen staff. One thing Gonzalez says she isn’t afraid of is to change things up if something better comes along. She admits many things about running a restaurant are trial and error, and she seeks to learn from others which is an important thing for a business owner to understand. 

Elote

The Elote is excellent and I really enjoyed all the flavors on it. It’s been interesting seeing it on menus lately because I feel like so many restaurants were neglecting corn for so long, but it’s simple and delicious with the right ingredients. 

Mexican Ceviche

Their Mexican Ceviche was also tasty and a good starter or shareable dish, I really enjoyed the shrimp and the chips that came with it. Ceviche is not the first thing I think of when I think of Mexican food, but the truth is Mexican food is so diverse, there are so many things I have never had – especially having never been to the country itself. 

The freshness of the tacos is very welcome. Tampa has become quite the taqueria city in what was previously a scarcity of dives and chains. As more people move to Tampa, the demands go up, but keeping prices in line can be a challenge for a growing city. Gonzalez says she has a hard time sacrificing quality and has to make smart business calls, but will still not trade her quality. 

One thing people argue about quite a bit on the internet is how much Mexican food should cost and how much it is worth. To me, the cost should reflect the value the food brings you. It is my opinion that the freshness of the food at Xochitl far exceeds what you normally see in a local Tampa Mexican restaurant. 

That doesn’t mean there are no deals though. Xochitl happily participates in drink specials, happy hour, Taco Tuesday, and brunch. The restaurant seems to be a community partner and also has great live music that I happened to stumble upon during their anniversary. It was a toe tapper. 

For those into current food trends, Xochitl also has birria tacos which have pretty much swallowed up Tampa at the moment. The birria dip is not too thick or greasy, but a delicious blend of flavors that I absolutely loved. I first had birria in San Francisco right as the trend was beginning to appear in news outlets such as Eater, and even I have been surprised at how it exploded. 

There is dining available both inside and outside, it was comfortable outside although summer will likely bring rainstorms and showers. I would like to see Xochitl able to utilize the space outside even more. I think the pandemic highlighted al fresco dining that is underutilized by so many.The bar inside is beautiful as well and I definitely think there is potential for plenty of mixology events to be enjoyed there. 

I am very interested in going back soon for more food. I wish I was a little closer since I relocated to Brandon from Seminole Heights, but Xochitl is very convenient for people who live in Tampa Heights, Seminole Heights, Downtown Tampa, or Ybor City. It’s very unassuming to those who may not know, but delicious food and drinks await you if you make the trip.

I recommend Xochitl Cocina Mexicana

Xochitl. 307 West Palm Avenue, Tampa, FL 33602. (833) 962-4485.

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria launching flavors of the summer, Tampa included

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria is launching their flavors of the summer menu. It embraces the flavors of summer including tangy barbeque sauce, strawberries, fresh blueberries, and watermelon. Starting Tuesday, June 8th, Grimaldi’s latest seasonal menu offers limited-time versions of its award-winning pizzas, salads, cheesecakes and cocktails.

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria serves traditional coal fired brick-oven pizza using pizza-making traditions originating in Brooklyn over 100 years ago. Using fresh ingredients, pizzas are prepared in the brand’s signature coal fired brick-ovens, which deliver an authentic taste that cannot be achieved with gas, convection, or wood burning ovens. 

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria is located inside the WestShore Plaza mall at 253 Westshore Plaza in Tampa. It is open from Sunday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and from Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The new additions to the menu include:

Barbeque Chicken Pizza: A spin on Grimaldi’s traditional pizza with Sweet Baby Ray’s® Barbeque Sauce, oven roasted chicken, smoked bacon, and red onion, garnished with fresh cilantro

Strawberry Spinach Salad: Baby spinach topped with feta cheese crumbles, red onion, almonds, and juicy strawberries tossed with a zesty, strawberry vinaigrette.

Blueberry Cheesecake: A vanilla cheesecake laced with blueberry swirl and fresh blueberries and garnished with house-made granola and whipped cream.

Strawberry Cheesecake: Creamy strawberry cheesecake served with fresh, sliced strawberries and whipped cream.

Summertime Sangria: A refreshing berry sangria made with Beso Del Sol White Sangria, strawberry puree, and fresh strawberries and blueberries.

Salted Watermelon Margarita: 800 Silver Tequila, fresh lime juice and watermelon puree shaken and served over ice with a salted rim.

Watermelon Mule: Tito’s Handmade Vodka, watermelon puree and fresh lime juice shaken and served over ice with Gosling’s Ginger Beer.

You’ll also find a number of Florida craft beers on the menu, including Cigar City Jai Alai and Coppertail Free Dive IPA from Tampa, 3 Daughters Beach Blonde Ale from St. Petersburg, J. Wakefield El Jefe from Miami, Funky Buddha Pineapple Beach from Oakland Park, and more.

The seasonal menu for Grimaldi’s will be available for dine-in, carryout and delivery at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria locations nationwide, as well as Grimaldi’s Pizzeria To-Go in Arizona and Texas. Not available in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut. Guests can also place orders for carryout or delivery via DoorDash, GrubHub and UberEats.

Marybeth A. on Yelp calls it her favorite saying, “My absolute favorite pizza place in Tampa or the U.S. I went to the chain in Denver, CO. And fell in love when they opened one at Citrus Park Mall. I was there all the time, they eventually closed and we had to go to Westshore for tour [sic] favorite pepperoni pizza!”

“The Westshore location is always great. It’s at the mall so plenty of parking. The staff is always attentive and kind! It feels like home at Grimaldi’s and it brings back that experience of a true Italian family restaurant. If you don’t want to eat inside you can go on their website and schedule pick up which we have done as well.”

In the last year, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria has donated over $30,000 in gift cards and food donations to our communities. Their main areas of giving are children, pets, and schools and they have strong ties to local food banks, children’s hospitals and animal shelters. Two organizations they work with are Child Help and No Kid Hungry.

DalMoros Fresh Pasta To Go celebrates grand opening in Downtown St. Pete May 27th

DalMoros Fresh Pasta To Go will have their grand opening celebration in Downtown St. Petersburg, Florida on Thursday, May 27th.  

This is the first franchise in the United States for the popular, fast-casual, fresh pasta concept originating in Venice, Italy.  

DalMoros St. Pete will commemorate the joyous occasion with a special “pasta cutting” at 11 a.m., followed by the official opening of the 938 square foot to-go restaurant housing a wide variety of fresh pastas and homemade sauces made from scratch right with each meal served in to-go boxes and ready within minutes.  

Pastas include Rigatoni, Fusilli, Gnocchi, Spaghetti, Fettuccine, and Linguine. Sauces include Pesto, Mamma Rosa, Cacio e Pepe, Alfredo, Bolognese, Pomodoro, and more. Delicious toppings, tiramisu, fountain drinks, beer and wine are also available. 

The first 100 customers of DalMoros St. Pete on grand opening day will be gifted with a free pasta card for use on their next visit.   

“We are ecstatic to finally open our doors and serve delicious, fresh pasta to everyone,” says DalMoros St. Pete franchisee David Caruso.  

“Good things are definitely worth waiting for, and we are very proud to introduce this revolutionary concept to the United States – who doesn’t like the idea of enjoying fresh pasta in minutes without the need to sit down and wait at a formal restaurant? We are excited to kick off our grand opening with a special ‘pasta cutting’ not to be missed, and like the original concept in Italy, we hope to attract the masses to our shop in St. Pete and make DalMoros everyone’s favorite.”

DalMoros Fresh Pasta To Go was founded in Venice, Italy in 2012 by Gabriele Dal Moro. Along with Caruso, DalMoros St. Pete’s team includes Regional Vice President and Head Chef Alberto Buniato, who hails from Milan, Italy.  

Their team plans to open more DalMoros first throughout Southwest Florida and then eventually the rest of the United States.  

Current DalMoros locations include Italy, Canada, Spain and now St. Petersburg. Future international openings are scheduled for Singapore, Barcelona and Mexico.

DalMoros Fresh Pasta To Go is located at 653 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.  Hours of operation are Monday to Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11a.m. to 2 a.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.