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NEWS: Hello Kitty Cafe Truck coming to WestShore Plaza Tampa February 15th

The Hello Kitty Cafe truck is coming to WestShore Plaza located at 250 Westshore Plaza, Tampa, FL 33609 just in time for Valentine’s Day on Saturday, February 15th, 2020 from 10AM to 8PM.

The truck will be located inside the mall near H&M and offer treats and merchandise for-sale, while supplies line.

Make sure to get there early since the crowds are pretty packed in.

On the menu for food and drinks:

  • bow bottled water
  • 4 piece minicake set
  • 5 piece macaron set
  • 3 piece cookie set
  • 8 piece madeleine set
  • hello kitty cafe giant chef cookie

Merchandise:

  • sprinkles t-shirt
  • sprinkle mug
  • coffee cup keychain
  • cafe chef plush
  • cafe lunchbox w/ confetti popcorn
  • hello kitty canvas tote
  • macaron canvas tote
  • 3 piece logo enamel pin set
  • 3 piece truck enamel pin set
  • stainless steel thermal bottle 32oz
  • stainless steel thermal bottle 18oz

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Articles News Restaurant News

NEWS: Shake Shack confirmed coming to Tampa

After a long wait, Shake Shack is finally confirmed as coming to Tampa, first reported by Tampa Bay Business Journal. The location will be at Midtown Tampa, a “new kind of urban experience with 1.8 million square feet of retail, residential, 3 Class A office buildings, entertainment and hospitality”.

The long-awaited location for the gourmet burger chain still has no opening date for Tampa, but is at least confirmed to be opening by the developer. Shake Shack has long been open in Orlando and opened in Sarasota recently. Midtown Tampa is expected to open in time for the Super Bowl in February 2021.

“Shake Shack is an iconic brand with worldwide recognition, and is yet another first-to-market restaurant that we’re thrilled to bring to Tampa,” said Nicholas Haines, CEO, Bromley Companies. “We’ve followed Shake Shack from its first location next to our office in New York’s Madison Square Park, and appreciate the delight and appeal it has to its customers.”  

Shake Shack has over 170 locations worldwide and has been growing around the country in recent years including locations on both the east and west coast. The franchise started as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park back in 2001. The burger concept was started in 2004 as a kiosk.

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Articles Restaurant News

NEWS: Jollibee opening first Tampa Bay location on Friday January 17th

A Filipino favorite, Jollibee, is opening its doors on Friday, January 17th at 4057 Park Boulevard, Pinellas Park, Florida. The location will be the 40th location to open for the franchise which is currently experiencing high growth and expansion across the country. The chain plans to open 150 stores in the United States by 2023. It is the first location in Tampa Bay.

The opening time for opening day is from 9AM to 10PM.

“We cannot wait to welcome Jollibee fans who have long waited for their turn to finally have Jollibee in their area, in addition to welcoming new foodies intrigued by our unique menu, which we fondly describe as a joyous mash-up of Western comfort food and Asian flavors,” said Beth Dela Cruz, President of Jollibee Foods Corporation North America, Philippine Brands Group.

Photo credit: Jollibee

Popular items at Jollibee include the Chickenjoy, Jolly Spaghetti made with signature sweet-style sauce loaded with chunky slices of savory ham and hotdog, and Peach Mango Pie, made with real Philippine mangoes enclosed in a light, crispy crust.

Tampa is home to one of the largest Filipino communities with its Bayanihan Center and annual PhilFest celebration that draws thousands for a celebration of Filipino food and culture every April.

There are some perks for those who choose to line-up early for the opening:

  • The first 50 customers in line to spend $25 or more will get FREE Chickenjoy for a year.*
  • The first 50 with the best #ItsOurTurn signs will get a Jollibee in Barong Funko Pop.
  • The first 300 on day 1 (plus the first 100 on days 2 and 3) will get a free drawstring bag with a minimum $25 purchase.
    *One 6-piece bucket of Chickenjoy per month for a period of one year

RSVP on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/624411688336179/

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NEWS: Ding Tea Tampa Grand Opening set for January 24th

Bubble tea fans have plenty to be excited about. Ding Tea Tampa on Waters has a new opening date of Friday, January 24th, 2020. The location is located next to where the old Yummy House and Got Tea locations were.

The delay was explained to be connected to the health department (Ding Tea was originally set to open on November 3rd).

It will be located at 2202 West Waters Avenue, Tampa, Florida 33604.

Ding Tea is a chain from Taiwan that has over 350 locations in Asia and has been rapidly expanding across the United States. There was a location that opened in between this time period by USF Tampa’s Uptown at 1518 East Fowler Avenue Suite B. One of the latest businesses to open in that area.

Facebook RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/events/630796504330616/

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Articles News Restaurant News

NEWS: Michelle Faedo’s 2nd location opening January 8th in Downtown Tampa

Michelle’s Faedo is opening her second location of Michelle Faedo’s Tampeño Cuisine on Wednesday, January 8th, 2020 in Downtown Tampa at 601 East Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, FL, 33602 inside the Hillsborough County Building.

The restaurants are an off-shot of Michelle Faedo’s On The Go food truck which has been in operation for years. The first location is located at the ENCORE! building not too far away from Downtown close to Ybor City.

Deviled crab
Deviled crab

Michelle Faedo's Famous Cuban featured with her food truck Faedo's on the Go
Michelle Faedo’s Famous Cuban featured with her food truck Faedo’s on the Go

Popular items on the menu include the Famous Traditional Cuban and deviled crabs that pay homage to Tampa’s rich food history. Like the Cuban Sandwich, deviled crabs were created by the immigrant communities in Tampa that existed during the cigar boom.

Faedo is an award-winner from the annual Cuban Sandwich Festival and is well-recognized for her Cuban sandwiches around the Tampa Bay area.

The opening hours for the location will be Monday through Friday from 7AM to 4PM.

City of Tampa Mayor, Jane Castor, is expected to be there at around 1PM to celebrate the occasion.

The County Building

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Articles Restaurant News

NEWS: Roux in South Tampa is now permanently closed

Roux, the New Orleans concept by Datz Restaurant Group, has ceased operations according to a report by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

The restaurant was known for serving favorites of Cajun and Creole cuisine such as jambalaya, red beans and rice, and also some of the best cornbread I have ever enjoyed in Tampa. The chefs were brought from New Orleans back in 2014 for a true experience for fans of the cuisine to enjoy.

Datz Restaurant Group is currently busy opening new restaurants across the bridge including most recently their Datz St. Petersburg branch and a cafe inside The James Museum. A new Datz location is also opening soon in Brandon.

Here is a parting message from the owners:

View this post on Instagram

Thank you for the memories

A post shared by Roux Tampa (@rouxtampa) on

 

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Articles Restaurant News

Tampa Chef Rosana Rivera successfully ‘Beat Bobby Flay’ on Food Network

Tampa Chef Rosana Rivera made history as the first Latina woman to beat Bobby Flay on the Food Network on December 26th, 2019. She first beat her husband and business partner, Chef Ricardo Castro, in an elimination round before Bobby Flay using the papaya secret ingredient on a special episode called “It Must’ve Been Love”.

Bobby Flay has a fairly high win-ration that is over 60% of his competitions so this is no small victory for Chef Rosana Rivera.

The dish that beat Bobby Flay. Chef Rosana Rivera’s classic empanadas. Photo Credit: BKN Creative

Chef Rosana Rivera beat Bobby Flay with her beef empanada recipe. Flay had equipment malfunctions during the battle and a track record of empanada fails.

“This experience has been one of the highlights of my year. I feel super proud as a Female Chef, Entrepreneur, Puerto Rican, and Tampanian to have had the honor to not only participate in Beat Bobby Flay but to have competed against Ricardo, my other half in business and life. Ricardo is a Chef that has my utmost admiration. Most importantly, competing against Iron Chef Bobby Flay is an experience I will never forget. I have a deep respect for his talent, charisma, and the amazing team that works with him. It is an honor that I was able to cook side by side with him, compete against him, and can proudly say I Beat Bobby Flay,” said Chef Rosana on her win.

The couple previously owned the French-inspired bakery Piquant and are currently proprietors of Xilo at The Hall on Franklin in Tampa. The Chefs also own R2 Provisions, a national catering company, and a gourmet food truck. Additionally, they also own Kofe, The Hall on Franklin’s in-house coffee bar.

You can watch the episode on the Food Network’s website here: http://watch.foodnetwork.com/tv-shows/beat-bobby-flay/full-episodes/it-mustve-been-love

Chef Rosana Rivera has shared her beef empanada recipe with us. Disclaimer: This recipe is not to be shared without the author’s permission. Chef Rosana can be reached at chefrosanarivera@gmail.com.

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NEWS: Yum Yum Hot Pot AYCE now open to the public

Yum Yum Hot Pot AYCE has opened in Temple Terrace just minutes from USF and Tampa’s Uptown just in time for Christmas. It joins the nearby Hot Pot BBQ on Fowler Avenue as one of many new Asian businesses to the area.

It is located at 11301 North 56th Street Temple Terrace, FL 33617. Yum Yum is open from 4PM-11PM from Sunday to Thursday and from 4PM to midnight on Friday and Saturday. 

Customers choose their hot pot soup base, custom dipping sauces, and food from the conveyor belt to cook in their soup. There is a 2 hour time limit for all-you-can-eat. Adult AYCE costs $25.99 and kids (age 4-10) are $15.99.

Bases include:

  • Original Soup (Pork Bones)
  • Spicy Soup – Szechuan style
  • Tomato Soup
  • Mushroom Soup
  • Tom Yum Goong Soup – Thai style
  • Creamy Butter Soup

Here are some photos from the restaurant:

Find out more information at their website yumyumhotpotayce.com.

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Articles Reviews

Film Review: The Rise of Skywalker was great, actually

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

As the internet battles over whether The Last Jedi was the best way for the series to go (nearly 2 years later), The Rise of Skywalker has finally hit theaters and ended the 9 movie Star Wars series. There were ups and there were downs, but the battle between Jedi and Sith has come to a close.

J.J. Abrams brought a thoughtful conclusion to the series that wrapped up most loose-ends and provided closure on a number of pressing questions, while still leaving some storylines wide-open for any future adaptations or side stories. The ride to the end was an emotional one that Rey (Daisy Ridley) played well. I felt the emotions take over me numerous times as she struggled with her final mission.

The original Star Wars trilogy was a story of family and friendship. The bond between Luke, Leia, and Han Solo is found in the new cast and despite being sent on different paths in The Last Jedi, its comforting to see the gang join back up for the last battle against the dark side.

The Last Jedi actually did a good job of helping Finn and Rey grow into their new personas and J.J. Abrams did a great job of working in what happened in TLJ into The Rise of Skywalker instead of completely undoing what happened in the last installment, like Rian Johnson did to The Force Awakens. The continuity issues created in the last movie create a time crunch that does make the movie a non-stop action and emotion journey, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

Critics pan this as a move to undo what Johnson did in the prior installment, which they found to be a breath of fresh air from light saber battles and space battles, but that’s what Star Wars is. People complaining about Jedis and light sabers should probably find another movie to watch in their free time like Knives Out.

Star Wars has a loyal fan base that Lucasfilm massively upset in the prior installment that set Jedi trees on fire and brought Yoda in to tell fans to shut up and let their childhoods go. Disney decided to reverse course after Solo bombed at the box office and go back to the fans and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Star Wars is a Skywalker family story. From Anakin Skywalker to Ben Solo, they are the fabric and lore that make Star Wars core. The Rise of Skywalker rightfully celebrates that with an all-star ensemble from the past and further pushes the new cast into their future.

There are parallels to the past, but also notable changes that show growth and change in the force. I was most impressed again with Kylo Ren or Ben Solo. He went from a spoiled brat in the first movie to someone I could finally empathize with. His tragic circumstances and lonely life are far from the direct family he comes from, but well-connected to his grandfather Anakin Skywalker who shamefully destroyed all the love and family he had in his life trying to save his love. Ben makes a different choice and the galaxy is better for it.

Throughout all of The Rise of Skywalker, life and death are constantly in the balance. The Star Destroyer kill machines destroy entire planets, while the cast all fight for their own survival in one way or another. Not everyone is victorious, but despite all the challenges, what the audience gets is a true story that has a beginning, middle, and end. That was no easy task for someone handed a story where everything means nothing and all the meaning from the first part of the trilogy was erased, but J.J. Abrams successfully delivered that.

In a way the movie does feel like all the fan predictions come to life in one way or another (minus the Jar Jar Binks is Snoke theory), but all the processes that lead there make sense from a story telling point of view and are explained in ways that are both reasonable and rational.

In contrast, the prior installment was often irrational and threw complete chaos into the trilogy. Some people may view that as art, but it is actually just bad storytelling. The blame for this mostly rests on Lucasfilm who did not creatively control the projects and allowed them to spin out of control. That’s the only local explanation for having Snoke introduced a villain and somehow ending with Palpatine as the big bad guy (non-fans probably don’t even know who he is).

The explanation of Palpatine as the bad force that existed all along makes sense to anyone who has ever finished a long series in an anime, where the big bad is actually just reincarnations of prior villains – the dark energy is just moving between bodies and constantly coming to kill off the heroes until it is finally vanquished. Palpatine is both creepy and convincing as an all powerful bad guy. When he first appeared I was shook.

It would have been easy to just turn Kylo Ren into a loyal and submissive Vader clone, but his constant resistance against any form of control is refreshing. Kylo Ren is complex, but Ben Solo’s love for his mother is something that anyone can relate it. One of the moments in the Last Jedi that most struck me was the hesitation Kylo showed before his mother’s ship was destroyed. It was very human, no matter how strained we always feel a bond to the woman who gave birth to us. Kylo always felt beyond redemption or saving, but it was his mothers love that eventually led him to the light within in the Rise of Skywalker. Its in the nature of mothers to love their sons no matter what, and Leia spent her whole life believing in her son. That was very real.

Rey on the other hand is reminiscent of Luke Skywalker and is quite naive, but her friends and experiences help to strengthen her and make her a much more cunning person. She is the ultimate hero, willing to sacrifice anything to save her friends, but also wanting love, a family, and home.

Luke and Leia both take Rey under their wing throughout this trilogy and the ending of this movie so perfectly shows that family is the people that love you, not necessarily your blood. Rey’s loneliness in The Force Awakens and her timeless friendships and love at the end of The Rise of Skywalker show strong character development, growth, and a story well told. She has changed completely by the end and anyone who watched all three will feel that journey.

The Rise of Skywalker is also filled with plenty of laughs thanks to C-3PO, Poe Dameron, R2-D2, Chewbacca, and others in the cast. Although the storyline is very serious, it never becomes too serious to handle and the constant action helps to keep the movie from becoming too dramatic as well.

Although the movie is 142 minutes, they mostly breeze by and that is hard to say about many movies nowadays that waste time with pointless scenes and backstories that nobody wants to watch. The Rise of Skywalker is well-edited and seamlessly moves from one scene to the next. The Last Jedi noticeably wasted time with a ridiculous and laughably bad no fuel space chase as well as missions gone wrong with Poe, Rose, and Finn.

I personally would have loved some more scenes between Rey and Finn, its understandable that their paths are fundamentally different though. The Rise of Skywalker never fails to remind us that Rey is very important to Finn though and so is the force and resistance. This movie is about a war that has wrecked the lives of many including the main cast and the battle comes first.

Personally, I’ll go back to watch The Rise of Skywalker again and again. It’s a fitting ending for the series. Fans and critics can battle online, but there’s no denying that the laughably badly acted prequels have nothing on this trilogy that found its footing in the end.

Rating: 9 out of 10

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NEWS: Armature Works hosting free viewing party for Downtown Tampa Lighted Boat Parade

Armature Works continues to celebrate the holidays by offering a free viewing party for the Downtown Tampa Lighted Boat Parade on Saturday, December 21st, 2019 from 6:30PM to 9:30PM.

The free event will take place on the Riverfront Lawn just south of Armature Works along the Hillsborough River.

The annual parade has become one of Tampa’s signature holiday events featuring hundreds of festive aquatic vessels as the make their way down the Hillsborough River.

Guests are welcome to bring lawn chairs and blankets. The event is also pet-friendly.

Note: outside food, drinks, and coolers are not permitted at Armature Works.

Parking: Parking at Armature Works is free Monday through Thursday and Friday before 4PM, Saturday and Sunday mornings before 11AM. Parking at all other times is $5. In addition, there are over 400 street-side parking spots available. Valet is also available most event nights and weekends. For more information please visit armatureworks.com/parking.