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NEWS: Blind Tiger Cafe coming to Westfield Brandon Mall

Continuing its expansion, Blind Tiger Cafe is taking over a Starbucks location at the Westfield Brandon Mall across from the Apple Store. The busy mall in a densely populated area makes an interesting move for Blind Tiger who recently acquired another Starbucks location in the WestShore Plaza in Tampa and opened a number of new cafes recently in Downtown Tampa.

The listing for the new location is already active on the Westfield Brandon website, but says “coming soon” for now. I recently said that I would like to see more independent coffee shops in the Brandon area so it is definitely exciting to have a new coffee shop in town.

The projected opening date for the location is May 15th according to Blind Tiger Cafe Owner Roberto Torres.

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NEWS: Graze 1910 opening 2nd South Tampa location

The popular Armature Works food hall stand, Graze 1910, is opening their second location in South Tampa at 2217 South Dale Mabry Highway in the Palma Ceia neighborhood this February. This location will serve breakfast all day as well as lunch, dinner, and brunch on the weekends.

Menu items will include egg dishes, artisan burgers, chicken and waffles, tartines, greens and grains, and vegan options.

Graze tartine bread sandwiches.

“After two years of success with Graze 1910 at Armature Works, we decided it was time to extend the brand, expand the menu and attract more families and locals,” says Raymond Menendez, owner of Graze.

“Graze is community-minded and the spot you’ll come to time and time again not only for our reliably, quality food, but our laid-back setting and welcoming atmosphere.”

Raymond Menendez has 30 years of restaurant experience and was previously with Hooters in Clearwater and a Managing Partner with Ciccio Restaurant Group in Tampa.

Lawrence “Bubba” Durley, Graze 1910’s head chef, previously with Oxford Exchange and Café Dufrain, will oversee both Graze kitchen locations and continue to be their creative menu advisor.

Visit Graze 1910 online for information at graze1910.com.

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RIP Lucky’s Market in Florida

Where else can you drink a craft beer at an affordable price and shop around a grocery store sometimes with live music? Lucky’s Market was an absolutely treasure that I enjoyed shopping at whenever I was in Orlando or Pinellas County.

It was announced today that Lucky’s Market is closing all but one of their stores in Florida. 32 stores total will be closing after Kroger divested their assets from the chain in December. I was hopeful that I would eventually be able to enjoy one in the comfort my own neighborhood. It’s sad news.

Lucky’s Market closings will cost Florida 2,500 employees, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Planned stores in Brandon and Clearwater will now be scrapped.

Here’s how the internet reacted:

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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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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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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.

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NEWS: Blind Tiger takes over Foundation Coffee spot at Sparkman Wharf Tampa

Foundation Coffee has left Sparkman Wharf after the end of their lease the space is now occupied by Blind Tiger Cafe. Blind Tiger has been rapidly growing in the last two years with new locations in South Tampa, Westchase, WestShore, Downtown Tampa, and now a parcel at Sparkman Wharf.

Foundation Coffee responded to a request for comment: “We could get into a very detailed explanation but suffice to say it was wrong timing for Foundation Coffee. Please join us at our flagship location at 1617 N. Franklin Street in Tampa or our totally outdoor venue at 10020 Carr Rd. In Riverview. Thanks.”

Some of the locations are unconventional and previously were occupied with other coffee companies, for example their recent acquisition at WestShore Plaza replaced Starbucks Coffee. Third wave coffee has been rapidly growing in the past year with Spaddy’s Coffee expanding, Buddy Brew and Kahwa moving into the grocery business, King State opening their first cafe, and a number of new upstarts opening on both sides of Tampa Bay. 

The food hall boom has helped to fuel these expansions across the bay area.

One has to wonder when the market for third wave coffee is going to saturate, but so far it doesn’t seem to be too unstable. There have been a handful of closings including most recently the LCPX Cafe on Armenia Avenue and Mountaineer Coffee in Oldsmar.

Most of popular third wave coffee shops are concentrated in the South Tampa, Downtown Tampa, and Seminole Heights area. It would be interesting to see successful third wave coffee shops in the more scattered parts of town such as in Brandon and Carrollwood which for now just seem to be saturated with Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts locations. 

Blind Tiger opens at Sparkman Wharf in Downtown Tampa on Friday, December 13th, 2019.

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NEWS: Hemingway’s expanding north to Atlanta’s Krog Street Market

Atlanta will soon get a taste of Tampa with Hemingway’s expanding north to A-Town’s Krog Street Market in spring of 2020. Hemingway’s is currently located inside the Armature Works food hall in Tampa Heights and serves Cuban dishes with a focus on Tampeño food such as Cuban Sandwiches (WITH salami).

Chef Felicia “Phe” Lacalle is a previous winner of the International Cuban Sandwich Festival. She worked in the past as an Executive Sous and Regional Pastry Chef at Roy’s and Executive Chef at Samba Room.

Make sure you try the chicharrones, they are not to be missed.

Here’s one of my favorite videos featuring Chef Phe:

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NEWS: Hot Pot BBQ is now open on Fowler Avenue and serving unlimited hot pot and Korean BBQ

Update: The owners of Nine Spices Hot Pot in St. Petersburg have reached out to clarify that they are not affiliated with the Hot Pot BBQ spot on Fowler. The business licenses were strangely similar.

The rumor mill has been swirling for quite some time, but now Hot Pot BBQ is now open to the public.

Diners can enjoy unlimited hot pot and Korean BBQ for around $30. The option to exclude bbq will save you a few bucks, but I don’t suggest doing that.

I stopped by for a visit earlier this week and tried the Korean BBQ and hot pot and was pleasantly surprised at how delicious the food was. The quality of the meat and seafood were far superior to competitors throughout the Tampa Bay area and although the prices are a little higher than Izziban BBQ in Orlando, I do think the higher price-point is worth it.

The quality of the spicy pork belly cut and bulgogi was noticeably great. The Korean BBQ grills cooked the meat cuts quickly and efficiently. The restaurant offers butter to grease the surface. Hot Pot offers your standard lettuce wraps available and side veggies to add to your meats. I highly recommend the Korean BBQ at Hot Pot BBQ.

The seafood selection was also satisfactory and on-par with popular hot pot places in Orlando and St. Petersburg with crawfish, squid, clams, mussels, fish balls, and more. The broths for the hot pot are a little on the blander-side, but you can easily spice it up with their sauces and side offerings including heaping of garlic and cilantro.

Veggies, fruits, and desserts rotate around the restaurant on a conveyor belt that is similar to many modern Asian eateries around the country. Diners can simply pick up anything they like to eat and add it to their food. Some things we enjoyed were the cake desserts, oranges, instant ramen, dumplings, and more.

Beware that there is a fee for those who do not finish their food that is marked at $13.99 and a 2 hour limit for enjoying the buffet.

I recommend Hot Pot BBQ and suggest you give it a look if you’re interested in trying something new in Tampa. Soon Yum Yum Hot Pot AYCE will also be joining this area. The winner, of course, is diners in Tampa.

Restaurant Name: Boil Spot Hot Pot BBQ

Neighborhood: Uptown, USF

Cuisine: Hot Pot, Korean BBQ

Address: 1120 E Fowler Ave, Tampa, FL 33612

Phone: (813) 374-9947

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NEWS: Wine Bar George at Disney Springs in Orlando offers Thanksgiving specials

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and there a number of places offering Thanksgiving specials. One of those places is Wine Bar George at Disney Springs in Orlando.

Thanksgiving offering at Wine Bar George.

On November 28th, Wine Bar George will be serving a traditional turkey plate ($34 for adults, $16 for kids 9 and under) as well as new Santa Carota Short Ribs ($39) alongside select items from their regular menu. Choose from 140 wines all available by the glass, bottle and ounce for the perfect holiday celebration.

Black Friday and Thanksgiving are a busy time for tourism in Orlando. Wine Bar George is one of many places offering options for the season.

For more information visit them online at winebargeorge.com.

Here is the holiday menu: