Restaurant News: Sparkman Wharf opening November 30th in Downtown Tampa

Image via Strategic Property Partners

The highly anticipated Sparkman Wharf is opening on Friday, November 30th, 2018 where Channelside once stood.

This is part of the Water Street Tampa project that aims to rebuild and rethink Downtown Tampa, adding much needed green space and a focus on Tampa’s waterfront views.

Several restaurateurs have signed on to the project including Ichicoro owner Noel Cruz, Chef BT Nguyen of Restaurant BT, Chef Ferrell Alvarez of Rooster & the Till, and more.

One might even think of it as an outdoor food hall complete with an upcoming outdoor beer garden called Fermented Reality Beer Garden.

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Restaurant News: Jubao Palace Noodle Bar and Center Bar now open at Hard Rock Tampa

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino recently re-opened the Jubao Palace Noodle Bar and Center Bar after renovations. The Noodle Bar has expanded from 16 seats to 44 seats and features a “new upscale and enhanced design.


Restaurant hours are 11:30AM to 4AM Monday to Thursday, 11:30AM to 5AM Fridays & Saturdays, and 11AM to 4AM on Sundays.

It is probably the only place you can grab late-night Vietnamese and Cantonese cuisine in Tampa. The re-design was done by Klai Juba Wald Interiors.

In addition, The Center Bar has a new and upgraded look designed by Wimberly with 12 TV’s set to sports broadcasting and 17 slot machines lining the bar surface. It can fit up to 90 people.

Tampa ranked #12 in foodie cities by WalletHub

Tampa was ranked #12 in “foodie” cities by WalletHub for 2018 beating out popular cities such as Chicago, Denver, and Charleston. This adds to a growing number of lists that Tampa is finding itself on.

Tampa’s food scene has grown incredibly since I began writing in 2010. The last 8 years have seen a growing food truck scene, explosion in craft breweries, and a healthy growth of so-called “third wave of coffee” shops around the bay area.

Local restaurants and national chains have made aggressive expansions across the city and many suburban areas such as Wesley Chapel and the Brandon/SouthShore area have experienced major growth in the last few years and the economy recovers from The Great Recession. 

There is so much more to come as well with the growth of Tampa Heights, completion of the Tampa Riverwalk, and Water Street Tampa opening in the next few years in Downtown Tampa.

Related – Guide: Top 8 Local Coffee Shops in Tampa and 10 Great Local Craft Breweries in Tampa Bay

100+ restaurants participating in Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month 2018

Taking a trip to Orlando soon? Something delicious is cooking in “The Theme Park Capital of the World”.

Prepare to enjoy some serious dining deals for Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month. 100+ restaurant will be offering three course prix-fixe meals for $35 per person. The restaurant month is sponsored by American Express and will run from Friday, August 24th to Sunday, September 30th.

It’s a great way to try restaurants that you’ve been wanting to experience. New additions for 2018 include first-time vegan options as well as gluten-free and vegetarian options.

$1 from every meal will be donated to a local charities Best Buddies and Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida.

According to Visit Orlando, “Proceeds from Magical Dining Month will help Best Buddies expand its programs into Orange County middle schools with high populations of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This mentorship program helps improve students’ quality of life and foster an inclusive middle school culture, by erasing the barrier that typically separates students with disabilities”.

Also: “Proceeds from Magical Dining Month will help the Down Syndrome Association expand its emergency and crisis fund, pay for potential medical needs not covered by insurance, and fund therapy scholarship programs.”

Some notable restaurants on the list include Morimoto Asia, Wine Bar George, K Restaurant, Pharmacy Orlando, Seito Sushi Baldin Park, and more. You’ll find everything from local hotposts to chains and even some steakhouses and upper-tier restaurants on the list.

Check out www.orlandomagicaldining.com for the full details, menus, and more.

News: Petit Piquant now closed. New concept in the works.

Scoop: Petit Piquant located near North Hyde Park is now permanently closed. The French-inspired bakery served a wide range of pastries, sandwiches, and coffee. I was personally a big fan of their Kouign-Amann pastries.

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Coming soon, Tampa! 🌮🌮🌮

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Rumor Mill: The owners Ricardo Castro and Rosana Rivera are pursuing a new business venture called Xilo Mexican Steet Food. The concept was first used a pop-up at The Hall on Franklin in Tampa Heights.

More details as I get them!

Check out Xilo Street Mexican on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/xilostreetmexican/

Check out Xilo Street Mexican on Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/xilostreetmexican/

 

CL Tampa Margarita Wars happening Friday July 27th

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Creative Loafing Tampa. Any opinions expressed are my own and do not represent Creative Loafing.

Get ready to party like it is Cinco de Mayo this month. Local newspaper Creative Loafing Tampa will have their annual Margarita Wars competition on Friday, July 27th from 7PM to 10PM at TPepin’s Hospitality at 4121 North 50th Street in Tampa.

Guests will sample margaritas from more than 15 mixologists around town and vote for “Tampa Bay’s Best Margarita” while enjoying Mexican bites from top restaurants.

Margaritas are one of the most popular drinks in the United States and Americans drink up to 185,000 margaritas per hour according to The Nibble.

In fact, The United States is the number one tequila market in the world beating even Mexico. Not only that, but the South accounts for 34.9% of all margarita sales nationwide. It makes sense considering how hot it is.

Tickets start at $45 and are now on-sale. VIP attendees will enjoy an hour of early entry as well as other perks.

This event is for ages 21+ older only.

Now to go look for my sombrero.

Buy Tickets: http://tampabayeventtickets.com/events/54636603/margarita-wars-2018

Participating restaurants and bars include:

  • Beach Bar & Restaurant
  • Besito Mexican
  • Brew Bus Brewing
  • Bungalow Restaurant & Bar
  • Casa Tina
  • Copper Shaker
  • Datz
  • Epicurean Hotel
  • First Chance Last Chance Bar
  • Haven
  • Iberian Rooster
  • Parks & Rec
  • Pisces Sushi & Global Bistro
  • Rasoi Indian Cuisine
  • The Avenue Eat + Drink
  • The Bricks
  • The Living Room on Main
  • The Mill
  • World of Beer
  • & More

Facebook RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/events/1322485457897217/

Where to celebrate 4th of July 2018 in Tampa Bay

4th of July brings lots of excitment and American pride. Fireworks and partying are at the top of the agenda as well.

Wondering where to go and get your dose of red, white, and blue? I have you covered.

Here are some places throwing events for 4th of July this Wednesday, July 4th, 2018 in Tampa Bay:

  • Aloft Hotel: Every Wednesday is Wine Down Wednesdays at Aloft Tampa Downtown and this 4th of July is no different. The event will feature $20 regular admission and $10 reduced entry with RSVP. Guests will enjoy bottomless wine, champagne, craft beer, and appetizers from 5PM-9PM and drink specials afterwards. Fireworks begins at 9PM. 100 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 898-8000
  • American Social: Celebrate Independence Day at American Social with food, drinks, music, and fireworks. The waterfront access of American Social makes this a great spot to view fireworks. Drink specials include $4 Tito’s Vodka and Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey as well as $3 Bud Light/Budweiser all day. 601 S. Harbour Island Blvd. Suite 107, Tampa, FL 33602 (813) 605-3333
  • American Victory Museum & Ship: Celebrate Independence Day at this 4th of July Family Funfest from 6:30PM-9:30PM. There will be music, games, food, beer, wine, contests, and giveaways. American Victory Museum provides a voyage to American Maritime History. Tickets range from $7-$13705 Channelside Dr., Tampa, FL 33602
  • Astro Skate of Brandon: This local Brandon skating rink will offer $5 admission on 4th of July from 1PM-6PM (skate rentals extra). FREE all-you-can-eat hot dogs from 1PM-2PM and a singing contetst for “God Bless America” with a $25 cash prize. 750 W Robertson St, Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 681-3635 
  • George M. Steinbrenner Field: There is no sport more American than baseball and the Tampa Tarpons have a game scheduled against the Clearwater Threshers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Doors open at 5PM with the game kicking off at 6:30PM. Tickets range from $5-$8 and there will be specials including $3 16 oz. Budweiser / Bud Light drafts and $5 for 6 chicken wings. FREE Admission for current and former EMT Specialists, Firefighters, Police, and Military Personnel. 1 Steinbrenner Dr., Tampa, FL 33614
  • Hollander Hotel Downtown St. Petersburg: Feel like getting wet? Hollander Hotel will have a pool party on 4th of July with DJ Dutch from 1PM-5PM. No cover. 421 4th Ave. N., St. Petersburg, FL 33701. (727) 873-7900
  • Museum of the Fine Arts, St. Petersburg: The MFA Cafe has a special buffet planned for 4th of July at 6:30PM. On the menu: Brown sugar and chipotle rubbed beef brisket, Carolina hickory smoked chicken quarters, BBQ pulled pork sliders, Sweet cole slaw, Grilled bbq gulf shrimp salad sliders, Charred corn aioli, Grilled corn on the cob with cilantro-lime butter, Build your own red, white and blue cupcake bar, and more. Enjoy fireworks after the feast. $46 for adults and $23 for children. Limited-seating. Call (727) 822-1032 for reservations. 255 Beach Dr. NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
  • The Sail: Channelside’s usual 4th of July festivities are on hold this year as construction continues on the plaza. The Sail located a few miles down the Tampa Riverwalk will have food trucks for 4th of July and a front-view of Downtown Tampa fireworks. Catch Casablanca Fusion, Sugar Shack Tampa, and Sexton’s Pizza from 11AM-9PM and The Bacon Boss, The Melt Machine, and Just Smokin BBQ from 5PM-11PM serving some street eats. There will be live music and drinks at the bar. 333 S Franklin St., Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 274-7778
  • Shephard’s Beach Resort: Shephard’s Beach Resort on Clearwater Beach has as weekly Wednesday night club party called NEON BEACH at their Wave Nightclub. The event will offer $2 drinks all night long starting at 9PM right after the fireworks go off on the beach. Guests must be 18 years or older to enter. There will be a relaxed dress code. 619 S. Gulfview Blvd., Clearwater Beach, FL 33767 (727) 442-5107

Guide: Where to watch the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Tampa Bay

The FIFA World Cup 2018 has started in Moscow. Looking for a bar to go watch the games in Tampa Bay?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Mr. Dunderbak’s: World Cup Headquarters for Germany fans. Dunderbak has long been the haven for fans to embrace camaraderie. They now make their own beer in addition to having a massive menu and great beer list with both craft beer and plenty of imports with over 500 bottles and 65 worldwide beers on draft. Happy Hour pricing will be available during all games. 14929 Bruce B Downs Blvd, Tampa, FL 33613 (813) 977-4104
  • Don Julio’s Authentic Mexican Cuisine: This local Mexican restaurant near Carrollwood and New Tampa  is offering breakfast during the World Cup for fans as well as lunch and happy hour on margaritas, beer, and wine. 2808 E. Bearss Ave, Tampa, FL 33613  (813) 898-2860
  • GameTime: Ybor’s arcade bar is having drink specials and food specials during matches of the World Cup. 1600 E. 8th Ave., Tampa, FL 33605 (813) 241-9675
  • Hofbrauhaus St. Pete: This massive German pub will really get you in the mood during the World Cup. It’s a branch of a historic Munich brewery. If you’re in Downtown St. Pete, it’s worth a look. 123 4th St. S., St. Petersburg, FL 33701 (727) 898-3333
  • Independent Bar and Cafe: Independent Bar is probably the most popular bar in Seminole Heights and a great way to kick it with the locals during the games. 5016 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33603 (813) 341-4883
  • James Joyce Irish Pub: All FIFA World Cup games are being shown on the big screen at this Irish pub in Ybor City on 8th. They have great happy hour deals and also one of the best burgers in town. You’re welcome. 1724 E 8th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605 (813) 247-1896
  • London Heights British Pub: This beautiful British pub will be showing all the world cup games for fans and is just on the edge of Seminole Heights. Enjoy $4 Carlsberg, $4 Kombacher, 20 wings + a pitcher of Coors Light for $25. 7701 N Nebraska Ave, Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 231-7200
  • LPCX Cafe & Bakery: Colombia fans can check out this cafe (La Pequena Colombia Express) and bakery that is hosting watch parties for all the FIFA World Cup games. The full menu is available during the games on top of an espresso bar, baked goods, beer, and wine. Tickets for parties are available and include an all-you-can-eat buffet (normally $25 but $18 during 8AM games) and are limited, reservations are only required during Colombia games due to space limitations. The buffet includes coffee and select drinks. Their outside deck is first-come, first-serve and open to walk-ins with appetizer-like foods and drinks for purchase. 6204 N. Armenia Ave., Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 870-6717
  • Nazca Bar & Grill: Most people are probably unaware that Tampa has a Peruvian sports bar, but Nazca is just that and open late. I stopped by to watch a game and had a blast. The televisions are in Spanish – I know some people are searching for bars with that. 5915 Memorial Highway Tampa, FL 33615. (813) 252-6025
  • Pisco Restaurant & Bar: This Peruvian and Chinese fusion restaurant is offering drink specials on beer buckets and appetizers during the FIFA World Cup. The also have daily breakfast and lunch combos. Space is limited so come early. 7507 N. Armenia Ave., Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 305-7910
  • Prost Bar + Kitchen: This German-style modern pub near USF on Bearss will fully embrace the World Cup. They have deals almost everyday of the week as well. 2802 E Bearss Ave, Tampa, FL 33613 (813) 466-5249
  • Restaurant Old Castle: This German old-world-style tavern will have all FIFA World Cup games playing for those looking for a bar on the south side of town and of course bratwurst and German specialities. 3830 Sun City Center Blvd #107, Ruskin, FL 33573 (813) 633-3331
  • Spain Restaurant & Toma Bar: All World Cup games will be shown at Spain Restaurant & Toma Bar in Downtown Tampa. $3 Estrella Draft Beers will be available as well as giveaways and raffles. 513 N. Tampa St, Tampa, FL 33602 (813) 223-2831
  • Three Birds Tavern: This European pub has been a gathering spot for football fans for decades. They will be open early for all World Cup games including the 8AM games. It is pet-friendly as well. 1492 4th St N, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 (727) 895-2049
  • Zydeco Brew Werks: Located in the heart of Ybor near plenty of city and street parking and with plenty of televisions. Zydeco has ample seating, they have craft beer and food. What’s not to like about this? 1902 E 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605 (813) 252-4541

Bourdain.

I woke up yesterday to an e-mail in my inbox from Eater alerting me that Anthony Bourdain had passed. Not a great start to my day.

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True words. RIP Bourdain.

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The importance of Bourdain in the industry was so clear from the amount of love everyone showed him. He was one of the most famous and authentic food voices out there, never afraid to go against an industry filled with norms and filters.

The thing I’ll remember most about Bourdain was that he always stood up for what he believed was right and that is what I hope to embrace in my life going forward. The other thing Bourdain did well was shine a light on food cultures that we not covered enough and he tried to get down to the real story in his travels. He was loved worldwide.

I’ve filmed before for television and one of the most annoying parts of filming is how unnatural it all usually is. Usually all the people there have been prepped before you visit. The dishes made to perfection. The customers arranged to be supportive loyalists.

Bourdain’s style was to try and capture an authentic experience somewhere and that is different from your typical filtered television. He will be missed but hopefully we take piece of his spirit with us and try to absorb the world around us like he did so well.


After feeling bummed for most of the morning and afternoon, I found myself in Seminole Heights and ran into Chef Viet Vo (Chef V) of Mad Chef Tampa at Brew Bus Brewing.

I was there to check out the new cocktail menu and trying to simultaneously avoid Tampa’s daily soak bath storm and Friday I-275 traffic. We were both hoping to run into the Brew Bus Executive Chef Max Sherard, but missed him and decided why not go bar hopping for a bit and catch up.

I want to say that my first impression of the new cocktail menu at Brew Bus left me with high hopes and I plan to work my way through it little by little. I enjoy both the Brew Bus and Florida Ave. craft beers which have also been made into beer cocktails in addition to their normal cocktail list.

The bartender gave me a sample of a drink he is whipping up for CL’s Margarita Wars in a few weeks for some feedback as well. That will be exciting to see in person.

Side note: Creative Loafing is running a CL Deal for Margarita Wars right now that ends in 2 days at http://cldeals.com – 50% off admission. You can thank me later when we are sipping margaritas there.

We went from there to Rooster & The Till which seemed like an appropriate place to be on a day of sadness for the food world. Most chefs in town will say that is their favorite place in town and it is certainly one of the most forward-thinking places.

It was obvious that the place is special place for Chef V. We were both residents of Seminole Heights in the past. He ordered the Crispy Cobia Collar which was incredible. Traditionally Vietnamese and made with a twist at Rooster.

Can I also take a minute to talk about how much I love their painting of a rooster in there? In case you haven’t heard, there is a proposal to kick the roosters out of Ybor City happening right now in the city. The Ybor Chickens Society and Ybor Chamber of Commerce are both fighting it.

I stand with the roosters. We need to preserve the history and culture of Tampa and Ybor City as we grow it as much as possible.

Sign the petition to keep our chickens protected in Ybor City: http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/keep-our-chickens-protected.html

Finally we ended our bar hop at The Refinery. I haven’t been to the new location since it moved into Fodder & Shine’s spot. I miss the rooftop and house-vibe of the original location. I have so many memories up there for my birthdays, new years, and also when they did those Pig Jams on Sundays with live bands. It was great.

I ordered my usual burger and so did Chef V. Solid after drinking food. The fries and ketchup always solid.

There was this Korean Cuban Melt (not sure of the actual menu item name) that they had in the last year or so of the old Refinery and it was killer. I am hoping they bring that back sometime.

Bulgogi and Cuban bread were just made for each other.

Once Chef V and I parted ways I headed over to St. Pete and spent the evening at Ichicoro Ane in Downtown St. Pete with some drinks and house music.

My day had turned around thanks to all the creators in Tampa Bay.

Happening Now: Negroni Week 2018 in Tampa Bay

It’s Negroni Week this week.

Negroni Week started in 2013 as a celebration of the Negroni cocktail and a fundraiser for charities around the world. It is a partnership between Campari and Imbibe Magazine.

The Negroni dates back to 1919 in Florence and is named after founder Count Camillo Negroni ordered an Americano with gin instead of soda after visiting London’s gin scene. The recipe for the cocktail is almost a century old.

Over 7,700 venues have participated to date and over $1.5 million has been raised. 60 countries now participate in the annual event. Several Tampa Bay bars and restaurants are participating this year.

Wondering where you can find a bar that is participating? There’s a map on their website.

Negroni Week Tampa Bay

Go here to find your local venue: http://negroniweek.com/venues/

Find a list of partner charities here: http://negroniweek.com/charities/