Portillo’s opened their first location in Tampa this past Tuesday, September 27th, 2016 at 2102 East Fowler Avenue. I couldn’t resist stopping by to check out what was happening and grabbed a hot dog with some fries. I ran into Mark Sharpe from the Tampa Innovation Alliance during my visit. Look for some information about that shortly on CarlosEats.com.
The location has the same exact design as the one over in Brandon, leaning towards a ’30s Prohibition-style and definitely is going to bring some new people to the neighborhood surrounding USF. The employees were just as friendly as the other location and the same attention to quality was obvious. Online ordering and a drive-thru are a plus, especially in the busy area around USF.
The food was great – as expected. The Portillo’s hot dog includes mustard, relish, celery salt, freshly chopped onions, sliced red ripe tomatoes, kosher pickle and sport peppers piled onto a perfectly steamed poppy seed bun. Portillo’s offers plenty of options at an affordable price and I know I will be a frequent customer at this location. Recently I’ve been hearing about ribs at this location and that I need to try it – and that is the next thing on my list!
Overall, I’m super excited for Portillo’s to be in the neighborhood and looking forward to them being a big part of the growing community around here. Welcome to Tampa Portillo’s!
Word on the street: St. Petersburg’s first full-on ramen shop and izakaya, Buya Ramen, is opening for business on Wednesday, August 10th, 2016 at 4PM. The shop is located at 911 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, Florida 33705.
The ramen and izakaya scene is certainly seeing an uptick in Tampa Bay. Ramen has been taken the U.S.A. by storm for years with Momofuku Noodle Bar in NYC setting the stage for a ramen renaissance of sorts. The trend took some time to catch on in the Tampa Bay area but has proven to be successful with Ichicoro and Japanese Kitchen Dosunco leading the way to ramen-mania.
The Tampa Bay Business Journal (TBBJ) reported earlier this summer that Shake Shack is looking to open at least one location in the Tampa Bay area. They are joined by a number of competitors in the area serving fast-casual gourmet burgers including Burger 21, Burger Monger, BurgerFi, and a planned Wahlburger’s entry into the market. Most of these burger chains are concentrated on Dale Mabry Highway and in South Tampa along Howard Avenue. The TBBJ held a poll recently asking where people would like to see Shake Shack open up.
Personally, I think Shake Shack would be a good choice in the university area along Fowler Avenue or on Bruce B. Downs in New Tampa. There is a true lack of gourmet burgers in this area with the only options being Five Guys and maybe Burger 21 further along Bruce B. Downs heading towards Wesley Chapel. The addition of Portillo’s to the university area in late September/early October sets the stage for new restaurants to open in the university area.
There also seems to be few gourmet burger locations in the Brandon area besides Ford’s Garage and Square 1 Burgers in a densely populated area. The Brandon area is booming lately with new movie theaters, Dave & Buster’s, and new apartment complexes appearing rapidly.
No doubt the first location will also draw in plenty of traffic to wherever it opens and provide an economic advantage to that area. Parking considerations should hopefully drive Shake Shack to a location that will allow plenty of access. My visits to Shake Shack in Winter Park were always met with congested parking (where it shares space with Trader Joe’s market) when that location opened in 2014.
Wherever they decide to open – let’s hope it opens soon! I am ready to chow down.
Popular game arcade and sports bar, Dave & Buster’s, is making plans to come to Brandon after years of speculation of when they would arrive in the Tampa Bay market. The 40,000 square-foot facility features a restaurant and 412 parking spots.
The restaurant serves American food fare including burgers, ribs, steak, seafood, sandwiches, and salads. Alcohol options includes wine, bottled beer, local beer, and spirits.
Let’s hope they bring the new Dance Dance Revolution over to the Brandon location (cue: 90’s and early 2000’s memories).
Major local competitor GameTime just finished a remodeling worth $1 million in Ybor City that includes high-end modern materials and furnishings, 65 TV’s, and new attractions and games. Time will tell if Dave & Buster’s has any impact on their business.
The greater Brandon area has been rapidly building new apartment complexes and home projects keeping in line with all the new business coming to the area with TopGolf and Bass Pro Shops already established in the area. In addition, this fall Goodrich Quality Theaters will open a multiplex in Gibsonton and Xscape Theatres will open in Riverview on the corner of Progress Blvd. and I-75 soon as well. Previously the only option for Brandon residents was AMC Regency 20.
Tampa residents can enjoy a whole new experience with the soft opening of Noble Rice, an izakaya or Japanese style pub in South Tampa on Platt Street. These pubs normally serve Japanese appetizers and beer/sake wine to customers in an intimate setting used for socializing or meetings.
The restaurant is aiming for a traditional Japanese environment and menu with some inspiration from the south. Head Chef and Co-Owner, Eric Fralick, feels “southern comfort food and Japanese comfort food are so compatible, they were meant to be together”.
Fusion dishes include Sake Ribs utilizing Japanese sake to kick up a southern favorite and Tan Tan Men Wings inspired by buffalo wings. Many of the traditional dishes also incorporate fusion elements into them.
Traditional Japanese izakaya finds include yakitori (meat and vegetable skewers), takoyaki (octopus balls), gyoza (pan-fried dumplings), yamakake (grated yam), and a number of nigiri/sushi options. Ramen lovers will also find a variety of Shoyu ramen soups (soy-sauce base).
It wouldn’t be a true izakaya if we were not also discussing the drink selections. Sake lovers can find a wide-selection of rice wine. Noble Rice serves a Japanese distilled spirit, called shochu, which is derived from a variety of ingredients including sweet potato, barley, buckwheat, and sugar cane. Popular local craft beer will also be available on tap.
My good friend in Tampa informed me that a ramen restaurant opened in August and she was surprised at how great it tasted. As you know, I had some great ramen here in Seoul at Gaya-Gaya and South Korea has no short supply of ramen shops. The idea of a ramen restaurant in Tampa interests me. I hope this small operation can find its place in our great city of Tampa. I investigated and learned about the restaurant owner and his plans.
Mema’s Alaskan Tacos, a popular taco eatery in Ybor City that opened shop in 2004, is closing down and having their closing bash Friday, October 14th, at 4:00PM. There will be a limited menu with tacos, nachos, burritos, and beer. They will stay open until they run out of food and beer. Restaurateur Sean Godin’s grandmother, Mema, learned how to make their tacos in Alaska during the 1950s.
“To all of our loyal customers.I want to thank you for the good times. Our closing is an unfortunate result of many things, most of all the deadstill economy and rising prices. Rather than sacrifice quality and service, the decision was to close the doors. So, thank you Tampa, for everything.”
I personally was only able to visit Mema’s Alaskan Tacos once during my many years of living in Tampa, but the experience was a positive one. I still remember the great taste of their chorizo taco and the refried beans. For many years I remember reading the raving reviews online (over 100 on Yelp) and always being curious about the late-night taco shop in Ybor City. Mema’s Alaskan Tacos will be missed and I am sad I will not be able to have their tacos one last time before they close shop.