Poke’ Cafe’ in Dunedin could use some changes

This past weekend I visited Poke’ Cafe’ in Dunedin with a family member for a bite to eat. I hadn’t enjoyed a sushi burrito since I visited I’a Poke in San Francisco. Indeed, I have grown accustomed to avoiding poke or sushi burritos in Tampa because of the sheer lack of effort people seem to put into the product.

Poke’ Cafe’ definitely gave me the impression that it is trying to be a stand up poke restaurant, but overall it wasn’t to my taste. It bills itself as a “fast food concept to ensure super fast service and the lowest price possible”. Poke is sold by the pound. Prices range from $7.50 for 1 scoop to $13.50 for 3 scoops.

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They offer a ton of options for fish and the menu seems to tilt toward Korean-inspired flavors and dishes. I wanted to try the sushi burrito which they call a “poke burrito” so I went ahead and ordered it.

It comes with two scoops of “poke, rice or noodles, kale, avocado, kimchi, scallions, crunchies, togarachi, choice of sauces and non-premium toppings. With a side of pineapple-mango salsa.

Available toppings include scallions, togarachi, wasabi Peas, masago, sesame seeds, wasabi, roasted peanuts, jalapenos, crunchies, crispy garlic & onions, house pickled ginger, cucumber salad, roasted pineapple-mango salsa, shaved coconut, radishes, tomatoes, seaweed salad, edamame, avocado, house-made kimchi, and roasted shittake mushrooms. Some toppings cost extra.

I took the sushi burrito or “poke burrito” ($10.50) as is. It is a little strange because they use a tortilla and then put the seaweed inside and wrap the sushi burrito twice.

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The tortilla was cold and didn’t really have any flavor to it. Being Hispanic I will judge the tortilla more harsh than an average American probably would. I understand the tortilla from a control point of view (sushi burritos are messy), but adding an extra layer between the fish takes away from the flavor and didn’t end up helping my experience.

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The fish was good, but I found the toppings included in the burrito to be both detracting in flavor and also lacking in appeal. The rice didn’t really leave anything worth writing home about.

The kimchi was by far the biggest detractor and heavily overpowered everything else in the burrito – it also was not to my liking in flavor and was neither spicy nor flavorful. Their spicy mayo uses gochujang which is Korean spicy paste and it also underwhelmed and left a strange aftertaste.

Overall, I don’t think Korean ingredients taste particularly good with fish (unless we’re talking octopus) and would be better with meat items such as beef or chicken. The eel sauce didn’t really taste great either, which was kinda surprising because normally eel sauce is a major plus on sushi dishes.

The pineapple-mango salsa was also a bust.

The restaurant outside says “It’s better than sushi”, but I think some elements of sushi would be particularly good with these dishes and should be incorporated better.

My overall impression was that they have a good idea and the fish was good, but they could fine-tune the toppings and sauces. I would also ditch the tortilla in the burrito and recommend building your own bowl or burrito.

The staff was really friendly, seemed like a family-run business, and overall I had a decent lunch. Service was definitely a plus. I still am not sure if I would visit again though.

Restaurant Name: Poke’ Cafe’
Neighborhood: Dunedin
Cuisine: Poke, Sushi Burrito
Address: 1140 Main Street Dunedin, Florida 34698
Phone Number: (727) 871-7653
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I’a Poke serves delicious eats (San Francisco)

Poke (poh-keh) has taken America by storm over the last few years. Poke by definition is a raw-fish salad.

The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii’s Culinary Heritage states that poke first became popular in the 1970s in Hawaii. The trend spread to the U.S.A. in 2012 and at some point began appearing everywhere. Many places just started chopping up fish and selling “poke” to increase sales with no real focus on the history.

Much like “Kobe beef”, “poke” has become a strong sales buzzword without much meaning at many restaurants. Some restaurants actually stay true to the origins of the dish though and use attention to how the fish is prepared and served. Once you taste real poke, the knock-offs just aren’t good enough.

The sushi burrito seems to have come about in 2011 when Sushiritto was founded in San Francisco by Peter Yen. Sushi burritos are essentially a closed sushi handroll packed with tons of rice and ingredients. I tried Sushiritto last December in San Francisco and found the dishes to be rather dry and not quite what I expected and was quite disappointing.

I ended up at I’a Poke by accident this past July when I was looking for a sushi restaurant for lunch and found that most restaurants in SF close at 2PM. After trekking on the BART to the Castro to try Eiji, I ended up going to I’a Poke instead and was glad I did!

The restaurant takes Hawaiian-inspired poke and combines it to offer both sushi burritos and poke bowls. Large bowls and Burritos are allowed to have unlimited toppings, which rocks.

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I’a Poke allows you to build your own poke bowls or sushi burritos and also sells pre-arranged meals as well. The freedom to choose toppings was expansive and a great deal. I wasn’t ready for how delicious the food was going to taste.

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I’a Poke opened my taste buds to how amazing poke and sushi burritos can taste. There wasn’t any topping that did not pack full flavors. The fish was insanely good. I had a salmon burrito with spicy mayo, surimi crab meat, tamago (Japanese egg), sun dried tomato guacamole, masago, furikake, and it was incredible!

It absolutely blew Sushiritto away.

Never have I tasted better ingredients for a sushi burrito and the serving portion was fair.

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In addition, the attendants who made the sushi burrito were incredibly hospitable and the overall place brought me very good vibes.

Cheers to all the poke lovers 🍻

A post shared by I'a Pokè (@iapokesf) on

Watching the people around me eat their poke bowls stuffed with ingredients, it was clear I need to return one day for a bowl. Still, the sushi burrito itself impressed me enough to also recommend the poke bowl (the ingredients are the same after all).

I would recommend I’a Poke to anyone in San Francisco looking for an amazing sushi burrito or poke bowl. Here’s hoping that I quickly am able to return to San Francisco and enjoy I’a Poke again.

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Restaurant name: I’a Poke

Neighborhood: Castro

Cuisine: Poke, Sushi Burrito

Address: 314 Church Street San Francisco, California

Menu: http://www.iapoke.com/menu

Website: http://www.iapoke.com/

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/iapokesf/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/iapoke

Cheeses & Crust serves a delicious grilled cheese

This past weekend at the Indie Flea Market I tried Cheeses & Crust, a Lakeland-based vendor serving gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and it was an experience I must share.

I became very aware of the popularity of grilled cheese sandwiches last year when over 20,000 people showed up to the Ybor City Grilled Cheese Festival. My first encounter with a gourmet grilled was years ago in 2011 when I tried Mz. Cheezious in Miami.


What makes Cheeses & Crust special?

The employees at the stand told me they make their bread themselves which enhances the flavor and their bread samples convinced me to buy a sandwich. I ordered the Basic White Sandwich $8 which consists of “scratch-made white bread encrusted parmesan cheese and filled with American cheese”.

I was not ready for the amazing flavors that were going to take my mouth for a ride. The grilled cheese was savory and satisfying. Every last bite was perfection and the tomato soup they served with it was absolutely divine, I licked every last bit of it. I need more of this and I hope Cheeses & Crust appears in more places in Tampa.

The gentlemen at the stand told me they hope to open a food truck in the future and I hope they do. They had no shortage of customers during the event and one person ordered 10 grilled cheese sandwiches at once.

You MUST try Cheeses & Crust. I promise you will not be disappointed.

Visit them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/cheesesandcrust/

Little Donut House more than a little disappointing

What is it about miniature donuts that makes them so enticing? Is it how magical they look on Instagram and Snapchat? I’m not really sure, but I decided to give them a shot this past weekend at Little Donut House located at 4048 West Kennedy Boulevard.

I was initially inspired to try Little Donut House after sampling their Margarita Donut at CL Margarita Wars which was actually quite tasty and impressed me with an innovative taste.

My friend and I ordered 6 donuts ($4.50) and shared them during our visit to Little Donut House. None of them were appealing.

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The donuts were cold and lacked any flavors that stood out. They did not taste fresh from the donut underneath to the toppings. Most of the menu items were basically chocolate choices and the other ones did not sound too appetizing.

I suppose you can argue that the donuts were not fresh because we visited in the middle  of the afternoon. Still – I liken it to a pizza place selling pizza by the slice in the afternoon that should probably be thrown out.

If you’re open for business – the quality should still be there.

Quality toppings and ingredients could definitely pave the way for an excellent mini donut. There is lots of possibilities, but I haven’t seen that execution yet.

The most disappointing donut I had was the Maple Bacon Donut. The bacon on the donut tasted like bacon you might get from a salad bar drizzled on top of a miniature donut and fell completely flat on flavor.

It’s really hard to make bacon unappealing and that’s why this experience has stuck with me in the back of my mind for days.

I am not a fan of Mini Doughnut Factory either – too sweet, too cakey, just not for me…but Little Donut House fell even under that scope.

I wasn’t even aware that Little Donut House and Mini Doughnut Factory were in the middle of litigation recently over a name dispute, but frankly I don’t like either.

For mini donuts I am going to stick to Disco Donuts and for regular donuts I am sticking to Craving Donuts.

Taco Traveler delivers world class eats

I stopped by The Taco Traveler food truck today for Taco Tuesday at C. 1949 Florida Beer Garden. The two have teamed up for a weekly Taco Tuesday event as of late. It was my first time visiting either business.

The Taco Traveler is a local food truck that started last year serving tacos inspired from around the world.

To be honest, I’m surprised there are not more taco trucks in Tampa Bay considering how popular Mexican food is and how easy you can blend it with other cuisines. In world history, Mexico was an important connection between the Eastern and Western worlds and many flavors and spices traveled through Mexico to other nations.

Let me mention also that The Taco Traveler isn’t trying to play towards traditional Mexican cuisine, but the dishes it puts out do capture the flavors I want in my food.

The Taco Traveler has a few standard menu items and rotating specials.

On the list were the Korean BBQ Taco, Banh Mi Taco, Tex Mex Taco…to name a few. I went with the Tex Mex Taco which was the Taco Tuesday special ($2) and the Korean BBQ Taco ($4.50 with tax). Both surpassed my expectations and impressed me.

They offer a choice of flour or corn tortillas and the correct answer to that question is always corn tortillas.

The sad part about corn tortillas is when they rip – but that’s what forks are for!

Tacos - Korean BBQ Taco and Tex Mex Taco

The Tex Mex Taco comes with your choice of beef or chicken, cheese, shredded lettuce, house-made salsa, sour cream, and green onions. What impressed me about it was the quality of the beef I ordered and the seasonings of it – it was excellent down to every last bite.

The salsa was also quite tasty.

Then there was the Korean BBQ Taco which came with pickled red cabbage, Korean BBQ, sriracha aioli, kimchi, queso fresco, and green onions. It was INCREDIBLE and I was truly happy with this taco.

I’m a bit of a Korean food snob having lived in Seoul in the past, but this taco was definitely what I wanted and how I imagine a Korean taco would taste. It made me start thinking about all the other possibilities of what can be done using Korean cuisine when applied to other categories.

Can I also say that more places in Tampa should use queso fresco? It’s such an amazing topping to food dishes and you hardly see it on menus here.

The prices were reasonable considering they are a small trailer food truck. I had two tacos and felt pretty full. I would like to try their nachos in the future.

I will definitely return in the future for more tacos.

C. 1949 was also quite an experience. The bar menu was huge and the staff was friendly. They had a ton of local options and the draft beer and local list was filled with tons of choices and varieties and many new craft beer choices that are just recently hitting the market.

It’s obvious that the management of C. 1949 cares about providing quality craft beer to their customers.

The atmosphere at C. 1949 fits Seminole Heights as a neighborhood and has that hipster vibe down.

The lighting and actual decor is modern and the bar itself is spacious, well air-conditioned, and has plenty of seats. Outdoor seating is nice although it was certainly be more enjoyable when Florida cools down a bit.

The live acoustic musician outside was great and fit the overall vibe. C. 1949 seems to be doing lots of events lately and you can see more about it on their website if you’re interested: http://c1949.com/

Boba Guys: Best Bubble Tea Business in the USA

Boba Guys is the best bubble tea shop in the USA and a leader in their industry. It is much more than just a nice Instagram or Snapchat post. There are lots of factors that contribute to this opinion and they have been shaped over numerous visits over the last year.

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Consistency

One of the most important factors of any cafe or restaurant is consistency.

You want your drink or order to taste the same no matter which location or time you stop by at a business. I have visited at least 3 or 4 Boba Guys locations multiple times and have not been disappointed in the quality of my drinks on any visit.

The matcha strawberry latte or horchata drink tastes the same at all the different shops and that goes for their tea menu in general. This proves that there is proper training for baristas and oversight/quality assurance testing happening.

The tapioca pearls always have the same chewiness and are never overcooked or undercooked. This is a huge credit to their employees and management. I am quite a bubble tea fanatic in Florida and am often finding myself have boba balls slicing under my teeth or even tasting undercooked pearls.

Many people don’t know that the chewiness of boba balls is a Taiwanese cultural phenomenon and there should be a certain type of chewiness to the balls in order to have a quality experience. Boba Guys delivers on this experience. The sensation is called “QQ” in Taiwan and is essentially a type of texture.

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Quick Turnaround

I seem to visit San Francisco during every major national holiday when I am vacationing on the west coast and find myself at Boba Guys when there can be 30-60 people or more in line due to reduced operating hours. Despite this, the line always moves quickly and I never wait longer than a few minutes to get to the front. Once I order my drink it also comes out quickly.

I cannot say the same about bubble tea shops in Florida that sometimes take over 30 minutes to get you a drink when there are literally only 3 or 4 customers in the shop and half the time the employees forget your order completely. This goes back to management and how they train and manage their employees.

The quick turnaround is good for customers who have other things to do than waiting in line all day and for the business so they can turn as many orders as possible and make a better profit. Respect your customer’s time and your customer will respect your business. This brings me to affordability and quality.

Affordability 

When the bubble tea craze began an average drink was around $2 or $3, but the price of the drinks has soared in the last couple of years and many places are still using crappy artificial powders, low-quality creamers, and sweeteners. A few shops in Florida even charge close to $6 or $7 for a drink.

Boba Guys charges $4.50 and around $5.50 for a specialty drink with real ingredients in San Francisco, one of the most expensive places in the world to operate a business. San Francisco is filled with tons of costs you will not find anywhere else you operate a business.

It baffles me that shops in Florida are charging so much considering the rent is ridiculously cheaper in Tampa Bay compared to San Francisco and the minimum wage in Florida is under $9 an hour. The price of the drinks Boba Guys produces are a further testament to their commitment to their customers and to providing a great product at a price that general public can afford.

They could charge more and easily get away with it in San Francisco, but they would close their product off from a public that is already struggling with high rent and low wages in an increasingly expensive city. The ability to see this is definitely a credit to their business mindset.

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Quality

Quality would probably be first on any list about a great business you might read. However, many food businesses with great quality still fail without consistency, quick turnaround, and affordability and that is why I mentioned those factors first. Anyone involved in the food business is aware that the survival rate is less than 10% and perhaps lower in the San Francisco Bay area in the first two years of operations.

Boba Guys already survived those odds. No doubt quality has helped deliver Boba Guys this far and helped them to have a competitive advantage over other tea shops and boba shops which can easily be replicated and saturate markets (like many dessert or snack concepts).

No powders are used at Boba Guys. They use real tea. This is the first step in changing the quality of the drinks and advancing bubble tea. The artificial flavors and ingredients used to make bubble tea at most shops are hazardous to your health – not the case at Boba Guys because they use REAL tea. It sounds ridiculous that I have to emphasize this, but prior to Naga Tea in Tampa – you could never find a shop that did this in Florida.

There is plenty of research out there about how artificial food coloring and flavorings are bad for your health and Boba Guys may be one of the first, if not the first shop to push using real tea in drinks.

Boba Guys uses Straus Family Creamery organic milk which is local to California, organic, and rGBH-free and that really makes the difference in their drinks compared to most boba shops. I get hives from the creamers used in shops in Florida which does not happen at Boba Guys. Boba Guys also has options for lactose customers including Califia Farms Almond Milk and Organic Soy Milk.

Good luck trying to get more information from shops about their powder and sources for milk tea in Florida or trying to get almond or soy milk at a tea shop in Florida.

Housemade syrups used are brown-sugar based, no fructose. I don’t think I should have to really explain why fructose is bad for you. Sweetness levels are customizable as well which is catching on in Florida boba shops as well now. 100% sweetness might be a little much nowadays.

Clearly, the owners of Boba Guys considered what they love about bubble tea and what they could change to make experiences for customers better and implemented changes that are improving bubble tea cafes in general.

Transparency

Part of owning a business is your relationship with your customers and the owners of Boba Guys do their best to communicate with their customers and let them know how the progress of their business is going and answer any questions customers may have weekly.

Price changes and hour changes are clearly communicated so customers aren’t left confused and there is clearly lots of customer feedback that is helping shape their business into a successful one.

You will not find this kind of commitment to a business in general and I am a little blown away by how much energy and effort the owners of Boba Guys put into having a relationship with their customers. It is simply awesome and most certainly a key to their success.

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Boba Guys is the best bubble tea shop business in the USA and I will visit them anytime I am near one of their shops and support them. If you haven’t visited them, I highly recommend visiting them if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area or New York City.

Cantina Laredo Tasting (Wesley Chapel)

Full disclosure: I was invited to Cantina Laredo for a tasting of their new menu items. My meal was provided at no charge in exchange for my opinion so please keep that in mind. Opinions are my own and do not represent the views of Cantina Laredo.

I recently visited Cantina Laredo at The Shops at Wiregrass for a tasting of their menu. The restaurant has been in the Wiregrass mall for a few years and serves what I would call contemporary Mexican cuisine. It isn’t traditional Mexican cooking, but a gourmet and modern take on it with various Mexican inspirations spread throughout.

We had the most excellent server in the house and her name was Rosie if you want to flag her down for your meal. She works most days and was completely hospitable, relate-able, and had a full understanding of the menu – easily able to make any recommendation or to answer any questions. I’d recommend her as a server.

The tasting began with appetizers.

The Ceviche ($10.49) features marinated fish and shrimp drenched in lime juice and Cholula with avocado and is gluten-free. Personally, I felt the portion for the appetizer could be larger considering that it is meant to be shared but the overall flavors were very good. Everything tasted fresh.

The Ahi Tuna Tacos ($10.29) came next and were also enjoyable, but also quite small for the price. Tuna appetizers are usually on the lighter side anyway so it wasn’t that surprising. The tacos would be a great snack with a drink if you’re not too hungry.

Both soups: Sopa de Tortilla and Arroz Con Pollo were both delicious and affordable at $4.99 a cup and $7.29 a bowl and I would recommend both soups. Mexican and Spanish soups in general when made right are really great meals and enjoyable.

One of the more popular things on the menu at Cantina Laredo is their freshly-made guacamole which I had with their queso appetizer ($9.49) and thoroughly enjoyed.

The guacamole is made table-side and uses Haas Avocados (as all guacamole should), jalapeno, tomato, red onion, cilantro, and lime juice. Queso fresco is added for this appetizer and is one of my favorite cheeses as a transplant from California.

We tasted a few cocktails during our visit and the one I will recommend you order is their Strawberry Mint Margarita ($12). That was delicious and all their margaritas packed a punch (you’ve been warned).

Moving on to entrees.

My two favorite things we tried were the Cascabel Ribeye ($29.99) and Camaron Poblano Asada ($24.99). The steak at the restaurant is clearly top-notch from the juiciness of the ribeye and the tenderness of the asada.

I get a little skiddish about ordering Carne Asada in Mexican restaurants nowadays because many of them have tough skirt steak that isn’t flavorful enough. Not a problem at all with the steaks I tried at Cantina Laredo.

The ribeye was completely juicy and definitely better than I have had at numerous restaurants around Tampa Bay. The bone-in ribeye is dry-aged for 21 days and brushed with a Cascabel sauce that I recommend on the side. It was a tasty sauce – but not one I would want to be drenched over my ribeye. I need to taste the juicy parts in my mouth by themselves – this steak needed no sauce and certainly no ketchup. 😉

There is nothing worse than ordering a steak and being disappointed and I will order the steak again in the future at Cantina Laredo after my positive experience.

I ordered the Acapulco Combination as my entree ($13.99). The tamale was delicious and tasted authentic and flavorful. I gobbled it up. The enchiladas were also enjoyable – although the sour cream sauce was better than the cheese enchilada and I would prefer two sour cream sauce enchiladas in the future.

I felt the crispy beef taco tasted decent, but needed more flavor – this could be solved by adding some sauce inside and some sour cream. I make crunchy tacos at home all the time and its easy to make them taste better – but you have to add more than just meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomato. Sour cream is normally a game changer when this happens.

The rice and refried beans were both tasty with the entree.

For a lower price-point, the combinations make sense – but I definitely would long for the ribeye and asadas in the future.

The tasting then concluded with a wide-range of desserts including Mango Tres Leches ($7.29), Mexican Apple Pie ($7.29), and a Mexican Brownie ($7.29).

The Mango Tres Leches was tart and I am used to enjoying my tres leches soaked all the way in. For me it wasn’t my favorite, but the rest of my party loved it so it may depend on your taste.

The Mexican Apple Pie was excellent to me and had cinnamon ice cream on top that made it quite delicious. The Mexican Brownie was sizzling goodness – perfect for someone with a strong sweet tooth.

Overall, the menu has changed quite a bit at Cantina Laredo over these past few years and these new additions seem to be suggesting major changes within the menu. I like the experimentation and thought there were plenty of interesting flavors to try. Definitely different visits could yield different results depending on who you dine with and what they are looking for.

The new fajitas seem to be taking over every Mexican restaurant menu lately and I didn’t try them so that might be something for the future.

One interesting thing that I did not know is that Cantina Laredo features Happy Hour in the bar from Monday to Friday from 4PM-7PM and 9PM to closing as well as Saturday from 11AM-5PM. House margaritas are $5 during this time and appetizers are half-off. Domestic beers are $2, imported beers are $3, and well-drinks and house wines are $4 – which explains why every time my parents go shopping at Wiregrass they always end up drinking at Cantina Laredo.

I’d recommend giving Cantina Laredo a look if you’re in the Wesley Chapel area – they also have specials on Taco Tuesday with discounts on tacos and beer.

Restaurant name: Cantina Laredo

Neighborhood: Wesley Chapel

Cuisine: Mexican

Address: 2000 Piazza Avenue, Wesley Chapel, FL 33543

Phone Number: (813) 907-3068

Website: http://www.cantinalaredo.com/location/tampa-florida/

Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen in Brandon

This past weekend I dined at Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen in Brandon across the street from Portillo’s.

Our new favorite Cajun spot!!

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The restaurant is fairly new and opened back in 2016 and is part of a small chain of restaurants that are also found in Winter Park and Altamonte Springs. My family is hooked on their food and I found out why during my visit.

Prices are fair and the quality is excellent. My Aunt has been to New Orleans a little over half-a-dozen times and praised the food –  I’m sure this would vary from person to person.

What I can say is that I enjoyed my food – the Rita’s Chicken which is panko-crusted chicken with lemon sauce over dirty rice ($15.25).

The portions here are huge and easily shareable between two people – not a problem. The server and bartenders encountered were all friendly and even during their slow times the restaurant was nearly at capacity.

😋😋😋😋😋 @tibbysrestaurant #tampa #brandon #foodies #beignets #tampaeats #CarlosEats

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For dessert we enjoyed beignets covered in powdered sugar. I don’t think there are too many places in Tampa where you can grab these and I usually stop for some at the Poor Porker in Lakeland on trips to Orlando. It wasn’t quite the Poor Porker – but still delicious and a shorter drive (If the Poor Porker is reading this – please come to Tampa).

Overall – I enjoyed my food and experience and will return soon. There’s a lunch menu and daily happy hour plus plenty of drink specials. Interesting menu items for future visits include the Jambalaya, Po’Boy selections, Chicken & Waffles, Fried Catfish, Cajun Shrimp Pasta, and Gumbo selections.

Restaurant name: Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen

Cuisine: Cajun

Neighborhood: Brandon

Address: 1721 W Brandon Blvd, Brandon, FL 33511

Phone Number: (813) 315-8443

Menu: http://tibbys.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2017_TibbysMenu-Brandon_Online-Only.pdf

Happy Hour: 4PM-6PM Daily

Website: http://tibbys.com/

Orlando Cafe Tour: Doña Juana Coffee Shop

Today I stopped by Doña Juana Coffee Shop on my cafe tour of Orlando with Le’ Anns Cheesecakes ‘N More. The cafe is open Monday-Saturday from 7:30AM-8:00PM and serves a variety of coffee, smoothies, and snacks/food. They recently opened their doors back in December 2016.

Many of the cafes we hit up today in the Winter Park area and beyond were new to the area – it’s really amazing seeing so many cool shops in Orlando – the phenomenon is also happening across I-4 in Tampa.

Dona Juana Coffee Shop

We decided to try some smoothies during our visit – I had the Acai-Mix and the others had Soursop and and Strawberry-Banana.

Acai Mix at Dona Juana

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One cool thing I noticed is that all the smoothies tasted real – plenty of cafes sell smoothies and do not use fruits or have a terrible artificial taste to smoothies – Dona Juana has tasty smoothies and the prices are fair with most smoothies under $4. The sweetness level was also just right.

It would be cool to see them expand the smoothie menu, but for now I have my eye on mango on a future visit.

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The coffee options and decor of the shop definitely were enticing – I would’ve ordered a coffee, but am going to leave that for my next visit in the near future. The staff was friendly and the shop was fairly modern inside with lots of comfortable seating and couches – something you don’t see everyday.

Here is a video from their Facebook:

I’ll be back soon!

Dona Juana Coffee Shop. 6965 Piazza Grande Avenue Orlando, FL 32835. (321) 317-3760

USF Homecoming XX Food Truck Rally

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Tampa Bay Food Truck Rally. I have been compensated for my time and writing. Tampa Bay Food Truck Rally works with more than 100 food trucks and books them for events, corporate and private catering, among other services. Opinions posted are my own and do not represent the views of Tampa Bay Food Truck Rally or businesses listed.

On Friday I visited the University of South Florida Sun Dome for a food truck rally for USF Homecoming XX. Food trucks were spread around the event including Boom Boom BoxChurroland TampaJust Smokin BBQ, Kebablicious, SantoriniSawadee Thai Food, and WING BOX. Homecoming is one of USF’s longest traditions, dating back to 1964, the year after USF’s first graduating class.

Boom Boom Burger

First we stopped at Boom Boom Box food truck. It was hard to decide what to order – but their Boom Boom Burger looked appetizing so we decided to order it. Indeed, it was an extremely delicious burger down to the last bite and a large portion that would be filling for hungry food truck rally attendees. The sauce really makes this burger and definitely makes me want to try the other things on the menu that utilize it. The fries were also great.

Sawadee Thai Food Truck

Next we stopped at Sawadee Thai Food Truck, not to be confused with Sawatdee Thai Cuisine located on 56th Street by USF. I wasn’t really sure what to expect out of a Thai food truck – but we decided that a Pad Thai would be a quick way to judge whether the food was good at Sawadee.

Chicken Pad Thai

I was surprised with both the portion size and dedication to quality on Sawadee Thai Food Truck. It tasted just as good as a Pad Thai you can get in a Thai restaurant and the price was fair at around $7. The attention to detail was there and the owners at the food truck were really friendly and remembered a friend of mine who visited the truck over a year ago.

Noodles

One of the last things I tried was the noodles off the Sawadee Thai Food Truck. Also delicious and clear dedication to authentic cuisine. I’d definitely go back to this truck and try some other more exotic things in the future – they had quite a few choices and the prices were definitely inviting.

Overall, we had a blast wandering around the food truck rally trying different food at the rally and the weather was favorable thanks to Hurricane Matthew bringing in a cold front and lots of windy weather which is welcome after an extremely hot summer. This concluded our visit to the USF Homecoming XX Food Truck Rally.