Roux Tampa launches new lunch menu and it’s excellent

Full disclosure: I was invited to Roux Tampa for a tasting of their new lunch menu in exchange for my opinion. Any opinions stated are my own and do not reflect Roux Tampa or any affiliates.

I visited Roux Tampa today for a tasting of their new lunch menu. The new menu has a variety of dishes added alongside items that were traditionally available. Most menu items are $12 or less, providing an affordable and quality experience.

Boudin Balls at Roux

We started with the Boudin Balls ($7): Two crispy boudin balls with rice, pork, onions, green peppers, seasonings, creamy pepperjack cheese, Zatarain’s Creole mustard crema. These were excellent and plenty to share. Every last bite was delectable and a waiter nearby was correct to mention that they went great with the in-house hot sauces at Roux.

Florida Gator Bites at Roux Tampa

The Florida Alligator Bites ($14) also did not disappoint. They were crispy in a way that might remind you of Bang Bang Shrimp though with a Cajun-twist. I also loved these – they were on the heavier side compared to the Boudin Balls, but went extremely well with the cocktails tried.

Cornbead Skillet at Roux Tampa

Another appetizer we indulged in was the Roux Iron Skillet Cornbread ($9) which features sweet corn, streusel topping, jalapenos, and Steen’s Cane Syrup butter. First of all, everyone who goes to Roux should have this on EVERY visit. It is phenomenal. It might not be new to the menu as I remember it being served in the past, but it is memorable and delicious down to every last bite.

All three appetizers stood up well and I would have been happy with any of them, but like I said you must order the cornbread if you visit Roux. If you love yourself that is.

Cucumber Fizz at Roux Tampa

Cajun Mule at Roux Tampa

Then there was the Cucumber Fizz Cocktail and Cajun Mule. The Cajun Mule features an exclusive Tidal Boar Cajun Ginger Beer that twists the expected flavor of a Moscow Mule, but in a good way. Both drinks were refreshing and exactly the kind of drinks you want to enjoy in Florida.

The ingredients balanced well and the booziness was just right, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the importance Datz Restaurant Group has placed on drinks at their establishments.

Moving on to the main courses…

Steakburger at Roux Tampa

Pork Belly Banh Mi Po' Boy at Roux Tampa

We enjoyed the Steakburger ($12) with fries which has a ribeye-filet patty that will most certainly satisfy a quick burger craving, but the Pork Belly Banh Mi Po’ Boy ($12) stole the show.

Each piece of pork belly hit your tongue with pleasurable fatty goodness. The composition of the sandwich fit the banh mi name well and the ingredients were all fresh. The French Bread in the sandwich had the crunch we all have come to expect from a delicious banh mi sub without hurting the jaw.

The Asian-Creole fusion works well and I’m quite curious to see how this could be utilized in other dishes considering the heavy influence the French have in Vietnamese cuisine.

It’s important to note that this isn’t your average banh mi and to examine that in the pricing as well since a banh mi sub will normally run you somewhere between $4 and $7 by itself.

Red Beans & Rice at Roux Tampa

We couldn’t leave without having some red beans & rice ($8) which is a staple of New Orleans cuisine. The dish normally adds meat on top for an additional charge, but we wanted it as a side dish. It’s a solid dish and a true homage to Louisiana Creole cuisine.

Summer of 75 at Roux Tampa

Finally, before leaving I had the Summer of 75 which is a gin cocktail (please keep reading!) that actually tastes more like a pineapple French 75 (hence the name I assume). This cocktail was excellent and continued the excellent mixology menu. Well-balanced and not too sweet, while having the right amount of booze. Roux could carry itself on its cocktail selection by itself, but of course the food is also great.

To conclude, what we have here is a great lunch menu and cocktail list that is well worth your time and fairly priced. Stop by Roux for lunch. I’d recommend it.

Roux Tampa. 4205 South MacDill Avenue Tampa, Florida 33611. (813) 443-5255. http://www.rouxtampa.com/

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U Poke Spot: Quality poke bowls arrive in Tampa near USF

Full disclosure: I was invited to try the menu at U Poke Spot in exchange for my opinion about their food. These opinions are my own and do not reflect U Poke Spot.

U Poke Spot opened recently just a block away from USF across from MOSI by Einstein’s and Qdoba. It’s a fast-casual Hawaiian-style poke restaurant.

Despite the national popularity of poke, it hasn’t quite taken off yet in Tampa. Many restaurant have tried to use poke as a marketing tactic to upsell their typical fish without offering real poke. Often times the sauces will be downright awful or the fish doesn’t taste good.

Poke Rose at The Hall on Franklin was the first serious take on poke in Tampa, but unfortunately it does not allow you to customize your bowls. The Poke Cafe may be good to the people in Dunedin, but to me it was a disappointing example of poke.

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U Poke Spot resembles more of what I expect in a poke restaurant. The owners background ties back to sushi restaurants, so the fish and toppings reflect that and they go well.

They have salmon, tuna, spicy salmon, spicy tuna, octopus, and even chicken for people who are trying to avoid fish all together. Some toppings include masago, edamame, tempura flakes, seaweed salad, guacamole, mango salsa, crushed nuts, and more.

The main sauce is poke sauce but there are at least 4 other available. The eel sauce and spicy mayo sauces I tried were also great and just what you would find at any sushi restaurant. To be honest, this is the best poke I have had since I last went to San Francisco.

Some things I hope to see added to the menu are tamago (Japanese egg) and eel.

I went with the spicy salmon all the way and added a bunch of toppings and I found all of them to be fresh and flavorful. I built my bowl the same way I would build a sushi burrito or a sushi roll and modern poke is pretty much that.

The guacamole was flavorful, but I would be interested in seeing the guacamole mixed with some other things perhaps in the future. I’a Poke in San Francisco has sun-dried tomato guacamole which sounds ridiculous, but is actually ridiculously amazing with poke and sushi burritos. The cool thing about poke bowls is you can constantly re-invent the menu for customers.

The key to a good poke bowl will depend on how you mix the fish, toppings, and sauces. You have to think about how the flavors all complement each other. There are pre-arranged bowls to help those who might struggle with that.

The prices seem a little expensive for the college area it is situated in with 2 proteins at $10.95 and 3 proteins for $13.95, but it is actually comparable to other poke restaurants. The price will mostly increase when you add higher end toppings such as guacamole or avocado which is expensive pretty much anywhere.

On average I think a typical for me would probably run around $13-15 which isn’t unfair for the bowl portions in my opinion. The truth is quality fish is never going to be cheap without something else to make up for the margins lost such as alcohol or events.

The owners could mitigate that feeling for students by providing a rewards program, student discount, or flash sales that will draw them in even if they are reluctant. Although students claim to be price-conscious, they are willing to spend extra for the right brands. See Chipotle, iPhones, electronic music festivals, etc.

I was also a fan of the drink selection with numerous drinks from Japan available including various green tea brands, Japanese Ramune sodas, and Calpico which I love.

This selection was also available at poke places I visited in San Francisco and the owners of U Poke Spot told me much of their inspiration came from poke restaurants in New York that they visited.

The interior is modern with digital screens and clean and to me makes a good case of probably a franchise one day if U Poke Spot is successful.

The owners indicated they will be adding sushi burritos to the menu as well which I look forward to trying in the future.

I really enjoyed U Poke Spot and look forward to coming back again soon. It is the first time I have felt like poke is being done how I imagined it in Tampa. I recommend giving them a look.

Restaurant name: U Poke Spot

Neighborhood: USF, Temple Terrace

Cuisine: Poke

Address: 5001 E. Fowler Ave., Unit F, Tampa, FL 33617

Phone Number: 813-533-3707

Hours: 11AM-10PM Sunday-Thursday, 11AM-11PM Friday & Saturday

Menu: http://www.upokespot.com/menu-2/

Product Review: Trader Joe’s Organic Carrot Turmeric Juice Blend

Recently I’ve been frequenting Trader Joe’s more often. I wish there were more locations in Tampa especially over in Brandon, but for now South Tampa is the place to go to grab some goods. The Organic Carrot Turmeric Juice Blend inspired me to write a review because it was the first carrot juice I have enjoyed in a long time.

I have been searching for healthier juices to have at home and it is harder than you think to find a good juice at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, many local grocery stores in Tampa overcharge for organic and healthy drink choices. I saw a carrot juice for about $9 last week – which is a ton of money where I live and higher than the minimum wage here.

This juice blend at Trader Joe’s is both affordable and delicious at $3.99 for 32 oz. The spices, including an added organic black pepper, give the blend a nice aftertaste and the organic lemon juice balances the blend.

We also added this blend to an organic orange juice we had in the fridge to add some sweetness, but the juice was great even without it.

Here is the nutritional information for this product:

Carrot Juice is also great for Vitamin A, antioxidants, maintaining cholesterol and blood sugar, among other things. Turmeric is known to have plenty of benefits.

I recommend this product!

Ricopan Bakery: delicious, affordable, local eats

Looking for a quick spot for lunch today we decided to hit up Ricopan Bakery. Most restaurants seem to be closed on Sundays in the area, but Ricopan is open 7 days a week.

We found their online profiles, but weren’t aware that they sold sandwiches and arepas until we arrived.  It looks like they might have a sister store in Kissimmee.

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Everything there was affordable and roughly $7 or less. The menu included Cubans, Medianoches, Steak subs, and more. Apparently they also have tamales on the weekends and other goodies.

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The place has a mom and pop vibe to it and is located right by the popular Liborio’s Latin Cafe on Causeway just off 78th Street in Brandon. The two attendants at the front were friendly, though a little shy.

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We ordered two cafe con leches, a steak sandwich, breakfast arepa with eggs and chorizo, and two guava cheese pastries. The cafe con leche was good, but not the best. Many of the locals stopping in went for Postobon which is to be expected at a Colombian spot. They also had Malta, coconut juice, freshly squeezed OJ, and natural juices as well.

Another thing I noticed on the back of the menu was Colombian burgers, salchipapas, and various other Colombian fast-food being sold at Ricopan which I would be interested in trying in the future.

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The Colombian empanadas were also quickly being purchased by their customers that I observed.

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The food was excellent. I had the breakfast arepa with cheese on top. Eggs and Chorizo on the side. It was excellent.

Probably one of the best arepas I’ve had in awhile. I definitely would go back to try their chicken or beef arepas in the future. Price was fair too. Scrambled eggs had plenty of ingredients including tomatoes and bellpeppers and tasted homemade. The chorizo was good, but I could barely touch it before I was full.

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The steak sandwich we ordered was also excellent. The bread was perfect, the steak was nice and juicy on the inside, it wasn’t tough or dry like you’ll have in some palomilla steaks when you go to latin cafes and order a sandwich. They put the shredded potato sticks on top. It was also a big portion for just $7.

I’d definitely come back to get the Cuban which I noticed was $4.99.

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The two guava pastries we had were tasty and they put a good amount of guava on them. I think next time I would try the croissant instead just because I prefer the softer bread texture. All their pastries looked delicious though and were fairly priced.

I’m glad that we went and tried Ricopan Bakery today and will be back in the future and recommend you give it a look if you’re in Brandon sometime as well!

Restaurant name: Ricopan Bakery

Neighborhood: Brandon, Palm River

Cuisine: Colombian, Bakery, Sandwiches, Arepas

Address: 8216 Causeway Blvd, Tampa, FL 33619

Phone Number: (813) 846-4970

 

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

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.