Continuing its expansion, Blind Tiger Cafe is taking over a Starbucks location at the Westfield Brandon Mall across from the Apple Store. The busy mall in a densely populated area makes an interesting move for Blind Tiger who recently acquired another Starbucks location in the WestShore Plaza in Tampa and opened a number of new cafes recently in Downtown Tampa.
Full disclosure: I have performed sponsored work for Kiwami Ramen Sushi. These opinions on this list are strictly my own and do not represent any sponsors or paid work.
Brandon has been transforming over the years from a quiet suburban town to a busy place with tons of apartment complexes and subdivisions rising around the area. There is now a Top Golf, Dave and Buster’s, and the Westfield Brandon Towncenter has exploded with traffic. People are moving south to Riverview and East to Valrico. The new Riverview GDX and Xscape Riverview theaters further prove the population growth of this area.
Many people complain that there are not local options in Brandon, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You’ll find a wide-variety of food from a variety of cuisines around the area, if you know where to look. Most places will run you around $10-20 per person for a meal. The options continue to grow, here is a list of some of my recommendations.
Allegria Italiana: Your old school Italian eatery with white table covers and a romantic vibe, Allegria Italiana has a great variety of gourmet Italian food that is better than many places around the bay. The servers have been friendly on my visits and prices are about what you would expect for this kind of concept. Everything from the appetizers and pasta to dessert is great. $$ 518 Oakfield Dr., Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 651-1166 allegriaitaliana.com
La Cubanita: Great Cuban sandwiches and steak sandwiches. You can’t really go wrong with their cafe con leche and a sandwich. They also have great deals on platters of food and have specials daily. There are many places around Brandon with sandwiches and coffee, but this is one of the best. They serve La Segunda bread which is of course the best. $ 723 W. Lumsden Rd., Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 661-2253.
Kiwami Ramen and Sushi: Newcomer serving quality, gourmet ramen and sushi. The perfect marriage no matter what your mood is. Prices are fair and far less than the options in Tampa and St. Petersburg. Lunch specials on weekdays and happy hour deals make Kiwami and even better choice. The rolls are different from you’ll find in most places in Tampa. 10262 Causeway Blvd., Tampa, FL 33619. (813) 393-0683.kiwamiramensushi.com
Ploy Thai: Ploy Thai has been serving Thai food for over a decade on State Road 60. The restaurant has changed and evolved over the year from more of a sushi concept and then back into a more Thai-focused restaurant. The menu is large and they have transitioned more into a finer dining concept. $$ 1941 W. Brandon Blvd, Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 684-5007.
Sushi Kampai: If you like some simple rolls or great deals, Sushi Kampai is for you. The rolls are affordable and they also have lunch combos and bento boxes. You’ll find some Chinese, Japanese, and Korean food options on the menu as well. Service can be slow when they get busy so plan ahead. They also offer delivery and take-out if you’re feeling lazy. $ 10312 Bloomingdale Ave. #111, Riverview, FL 33578. (813) 620-3717.
Taste of Berlin: This German eatery is owned by some German expats and has a great schnitzel. Most items on the menu are made from scratch down to the sauces. The German beer selection isn’t quite as expansive as Mr. Dunderbak’s in Tampa, but there are some decent options on the menu for those looking to wash down their food. The owners regularly host events here especially for Oktoberfest. $$ 526 Oakfield Dr, Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 685-9392.
LC’s Cafe and Supper Club: LC’s Cafe is a nice little spot for a lite breakfast or brunch. They have some Cuban food options and also some breakfast options. It isn’t anything fancy, but the decor feels like home and it is a great place to go and catch up with someone. It is a family-owned small business. $$ 1602 Oakfield Dr #103, Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 526-9395.
Shrimp Boat: If you love seafood, you will love Shrimp Boat. This busy local restaurant on Bloomingdale serves quality seafood dishes and even their regular American dishes scream quality. It gets very busy, but there is usually some space in the bar area. They have happy hour deals and specials regularly and you also cannot go wrong with their soups. $$ 1020 Bloomingdale Ave., Valrico, FL 33596. (813) 571-5858. shrimpboatgrille.com
Green Island Frozen Yogurt & Tea Bar: Green Island has been around for over a decade if I’m not mistaken. They were one of the first boba shops and frozen yogurt shops to open in Tampa Bay. It’s a nice option if you’re on State Road 60 and heading to the nearby M.D. Oriental Market. Their bubble tea isn’t my favorite, but their Thai tea is pretty good and so is the coconut smoothie or watermelon smoothie (when available). $ 10047 E. Adamo Dr, Tampa, FL 33619. (813) 374-9006.
Smokin Pig BBQ: Smokin Pig serves some great barbeque options and has plenty of space inside for those who want to dine-in. They have family deals as well as specials and combos. My favorite thing here is their Mac and Cheese, it is incredibly cheesy and delicious. Their brisket tastes great and I like their corn bread. $$ 3834 US-301, Riverview, FL 33578. (813) 512-2500 smokinpig.com
Chicago’s Best Burgers: If you want some truly amazing burgers do not miss Chicago’s Best. They maintain a low profile online, but they serve one of the best burgers I have enjoyed in Tampa Bay. You’ll spend a little more than some other shops, but the taste is well worth it. I highly recommend it. $$ 1925 W Brandon Blvd, Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 654-3232.
Restaurants are opening in droves right now across Tampa Bay. Down in Apollo Beach, Mi Viejo Latin Cafe & Catering opened their doors to the public today. The owners, Roger and Veronica Lima, originally were a part of Liborio’s Cafe, which is a popular Latin cafeteria in the Brandon area.
Mi Viejo offers a number of Cuban dishes including Palomilla Steak, Milanesa, Churrasco, Cuban Sandwiches, Media Noches, Ropa Vieja, and more with most menu items under $10. There are deviled crabs and empanadas for-sale as well as Tamal Cubanos. Breakfast is available. Coffee fans can find some Cafe con Leche and Cuban espresso for-sale, while sweet lovers can enjoy flan, arroz con leche, dulce de leche, and tres leches. You’ll even find churros at this new spot.
Mi Viejo is located at 6002 N. U.S. Highway 41, Apollo Beach, Florida. The Apollo Beach and Southshore area are rapidly expanding with new restaurants and breweries popping up regularly time as more homes are built in the Big Bend area and homes and subdivisions continue to expand south of Riverview.
Current hours at Mi Viejo are Monday to Friday from 6:30AM to 8PM and Saturdays from 7AM to 8PM. They are closed on Sundays.
Restaurant Name: Mi Viejo Latin Cafe & Catering
Neighborhood: Apollo Beach, Southshore
Address: 6002 North US Highway 41 Apollo Beach, Florida 33572
Brandon’s first official ramen shop is opening this week on Saturday, April 6th at 12PM. Kiwami Sushi and Ramen will offer a special introductory 20% off promotion from April 6th to April 20th.
The new shop will be located at 10262 Causeway Blvd. Tampa, Florida 33619, just minutes from the Westfield Brandon Towncenter and the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway Faulkenburg exit.
The owner’s background is from Orenchi Ramen, which is a popular ramen chain in California. Kiwami will be serving shoyu and tonkotsu ramen for lunch as well as dan dan noodle soup for vegetarians. The menu will expand at dinner to include spicy miso ramen, kimchi ramen, and more.
Prices will start at around $11 and lunch specials will be available.
The restaurant will be open Tuesday through Sunday and closed on Mondays.
They are still hiring staff including sushi chefs, line cooks, servers, and hosts. Interesting parties can apply in person at the restaurant or call (813) 393-0683.
This post comes from Deborah Bostock-Kelley. Deborah is a food writer and is going to highlight some great vegan and gluten-free eats for us. I am asked all the time about vegan food, but it isn’t my specialty so I am very excited to have her writing for us.
It’s hard enough to find restaurants when you are following a gluten-free lifestyle, but throw meat, dairy and egg-free into the mix and you would think your eating-out meal options would be limited to salad, salad and, yes, more salad.
For most chain
restaurants, that option is sadly true, but surprisingly in Tampa
Bay, individually-owned gems are making healthy living – vegan,
vegetarian, and gluten-free – more mainstream, affordable, and
available to an appreciative public.
With the help of the Now Find Me Gluten-Free, Happy Cow, and Vanilla Bean Vegetarian/Vegan restaurant-finder apps, my husband and I have been able to navigate this lifestyle to find several delicious options on the weekends through restaurants that can accommodate.
3 vegan eats to start your trip around Tampa Bay
Here are the first three restaurants to dip your toe into the animal-products-free lifestyle:
1. Thai Legacy
First and foremost, the family-owned Thai Legacy, is hands-down the best Thai Restaurant for vegan options. Open for just two years in February, from the complimentary puffed shrimp toast with chili dipping sauce to an every-visit order of the huge bowl of lemony Tom Yum Soup, (family-sized because we love the leftovers) to the Pad Thai or Drunken Noodles or scratch-made red and green curries ranging from mild to I-can’t-feel-my-face hot, the separate Vegan menu offers nearly 30 different options – appetizers, soups, fried rice, noodles, curries, specialty meals and desserts.
Our favorite, Veggie Pad Thai, is incredibly flavorful stir-fried rice noodles with diced tofu, sweet radish, beansprouts, and crushed peanuts. It’s cooked in a mouth-watering, homemade, vegan Pad Thai sauce. Owner Preeda Saeiab always make you feel welcome and her chef, son Perry makes sure you leave with your belly full and taste buds happy. 120 North Parsons Avenue Brandon, FL 33510. (813) 685-8005. thailegacyrestaurant.com
2. Loving Hut
Loving Hut is a staple to the vegan community on the USF college side of town. Every menu item is affordable as the founder wants healthy vegan food accessible for everyone. We visit for their monthly buffet (usually the first Saturday of the month) featuring soups, salads, summer rolls, spring rolls, pasta dishes, sandwiches, veggie dishes and desserts that are always changing.
The restaurant features appetizers, salads, vegan chick’n wings, shrimpless shrimp and fishless fish, as well salads, burrito wraps, sandwiches with staples like French fries and vegan mozzarella sticks. While my husband gravitates to the sandwiches and wraps, as the soy substitute is not gluten-free, I enjoy the spring rolls and creamy potato kale soup with vegan cream cheese or the delectable Beyond Meat Burger without the bun. The large menu can please even the most finnicky of palettes. 1905 East Fletcher Avenue Tampa, Florida. (813) 977-7888. lovinghut.us/tampa/
3. Rawk Star Café
At Rawk Star Café it may seem odd that a restaurant would not have an oven, but it makes sense when you realize everything you eat there is raw. If you are what you eat, you are super healthy raw vegetables masquerading as burgers, pizza, spaghetti, and chili and you taste incredible.
Peanut, wheat/gluten, and soy-free, Rawk Star Café serves only organic, raw, and living vegan cuisine. From powerhouse smoothies, Mother Kombucha on tap, Bulletproof Coffee, eggless egg salad, collard leaf wraps, and salads to Rawghetti, a Raw Burger, Raw Pizza, a Raw Chili plate, and many types of raw desserts and sweets, there is something to tempt even the strongest meat-atarian.
My absolute favorite, the Raw Chili plate, is loaded with fresh tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, carrots, celery, shiitake mushroom, red bell pepper, and jalapeno and cayenne for heat. It’s served over a bed of thinly chopped zucchini, and then topped with a macadamia nut “sour cream,” fresh tomatoes, and house-blended Prama Sprinkle. Despite normal, non-supersized portions, you do not leave Rawk Star Café still feeling hungry. The high nutrient food leaves you feeling full longer. 4011 Tampa Road Oldsmar, FL. (813) 855-0007rawkstarcafe.com
Next time, we’ll visit Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant, Ray’s Vegan Soul, and Halelife Bakery.
About Deborah: Deborah Bostock-Kelley is a busy restaurant reviewer, Broadway World theatre critic, playwright, producer, director, actress, children and young adult author, reporter for Groove Magazine, Seedling Magazine UK and Tampa Bay News & Lifestyles Magazine, and owner of The WriteOne Creative Services, a graphic design, web design, and copywriting company. As the philanthropic side of her company, she founded Life Amplified variety showcase in 2013 to give back to her community and was recognized in February 2016 as Bay News 9’s Every Day Hero and in May 2014 as FoxTV’s Hometown Hero. Life Amplified CONNECTIONS Broadway Tunes for Project No Labels is at Stageworks in June 2019 is her 13th showcase. Winning a 2017 Theatre Tampa Bay Jeff Norton Dream Grant, in January 2018 she wrote and produced the 2018 Broadway World award-winning (Best Actor & Best Actress) production, A Necessary Conversation (with Peter Nason) about bullying/gun violence/mental health with a community talkback at the Straz with proceeds going to Moms Demand Action, Tampa Chapter. The show has been expanded and she is directing later in 2019. Her one act plays have been performed in competition at Carrollwood Players, Tarpon Arts and Tampa Bay Theatre Festival. She also runs a blog about her gluten-free and vegan journey. www.dkvk.fun.
Sa Ri One Sushi & Korean BBQ is now open in Brandon. It’s been open for a few weeks now. I stopped by today for a bite.
The restaurant is in the old S Bar location next to Burlington Coat Factory on Adamo Dr. (State Road 60).
The inside has been changed dramatically and it now has a blue lounge feel in the Korean BBQ grilling area and the bar area of S Bar was changed into a dining room and bar for general Korean dining. The facility lost plenty of its charm in the transition, but there is certainly plenty of room inside.
I visited the other Sa Ri One BBQ in Hillsborough a few weeks ago out of pure curiosity for this new location and was not impressed with what I found there. The side dishes were bland, my server was inattentive, and the Korean BBQ meat was not very good and expensive (~$30 vs. ~$20) compared to competitors in Orlando like Izziban and Korea House.
I still wanted to see how this location was though.
Today – I decided to stick to the basics and order a soup from the menu. I had the Galbi Tang for $14.95. Galbi Tang is a beef short rib soup and perfect for this kind of rainy weather. My server Jinah was very friendly and she kept up on the refills for the ban chan and was a complete 180 from my experience at the other location.
The ban chan (side dishes) also tasted really great today. The kimchi was great and so was the fish cake and other various side dishes. I’m not sure if we can attribute my last experience to management or that this location is new, but Sa Ri One Sushi & Korean BBQ was great today in Brandon and I would recommend checking it out.
Jinah was a great server – she even caught my debit card when I almost left it at the restaurant and returned it to me before I left.
Sa Ri One Sushi & Korean BBQ has weekday lunch specials and is open 7 days a week.
Sushi was not available today as their sushi chef was apparently not in – not sure when that is going to be available either.
Riverview’s first brewery, Leaven Brewing Co., will have its Grand Opening on Friday, March 30th, 2018. The project has been years in the making and represents the next step for the Brandon/Riverview area.
The owners have vigilantly updated their Instagram and social media channels to keep the community updated as they prepared for their journey and it is finally going to pay off with the opening.
Their history with craft beer goes back to Fort Myers Brewing Co. where head brewer and owner KJ Lynch had his start. KJ was originally a photographer for a media event and then started volunteering at the brewery until he was eventually hired full-time and worked his way up to head brewer.
He then started working at Brew Hub in Lakeland where he brewed for 17 different breweries and brewed up to 98,000 barrels of beer in his final year working there before KJ and his wife Jillian decided to open their own brewery: Leaven Brewing Co. in Riverview.
The two are big craft beer supporters and were married at Coppertail Brewing Co. in Ybor City.
Riverview reminds the couple of suburban Fort Myers and helped them to decide on their location with some luck from a friend.
They plan to book live music on the weekends and have plenty of fun planned for the residents of Riverview and visitors coming in for some local craft beer.
The craft brewery will be located at 11238 Boyette Road Riverview, FL 33569 just off US 301.
The annual Creative Loafing Meet the Brewers craft beer event is this Saturday, February 17th at Brandon Harley-Davidson (9841 East Adamo Drive, Tampa, FL 33619) from 1PM to 4PM.
GA Tickets cost $30 in advance and $40 at the door. General Admission includes unlimited beer while you mix and mingle with local brewers.A portion of proceeds will benefit Ybor City Museum Society.
VIP costs $75 in advance and $85 at the door and includes an hour of early admission to the event and food provided by Mini Doughnut Factory, The Mill Brandon, beer from Slim Pickens Cider & Mead, and more.
The event is sponsored by Brandon Harley-Davidson, Smashburger, Mini Doughnut Factory, Florida Brewers Guild, Tampa Bay Beer Week, Tampa Bay Brew Tours by Thirsty Pelican, Ybor City Museum Society, The Mill Brandon, Roundhouse Creative, Lyft, andUNATION.
Full disclosure: I was invited to Beef O’ Brady’s to taste their new menu and check out the new deals they have available in exchange for my opinion. Opinions are my own and do not represent Beef O’ Brady’s.
I recently visited the original Beef O’ Brady’s location (founded in 1985) in Brandon to check out their new menu and deals. I have lived in Brandon since 2005 and was not aware that the restaurant chain originated in my own backyard or of their location on Kings and Oakfield. The founder, Jim Mellody, who passed in 2002, continues to have this location run by family heirs.
The original location is exactly what you would expect from a classic sports bar and is a reminder of the dominance this concept carried in the late 90s and early 2000s era with wood decor and dim lighting. The entrance is reminiscent of a time long gone for Americans as fast-casual chains have taken a bite out of the restaurant industry and the 2008 Financial Crisis ate many of the prominent American chains.
This was especially true in Brandon which suffered greatly when the housing market collapsed as a suburban neighborhood. Times have changed though and Brandon is growing faster than ever with new apartment complexes and home communities appearing year-round.
Many of the additions to the menu at Beef O’ Brady’s are following current food trends such as healthier menu items at arguably affordable prices. The prices are much cheaper than similar American concepts such as Applebee’s, Chili’s, and the like.
I first tried their Boom Boom Shrimp which looks pretty much like Bang Bang Shrimp from Bonefish Grill. This appetizer has appeared on menus in numerous restaurants in the last few years as Bonefish has sought to push it into the limelight. The dish doesn’t match the flavor or taste of the obvious dish it resembles but isn’t half bad either. I wouldn’t mind sharing this with a few people as an appetizer occasionally.
One of the better deals I saw that is new to the menu is Fajitas on Thursdays for $9.99. Some chains have driven the price of these menu items up to $15-$20 that historically was always a draw for more budget-conscious, middle-class families. Beef O’ Brady’s gives a nod back to that trend with this and the quality is arguably the same or better when compared to those other chains. The regular price of this dish is also great at around $12.
The wings on the menu have also managed to weather a hike in chicken wing prices that have hindered profits at other sports pubs such as Buffalo Wild Wings. Beef O’ Brady’s continues to offer specials for wings on Wednesday and the traditional wings are meaty. I tried the Nashville Hot Dry Rub flavor which is far superior to the spicier rubs at Buffalo Wild Wings that hardly stick to the meat.
Another dish I was tried was the Five Cheese Cheeseburger. It resembles a Frisco Melt and is quite filling. The topping is a mozzarella stick. As a fan of burgers in general, I found the burger was good, but missing a sauce to help with all the meat and bread happening. During my days at USF I was frequently grabbing a burger from Beef O Brady’s in between classes and they have always been above-average for the price-point and concept. Curly fries are always great as well, though this time I went traditional (still good).
From the healthy options or “lighter side”, I tried a chicken salad with quinoa. I was a little surprised to see this on the menu but see it as a nod to the changing habits of Americans and probably an attempt to lead to a compromise in couples and families trying to find a place that caters to different food habits and tastes. The grilled chicken tastes good and the prices are around $10 which again is not too bad for a healthier dish.
Overall, these new menu items suggest Beef O’ Brady’s is making a serious effort to diversify the menu and add more options than traditional pub fare and that makes sense considering the price of wings these days and the way the average diners tastes have diversified.
These options and prices could mostly stand up by themselves (especially the fajitas) for the restaurant sphere they are in. I recommend it to people wanting traditional American food on a budget.
Portillo’s Hot Dogs will roll out delivery in-app on Thursday, November 2nd for Tampa and Brandon. Customers will be able to use the website and Portillo’s app to order delivery to their doors within a 30 minute radius of Portillo’s locations. The app will allow customers to customize delivery orders to their preference.
In addition, the delivery on the app will offer Portillo’s fast packs which are great for quick catering for groups. Types of snack packs include hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches, chicken tenders, salads, and more.
There is a $15 order minimum for deliveries.
Portillo’s first launched their app last August in an effort to help people place takeout orders for drive-thru or in-store pickup. This addition of delivery expands the app for customers.
Use promo code BEEF for a limited time to get $5 OFF your first order from Portillo’s.