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

 

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S Bar in Brandon now permanently closed

S Bar in Brandon has permanently closed for business. The restaurant combined sushi, southern bistro cuisine, and prohibition era cocktails. It is the former location of The Rack in Brandon and had an impressive re-design.

The owners decided to move and help family out of state and ultimately decided they could no longer keep the business going.

Here is a statement from the restaurant:

Here’s hoping something new will open in this space in the future.

S Bar Speakeasy and Sushi Bar now open (Brandon)

Full disclosure: I was invited to S Bar for their preview night about a week ago where they served complimentary hor d’oeuvres to the public to preview their restaurant. I visited again today on my own for some sushi for lunch and decided to write a post about their grand opening. Opinions stated are my own.

Brandon has a new concept called S Bar open that fuses 1920s speakeasy cocktails and southern bistro food with a sushi bar. The restaurant opened to the public last Sunday June 11th, 2017.

Beautiful bar area inside @s__bar #vipnight #taste #foodies #sushi #tampafl #tampabay #CarlosEats

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Scooby Snacks @s__bar #CarlosEats #sushibar #tampabay #tampa #tampafl #sushi #foodies #taste #vipnight

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The location was formerly known as The Rack in the past and the entire restaurant has been re-done to have a more intimate and upscale ambiance. Many of the staff members and management also are related to The Rack and you’ll find some of your favorite sushi rolls from that time on the menu at S Bar.

Sushi rolls range from about $4 to $16 and include the popular Volcano Roll and The Rack rolls from the previous tenant of the establishment. During the days of The Rack, I was personally in love with the Volcano Roll and many places simply could not compare. Specials are being developed and will roll out in the future – most information for that will be posted to their Facebook page.

The southern bistro menu includes grits, fried green tomatoes, corn bread, and more in development. The menu will be fully available in the near future.

S Bar seems to be targeting a more upscale crowd then its predecessor and it would be a great place to grab some drinks locally in Brandon or to go out on a date night or a night out with friends for young professionals or professionals in general.

Yellowtail Nigiri @s__bar #CarlosEats #tampafl #tampabay #foodies #brandonflorida #brandonfl #sushi #nigiri

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The Executive Chef for S Bar, Gia Tran, has previously worked at Ocean Prime and won the Sushi Battle last year in 2016 and also ran the Urban Sushi Burrito food stand that could be found at most Big City Events festivals such as the Margarita Festival and Rum Festival.

If you’re in Brandon driving down State Road 60 off I-75, stop by and give it a look.  The restaurant is open late daily and apparently brunch is in the works.

S Bar - now open

Restaurant name: S Bar

Cuisine: Sushi, Southern

Neighborhood: Brandon

Address: 1025 W. Brandon Blvd., Brandon, FL 33511

Phone Number: (813) 575-7227

Website: http://www.thesbar.com/

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

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

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/

Dave & Buster’s arcade coming to Brandon

Popular game arcade and sports bar, Dave & Buster’s, is making plans to come to Brandon after years of speculation of when they would arrive in the Tampa Bay market. The 40,000 square-foot facility features a restaurant and 412 parking spots.

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The restaurant serves American food fare including burgers, ribs, steak, seafood, sandwiches, and salads. Alcohol options includes wine, bottled beer, local beer, and spirits.

Let’s hope they bring the new Dance Dance Revolution over to the Brandon location (cue: 90’s and early 2000’s memories).

Major local competitor GameTime just finished a remodeling worth $1 million in Ybor City that includes high-end modern materials and furnishings, 65 TV’s, and new attractions and games. Time will tell if Dave & Buster’s has any impact on their business.

The greater Brandon area has been rapidly building new apartment complexes and home projects keeping in line with all the new business coming to the area with TopGolf and Bass Pro Shops already established in the area. In addition, this fall Goodrich Quality Theaters will open a multiplex in Gibsonton and Xscape Theatres will open in Riverview on the corner of Progress Blvd. and I-75 soon as well. Previously the only option for Brandon residents was AMC Regency 20.

Cauliflower Pizza @ Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza

During the Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza Tweetup in Carrollwood, I spotted a curious pizza that I was sadly too full to try. Fortunately, Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza contacted me recently and invited me to come out and try a complimentary pie of their Cauliflower Pizza. I, of course, accepted and ventured to the Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza location in Brandon. The Brandon location has a different feel from the Carrollwood location, it feels more like a mom & pop pizza restaurant. One large room with a few televisions and various things on the wall. When I arrived a waitress helped me out right away and sat me down at the bar.

She told me I had to try their Eggplant Marino and brought it out right away. The fried eggplant was toasty and the marinara and cheese on top tasted great, the taste of the eggplant was faint but still present. A nice way to get some extra fruits in…I personally don’t normally eat eggplants because I usually find them to be bitter so I found this to be a cool way to cook it. It wasn’t long before the Cauliflower Pizza was ready and in front of me.

The Cauliflower Pizza has an interesting appearance. It looks like a cheese pizza at first glance, but if you look again you see the pieces of cauliflower spread throughout the pie. I normally associate cauliflower with soul food, so I have never imagined it in this context. It was surprisingly very pleasant. The pizza has a balance between the bread, cheese, and cauliflower that I enjoyed. Neither is overpowering and the pizza is not sloppy or greasy. As I mentioned in my other blog about Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, their pizzas are light and won’t leave you feeling sick or painfully full afterwards. The pie is one of Anthony’s specialty pizzas and is $16.75 for a 12″ and $19.75 for a 16″ pie.

The manager mentioned they put olive oil on the bread and it certainly does add some extra flavor to the oven-roasted pizza. Cauliflower is known for preventing cancer and having a number of other health benefits and although this form might be less effective than eating one whole, it must be better than eating pepperonis and sausages. As I was live tweeting my visit, many people mentioned to me that the Cauliflower Pizza is one of their favorites and there is much to love about this pizza. Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza was secretly making me eat healthier, while still enjoying my food. I took the few pieces I couldn’t finish to a friends house and everyone devoured it and was surprised to find out there was cauliflower in the pizza they ate.

Stay tuned for an Anthony’s Coal Fired Giveaway on my next blog!

Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza

Cuisine: Italian, Pizza

Neighborhood: Brandon

Address: 1912 W. Brandon Blvd. Brandon, FL 33511

Phone Number: (813) 409-3830

Website: http://anthonyscoalfiredpizza.com/

Ploy Thai (Brandon)

Ploy Thai was one of the first Thai restaurants I fell in love with when I first moved to the Brandon area back in 2005. The inside is decorated as lavishly as any other Thai restaurant, but there is something about the quality of the food and service that I enjoy after every visit. The quiet atmosphere is relaxing and when I came back from a week-long trip of eating and traveling for spring break last year in San Francisco , the mecca of great food, the first place I wanted to go when I returned was Ploy Thai. My last visit was after finals. I was craving some Thai food after hours of studying and I thought of the relaxing environment of Ploy Thai almost instantly when I started thinking of restaurants in the Brandon area.

Fun fact: Ploy Thai is named after the owner’s daughter, Ploy, which means “little gem” in Thai.

I never intend to order soup, but I find it hard to resist once I look at an item on the menu and think about the last time I enjoyed one. The Tom Kha Gai or Chicken in Cream of Coconut Soup ($3.50) started my dinner and I really love the lemongrass and cilantro in the soup and the coconut milk is sweet and leaves a nice aftertaste in your mouth.

The Chicken Pad Thai ($10.95 for dinner) is superb. I personally enjoy my Thai food non-spicy and Ploy Thai consistently delivers an excellent Pad Thai in this regard, I can’t comment on Thai hot flavors. The noodles are packed with flavor and the smell of it fills me with zest. The quality of Ploy Thai’s chicken is great tender and juicy, and their simple Pad Thai really hits the spot.

The consistency of the Thai Tea is usually made well and although you may want to ask for little ice so you can get more actual tea, the tea is usually reasonable for the price. Thai food is either water or tea, I find it hard to drink anything else with it.

Overall, Ploy Thai consistently has great food and service and I have enjoyed every visit here in the past few years. They have lunch specials that are $7-$8 if you’re looking to save a few bucks. Ploy Thai is certainly worth a look if you’re in the Brandon area and is located only a few minutes from the Brandon Mall. I have been to the Cross Creek location in New Tampa and enjoyed it as well.

Ploy Thai on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Ploy Thai

Cuisine: Thai

Neighborhood: Brandon

Address: 1941 W Brandon Blvd. Brandon, FL 33511

Phone Number: (813) 684-5007

Website: http://www.ploythairestaurant.com/

GrillSmith Chef Joe Guli Interview & Chef Guli’s Top 10 Fourth of July Grilling Tips

I had the pleasure of sitting down and talking with Joe Guli, GrillSmith‘s Chef Tech of Operations in this area, today at the Brandon location located inside the Westfield Brandon Town Center (located outside near the food court). GrillSmith was established in 2004 and is an affiliate of Front Burner Brands, a restaurant management company headquartered in Tampa, Florida. Joe has been a chef for 10 years and studied at the Florida Culinary Academy prior to becoming a chef. Prior to the interview I was served some bruschetta with smoked salmon that tasted great. We talked about Guli’s history and food interests in a brief interview before he gave me 10 grilling tips for families to use this 4th of July when having barbeques and getting together for the Independence Day holiday.

Q & A with Joe Guli

Carlos Eats (CE): How did you get started as a chef? How did you get into your current position with GrillSmith?

Joe Guli (JG): My grandfather inspired me to become a chef and I was also influenced by a family-owned establishment growing up. I worked for the Cheesecake Factory in Las Vegas and then moved to Florida, landing a position at GrillSmith through a contact from my former employer.

CE: What is your favorite entree at GrillSmith? What’s your favorite sauce?

JG: Chicken Milanese is my favorite entree (sautéed, herb-crusted chicken finished with a lemon-butter white wine reduction, sun-dried tomatoes, golden raisins and capers, dressed with arugula and pine nuts in GrillSmith’s lemon-feta vinaigrette, served over seasoned rice). I love breaded chicken. My favorite sauce would have to be our port wine sauce.

CE: Social Media Day is coming up on June 30th. What do you think about the relationship that Social Media and Food have found today?

JG: I think it’s great. It allows people to get recommendations to restaurant and interact with food.

CE: Here’s a fun question. What is your favorite food network show and why?

JG: Robert Irvine’s Restaurant Impossible. I personally enjoy going into a restaurant and making it a success the way Robert Irvine does on his show.

CE: What toppings do you like on your burger?

JG: It might sound weird, but my favorite burger toppings are fried pork belly with egg (laughs).

CE: What is a 4th of July tradition for you and your family?

JG: Grilling with the family is definitely a 4th of July tradition for my family. We’re Italian and French so there has to be pasta at our 4th of July family gatherings as well.

CE: Thanks for your time, it was great talking with you.

Joe Guli’s Top 10 Fourth of July Grilling Tips

1.    Go with gas. Use a gas grill to help control cooking temperature. Most gas grills have a number of heat settings and many include built-in temperature gauges to determine the correct cooking temperature required for a certain food.

2.    Use multiple burners for multiple food items. When grilling several different foods that require different cooking temperatures, it’s helpful to use a gas grill that features multiple burners to better control the temperature for each food.

3.    Add wood-grilled flavor. Add grilled flavor to food by using wooden grilling planks that are designed to provide added flavor to food during the grilling process.

4.    Know the difference between direct and indirect heat grilling methods.

    • Use direct heat for thinner meats. Direct heat grilling is the best approach for grilling foods such as hamburgers, steaks, hot dogs, brats, pork chops, chicken breast and fish. To grill with direct heat, place food on the grilling grate in the area directly over the heat source.
    • Use indirect heat for thicker meats. Thick meats are best cooked with a heat source that is not directly under the food. This allows them to cook slowly to ensure that the food does not burn on the outside before the inside reaches the necessary level of doneness. Whole chickens, whole turkeys, beef roasts and pork roasts are good choices for grilling with indirect heat.
    • Alternate direct and indirect heat grilling for large meat cuts. It’s a good idea to sear large meat cuts directly over high heat to help seal in the juices and maintain tenderness. Then, place them in an area of the grilling grate that is away from the heat source to allow the indirect heat to cook the meat slowly until it’s done.

5.    Choose the right lean-to-fat ratio for burgers. Use ground beef that contains 77 perfect lean and 23 percent fat. This will result in juicy, flavorful burgers that won’t flare up on the grill due to too much fat content.

6.    Don’t overwork burger meat. When making burger patties, touch the patties lightly and be careful not to overwork the meat. Overworked meat will become tough, dried out and could fall apart on the grill.

7.    Cut and coat your vegetables. Cut vegetables into uniform-sized pieces to help them cook evenly. Rub vegetables with vegetable oil or toss them with a clear or light marinade prior to grilling over indirect heat.

8.    A digital meat thermometer can be your best friend. Use this tool to help you avoid overcooking. Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, hamburgers and medium steaks to an internal temp of 160 degrees and pork to 150 degrees.

9.    Add some flavor the easy way. Pre-mixed seasonings, marinades, rubs and sauces can be a big help! Poultry such as chicken breasts should be marinated for 30 minutes to one hour. Marinate tender steaks like sirloin for 15 minutes to two hours. Less tender steaks like flank should be marinated for six to 24 hours.

10. Give it a rest. Let meat rest after removing it from the grill for at least three minutes, 10 minutes for larger cuts, before slicing it so that the juices redistribute evenly and the flavor stays in the meat rather than leaking out onto your cutting board. Place the meat on a hot serving plate and cover it loosely with foil while resting to keep it from getting cold.

Where to Dine on Father’s Day in Tampa Bay

In case you haven’t heard, 50 million Americans are expected to dine out for Father’s Day this weekend. Trying to figure out where to take Dad to eat on Father’s Day? I have you covered. Here are some suggestions of dining deals happening around Tampa on Father’s Day (Sunday June 19, 2011 for those of you who didn’t know).

Stump’s Supper Club in Channelside is offering a free appetizer for Dad’s on Father’s Day (with the purchase of an entree).

Yamato Japanese Steakhouse has Morgan Chardonnay for $5 down from the usual $17 for Father’s Day.

The Yacht StarShip has a Father’s Day Brunch Cruise with tickets selling at $39.95, boarding at Noon on Father’s Day.

Father’s get free food and get to bowl for free at Splitsville in Channelside when they come with their kids.

Charleys is offering free 24oz Ribeye steak for dads, along with a signature salad and French bread (with a purchase of equal or greater value) on Father’s Day.

The Bearded Clam in Sarasota has a buffet with live music for families. $20 for adults and $6.95 for children 10 and under.

IKEA is having an all-you-can-eat Father’s Day brunch. $9.99 for adults and children 12 and under are just $2.49. Quite a deal with the amount of things on the menu.

Spaghetti Warehouse in Ybor City will be offering free Lasagna or Spaghetti for Dad’s on Father’s Day. No coupon necessary.

The Columbia will be open for Father’s Day and is accepting reservations. They have a number of specials for Father’s Day including a Coca de Langosta y Chorizo tapas special and two entree specials: New York Strip Sirloin “The Bambino” and Vieiras y Ibérico “Canarias”. Note: The Columbia Cafe on the Riverwalk will have their usual menu and not be offering Father’s Day specials.

Grille 54 has a special Father’s Day menu. They will be opening at Noon on Sunday.

Beef O’ Brady’s will give Dad’s a free meal for Father’s Day (with the purchase of an entree of equal or lesser value and a limit of $10, some restriction apply…check with your local Beef franchisee for details).

Fleming’s Steakhouse has a 3-course Father’s Day Brunch for $32.95 and you get a free $25 gift card for your father with your purchase.

Visiting the Cheesecake Factory for Father’s Day? Print out this coupon for a free cheesecake for every $30 purchase. Valid until 6/28/2011. Even if you aren’t going for Father’s Day print it anyway. Who doesn’t love free cheesecake?

Hope everyone has a Happy Father’s Day! 🙂

Did I miss your restaurant? Shoot me an e-mail to carloseats [at] gmail [dot] com and I will add you to the list.

Lee House Chinese Restaurant

Lee House Chinese Restaurant has re-opened on Brandon Boulevard after closing off Bloomingdale Avenue in March. I first read about Lee House online and was intrigued at the positive reception. The first thing we noticed upon pulling up to the restaurant was that it smelled great outside the restaurant (a good sign). Once we entered we were seated immediately and given menus and water. The waitress was an older woman who knew the menu well. After much deliberation (the menu is a few pages), we decided to order the Lee House Special (similar to Yummy House’s 3 for 20 deal). We selected Salt & Pepper Calamari, Beef with Broccoli, and Young Chow Fried Rice which came to $21.95 total. Quite a deal when you dine with some friends.

Plenty of warm food came out quickly. The Salt & Pepper Calamari was delicious. My favorite calamari dish now belongs to Roy’s, but this calamari was still quite delectable and was a good stand-in for the calamari at Yummy House (my favorite until recently). The calamari was a little chewy instead of crunchy, but had lots of flavor. I was a little concerned that it had jalapenos on it (I can’t take spicy food), but the jalapenos brought the calamari a great taste. We finished this plate down to the last bite.

The Beef with Broccoli was also fantastic. The sauce was made just right and the beef was tender. I am not much of a vegetable consumer, but my friend loved the veggies on the plate. The Young Chow Fried Rice was a nice complement and wasn’t dry. I am not much of a rice eater, therefore anytime I actually enjoy eating rice, I know I am having a good meal.

The food was enough to fill three guys and I was impressed with Lee House. There are very few good Chinese restaurants in Brandon and dining at Lee House was enjoyable. I really want to try their Dim Sum in the future. From the Dim Sum menu the Deep Fried Taro, Custard Cream Buns, and Juicy Pork Bun caught my eye. Glad this place was able to find a new home in Brandon. I will be back!

Lee House Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Lee House Chinese Restaurant

Cuisine: Chinese

Neighborhood: Brandon

Address: 909 W. Brandon Blvd., Brandon, FL 33511

Phone Number: (813) 661-6888

Website: http://leehousedimsum.com/