BurgerMonger

I am a burger guy. I will be the person to order burgers in the most random locations. We could be dining at a seafood restaurant, classy Spanish restaurant, or even a place with hundreds of items to choose from, such as The Cheesecake Factory, and I will still proceed to order a cheeseburger and fries. No, I don’t get tired of burgers and fries. I am an American and this is what I live for: a juicy burger with fries, lots of ketchup, and mayonnaise!

I read about BurgerMonger when it first opened. A considerable amount of buzz swept the internet about it on food sites, such as Yelp, Urbanspoon, Chowhound, and even local newspapers. They had quite a viral marketing campaign. BurgerMonger uses 100% All natural Akaushi Kobe Beef and Kobe Beef quality is top notch. I put it on my list of places to try, but somehow it took me almost a year after adding it to my list to finally get to try it. I was a little nervous…would the buzz match the actual product?

I entered the restaurant on a Friday night, it was quite empty. Odd because BurgerMonger smelled heavenly inside. I decided to go with The BurgerMonger Akaushi 6 oz. burger for $6.99. I don’t think I have ever seen so many toppings before. It took me a few minutes to decide, but I went with provolone cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, grilled onions, ketchup, mayonnaise, and their special monger sauce. I also got Monger fries ($1.99), a 1/2 lb. portion of fries, as well as a fountain soda.

I sat in a booth near a USF Bulls sign. I admit I love a business that supports my team, the USF Bulls. More local Tampa businesses should jump off the Gator bandwagon and support their local sports team more.

My fountain drink tasted pretty good. The drinks actually tasted carbonated and not full of seltzer.

The BurgerMonger logo doesn’t scream delicious to me, but gets the job done.

The food arrived in a few minutes…

The fries were not very impressive. They looked and tasted similar to Five Guys fries (which I hate), but actually tasted worse and given the choice I would choose the Five Guy fries over these. I decided that future visits will have to be burger-only ventures (assuming I enjoyed the burger) because these fries simply weren’t worth $1.99.

My burger arrived and looked quite appetizing. It was hard to not dive right into it while I took some photographs. The smell of the burger was fantastic.

All the ingredients were neatly stacked. The vegetables looked fresh. Once I finally took into the burger it was like my mouth had gone straight to heaven. I momentarily blacked out from the rush of that burger and when I came to the entire burger was gone and I was full. Worth the drive from Riverview? Yes. A burger experience like none before it? Yes. This burger could make a bad day better and a good day perfect. The meat was easy to eat and packed full of flavor. Every bite was succulent and scrumptious. I immediately started text messaging my family. Must-have.

I found out at the end of my visit that they now have a BurgerMonger Monday special where you can get the same burger I had for $5 instead of $6.99. Sweet! Time to clear out my Monday evenings.

Burger Monger on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: BurgerMonger

Cuisine: American

Address: 10412 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa 33618

Neighborhood: Carrollwood

Phone Number: 813-968-6860

Website: http://www.burgermonger.com/

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Big Belly Burger Challenge

Note: Big Belly Burgers has closed shop.

Big Belly Burgers is a local restaurant chain in Tampa Bay. There is one in Bartow and one in Brandon. They are most famous for their Big Belly Burger Challenge: a challenge where you have 20 minutes to eat a 1 lb. fully topped burger and 1lb. of french fries. Should you succeed, your photo is taken and put up in the restaurant and you also receive a t-shirt. As an avid Man vs. Food watcher, I decided to take this challenge on Monday.

A plain exterior, I don’t know how I feel about their logo. Burger places must have a hard time designing them (I feel the same about Burger Monger).

When I walked in they told me I could seat myself. I found a table in the middle of the dining room. Many people eating there appeared to be regulars and when I told the waitress I wanted to order the Big Belly Burger Challenge all eyes turned on me. Feeling a little nervous…I looked to the waitress for some reassurance, but she told me she believed in me. What a cool waitress!

I waited about twenty to thirty minutes for my burger. While waiting I observed the restaurant. It has dim lighting and the crowds are mostly families and groups of friends, almost has a pub-like atmosphere. The 99 center drafts must attract lots of people there. They have a variety of burgers and also plenty of kids menu choices too. The restaurant is two open rooms and you can easily look at other people dining there.

The burger finally arrived and it was a monster. Tons of beef, tomatoes, bacon, pickles, onions, and lettuce. I had to start immediately after receiving the burger (that’s why the picture isn’t so clear). The only way to fit this burger into my mouth was to disassemble then put it back together in edible portions. The burger was initially very tasteful, but a little dry. The bun was nice and soft. Veggies tasted fresh. I think the burger would probably benefit from some sauce added on top. I had to keep dipping it in ketchup. I think trying one of their regular burgers in the future is in order.

The french fries were pretty salty (as pictured) and made me want to drink more water. I tried to resist so I could avoid filling myself up on drinks. They were big fries and not really too great, despite seasoning I didn’t like them too much.

Time started to slip away and before I knew it I had only four minutes left on the clock. I was starting to feel dizzy from having too much beef and not enough to drink or time to process it. I finished all the meat and the bun, but I had a bunch of large onions and pickles leftover that I couldn’t finish. I finished most of the fries, but couldn’t get to the bottom without exploding. So I sadly failed the challenge. I could have probably finished the rest of the toppings, but finishing the fries was too much.

The crowd was really cool and trying to give me encouragement to finish it. This probably wasn’t one of the best burgers I have the tasted, but the challenge made it a fun experience. The challenge isn’t cheap $14.99 (probably to keep people from wasting food and to pay for the shirts). I’d like to see someone else finish this challenge though. If any of you guys finish it make sure you let me know, I’ll plug you.

No clue how the Man vs. Food eats all that he does. He certainly has a gift.

Big Belly Burgers on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Big Belly Burgers

Cuisine: American

Address: 109 W Bloomingdale Ave. Brandon, FL 33511

Neighborhood: Brandon

Phone Number: (813) 685-1911

Website: http://www.big-belly-burgers.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Big-Belly-Burgers/121152617416

Mel’s Hot Dogs

Mel’s Hot Dogs is a part of my USF Dining Guide.

Mel’s Hot Dogs is well-known as one of Tampa’s best places to have a Chicago-style hot dog since 1973. The menu has a number of quality hot dogs, corn dogs, chicken choices, and burgers to choose from. Once you decide what main entree you want you, you choose whether to upgrade to a basket and have coleslaw or baked beans with french fries. They have both soda and draft beers to choose from.

My personal favorite is their corn dogs ($2.50). They are crispy just like you would have at a fair, such as the Florida State Fair, and the beef hot dogs inside taste fantastic. The french fries are also crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The baked beans are usually sweet and the coleslaw tastes like real home-made slaw.

The hot dogs ($2.75) vary depending on which one, but you can usually count on the bun to be toasty and soft and the beef to taste just right. I normally will not eat hot dogs, but Mel’s is probably the only place where hot dogs actually taste good to me and it’s because of their attention to making quality food. I have tasted their Angus Beef Burgers ($4.75) as well and was impressed with how good it tasted, Mel’s can do more than just your average hot dog. Checkout their menu for more.

The employees are friendly and strike up a conversation every once in awhile. Normally you only wait a few minutes for your food and Mel’s is located right next to Busch Gardens and just two miles from USF so it is a convenient local business for students and tourists to stop at. There is plenty of seating for both small and large parties as well, though parking is a little limited they have extra in the back.

Justin happy with his hot dog.

Mel's Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Mel’s Hot Dogs

Cuisine: American

Address: 4136 E Busch Blvd. Tampa, FL 33617

Neighborhood: USF

Phone Number: (813) 985-8000

Website: http://www.melshotdogs.com/

*Prices do not include basket prices

Gino’s Revisited

As I said before, my friends said we would return and a few weeks back we finally did return to Gino’s Restaurant & Bar. This time I came ready with my camera. The restaurant wasn’t as busy earlier in the day and we had the same server as last time, with great service still present. I ordered a Cheeseburger with Onion Rings ($9) and my friend ordered their Gnocchi with Grilled Chicken ($16), which also came with some bread and salad.

My cheeseburger was perfectly on par with all my other visits  to Gino’s (with Cheddar cheese oozing over it) and the Onion Rings were also just as good as always. Still maintaining that crunchy and juicy taste. The onions, lettuce, and tomato on the burger were also fresh and although I’m not a big fan of pickles I usually eat mine when I am dining at Gino’s.

The Gnocchi with Grilled Chicken had a nice and thick, creamy sauce and for my first time trying it I enjoyed it very much. The Grilled Chicken was also excellent, fitting  perfectly with this entree.

The bread that came with the Gnocchi was pretty good, a little too much garlic but still quite appetizing.

The salad that came with the Gnocchi Grilled Chicken…you really do get a full meal for the price.

My friend and I had nothing to do for the next few hours and were trying to kill time and the waiter eventually talked us into having their Bananas Foster over Edy’s Vanilla Ice Cream ($9)…we couldn’t resist after how good it was last time.

The whipped cream was excellent and the ice cream and bananas were fresh and perfectly ended this great visit to Gino’s. Once again we were greatly impressed with what Gino’s had to offer us. I am sure whenever a burger or Italian craving hits us again we will find ourselves again at Gino’s Restaurant and Bar.

Gino's Bar on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Gino’s Restaurant and Bar

Address: 10006 North Armenia Avenue Tampa, FL 33612

Phone #: (813) 933-1089

Websitehttp://www.ginosrestaurantbar.com/

Foursquare: http://foursquare.com/venue/1849405

Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/ginos-bar-and-restaurant-tampa

Food Adventures #002

This past week was a much slower week in food adventures. Most of what I ate was either home-cooked or some form of fast food (in fact I have been eating way too much fast food…such a waste of money and not to mention super bad for you). However, I did make a few stops worth mentioning.

Last Thursday I revisited one of my old neighborhoods out in Carrollwood with some friends. This trip was inspired by a trip to Mr. Dunderbak’s which a German friend of mine wanted to try out. After checking the place out and deciding maybe German just isn’t for me and trying some beer-battered onion rings at Mr. D’s made me remember how amazing onion rings taste at an old favorite of mine, we went to Gino’s Italian Restaurant on Armenia Avenue and Linebaugh.

I used to live right next door in an apartment complex called Deer Path so I was a regular at Gino’s. When I used to call them they already knew what I wanted just by hearing my voice, a tasty burger with onion rings and extra mayo on the side. When we arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see the entire restaurant full, this place deserves a crowd. We were seated within a few minutes.

My friends ordered dessert and I ordered one of my favorite burgers, their Mother Earth burger, which comes loaded with mushrooms and cheddar cheese. While we waited for our food I told some stories of growing up by here, a quiet neighborhood with nothing but a golf course nearby. My friend’s dessert came and everyone demolished it…great taste. I had sold all my friends on this place just with that.

Then my burger arrived. The fresh look impressed my friend. The lettuce, tomatoes, and onions on the side neatly cut. Just the smell was driving me crazy. When I took a bite into that burger it was like I had gone back in time because it tasted exactly the same as when I came here years ago. That is one hard thing to have in Tampa, where chefs are changing all the time and flavor rises and sinks all the time. The cheese had so much flavor and the mushrooms were fantastic. Even the onion rings were exactly the same, crunchy and juicy. Maybe the best onion rings I have had. My friends sampled them and enjoyed them as well. Everyone was wishing we had just gone here first after all my raving was backed up with evidence.

My only other food adventure was to The Wat Thai Temple on Palm River Road on Sunday. I arrived a little late in the day, but was still able to grab some Fried Bananas and those snacks are so delicious. They were hot and I burned my mouth, but I did not care because they were just that good. I will have to go earlier and cover more of their food in the future.

Restaurant/Venues mentions:

Gino’s Restaurant & Bar

Address: 10006 North Armenia Avenue Tampa, FL 33612

Phone #: (813) 933-1089

Website: http://www.ginosrestaurantbar.com/

Foursquare: http://foursquare.com/venue/1849405

Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/ginos-bar-and-restaurant-tampa

Gino's Bar on Urbanspoon

The Wat Thai Temple Market (Open Sundays from 10am-2pm)

Address: 5306 Palm River Road, Tampa, FL 33619

Website: http://www.wattampainenglish.com/

Foursquare: http://foursquare.com/venue/414273

Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/wat-mongkolratanaram-of-florida-tampa-2