Dining Guide: 3 vegan eats that don’t break the bank in Tampa Bay

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

Photos via @michaelsalamey

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) 855-0007 rawkstarcafe.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.

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Dining Guide: Valentine’s Day 2019 in San Francisco

Valentine’s Day is the second-busiest day in the year for restaurants after Mother’s Day.

According to the National Retail Federation, the average American spent $143.56 on Valentine’s Day just two years ago and that number keeps increasing every year with nearly $4 billion spent annually on an evening out. There are dozens if not hundreds of event around San Francisco Bay Area for Valentine’s Day 2019.

Here are Valentine’s Day events happening around San Francisco that I think are worth checking out, in case you’re still looking for plans:

  • Valentine’s Day at Le Colonial: Enjoy an a la carte menu with a number of specials and also a 4-course prix-fixe menu for Valentine’s Day for $85 (excludes tax and gratuity) from 5:30PM to 11:30PM (last reservation at 10:45PM). Choices include Lemongrass Chicken Two Ways, Grilled Halibut, Roasted Duck Breast, or Grilled Filet Mignon ($10 up-charge). Live music will be provided by Mark Robinson’s jazz trio from 7PM to 10PM. 20 Cosmo Place San Francisco, CA 94109. (415) 931-3600 lecolonialsf.com
  • Valentine’s Day Tasting Menu at ROOH!: Feeling like Indian? Me too. ROOH! will have a special tasting menu to enjoy for the occasion with many items including Chickpea Cake, Duck Sheek Kebab, Double Baked Soufflé , Tandoori Cauliflower, and more. Reservations can be made online. 333 Brannan St #150, San Francisco, CA 94107. (415) 525-4174 roohsf.com
  • Night of The Thousand Candles at La Mar SF: Enjoy Valentine’s Day at La Mar SF with their thousand candle celebration and their 3-course prix-course meal for $85 per person. Some menu items include seasonal Dungeness crab, Diver Scallops, and Chocolate Mousse. Pier 1 1/2 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105. (415) 397-8880. lamarsf.com
  • Valentine’s Day at Alexander’s Steakhouse: Nothing says Valentine’s Day quite like a steakhouse. Alexander’s will be open from 5:30PM to 9:30PM on Valentine’s Day and have a $149 (tax and gratuity not included) multi-course prix-fixe menu featuring shared dishes and top-quality beef. Diners can add a wine pairing for an additional $69. Guests will receive a complimentary glass of sparkling rosé and each couple will be given a long stem rose at the end of their meal. 448 Brannan Street, San Francisco, CA 94107. (415) 495-1111. alexanderssteakhouse.com
  • Valentine’s Day Starlight Cruise: Red and White Fleet is offering a special cruise in celebration of Valentine’s Day for $95 per person. The experience includes champagne on arrival, a romantic buffet dinner, live entertainment, and complimentary beer and wine. Buffet items include Roast Chicken, Santa Maria Carved Tri-Tip, Stuffed Bell Peppers, Spinach and Feta Pasta, and more. Red and White Fleet cruises are some of the most amazing trips I’ve been on across the San Francisco Bay Area with stunning views of Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, and San Francisco all lit up at night. redandwhite.com
  • Valentine’s Day Bakery Pop-up at Harmonic Brewing: M. Denham Baking Co. will have a bakery pop-up at Harmonic Brewing in Potrero Hill on Valentine’s Day from 3PM to 7PM. Whole cakes and pies can be pre-ordered until Sunday, February 11th. Pre-orders get 10% off. On the menu: Oat Flour Chiffon Cake with passion fruit, buttercream, and lime leaf and Chocolate Coconut Cream Pie with walnuts. 1050 26th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107. (415) 872-6817. mdenhambakingco.com
  • Valentine’s Day Beer & Chocolate Pairing: Triple Voodoo Brewery near Dogpatch is having a special beer and chocolate pairing on Valentine’s Day from 6PM to 9PM that includes 4 beers and 4 truffles from Recchiuti Confections. Tickets are now on-sale for $17. The pairing lasts an hour. 2245 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA 94107. (415) 598-8811. triplevoodoo.com
  • Romance from the Sky – Valentine’s Day at Cityscape Lounge: Get that beautiful city backdrop for an unforgettable Valentine’s Day. Cityscape Lounge is located on the 46th floor of Hilton San Francisco Union Square and is offering a special evening for $99 per couple (tax and gratuity included). The event includes reserved window seating for 2 for up to 1 1/2 hours, 2 glasses of Moët & Chandon Champagne, red or white wine, or specialty cocktails, a long-stemmed rose, and a dessert. Tickets are available now. 333 O’Farrell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102. (415) 923-5002 cityscapesf.com
  • Coffee & Jazz at Farley’s Coffee: Head over to Farley’s Coffee in Potrero Hill for some coffee and jazz on Valentine’s Day from 7:30PM to 9PM with James Everett. Admission is free. Bring a bottle of wine to celebrate the occasion. 1315 18th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107. (415) 648-1545. farleyscoffee.com

Good luck!

Dining Guide: Valentine’s Day 2019 in Tampa

Looking for a special place to spend Valentine’s Day 2019 in Tampa? I have you covered.

Here are some options for ways to spend a meal or some time with someone special. Make sure you make your reservations early as Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest days in the restaurant industry.

  • Rooster & The Till: One of Tampa’s hottest restaurants in Seminole Heights is offering a 4-course prix fixe meal for $60 per person with an optional wine pairing for $30 per person. Space is limited and reservations must be made by phone (813) 374-8940 6500 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33604
  • Noble Rice: One of the best sushi restaurants located in South Tampa is offering a Valentine’s Day Omakase dinner starting at 5:30PM on February 14th. Tickets are $165 per person and are very-limited (already 50% sold!) to keep a romantic atmosphere. Omakase will feature 14 bites including toro, otoro, A5 wagyu beef, uni, and their top of the line seasonal fish with dessert included. Add a sake & champagne pairing for $65 per person. Book your reservation on Tock. 807 W. Platt St., Tampa, FL 33606
  • Coppertail Brewing Co.: Take your special someone out to a Valentine’s Night Market at Coppertail Brewing in Ybor City. The event will run from 6PM-10PM and feature 60+ makers in the backlot. Sip some local craft beer while you stroll through the market. Check out more info at the new Coppertail Market website: www.coppertailnightmarket.com 2601 E. 2nd Ave., Tampa, FL 33605
  • Yacht StarShip Cruises: Escape to a cruise on the bay with Yacht StarShip for Valentine’s Day with your significant other. Lunch and dinner cruises are available and start at $49.95. Tickets include food, live entertainment, roses, champagne, and more. Check out their website for all the options available.
  • Ybor City Wine Bar: This local wine bar in Centro Ybor is offering a Valentines Themed Wine Society event on February 13th from 7PM to 10PM. Guests will enjoy a wine tasting paired with chocolate and include Zin-Phomaniac Zinfandel and Chocolate Shop Red Blend among other surprises. Contact Ybor City Wine Bar at (813) 999-4966. 1600 E. 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605
  • Ciro’s: Tampa’s first speakeasy club in South Tampa is offering a special 4-course prix fixe menu for Valentine’s Day from 5PM-1AM. Tickets are $95 per person. Main-course dinner options include Grilled Lamb Lollipops, 12 oz. New York Steak Strip, or Pan-Seared Scottish Salmon. There is an option for a bottle of Henroit Champagne and half a dozen of chocolate-covered strawberries delivered to your table (plus two Henroit champagne flutes to take home) for $49. Seating is limited. Call to make reservations at (813) 251-0022. 2109 Bayshore Blvd., Tampa, FL 33606
  • Shrimp Boat: One of the best hidden secrets in Bloomingdale is offering Lobster and Prime Rib as a special on Valentine’s Day. Of course their shrimp dishes are all incredible as well. If you’re looking for a great meal at a casual restaurant in the Brandon/Valrico area, check out Shrimp Boat. (813) 571-5858 1020 Bloomingdale Ave, Valrico, FL 33596
  • Haven Tampa: Treat your Valentine to a special curated 5-course Chef’s tasting menu at $75 per person and add a wine or whiskey pairing for $45 per person. Available Valentine’s Day only. Reservations available on OpenTable. 2208 W. Morrison Ave., Tampa, FL 33606
  • Six Ten Brewing: Enjoy a beer and dessert pairing after you enjoy your Valentine’s Day dinner at Six Ten Brewing from 3PM-9PM. They will be releasing Manhattan, a Whisky Barrel Aged Sour Ale, that day as well. On the list: Raspberry Tart, Chocolate Cheesecake, Chocolate Opera, Milk Chocolate Caramel, Coconut Chocolate Opera, Hazelnut Flan, Chocolate Mascarpone Tart, and more. 7052 Benjamin Road, Tampa, FL 33634
  • Terra Gaucha: This Brazilian Churrascaria is one of the best I’ve had and they offering a special offer to those who dine there on Valentine’s Day. A pass to return for a complimentary meal in the future. Come hungry because the meat flows non-stop at this steakhouse. Reservations available on OpenTable. 1108 S. Dale Mabry Hwy., Tampa, FL 33629
  • Rusty Pelican: This waterfront dining destination on the Courtney Campbell Causeway is offering two options on Valentine’s Day: a V-Day gala or a romantic 3-course sit-down dinner menu. Reservations for dinner are available on OpenTable. 2425 N. Rocky Point Dr., Tampa, FL 33607
  • Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino: Spend Valentine’s Day at the slots and enjoying some great food. 4 of the restaurants at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will offer special menus in celebration of the holiday. 5223 Orient Rd., Tampa, FL 33610
  • Seasons 52: Instead of just celebrating February 14th, Seasons 52 is doing an entire Valentine’s Week for 2019. Planning to get engaged soon? You might want to read more. 204 N. Westshore Blvd., Tampa, FL 33609
  • FarmTable Cucina: This one is worth the trip across the bridge. Chef Michael Mina and Don Pintabona’s St. Petersburg creation is offering a 5-course meal for Valentine’s Day from 5PM to 10PM. Some notable items include Key West pink shrimp and Roasted Guinea Hen with Black Truffle. Dinner costs $85 per person with an optional wine pairing for an extra $45 per person. Reservations are encouraged and can be made by calling (727) 523-6297 or on OpenTable. 179 2nd Ave. N., St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Did I miss something? Feel free to e-mail me at carloseats[at]gmail[dot]com with any options I may have missed.

Dining Guide: 10 restaurants to enjoy a Cuban Sandwich in Tampa

Tampa founded the Cuban Sandwich in the 1800s and is home to the annual International Cuban Sandwich Festival. it would be a mistake to visit Tampa without grabbing one. There are dozens of options on where to eat and each place and many options are great.

Here are some recommendations on 10 places to enjoy a Cuban Sandwich in Tampa:

No. 1 – The Floridian – Cubans don’t get much better than The Floridian. This is a classic, no frills, Tampa restaurant (originally from Treasure Island across the bay which is not affiliated) that has excited my taste buds over and over again. The way they press the bread hits the palate just right. The Floridian has won the International Cuban Sandwich Festival 3 times which is the maximum you can win. The award is well-deserved and The Floridian is well worth your time, plus the prices are great. 4534 West Kennedy Street Tampa, Florida. (813) 287-6622 www.tampasbestcuban.com

No. 2 – Palm Avenue Sandwich Shop – This is a dive in Ybor City that I have frequented many times with my Mom. They say mother knows best and Palm Avenue Sandwich Shop is truly a wonderful place to enjoy an authentic and flavorful Cuban Sandwich or any sandwich really (dear lord the steak). The deviled crabs are a nod to Tampa’s past and the Cafe con Leche is excellent. Finding parking can be a little difficult and you should certainly bring cash, but it is worth the effort. 2002 North Nebraska Avenue, Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 223-5157

No. 3 – La Segunda – The shop that supplies Cuban bread to most restaurants throughout Tampa also opened a swanky new dine-in restaurant this past year and it deserves a look. La Segunda has been making Cuban bread since 1915 and lasted four generations as a family-business. Take an entire hand-made and freshly-baked Cuban bread loaf with you and enjoy some great eats. 4015 West Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, Florida, 33609. (813) 540-9119 http://www.lasegundabakery.com

No. 4 – Bearss Sandwiches – This is an old-school sandwich shop near Carrollwood that makes a ton of great things, but their Cubans are also incredible. The staff does have attitude by design, so be prepared for that and make sure you know your order before you get to the register. They stay busy because of their quality and history, but there are many people in Tampa who have yet to enjoy a sandwich at Bearss. 14022 North Florida Avenue, Tampa, FL 33613. (813) 961-9486.

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Tampa claims being the origin of the Cuban

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No. 5 – Michelle Faedo’s Tampeño Cuisine – During the great food truck battles of the early 2010s, Faedo’s constantly reigned supreme knocking out hundreds if not thousands of Cubans throughout the Tampa Bay area and now the owners have settled down into a restaurant. Their Cubans are absolutely loaded with ingredients and buttered on-top, they are quite tasty and many of the inspiration that the Faedo couple draws on comes from growing up in Tampa and being influenced by the immigrant foundations of the City of Tampa. Michelle Faedo’s is also a champion of the International Cuban Sandwich Festival and has won the maximum number of awards available for a business to compete. 1218 Ray Charles Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 284-6106

No. 6- Riverview Fresh Market – Living in the Tampa suburbia of Riverview for years caused me to go looking for a quality Cuban and Riverview Fresh Market, known before as Bori-Mex, serves excellent sandwiches and has a mean Cuban. It may not be superior to some of the titans of Tampa Bay, but for a neighborhood shop and bodega it does pretty well at satisfying all my taste buds and making me happy. 9613 US-301, Riverview, FL 33578. (813) 374-2353

No. 7 – Columbia Cafe – Although Columbia is not my favorite place to get a Cuban, they have been serving one for longer than anyone else in Tampa Bay and opened with the Cuban on their menu in 1905. The views on the Tampa Riverwalk and a Cuban Sandwich in hand with freshly baked La Segunda Cuban bread and a glass of sangria is an ideal day for me in Tampa. 801 Old Water Street #1905, Tampa, FL 33602.
(813) 229-5511.

No. 8 – Cafe Hey – This was one of the first restaurants to be established in what is now known to most people as Tampa Heights. When the area was just developing I was regularly making trips to Cafe Hey for a quality Cuban Sandwich and it did not disappoint. 1540 North Franklin Street, Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 221-5150

No. 9 – Bodega – Many people swear by Bodega and the upstart founded in 2013 has managed to successfully appear in both Tampa and St. Petersburg in just a few years. The owners call it “Latin street food” and their flavor profile is more of an interpretation rather than rooted in history like most Tampa Cuban powerhouses. The lines don’t stop forming and for a town where people bounce from one place to next easily, Bodega has become a household name. 5901 North Florida Avenue, Tampa, FL 33604. (813) 533-3333 http://www.eatatbodega.com

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Cuban flavor central!

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No. 10 – Don Pan Bakery – If you haven’t noticed yet, there is a correlation between bakeries and great Cubans and Don Pan is no exception. Their Cuban Sandwich is solid and a contender for the area. Don Pan was rapidly expanding around Tampa for some time, but seems to have scaled back and is focusing more now on operations. 202 North Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, FL 33609. 813-350-0500

10 food destinations to visit for a 24-hour trip to San Francisco

San Francisco is packed with thousands of restaurants and cafes to visit. It’s hard to filter through all of it and really it is all about knowing where to go without getting caught up by the hype. Here are my recommendations on food destinations to visit for a 24-hour trip to San Francisco.

No. 1 – Taqueria El Farolito – The King of the Super Burrito and Mexican food in San Francisco. Don’t let anybody convince you that the other spots are superior (they aren’t). El Farolito has been in this game for decades and still serves up the best burrito in San Francisco at decent prices. The best one is located on Mission and 24th Street. 2779 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. (415) 824-7877. Multiple locations. http://www.elfarolitosf.com

No. 2 – Balompié Cafe #3 – Salvodoran food can be found around SF just as much as Mexican cuisine. Balompié serves an authentic sit-down experience of the cuisine and is a hotspot for hungry customers. The signature dish is the pupusa and if you have never had one, I highly recommend trying one during your visit. You can get different stuffings inside this corn meal dish, but my favorites are beans, cheese, and mixed. 3801 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. (415) 647-4000


No. 3 – Ton Kiang – Good dim sum is hard to come by where I come from in the South (not true in SF), but Ton Kiang serves an excellent and wide-selection of dim sum that will keep it coming and the prices are reasonable. Their tea is excellent and the experience is one I need to have on every visit to San Francisco. 5821 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco, CA 94121. (415) 752-4440 http://www.tonkiang.us

No. 4 – Boba Guys – The best bubble tea in San Francisco hands down and maybe even the United States of America. Boba Guys has a commitment to quality and excellence that is a rare find in the fast upstart tea business. Their Matcha Strawberry bubble tea is a must as are their frescas. Multiple locations. www.bobaguys.com

No. 5 – Señor Sisig – What started off as a random food truck bite to eat in SF during one Christmas has become an annual mission for me to find Señor Sisig wherever they may be roaming around the San Francisco Bay Area. Their Sisig Burrito is like no other. I LOVE it. It may not be traditional, but it packs flavor and understands the complexities between Mexican and Filipino cuisine and that is truly satisfying to my palette. Check website for daily locations. http://www.senorsisig.com

No. 6. – Kitchen Story – This fusion restaurant is the perfect blend of Korean cuisine with brunch and American food. The mimosas do pack a punch and is totally worth buying the unlimited price. Try the Pork Belly Rancheros if you have a chance and you will not regret a thing about life. 3499 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114. (415) 525-4905. http://www.kitchenstorysf.com

No. 7 – I’a Poke – I wandered into here one day when a sushi restaurant I was heading towards nearby was closed for lunch and I had the best sushi burrito of my life. No lie, I’a Poke uses quality ingredients and has great customer service. They have since expanded more in the city and with every bite having a heavenly taste to it, I’m not surprised. Multiple locations. http://www.iapoke.com

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Chowda

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No. 8 – Alioto’s – Most visitors will no doubt wander into San Francisco planning to get a bowl of clam chowder from Fisherman’s Wharf. An investigation a few years ago found that most restaurants in SF are actually using Campbell’s Clam Chowder soup which is disappointing to say the least. Alioto’s is one of the ones who serves quality clam chowder and you can buy it in a bread bowl downstairs if you want to have a quick bowl and go explore the waterfront harbor. 8 Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133. (415) 673-0183. http://www.aliotos.com

No. 9 – Mitchell’s Ice Cream – An ice cream staple for over 65 years in San Francisco. Mitchell’s Ice Cream has survived generations of transformation for the Bay Area and one taste of their ice cream makes it easy to see why. My favorite is their Ube ice cream which is inspired from the Philippines, but you really can’t go wrong with anything on their menu. It’s so good that you’ll even find people there on rainy days in SF waiting in line for a scoop. 688 San Jose Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94110. (415) 648-2300. http://www.mitchellsicecream.com

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難得的二人世界💑🍵

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No. 10 – Stonemill Matcha – If you love matcha tea and a zen environment, then you will love Stonemill Matcha. One of the newer businesses to open on Valencia Street, they have more matcha dishes and drinks on their menu then you will know what to do with. Their popularity is through the roof so expect a bit of a wait to sit. 561 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. (415) 796-3876 http://www.stonemillmatcha.com

Guide: Where to eat and drink in Miami Beach

Miami Beach is a classic tourist attraction. Hotels are all along the strip with bars and restaurants just waiting for customers. It’s a little hard to navigate as well. Most bars are open late and many are open until 5AM with nightclubs filling in the party scene.

Here are some recommendations on where to go in South Beach when you’re there.

Uber Pool and Lyft will easily transport you around this area for less than $5 in most cases so avoid attempting to park if possible.

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LOCO FOR TACOS🌮❤️🎉 – droppin’ a lil #flashback here with these three beautiful and flavorful tacos from @bodegasobe 🤤🙌🏼 definitely craving ‘em rn😩 – from left to right is the avocado with refried black beans + mushrooms + lettuce + cotija cheese + red chili crema 🔹 the guajillo braised short rib with cotija cheese + charred onions + cilantro + potato sticks aaand salsa rosada 🔹the grilled mahi with charred pineapple + pickled red onion aand a chipotle-cotija dressin’ + a side of this heavenly thicc guacamole😲👅💦 – so so goood i can still taste it while writing this🤪 happyy wednesdayy✨ . . . . #love #happy #food #foodie #eats #sobe #bodega #southbeach #foodiesofmiami #miami #taco #tacos

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Bodega Taqueria y Tequila: This place is unassuming from the outside, but behind the front and through a few doors is a beautiful bar with libations and food as well as music spinning until 5AM. The best part about this place is their daily happy hour from 6PM to 8PM which features loaded tacos for $2 and $6 cocktails as well as $4 chips and salsa / $5 mezcal and tequila shots. There is a $35 minimum for card so make sure you bring cash or use the ATM there if you don’t mind paying a fee. These were some of the best tacos I have enjoyed in a long time. The ribeye and mahi mahi tacos were excellent. I enjoyed a Maduro Old Fashioned. I highly recommend this spot. Note: 18% Gratuity and 7% Sales Tax will automatically be added to your bill. 1220 16th Street, Miami Beach, FL 33139 (305) 704-2145 http://www.bodegasouthbeach.com/

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Cocktailbar #miami #gt

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Employees Only: Quality craft cocktails await at this speakeasy hidden behind a psychic / tarot card room. The best seats are at the bar in my opinion just because its beautiful, but service was also great tableside. Drinks are fairly priced for Miami Beach and they pack a punch. The Hurricane was enjoyable. 1030 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139 (786) 264-3945 http://employeesonlymiami.com

Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company: You’ll find this beautiful neon lit bar in Collins Park area. The best time to go is during happy hour from 4PM to 7PM where you can enjoy a fantastic Classic Daquiri for $5 as I did or even Tommy’s Margarita for $8. You’ll easily spend $20 a drink in the off hours which is pretty average for Miami. 237 20th Street Suite B, Miami Beach, FL 33139 (305) 763-8217 http://mysweetliberty.com/

The Broken Shaker: Socialites can enjoy a tiki bar with craft cocktails at The Broken Shaker at Freehand Hotel. There is plenty of people mingling and on dates so it may not be the best bar for someone flying solo. The drinks here are strong, inventive, and flavorful. It might be one of the best bars I have been to and I would go with a crowd or some friends for sure. Expect to spend $15-$20 on a drink. Happy Hour is only for hotel guests as is the pool area. 2727 Indian Creek Drive, Miami Beach, FL 33140 (305) 531-2727 http://freehandhotels.com/miami/broken-shaker/

Moshi Moshi: If you want a reasonably priced Japanese restaurant in South Beach, Moshi Moshi will fit the bill. It’s located right next to Española Way. They deliver and are open-late. Lunch specials here are under $8 which is a steal for South Beach. I enjoyed a takoyaki (octopus balls) during my visit and it was superb as well as Crunchy Krab Ceviche which wasn’t ceviche at all but a great assortment of imitation Krab, crunchies, avocados, eel sauce, and spicy mayo. Sushi rolls start at $5 and many are under $10. 1448 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139 (305) 531-4520

Rosseta Bakery: This local bakery in Miami has excellent Italian breads and pastries as well as a beautiful interior and is a great place to get work done and wake up in the morning with a coffee after a long night of drinking and partying in Miami Beach. You must try the prosciutto croissant sandwich. It is life-changing. The staff is incredibly friendly and they were playing Destiny’s Child and Beyonce songs at 7AM. I can get behind that. 929 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139 (786) 216-7795 http://www.rosettabakery.com

Valentine’s Day 2018 specials at Ocean Prime

Looking for an upscale and elegant Valentine’s Day option? Ocean Prime Tampa will offer a special Valentine’s Day menu for guests on Wednesday, February 14th in addition to regular lunch and dinner menus.

The main course features a 10 oz. Imperial Farms Reserve Wagyu New York Strip Steak with Truffle Scalloped Potato, Haricots Verts, Cipollini Onion and Sauce Bordelaise for $85 or a Sauteed Chilean Sea Bass with with King Crab Fingerling Hash, Onion Marmalade and Shellfish Sauce for $65. Salted Caramel Brown Torte with Vanilla Mouse and Bourbon Caramel will be available as special dessert for $12.

The Chilean Sea Bass will available on the menu until February 18th.

Napa Valley Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon will be available on-special at $37 per glass. The wine carries a 94-point rating from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. The wine has notes of chocolate, dark fruits, and mocha.

Ocean Prime Tampa is located at 2205 North Westshore Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33607 at the International Plaza & Bay Street next to Crate & Barrel.

Ocean Prime serves lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30AM to 4:00PM and from 12:00PM to 4:00PM on Saturdays. Dinner is served from 4:00PM to 10:00PM from Monday to Thursday and 4:00PM to 11:00PM  on Fridays and Saturdays. Dinner hours are 5:00PM to 9:00PM on Sundays.

Lounge open daily. Happy Hour is offered Monday to Friday from 4:00PM to 7:00PM and Saturdays from 12:00PM to 4:00PM.

Check out my other article about the new outdoor dining terrace at Ocean Prime Tampa.

Top 7 Local Pizza Spots in Tampa

Pizza is one of those things that depends on preference. Do you like a cheesy pizza or a saucy pizza? Lots of toppings or just plain cheese? Does pineapple belong on pizza? (the answer is YES) –  I keep things simple normally, but it varies depending on my mood.

Tampa is overrun with corporate pizza chains and plenty of below mediocre strip mall pizza spots, but there are some quality local spots out there as well and they need some love.

Here are my Top 7 Local Pizza Spots in Tampa. Your top choices may vary and that’s okay.

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Chicago Style Deep Dish. 👅

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7. Full Circle Pizza Grill: This pizza spot in Wesley Chapel/New Tampa area is not easily accessible to most of Tampa, but trust me the Chicago pie is worth a look if you are in the area. The portion is simply huge so make sure you bring some friends and call ahead to see if they are serving Chicago pizza, because some days it is unavailable. It’s a more affordable option to a Cappy’s Pizza in my opinion. 19651 Bruce B Downs Blvd., Tampa, FL 33647. (813) 994-3700. http://www.fullcirclepizza-grill.com/

6. New York, New York Pizza: Many drunk nights in Ybor City end at New York, New York Pizza. They’ve expanded their reach over the years, but kept the quality pizza there. I would consider their pizza to be up to my standards for a good pizza, tasty cheese and toppings. Most of my visits are reserved for times out in Ybor at night though and nowadays in SoHo as well where they opened another location. 533 S Howard Ave., Tampa, FL 33606. (813) 253-3929. http://places.singleplatform.com/new-york-new-york-pizza-11/menu?ref=google

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There is a pizza god.

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5. Wood Fired Pizza Wine Bar: This is that gourmet pizza place that you take someone to on a date or that you go to with a really good friend or a group gathering and it does get busy. Wood Fired Pizza is a full-service restaurant and has a nice beer selection as well as a tasty butter beer I have enjoyed in the past. The owner is very passionate about pizza and it shows. The prices are on the higher end and will run you around $15-$20 for a pie, but you get your value for sure.  2822 E. Bearss Ave., Tampa, FL 33613. (813) 341-2900.  http://woodfiredpizzatampa.com/

4. Cappy’s Pizza: A bit of a Tampa institution. Cappy’s has branches all over the Tampa Bay area. My personal favorite location is their New Tampa location. I feel like the service there has always been stellar and it is never overcrowded. Plus they take card and I’m pretty sure the Seminole Heights location is cash-only. I don’t carry cash in 2017. Cappy’s has a solid NY-pizza, but it is more popular for it’s deep-dish Chicago pizzas. Come hungry. 16019 Tampa Palms Blvd. W, Tampa, FL 33647. (813) 512-8947. http://www.cappyspizzaonline.com/

3. Fabrica Pizza: This Channelside pizza restaurant is like no other in town. The owners roots are in Italy and they are doing their best to provide a quality and authentic Neapolitan pizza. Everything is delicious. The wine is great and so are the meatballs. It is probably one of the best pizza spots in town if we are talking ambiance and located blocks away from the Tampa Riverwalk. Oh and the nutella pizza? To. Die. For. 142 S. Meridian Ave., Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 605-0764. http://www.fabricapizza.com/

2. Sally O’Neals Pizza Hotline: Many of the restaurants who have survived the many changes on SoHo serve some of the best food in town. Sally O’Neals have been around for over 30 years and this quality pizza is a must for anyone wanting to try the best in town. I first tried their pizza at Taste the Best of Tampa Bay at the Straz Center where a mob of people kept chowing down on their excellent pie. From the first bite, Sally O’Neals changed my opinion about pizza in Tampa.  The quality is there. 1319 S. Howard Ave., Tampa, FL 33606. (813) 251-0220. http://sallyonealspizza.com

1. Eddie & Sam’s NY Pizza: There is no denying the magic of Eddie & Sam’s NY Pizza in Downtown Tampa, which has served the area since 1998. The options are numerous and I have never felt disappointed with an experience there. I like pizza by the slice and Eddie & Sam’s serves excellent slices that will brighten even the worst of days. It is the best pizza available in Tampa in value, quality, and it may not be fancy, but who needs fancy when the pizza is going to blow your taste buds away. I’ll be at a quality, local, dive any day over a fancy restaurant. Go to Eddie & Sam’s if you haven’t. We need more like it.  203 E. Twiggs St., Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 229-8500. http://www.eddieandsamspizza.com/

Tampa Bay Taco Tuesday Dining Guide

Wondering where to eat for Taco Tuesday in Tampa? No, I’m not talking about your average Tijuana Flats. Taco Tuesday offers deals at many great spots around town and no two taco places are created equal.

Here is my list of go-to spots for Taco Tuesday deals in Tampa Bay and places I’d recommend visiting. There may be more restaurants offering the deal, but that doesn’t mean I recommend them.

  1. La Villa River Hills: I am a Mexican food snob from San Francisco and most places in Tampa are “good for Tampa” and that is about it – they don’t even come close to the quality or ingredients of taquerias on The Mission. La Villa River Hills is the real deal though. Fresh, Mexican cuisine at an affordable price and the quality is apparent in everything from their salsa to their tamales. They offer $2 tacos on Tuesday. The location is near FishHawk and Valrico which is a long drive for many – but well worth it. You might want to call-ahead because the restaurant is small, but this is easily my favorite Mexican place in Tampa Bay right now.
  2. Taco Traveler: This local food truck is delivering tasty non-traditional tacos on Tuesdays at C. 1949 in Seminole Heights. Enjoy $2 taco specials and $1 off select beer inside the building. Live-music is also happening.
  3. Ciccio Cali: One of the best known Taco Tuesday deals in town. Many of the bowls available at Ciccio Cali can be converted into flour tacos for just $2 each during Taco Tuesday. They load them up. My favorite? Hot & Crunchy Tuna. The flavor is there. More places should experiment with sushi tacos in general. Be patient because the crowds can get crazy and my experiences with hostesses have been mixed. It’s located in Brandon, New Tampa, and St. Pete.
  4. TacoSon: The original Taco Bus. TacoSon is where the owners of the original Taco Bus opened shop after their sale and you can tell by the crowds that the original fans have followed them to this location on 56th Street. Avoid the drive-thru unless you’re comfortable with sitting in your car for long periods of time and just go inside. They don’t do Taco Tuesday deals, but on the flip-side tacos there are $2.50 everyday. Real deal. They now have locations in St. Pete and Wesley Chapel as well.
  5. California Tacos To-Go: This local chain has excellent tacos and offers 2 tacos, chips, and a drink for $6.99. A little more expensive than some other spots, but the quality is definitely there. Most recipes hail from SoCal and the loaded fish tacos are truly amazing. Locations in USF, South Tampa, and St. Pete. It’s one of the few places that Guy Fieri recommends that I can agree with.

If a place did not make the list – it is likely that I either do not recommend it, I haven’t visited the place, or I forgot and this list will be regularly updated as well so look for that. If your favorite place isn’t on the list that’s okay too. This is an opinion-based piece and you are entitled to your opinion.

Fuzzy’s Taco Shop Opens January 26th in Temple Terrace

Fast-casual restaurant chain concept Fuzzy’s Taco Shop is expanding into Temple Terrace and opening doors to the public on Thursday, January 26th. The restaurant is 4,100 square ft. The first Tampa Bay restaurant, built in February 2016, is located in Brandon and is located off Causeway Boulevard and Providence Lakes Road.

The University of South Florida location, located off the corner of Fowler Avenue and 56th Street, will feature a large garden-style patio with “truck-bed seating”, large communal style tables, a live music stage for local singers and DJs, and a full-liquor bar with six barrels of signature frozen cocktails and 16 beers on tap.

guacamole

enchilada-platter

Fuzzy’s Taco Shop’s 100-plus locations serve breakfast all day long, offering a robust selection that includes breakfast tacos and jumbo burritos (guests can choose from eggs, bacon, cheese, potatoes, chorizo, and shrimp) as well as the brand’s “breakfast favorites”, including huevos rancheros, migas, chilaquiles, and the breakfast taco plate (all served with Latin-fried potatoes and refried beans), or the signature Big Fuzz Breakfast Sandwich.

Considering how successful all-day-breakfast has worked for fast food restaurants – it’s interesting to see a fast-casual concept also offering this option. Fowler Avenue is filled with a variety of breakfast options from IHOP to First Watch.

Parents note: kids menus will be available serving taco plate, nachos, cheeseburgers, quesadillas, and chicken sticks, with carrots and ranch dressing offered as a side.

The restaurant will be open late – a plus for students. Service at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop will be provided from 8AM to 12AM from Monday to Wednesday, 8AM to 2AM from Thursday to Saturday, and 8AM to 11PM on Sunday. Catering will also be available.

For more information visit: www.FuzzysTacoShop.com