Restaurant News: Sparkman Wharf now open

FeaturedImage via Strategic Property Partners

Sparkman Wharf is now open in the latest Water Street Tampa completion.  I had the pleasure of going to a blogger preview this Tuesday of the new food destination. 

After visiting I can say it is more of an outdoor food hall with multiple vendors selling different kinds of food and drinks. 

Speaking of Edison’s Swigamajig they were by far my favorite booth at Sparkman Wharf. They brought their culinary chops to the menu and still made food you can eat easily. Their grouper sandwich was phenomenal and there is an obvious approach to not cut corners despite being outside in a box restaurant.

My second favorite booth was Boat Run Oyster Company which was serving an excellent clam and oyster chowder during my visit. I’m from San Francisco and finding a good clam chowder can be a chore in Tampa, thankfully this place delivered with a hearty chowder that still had plenty of ingredients to munch including a generous portion of oysters.

The gelato at Whatever Pops was excellent and a nice snack, but don’t miss out on their grilled cheese sandwiches. I had one last year at Curtis Hixon Park and it was one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve had in the Tampa Bay area.

Craft beer fans should check out Fermented Reality Biergarten whose co-owner, Joel Bigham, has a rich history with craft beer in Tampa and plenty of know-how to bring in some of the best craft beer options to Sparkman Wharf. Downtown Tampa is lacking breweries and I hope this will be a sign for them to look around Water Street and setup shop.

Foundation Coffee is serving up coffee however I did not try it during my visit. I’m sure it is no different from the one up the road in Tampa Heights.

BT To Go had a couple of Vietnamese options up for sale, we decided to try the banh mi which was tasty but will run you back $12 which is a little too pricey for that dish that is easily $3-$6 at most sit-down restaurants. One of my favorite things about BT is her culinary prowess and I hope maybe the dishes at BT will get a little more creative and experimental versus playing save dishes like Vietnamese Summer Rolls that you can find almost anywhere now.

Gallito was serving up tacos and we decided to do a pork belly taco, but were not impressed with the flavors. The pork belly lacked flavor and was overpowered by the pineapple in the taco. Hopefully that won’t be the case with the other tacos on the menu.

Also – The outdoor nature of Sparkman Wharf just doesn’t justify an expensive menu price system unless the food is top-tier to complement.

Speaking of Sparkman Wharf being outdoors, there is limited shading and seating around the venue. I can definitely see that being a problem when it starts raining every single day in the summer for months, but it should be enjoyable as we enjoy these short winters and cold fronts for now.

Parking is also an issue with the lot across the street still under construction and expensive and the nearby lot charging $20 to park during Lightning games and events at Amalie Arena (which are frequent). Hopefully they will add a system to validate your parking ticket like other restaurants have inside Sparkman Wharf to help offset this for people who just want to stop by to eat.

It wouldn’t be bad idea to add some valet parking as well as Tampa once had when Channelside was in this spot.

When I asked about it during my visit I was told parking isn’t the responsibility of Sparkman Wharf which was a little unsettling.

One thing I was surprised about was the lack of liquor around the main stands except for the excellent Edison’s Swigamajig. You can grab a cocktail inside Splitsville which just re-did their menu or hit up craft cocktails at Edison’s Swigamajig.

Overall, Sparkman Wharf has potential – it does bring new food options to town from many people that we already know in town and provides a way to enjoy the outdoors when the weather allows it. Most of the food I tried was delicious and you should make it a point to try it when you have a chance.

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Restaurant News: Sparkman Wharf opening November 30th in Downtown Tampa

Image via Strategic Property Partners

The highly anticipated Sparkman Wharf is opening on Friday, November 30th, 2018 where Channelside once stood.

This is part of the Water Street Tampa project that aims to rebuild and rethink Downtown Tampa, adding much needed green space and a focus on Tampa’s waterfront views.

Several restaurateurs have signed on to the project including Ichicoro owner Noel Cruz, Chef BT Nguyen of Restaurant BT, Chef Ferrell Alvarez of Rooster & the Till, and more.

One might even think of it as an outdoor food hall complete with an upcoming outdoor beer garden called Fermented Reality Beer Garden.

Whatever Pops sells quality grilled cheese sandwiches

I haven’t had a chance to stop in at Whatever Pops in Seminole Heights yet.

However – I just tried their grilled cheese for the first time today at the Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park in Downtown Tampa located at 600 North Ashley Drive, which is running for the next 7 weeks and features ice skating, vendors, and food from vendors like Whatever Pops.

The grilled cheese I had was phenomenal. Excellent mix of cheeses and sourdough bread. Gooey and yet crispy at the same time. Every last bite. Maybe one of the better grilled cheese sandwiches I have enjoyed in Tampa. Serving at $6 is a reasonable price for a specialized market as well.

The order came out quickly as well.

The only thing I was sad about was that they ran out of tomato soup. That will most certainly be a reason to return in the near future though.

The attendant at the stand told me sales in Seminole Heights are down 40% ever since the Seminole Heights Serial Killer made the news. People from all over town are coming over to try and support, but she said regardless sales are still down and fall during the night at levels that are hurting business.

Please keep the local Seminole Heights businesses in mind if you’re trying to pick a place to eat or shop at. Maybe consider ordering some catering or delivery from them if you’re not able to stop by.

Seminole Heights is one of the reasons our local food scene in Tampa has grown over the years and it would be a shame if those businesses were to close because of something completely beyond their control.

Visit Whatever Pops in Seminole Heights at 5127 North Florida Avenue Tampa, FL 33603. Reach them at (813) 559-7677.

Franklin Manor celebrates first anniversary this week

Franklin Manor will celebrate its first anniversary this week with a number of events starting on Wednesday, September 20th through Sunday, September 24th.

During the last year, Franklin Manor has been a major hotspot for people heading to Downtown Tampa to party and to brunch. The area around it is set to grow quite rapidly with a new condominium finishing work in the near future and a number of other projects in development.



Here is what Franklin Manor has planned for the week:

  • Wednesday, September 204pm to 1am – Hospitality Night Launch w/ Special Guest Jonas Blue: Franklin Manor kicks-off its one-year anniversary week and new Hospitality Night with special guest, British DJ Jonas Blue.  The night will also debut a special $8.00 hospitality food menu, and 50% discounts on select drinks for all guests who work in the hospitality industry. Happy Hour specials from 4pm to 8pm.
  • Thursday, September 214pm to 1am – Throwback Thursday Night: Franklin Manor’s weekly Throwback Thursday night will feature complimentary Stoli vodka cocktails and Corona beers, as well as complimentary sliders for all guests from 8pm to 9pm.  DJ Jaime Ferreira will spin the iconic hits and classics from the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s.  Happy Hour specials from 4pm to 8pm.
  • Friday, September 224pm to 3am – Special Guest DJ Irie: Popular Miami music artist and icon DJ Irie returns for a special DJ set.  Happy Hour specials from 4pm to 8pm.
  • Saturday, September 234pm to 3am – Special Guest DJ Jason Smith: The “celebrities’ choice DJ” Jason Smith will headline the patio stage.  Happy Hour specials from 4pm to 8pm.
  • Sunday, September 2411am to 6pm – Happy Bday Frose’ Day: A birthday party commemorating Tampa’s original Frose’, a delicious frozen rose’ wine cocktail will coincide with Franklin Manor’s weekly brunch.  Guests who wear the color pink will be treated to complimentary Frose’ samples and dessert.  DJ Jaime Ferreira and Goofy White Kid with 93.3 FLZ will provide the sounds for the celebration.

For more information, contact Franklin Manor at (813) 487-9990 or stop by at 912 N Franklin St, Tampa, FL 33602.

Caffeine Roasters now open on Kennedy in South Tampa

Caffeine Roasters has moved into where Drama Burger once stood at 2420 West Kennedy Boulevard and is now open. Caffeine is also located in Downtown Tampa minutes from Franklin Manor at 212 East Cass Street. I am a fan of the Downtown location and also really enjoy the new space as well.

The expansion mirrors an expansion happening with many of the new coffee shop brands taking on Buddy Brew Coffee and Kahwa locally.

The menu is the same at both locations and the space has lots of seating from couches to tables and plugs and Wi-Fi available. The only downside of the new location on Kennedy is lack of parking – the place has only been open for a few weeks and parking already sucks.

On the positive side, they have a drive-thru so you can take your coffee with you if you can’t find parking.

The staff is very friendly and happy to explain the types of coffee they provide and the background of what they are doing – that was also noticeable when I visited the Downtown Tampa location in the past as well.

Last but most certainly not least, their coffee tastes great – I had an El Salvador roast during my visit and fully enjoyed it without hardly any sweeteners or add-ons. Check out Caffeine Roasters!

Restaurant Name: Caffeine Roasters

Neighborhood: South Tampa

Address: 2420 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, FL 33609

Phone Number: (813) 644-7245

Website: http://www.caffeineusa.com/

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

Twitter: @CaffeineTampa

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

Oishi Sushi & Thai Thani Shutting Doors July 31st (Channelside)

Oishi Sushi and Thai Thani located in Channelside announced today that they will be closing their business for good on July 31st, 2017 after 13 years of business due to the Channelside demolition occurring in the plaza as the next phase of Jeff Vinik’s plans for Downtown Tampa begin.

They invited their loyal customers to visit them over at Asiatic Street Food + Noodle Bar in Ybor City and to come visit them in Channelside in these finals weeks of operation.

Surviving 13 years in Channelside is certainly an accomplishment for the Oishi Sushi and Thai Thani owners that experienced many challenges from the 2008 Financial Crisis and the boom and slowdown of Channelside District over the years including the closure of the Channelside Cinemas theatre.

Channelside suffered many hardships for local businesses that operated in the plaza over the last decade and went from a busy nightlife and restaurant to scene to an empty part of town – especially as the Tampa Port Authority battled over plans to change the Channelside Plaza.

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Hopefully the owners will open another sushi and Thai restaurant in the future and bring their recipes to the food scene again.

Oishi launches early bird sushi happy hour (Channelside)

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Oishi Sushi located in Channelside. I was invited to taste the sushi in exchange for writing up a post about their new sushi happy hour and for my opinion on their sushi. Any opinions written are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the sponsor.

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Oishi Ultimate Japanese Cuisine located in Channelside has launched an early bird sushi happy hour for hungry fans to enjoy sushi at more than reasonable pricing. The special is every day from 4PM-7PM except during special events.

Enjoy Gyoza, Shumai, and Karage (Japanese Fried Chicken) for just $4 during happy hour. Sushi rolls are $5 or $6 and include favorites such as the Rainbow Roll, Volcano Roll, Hi-5, Rock Lava, and more.

Hibachi is also discounted during the early bird special to $12-$14.

It had been some time since I visited Oishi (or Channelside) and was really impressed with how good everything tasted.

Oishi seems less busy now that the Tampa Riverwalk has taken much of the thunder of Channelside, but the product still tastes fresh and approachable.

I remember a similar thing happening in the past with Qachbal’s Chocolatier downstairs. The shut down of the movie theater in Channelside really hurt the local businesses there.

Love boat sushi from Oishi

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During my visit I tried the Double O Roll, Fire Fighter Roll, Hurricane Roll, and Sex on the Moon.

I normally wouldn’t order sauce on my sushi and keep my rolls fairly simple, but these rolls had balance and you could taste each part well. The caviar and roe on top of the rolls was a nice touch.

My favorite roll I tried was the Hurricane Roll ($11.50) which is spicy octopus, conch, avocado, and fish egg inside a roll topped with white and red tuna, onions with spicy mayo, and eel sauce on the side. I am not normally a fan of octopus – but I gobbled it up.

Another favorite was the Sex on the Moon ($12.95) which has cream cheese, asparagus, avocado, eel, shrimp tempura, smelt roe with tuna, tempura flakes, eel sauce, spicy mayo, caviar, scallion, and sesame. Cream cheese and asparagus in my sushi rolls are not my thing normally, but I was impressed at the flavor combination. I recommend it.

If it was up to me, I would have some live music and try to have more events and promotions to bring people back to Channelside – the plaza is still great for having events – it has to compete more now that the Riverwalk is busy with tourists and locals though.

I hope local businesses like Oishi pull through – if you haven’t been in awhile I recommend heading back for a taste – the happy hour is more than fair.

See full happy hour menu:

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BONUS: Since Oishi is located next to Thai Thani – they also have delicious Thai Tea 🙂

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Restaurant Name: Oishi Ultimate Japanese Cuisine

Cuisine: Japanese, Sushi

Neighborhood: Downtown Tampa, Channelside

Address: 615 Channelside Dr. Tampa, FL 33602

Phone: (813) 228-9202

Website: http://oishitampa.com

 

 

New Year’s Eve 2017 Party @ Anise Global Gastrobar

Anise Global Gastrobar in Downtown Tampa, located at 777 North Ashley Drive across from Curtis Hixon Park, will host their annual New Year’s Eve Party from 9PM-2AM this Saturday, December 31st.

Guests can expect excellent craft cocktails from some of the best bartenders in town and gourmet bites. The event starts late enough to make plans earlier in the day before heading to the party.

Anise NYE Party

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Photo credit @antone2382 on Instagram

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Photo credit @vintranasianman on Instagram.

Tickets are on-sale and cost $60 per person for admission. Admission includes a welcome cocktail, buffet, drink specials, and a champagne toast. Tables are also available and vary from $180-$480. For more information contact Anise at (813) 225-4272.

Purchase tickets at: http://www.aniseglobal.com/tickets/

Hotel Bar now serving Downtown Tampa

Downtown Tampa has a new spot now open called Hotel Bar. The bar is a classy establishment that serves libations created by famous hotels around the world and also gourmet food.

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During my visit I tried the Hotel Nacional made with cana brava, giffard peche, pineapple, and lime. The cocktail comes from Hotel Nacional de Cuba in Havana, Cuba. You’ll find other cocktails on the menu from countries including England, Japan, France and a nice selection from New Orleans.

The food menu includes lamb tartare, wagyu ragu, roasted lemon chicken, and prime rib as well as finger food such as deviled eggs and pita chips with various dips. Late night diners can enjoy a late night fare menu.

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The bar and restaurants fits in perfectly with the growing community around Downtown and offers a new spot to go out for a group outing or drinks after work. The ownership comes from Fly Bar & Restaurant who has been serving Downtown Tampa for years.

I am looking forward to big things to come from Hotel Bar and all of Downtown Tampa as our city keeps growing.

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Photos via Hotel Bar instagram

Name: Hotel Bar

Address: 200 N. TAMPA STREET, TAMPA FL 33602

Phone: (813) 533-2650

Hours: Open daily / 4PM-3AM

Website: http://hotelbartampa.com/

Ginger Beard Coffee turns one

Local Downtown Tampa cafe, Ginger Beard Coffee, turns one year old on Thursday, July 14th, 2016. They will be raffling off a chance for free coffee in celebration. If you haven’t been yet, Ginger Beard Coffee is located inside Pourhouse Tampa in the Grand Central at Kennedy which is located at 1208 E Kennedy Blvd #112.

Ginger Beard Coffee serves excellent nitro brew coffee – my personal favorite there is the Cubano which will send a jolt of energy through your body. Check out this video I shot there a few months back with an explanation from one of the owners:

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