Dining Guide: Great local restaurants to eat at in Brandon

Full disclosure: I have performed sponsored work for Kiwami Ramen Sushi. These opinions on this list are strictly my own and do not represent any sponsors or paid work.

Brandon has been transforming over the years from a quiet suburban town to a busy place with tons of apartment complexes and subdivisions rising around the area. There is now a Top Golf, Dave and Buster’s, and the Westfield Brandon Towncenter has exploded with traffic. People are moving south to Riverview and East to Valrico. The new Riverview GDX and Xscape Riverview theaters further prove the population growth of this area.

Many people complain that there are not local options in Brandon, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You’ll find a wide-variety of food from a variety of cuisines around the area, if you know where to look. Most places will run you around $10-20 per person for a meal. The options continue to grow, here is a list of some of my recommendations.

Allegria Italiana: Your old school Italian eatery with white table covers and a romantic vibe, Allegria Italiana has a great variety of gourmet Italian food that is better than many places around the bay. The servers have been friendly on my visits and prices are about what you would expect for this kind of concept. Everything from the appetizers and pasta to dessert is great. $$ 518 Oakfield Dr., Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 651-1166 allegriaitaliana.com

La Cubanita: Great Cuban sandwiches and steak sandwiches. You can’t really go wrong with their cafe con leche and a sandwich. They also have great deals on platters of food and have specials daily. There are many places around Brandon with sandwiches and coffee, but this is one of the best. They serve La Segunda bread which is of course the best. $ 723 W. Lumsden Rd., Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 661-2253. 

Kiwami Ramen and Sushi: Newcomer serving quality, gourmet ramen and sushi. The perfect marriage no matter what your mood is. Prices are fair and far less than the options in Tampa and St. Petersburg. Lunch specials on weekdays and happy hour deals make Kiwami and even better choice. The rolls are different from you’ll find in most places in Tampa. 10262 Causeway Blvd., Tampa, FL 33619. (813) 393-0683. kiwamiramensushi.com

Ploy Thai: Ploy Thai has been serving Thai food for over a decade on State Road 60. The restaurant has changed and evolved over the year from more of a sushi concept and then back into a more Thai-focused restaurant. The menu is large and they have transitioned more into a finer dining concept. $$ 1941 W. Brandon Blvd, Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 684-5007.

Sushi Kampai: If you like some simple rolls or great deals, Sushi Kampai is for you. The rolls are affordable and they also have lunch combos and bento boxes. You’ll find some Chinese, Japanese, and Korean food options on the menu as well. Service can be slow when they get busy so plan ahead. They also offer delivery and take-out if you’re feeling lazy. $ 10312 Bloomingdale Ave. #111, Riverview, FL 33578. (813) 620-3717.

Taste of Berlin: This German eatery is owned by some German expats and has a great schnitzel. Most items on the menu are made from scratch down to the sauces. The German beer selection isn’t quite as expansive as Mr. Dunderbak’s in Tampa, but there are some decent options on the menu for those looking to wash down their food. The owners regularly host events here especially for Oktoberfest. $$ 526 Oakfield Dr, Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 685-9392.

LC’s Cafe and Supper Club: LC’s Cafe is a nice little spot for a lite breakfast or brunch. They have some Cuban food options and also some breakfast options. It isn’t anything fancy, but the decor feels like home and it is a great place to go and catch up with someone. It is a family-owned small business. $$ 1602 Oakfield Dr #103, Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 526-9395.

Shrimp Boat: If you love seafood, you will love Shrimp Boat. This busy local restaurant on Bloomingdale serves quality seafood dishes and even their regular American dishes scream quality. It gets very busy, but there is usually some space in the bar area. They have happy hour deals and specials regularly and you also cannot go wrong with their soups. $$ 1020 Bloomingdale Ave., Valrico, FL 33596. (813) 571-5858. shrimpboatgrille.com

Green Island Frozen Yogurt & Tea Bar: Green Island has been around for over a decade if I’m not mistaken. They were one of the first boba shops and frozen yogurt shops to open in Tampa Bay. It’s a nice option if you’re on State Road 60 and heading to the nearby M.D. Oriental Market. Their bubble tea isn’t my favorite, but their Thai tea is pretty good and so is the coconut smoothie or watermelon smoothie (when available). $ 10047 E. Adamo Dr, Tampa, FL 33619. (813) 374-9006. 

Smokin Pig BBQ: Smokin Pig serves some great barbeque options and has plenty of space inside for those who want to dine-in. They have family deals as well as specials and combos. My favorite thing here is their Mac and Cheese, it is incredibly cheesy and delicious. Their brisket tastes great and I like their corn bread. $$ 3834 US-301, Riverview, FL 33578. (813) 512-2500 smokinpig.com

Chicago’s Best Burgers: If you want some truly amazing burgers do not miss Chicago’s Best. They maintain a low profile online, but they serve one of the best burgers I have enjoyed in Tampa Bay. You’ll spend a little more than some other shops, but the taste is well worth it. I highly recommend it. $$ 1925 W Brandon Blvd, Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 654-3232.

 

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NAAAP hosting one year anniversary rooftop party July 18th in Downtown Tampa

The National Association of Asian American Professionals Tampa Bay (NAAAP) is celebrating their first anniversary on Thursday, July 18th, 2019 at Hampton + Home2 by Hilton Downtown Tampa from 6:30PM to 8:30PM. The event is being coined Rooftop Celebr*asian and is free to attend. Food will be provided by event sponsors including Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa, Rice N Roll, Bento Asian Kitchen + Sushi, On-A-Roll Sushi, and Tsunami Sarasota.

Participants are encouraged to bring their networking cards and enjoy food, drinks, and raffle prizes.

The mission NAAAP is “to collaborate with its communities to promote career advancement, engage in community service, assist in employment opportunities, enhance public awareness of our voice, and support businesses as it gives back to NAAAP members”.

Event name: Rooftop Celebr*asian

Venue: Hampton + Home2 by Hilton Downtown Tampa

Address: 1155 E. Kennedy Blvd. Tampa, FL 33602

Date & Time: Thursday, July 18th, 2019, 6:30PM-8:30PM

Facebook RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/events/387080268822366/

Get tickets: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/rooftop-celebrasian-tickets-63526009003

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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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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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

Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse serves excellent meat

Full disclosure: I was invited to Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse for a complimentary tasting in exchange for my opinion. Any opinions displayed here are my own and do not represent Terra Gaucha. 

Brazilian Steakhouse concepts have had mixed success in Tampa Bay. Boizao disappeared one day without an explanation. Texas de Brazil has managed to be successful elsewhere on Boy Scout Boulevard. Now, Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse is open on South Dale Mabry in a former GrillSmith location.

My experience at Texas de Brazil when I’ve visited was nothing to write home about. The meat is plentiful, but extremely salty and sometimes completely dry. I’m happy to report that is not the case at Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse. I visited for a tasting this week and was impressed with what I found.

I brought along a friend who lived in Brazil for a year as my point of reference and she agreed that this is perhaps one of the most authentic experiences she has had since she left Brazil.

Our favorite meat cut during our visit was the Picanha or beef sirloin-cap. It was so juicy and flavorful. The perfect taste in your mouth.

The close second was the Linguiça or pork sausage. This is usually not my favorite dish, but I enjoyed it quite a bit at Terra Gaucha. I was a big fan of the Cordeiro or lamb, but lamb is certainly one of those things that isn’t for everyone.

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Like most Brazilian steakhouse concepts servers come around and cut meat tableside. You use something called a “brasa card” to indicate if you want food or not. Red means stop and green means go. The servers constantly flood the floor with food and you can get full just watching them cut the meat.

The buffet bar or salad bar as some might call it has numerous options for diners including bacon, prosciutto, cheeses, soups, and more. Personally I try to focus on the meat when I go to Brazilian steakhouses so I can get the best bang for my buck, but I know that will vary for some people. I can report that the bacon was delicious.

Terra Gaucha is doing many things right. The cuts of meat were all great quality, flavored just right, not too salty. The service staffed was prompt and attentive, I observed the other tables and watched the servers regularly checking on customers around me.

The cocktail menu was great and I loved my Caipirinha which is Brazil’s national cocktail made with cachaça, sugar and lime. Good cachaça is a little difficult to come by in Tampa and I was delighted to find that the cocktail at Terra Gaucha was up to par. The rest of the cocktail menu looked good and the wine list was extensive.

It’s easy to get stuffed beyond control at these kinds of all-you-can-eat spots, but we paced ourselves and I felt just right at the end of the meal.

For dessert I had the Papaya Creme dish which is a throwback to the 90s in Brazil. The classic dessert was refreshing after a meal filled with meat and tasted almost like yogurt, which reminded me of the little yogurt drinks I have when I finish chowing down on some Korean BBQ.

My friend ordered a Creme Brulee and enjoyed her dessert. It was light and airy. Not super sugary, but just enough for my palate.

Bossanova music was playing in the background on the speakers and I liked that.

One thing that could be improved at Terra Gaucha is the decor of the restaurant and ambiance in the dining room. Brazilian steakhouses are not cheap affairs and will easily run you $50 per person at dinner and the dining room inside Terra Gaucha didn’t match that kind of spending level.

The restaurant was mostly casual, which can be a plus for people who like that, but I think people dining in this area expect a little more. Decor is not a hard thing to improve though, the entrance is beautiful (as pictured above and below) and the bar is also nicely setup. Perhaps some lighting changes and something around the tables would change the vibe some.

I think adding some live music on the weekends would be a plus, maybe some Samba music or Bossanova cover artists.

Terra Gaucha has excellent food and I would really like to go here in the future for a meal again. I think its a great place to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, or have a business meeting and that the food is truly unique in this area.

The bar has a daily happy hour on weekdays with $5 Caipirinha cocktails so I know I will be returning for that no matter what.

Restaurant name: Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse

Cuisine: Brazilian Steakhouse

Neighborhood: South Tampa

Address: 1108 S. Dale Mabry Hwy., Tampa, FL 33629

Phone Number: (813) 999-4332

Price: $$$

Website: http://www.terragaucha.net

Inay’s Kitchen serves delicious Filipino Cuisine in West Orlando

Filipino food is one of my all-time favorite cuisines. The mixture of Asian and Spanish cuisine speaks to me. Unfortunately, Filipino food is not too popular in Florida and has experienced much difficulty catching on in Tampa Bay. I saw Inay’s Kitchen opened in Orlando and bookmarked it a few weeks ago.

I finally made it over today. The restaurant is a mom-and-pop dive that clearly is family-run. They have a small cafeteria-like setup in the back. You can order 2 meats and a side for $10.99, but I opted for 1 meat and a side for $6.99 (Filipino food is filling). An order of Shanghai Lumpia was added on for $2. I can’t pass that up. My friend also ordered the pancit noodles.

The server brought out our food fresh and warm and we dug in. The lechon kawali (crispy fried pork belly) was perfectly crispy on the skin and was incredibly juicy. It beat out any other business I have eaten at in Tampa Bay or Orlando so far. We enjoyed it with some Mang Tomas sauce which is similar to a gravy sauce and available upon request.

The shanghai lumpia was perfectly rolled and delicious. The pancit was flavorful and not dry at all. This restaurant was a really simple setup and nothing complex was going on inside, but everything was done well and the price was right. I would return in the future for more food and recommend it to people who love Filipino food.

There was ample seating inside and from talking to the owners it seems the weekends are their busiest time. They add more menu items on the weekend such as Dinuguan and Kare-Kare.

Check out Inay’s Kitchen – you won’t be disappointed with their food.

Restaurant Name: Inay’s Kitchen

Cuisine: Filipino

Neighborhood: West Orlando

Address: 1097 S. Clarke Rd., Ocoee, FL 34761

Phone Number: (407) 601-2126

Menu: http://places.singleplatform.com/inays-kitchen-0/menu?ref=google

Gaspar’s Grotto in Ybor City now serving weekday breakfast

Local Ybor City pirate-themed restaurant, Gaspar’s Grotto, is now selling breakfast daily with an expanded menu on Saturday and brunch buffet on Sundays.

The weekday breakfast menu is available from 7AM-10:30AM and has items ranging from $4.95 to $8.95 with most items at around $5.95. Items on the menu include 3 Egg Cheese Omelet, Two Eggs Your Way, Cuban French Toast, Breakfast Skillet, Biscuits and Gravy, and more.

I visited yesterday and had a late breakfast with Ybor City Geeky Gal and Chef Mark Hook.

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One of the first dishes I tried was the biscuits and gravy. Everything is prepared fresh in-house and it really shows. The biscuits were soft and delicious and the gravy was incredible – definitely one of the best gravy toppings I have ever had in Tampa Bay. Even the side of potatoes was delicious – normally something that isn’t even worth mentioning on breakfast dishes.

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The bacon was notable for having a peppery flavoring to it and was perfectly crunchy. Many of the breakfast items come with bacon, but if you want more you can get 2 strips for $2.

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You can also take a more traditional route with simple eggs made you way with sides and Cuban toast from La Segunda Bakery. The great thing about Ybor City being the heart of historical Tampa is great Cuban bread is always nearby.

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I also checked out their Gaspar’s Specialty Bloody Mary of the Day at Gaspar’s Grotto – it’s loaded with all kinds of toppings including cheese, meats, sausage, ribs, and more. It could very well be a meal on its own.

All of the breakfast items were delicious and fresh and the price was right – easily beating out many breakfast chains and competing with the pricing of diners. The best part is you can enjoy your breakfast outside on the outside decks of Gaspar’s Grotto and there is plenty of free 2-hour parking available in the morning hours in Ybor City.

Breakfast is also available for take-out – you can call ahead to 813-248-5900 and pick-up your breakfast to take to work or whatever engagement you may have.

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Finally, I couldn’t leave without trying the Cuban Sandwich at Gaspar’s Grotto with the 6th Annual National Cuban Sandwich Festival approaching. The Cuban here was excellent – the bread toasted perfectly and the pickle having just the right crunch. The Cuban sticks to traditional with the exception of a mayo-mustard mix. Plantain chips on the side were also excellent. I love plantain chips and these did not disappoint.

Gaspar's Grotto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gaspar’s Grotto. 1805 E 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605. (813) 248-5900. http://gasparsgrotto.com/

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

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

Tampa needs more Korean BBQ

For as happy as I am about the Japanese ramen and izakaya food gods shining on us lately in Tampa, there is another food concept that I am not seeing enough of in Tampa: Korean BBQ.

Korean restaurants are sprinkled around Tampa with Sushi Ninja perhaps leading the pack with the biggest menu of authentic Korean dishes (we even have a delicious Korean food truck called Mmm Bap) – but concepts usually lack Korean BBQ grilling. The popularity of Japanese hibachi/teppanyaki steakhouses and all-you-can-eat concepts (see Koizi, Saki, Ginza) suggests that given the right promotion and effort – Korean BBQ could be huge for the Tampa Bay area.

Izziban Sushi in Orlando has made the concept thrive and now has two concepts in Orlando and one down south near Miami. Izziban offers Korean BBQ with the option of a la carte or buffet with as much meat as you want and the addition of classic sushi rolls and appetizers with prices ranging from $20 for lunch/late-night and $30 for dinner.

samgyupsal

Other restaurants in the Orlando area have caught on and are offering their own take on Korean BBQ with some sticking to just pork belly or samgyupsal and other more basic meat choices. The prices are comparable to what it costs for just one dish of Korean food here in Tampa and perhaps an appetizer.

Another case for more Korean BBQ in Tampa is the communal vibe that eating Korean BBQ has. This is representative of Korean culture where often co-workers, family members, or friends will enjoy a meal today and share their food. It makes food part of the bonding process in eating out and makes food more social. This could be big for corporate events, birthday parties, and family get-togethers.

Grills for Korean BBQ are smaller than those used in Japanese steakhouses and provide for more conversation –  you also are usually in charge of cooking your own food in these concepts.

I’m not sure if I even have a preference on how the concept should arrive here in Tampa. All I know is there is a serious lack of options for Korean BBQ in the Tampa Bay area and that it could be a popular concept if someone would invest in bringing it here.

Here is a quick look at Korean BBQ via Eater:

So who wants to be first and help turn Tampa Bay on to the K-BBQ craze?  I’m waiting.

Asia Fest 2012 – Saturday 04/28

The 29th Annual Celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage called Asia Fest will occur on Saturday, April 28th, 2012 from 11:00 AM-2:30PM inside Cotanchobee Park located in the Channelside District. Entrance is FREE and there will be a number of performances and cultural shows at the event. The event will be held in conjunction with the 9th Annual Tampa Bay International Dragon Boat Races.  Local Asian food vendors normally set up shop around the event and sell a variety of food to the public. The event is sponsored by Bright House Networks, Asia Trend Magazine, Asian American Journalists Association, and a number of other business organizations.

More information available at: http://www.asiafest-tampabay.com/

La Malinche Mexican Restaurant

During my visit to St. Armand’s Circle this past weekend, my parents and I were surprised to spot a new Mexican restaurant in the area.  Interested, we decided to give it a shot a few hours after visiting Tommy Bahama. The outside of the restaurant only says Mexican restaurant, we learned the name of the restaurant when we sat at the bar which had a Budweiser sign glowing with the restaurant name: La Malinche.  The bartender greeted us and informed us it was his first day. We soon found out why he was previously unemployed.

My parents and I decided to order some tacos and some drinks. I decided to have the Tacos al Pastor which consists of 4 tacos filled with marinated pork, onions, and pineapples with cilantro and onions on the side ($12.95). The tacos come with rice. The bartender had a comment for every step of our order and was completely passive-aggressive towards the party throughout the meal. The food came out lightning quick, we did not wait for longer than five minutes for our food and it was warm.

I was surprised with how great the tacos were. The tortillas tasted freshly made and the pork was seasoned perfectly. The pineapples were a great pair for the pork with the cilantro and onions. The rice tasted like canned rice as did the beans we ordered on the side, however the overall taste of the meal was great. After we received our food things took a turn for the worst.

The entire restaurant ran out of Coca-Cola (which everyone in my party was drinking – either in a mixed alcoholic beverage or as regular soda). Instead of the bartender offering anything else to drink, he simply went on his way and when questioned about the drinks only replied that they were searching other restaurants for soda donations. We had some salsa chips at our table which combined with salty Mexican food made lacking a beverage just uncomfortable.

I finally grabbed the attention of the bartender and asked him if they had anymore horchata. He had no clue what that was and brought me a liquor menu. In the middle of this conversation, a waitress approached us with some tacos looking for whose they were. The bartender leaped for joy because he was hungry and this was his. He then grabbed his food and marched to the back, completely ignoring the fact that I was in the middle of asking for a drink. When he came back to the bar he pretended like it never happened.

Luckily, another employee eventually grabbed me something to drink since apparently this bartender had no intentions of doing his job  and now I know why the majority of the Foursquare tips and Urbanspoon reviews for this restaurant denounce the service here. What I found to be particularly funny was that the restaurant itself has reviewed itself on Urbanspoon four times with stellar reviews each time. They aren’t shy, their username is even “La Malinche”. How blatant.

After this service debacle, I doubt I will ever return to La Malinche and if I ever did it would most certainly be a takeout order. The high prices certainly don’t reflect the quality of the service. The restaurant has almost been in the circle for a year so I think it’s time for them to fix this issue. It’s really a shame because the food there is great, if only they could hire better employees and have better management.

La Malinche on Urbanspoon

Restaurant name: La Malinche

Cuisine: Mexican

Neighborhood: St. Armand’s Circle

Address: 40 S Blvd.Of Presidents Sarasota, FL 34236

Phone Number: (941) 388-4444

Website: http://www.lamalincherestaurant.com/

Celebrating at Tommy Bahama

My Aunt celebrated her 39th birthday dinner at Tommy Bahama in St. Armand’s Circle this past weekend. It’s been a few years since my last visit to Tommy Bahama and from what I could remember the buzz about it was the mixed beverages that my family adored. This time around no one was drinking, they saved that for later excursions in St. Armand’s Circle. The menu had a few options that caught my eye, but I was feeling a burger so I decided to order their Smokehouse Angus Burger ($13.50) with crab bisque ($6.50) as an appetizer. My Step-Dad ordered the same thing. I ordered mine medium and him well-done. I had a hunch this was going to be a problem, but hoped the waiter would make sure to get the right one out.

The complimentary bread that came out first looked incredibly delicious at a glance. When you actually tear into it, it doesn’t have much flavor. The butter they serve with it is a cinnamon-flavored butter that is very sweet and turned off some of my fellow diners. I have no problem with sugar and found it satisfactory.

The crab bisque was amazing. It didn’t last more than a few minutes before it disappeared off my bowl. I almost liked it better than lobster bisque (my favorite soup on Earth next to clam chowder from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco).  The portion pictured is their small portion. Certainly a generous helping for a small. My sister ordered the chicken lollipops for an appetizer which were great and tasted like BBQ ribs.

When the main entrees came the waiter accidentally confused my burger and my Step-Dad’s burgers. If this would have been something more expensive (such as a steak) then I would have sent it back, but since it was just a burger we decided to proceed forth with our meal. The toppings on this burger were excellent, but were offset by the fact that my burger was well-done and burnt charcoal. In contrast, my Step-Dad learned burger meat served medium is the way to go.

Some of the entrees my family enjoyed:

Dessert was an assortment of cakes my Aunt chose. A rich chocolate cake and a coconut concoction. Both were delicious and the chocolate was rich with a base of what tasted like brownies. The server was quick to get refills to the table and the wait for the meals wasn’t a problem.

Overall, Tommy Bahama is a nice restaurant to have some seafood and American choices if you have the money to spend. The restaurant is filled with windows and certainly fits what I would imagine to be a Florida vibe. My personal favorite restaurant in St. Armand’s Circle is The Columbia (which we visited later for some sangria and drinks).

Tommy Bahama's Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Restaurant name: Tommy Bahama

Cuisine: Seafood, American

Neighborhood: St. Armand’s Circle

Address: 300 John Ringling Blvd. Sarasota, FL 34236

Phone Number: (941) 388-2888

Website: http://www.tommybahama.com/TBG/Stores_Restaurants/Sarasota.jsp