The Wat Mongkolratanaram of Florida (Tampa Thai Temple)

The Wat Mongkolratanaram of Florida (or as I like to call it the Thai Temple in Tampa) has to be one of my favorite places in Tampa. Located right by Palm River, the temple grounds are simply beautiful with tall trees, picnic tables, a dock, and a golden Buddhist temple. Every Sunday they have a market where they sell Thai groceries, Thai teas/juices, and Thai food such as pad thai, curry, friend bananas, and various desserts. The grounds have a community feel with temple volunteers running stands and locals visiting every Sunday for their dosage of cheap and tasty Thai food.

I have been visiting the temple for about 5 years now. When I first visited the place was mostly just for Thai visitors, but has now exploded in popularity after some newspaper articles exposed this Tampa gem. The temple grounds have had to expand in parking and stands to handle the rush of visitors, but it’s still a beautiful and relaxing spot to spend a Sunday morning and afternoon. It’s located right between Tampa and Brandon, so not far from either side of town.

One of my favorite stands has fried bananas. I cannot resist these. A small amount is $3 and is plenty to get your fix. They also have a variety of other choices such as taro root and sweet potatoes, but banana is my favorite.

They are put in deep batter. Not sure how healthy it is, but hey it makes it taste good!

Voila! Crunchy fried banana goodness!

Their noodle soups are appetizing and my friend used to give me some all the time when I volunteered at the temple back in 2006. I am not a big soup drinker so I spend my money on sweets nowadays.

Look at that view!

The patio area is full of red picnic tables where you can enjoy your Thai food and hangout with friends and family. The trees are all around. There aren’t many outdoor areas like this in Tampa where you can grab your food and enjoy it outdoors.

My favorite stand where they serve Thai Tea and Fruit Juices ($1 donations are awesome!) and also occasionally serve my favorite Thai dessert, Kanom Krok (coconut custards). The wait for the Kanom Krok has gone to hours and I waited a good two hours for mine, but it was worth it. I love it that much. They don’t serve it every weekend, but when they do and I’m there I make it my mission to have some.

$1 Thai Tea? I’ll take 10 please!

The process of making the Kanom Krok. They use a special pot that takes about 20 minutes to cook. The orders pile up and increase the wait times, so get there early for yours!

My beautiful coconut custards (some missing due to immediate consumption). Totally worth the wait.

The Thai Temple in Tampa has a number of events throughout the year to celebrate Thai or religious holidays and invites the public out to these events. My favorite was their Songkarn or Water festival, which I checked out last spring. It was lots of fun, especially the water fight with the little kids and various adults. This temple is truly a great addition to the city of Tampa.

Wat Mongkolrata Temple on Urbanspoon

Name: The Wat Mongkolratanaram of Florida

Cuisine: Thai

Address: 5306 Palm River Road, Tampa, FL 33619

Sunday Market: approx. 10:30am to approx. 2:00pm

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

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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