Restaurant News: Jubao Palace Noodle Bar and Center Bar now open at Hard Rock Tampa

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino recently re-opened the Jubao Palace Noodle Bar and Center Bar after renovations. The Noodle Bar has expanded from 16 seats to 44 seats and features a “new upscale and enhanced design.


Restaurant hours are 11:30AM to 4AM Monday to Thursday, 11:30AM to 5AM Fridays & Saturdays, and 11AM to 4AM on Sundays.

It is probably the only place you can grab late-night Vietnamese and Cantonese cuisine in Tampa. The re-design was done by Klai Juba Wald Interiors.

In addition, The Center Bar has a new and upgraded look designed by Wimberly with 12 TV’s set to sports broadcasting and 17 slot machines lining the bar surface. It can fit up to 90 people.
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The Rack (Brandon)

The Rack has been in Brandon for quite some time now and although I live near it, I haven’t made it a point to stop here…visiting the location in South Tampa more often. Before visiting I grew a little concerned when I read online that The Rack in Brandon was more like the Blue Martini (known by many for being pretentious) and that there was strict dress-code. We were relieved to find out  there wasn’t as strict a dress-code and decided to I visit The Rack earlier tonight and the experience was pretty disappointing.

The main thing The Rack has going for it is that it is perhaps the only late-night sushi spot in Brandon (almost every restaurant in Brandon closes at around 10PM). The Brandon location is larger than the South Tampa location, but loses all the ambiance of the original in favor for a more upscale kind-of-lounge feel (which doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing). Unfortunately, it also loses the friendly-atmosphere and employees you find at the SoHo location as well.

We entered around 10PM and the place was only slightly packed. We grabbed a table in the restaurant side and the waitress immediately left a sour taste in our mouths (she didn’t seem to want to be there). My friend signed up for their mobile mailing service and received a text message for a free drink and the waitress almost ignored his inquiries about how much the message was worth. She evaded this until the check was closed and then proclaimed it was too late to do anything about it. The Manager wasn’t much more help and his demeanor was like that of a bouncer, not welcoming and almost confrontational.

Now I can understand there is some confusion when it comes to mobile deals (especially in large franchise chains, such as Chili’s and their Foursquare deal). However, there are only 2 locations of The Rack, therefore I don’t really see how they can make such an issue over a deal they opt to provide customers. Why offer deals if you are going to hassle customers to honor them? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of mobile deals? Indeed, we seemed to be getting treated different because we are younger. The waitress seemed to be hovering over us and honestly if it wasn’t for her and the crappy service and dead crowd, we might have actually had fun and enjoyed our night here.

We ordered a good amount of food and drinks. The $5 Three Olive Bomb special was satisfactory and went down well. I special ordered a Salmon Roll and it ran me about $7.45. The salmon was fresh and the avocado was great as well. The sushi was perhaps the best part of our experience (although it is pricey, at least they make it good). We split a Small Deuce ($10.95), an assortment of appetizers: crab rangoon, coconut shrimp, chicken tender, and fusion rolls. The menu says it can feed 2-3 and I would say it can feed either one hungry person, or two people just snacking. You would really need to upgrade to the next size for 3 or more (add $8). The food came out quick and the best days to come to The Rack are definitely Tuesdays/Thursdays for the $20 all you can eat and drink special (cash only) from 9-11PM or on Wednesdays for their $5 Volcano Rolls. Otherwise, you are better off going to Samurai Sushi for some cheap eats in Riverview.

It costs $8 an hour to play pool and there was a good amount of tables there. You won’t have much of a problem grabbing a table (you sometimes can’t dream of grabbing one in South Tampa because it is really packed).

Overall, I prefer The Rack in Hyde Park to the location Brandon. The Hyde Park location is livelier, the people working and crowd are very friendly and it is the kind of place you can strike up a conversation with anyone. The Hyde Park location occasionally has bumps like any other restaurant, but is usually a good experience. The Brandon location made everyone look disconnected and the lack of people there on a Friday night was pretty surprising. The food lives up to the name and is convenient to Brandon residents, but I would recommend driving out to Hyde Park and visiting The Rack there for the full experience.

Restaurant Name: The Rack

Cuisine: American, Sushi

Address: 1025 W Brandon Blvd. Brandon, FL 33511

Neighborhood: Brandon

Phone Number: (813) 571-7225

Website: http://www.hittherack.com/

The Rack on Urbanspoon

The Rack (Hyde Park)

The Rack has long been one of my favorite spots to grab some sushi and chill. The food is consistently good, the bartenders are chill, and there is a crowd there from evening to close. Although they have billiards there, I have never played there. My last visit there was on a Tuesday night. It was freezing cold outside and the inside was at max capacity so I decided to sit outside and have a drink and some food.

I have never tried sake before so I decided to try their Gekkeikan small sake ($6). The sake was pretty bitter, but packed a punch. Hardcore drinkers might like this, but someone with an aversion to bad tasting liquor like myself would probably never have that again after a first try. Service outside was spotty, but still not bad. I had a California Roll ($5.95), which includes crab stick, avocado, and cucumber…though I asked for the cucumber to be removed because I feel cucumber detracts from the taste of sushi.

The California Roll was pretty disappointing.  The crab was good and helped kill that sake taste in my mouth, but as you can see they barely gave me any avocado once the cucumber was removed. Maybe a sprinkle? For the price of almost $6, a California Roll should have plenty avocado and masago on it, when places like Samurai Japanese Restaurant only charge 3 or 4 dollars for that same roll with plenty of ingredients. Being cheap with these toppings is really cutting corners.

However, The Rack does have some quality special rolls such as their extremely popular Volcano Roll (only $5 each on Wednesdays) and a number of other quality rolls I regularly have there. I just wouldn’t order from their regular rolls in the future. I have also tried their wings and American food and it’s usually great. The Rack also has started an unlimited menu from 7-9PM in Hyde Park and 9-11PM in Brandon which includes appetizers, sushi, and drinks (really want to try this out). Their unlimited menu has started a trend in South Tampa and now Koto Japanese Restaurant and Cheap are offering the same thing. Once I finished my California Roll I closed my bill outside and went inside to the warm bar.

The bartender inside was really friendly and personable. She took good care of me and my time inside was much more enjoyable and made up for my time spent outside. It was loud and busy inside, but I’m young so I like that kind of atmosphere. They have free Wi-Fi inside as well, which is a plus. The shots and drinks were good and inexpensive. I left The Rack happy.

The Rack on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: The Rack

Cuisine: Sushi, American

Address: 1809 W Platt St. Tampa, FL 33606

Neighborhood: Hyde Park

Phone Number: (813) 250-1595

Website: http://www.hittherack.com/

Hiro’s Tokyo Steakhouse and Sushi Bar

Hiro’s Tokyo Steakhouse and Sushi Bar is a popular spot among many people because of it’s late night half-off sushi special. It’s open until 2am from Sunday-Wednesday and 3am from Thursday-Saturday, which is pretty late for a sushi restaurant. Many of my friends frequently drive from Tampa out to St. Petersburg to enjoy some late night sushi with their pals. The place is alive with loud music and a packed bar as well a many customers at the tables and hibachi. The sushi is cheap, indeed, but there is a slight trade-off in quality of the roll when you eat late night there. However, the atmosphere makes up for it.

Most of the sushi rolls are heavy on the sauce to mask the sushi because sometimes it doesn’t taste very fresh, in my opinion. You get what you pay for though. If you just want some cheap sushi to enjoy with friends then Hiro’s is for you. They have a number of appetizers which are half-off as well.

The mussels there are pretty good.

The California Roll was average though neither the Alaska Roll nor the mackerel were appetizing (with the Mackerel having a very strong fishy taste that wasn’t anything like my amazing mackerel at Tokyo Sushi) and I probably would not order either again.

Despite some rolls not tasting  fresh, Hiro’s still has that unbeatable late-night special that attracts many and it is a really cool place to hangout at night with friends, the atmosphere is enjoyable and nothing like some sushi restaurants that are dead silent around night time. I don’t think I would ever go here alone (unless I was sitting at the bar) because it is the perfect place to bring a few friends.

And here are two of my friends: Jason & Mikey

Hiro's Tokyo Steakhouse & Sushi Bar (St. Pete) on Urbanspoon

Restaurant name: Hiro’s Tokyo Steakhouse and Sushi Bar

Cuisine: Japanese

Address:5250 4th St N St Petersburg, FL 33703

Neighborhood: Northeast St. Pete

Phone Number: (727) 522-4476

Website: http://www.hirostokyosteakhouse.com/

THE Tampa Taco Bus

The Taco Bus in Tampa is like a landmark…people are always there and it has over 500 ratings on Urbanspoon and 80 Yelp reviews, which is a huge number for this city. Foursquare shows check-ins even into the wee hours of the morning. A 24-hour taco truck is a godsend to this city where restaurants start to close up shop around 10pm on weekends. They have a great menu with a variety of choices and ingredients; several beverages as well, there is nothing that someone cannot love about the Taco Bus.

If the Taco Bus was in California, it would be just another taco truck…but it has successfully done correctly what I have often pondered was missing in Tampa: authentic tasting Mexican food. Anyone who is from California or some other state heavily populated with Mexican people knows that the majority of the places in Tampa or Florida that claim to be “Mexican” restaurants are actually using canned beans, pre-made rice, and no actual Mexican ingredients.

Everything from the cheese to the seasoning on the meat at the Taco Bus tastes like real Mexican food, and although the style is slightly different from what I’m used to in Northern California, Taco Bus still makes an authentic meal that I can actually enjoy. Their Carne Asada tastes great and I have tried their tacos, burritos, and recently I finally gave their quesadillas a shot. I wasn’t disappointed.

My friends burrito. I like my burritos with Carne Asada and some refried beans/sour cream.

The quesadilla ($4.99) was pressed perfectly to be crunchy and with all the ingredients warmed to the right temperature.

The inside of my quesadilla looked amazing. Plenty of cheese, tomatoes, chicken, and onions.

I also get their horchata on every visit. Although their horchata tastes a little different then how I prefer it, it still tastes great and you get a ton of horchata for just a few bucks. Usually the food comes out quick and although lines get long they move pretty quickly. There is plenty of space inside and outside to eat as well. I am in love with the Taco Bus and would totally wear one of their t-shirts if I had more money.

They are opening a Taco Bus out in St. Petersburg and now all I can do is hope they bring one out to Brandon!

Taco Bus on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Taco Bus

Cuisine: Mexican

Address: 913 E. Hillsborough Ave, Tampa FL 33604

Neighborhood: Seminole Heights

Phone Number: (813)232-5889

Website: http://tampatacobus.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Taco-Bus/151303904885189

Twitter: @TacoBusTampa