Bento Cafe opening in Downtown St. Petersburg

Popular Asian eatery, Bento Cafe, is planning to open their first Tampa Bay location in Downtown St. Petersburg in the Spring of 2018. According to St. Pete Rising the location will feature 80 seats along with outdoor sidewalk tables.

It makes sense considering how much Downtown St. Petersburg has grown over the years, but it is definitely a little disappointing to all the USF – Tampa students that have waited years for a location after frequenting locations at the University of Florida, University of Central Florida, and even University of North Florida. Apparently Bento is also looking for 2 locations in Tampa.

Bento Cafe has been hinting at a Tampa Bay location for over 2 years on Facebook and seems to be expanding rapidly across the state over the next year or so. Hopefully in the future Bento will look at the USF area as a potential future investment area.

Bento is known for their fast-casual Asian environment with inspirations from Japanese, Thai, Korean, and other Asian cuisines. 

Their sushi rolls are quite popular and their sashimi rice bowls are a personal favorite as well as their Spicy Cream Chicken. In addition, Bento also sells bubble tea and other popular Asian drinks.

Visit Bento online at http://www.bentocafesushi.com/

S Bar Speakeasy and Sushi Bar now open (Brandon)

Full disclosure: I was invited to S Bar for their preview night about a week ago where they served complimentary hor d’oeuvres to the public to preview their restaurant. I visited again today on my own for some sushi for lunch and decided to write a post about their grand opening. Opinions stated are my own.

Brandon has a new concept called S Bar open that fuses 1920s speakeasy cocktails and southern bistro food with a sushi bar. The restaurant opened to the public last Sunday June 11th, 2017.

Beautiful bar area inside @s__bar #vipnight #taste #foodies #sushi #tampafl #tampabay #CarlosEats

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Scooby Snacks @s__bar #CarlosEats #sushibar #tampabay #tampa #tampafl #sushi #foodies #taste #vipnight

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The location was formerly known as The Rack in the past and the entire restaurant has been re-done to have a more intimate and upscale ambiance. Many of the staff members and management also are related to The Rack and you’ll find some of your favorite sushi rolls from that time on the menu at S Bar.

Sushi rolls range from about $4 to $16 and include the popular Volcano Roll and The Rack rolls from the previous tenant of the establishment. During the days of The Rack, I was personally in love with the Volcano Roll and many places simply could not compare. Specials are being developed and will roll out in the future – most information for that will be posted to their Facebook page.

The southern bistro menu includes grits, fried green tomatoes, corn bread, and more in development. The menu will be fully available in the near future.

S Bar seems to be targeting a more upscale crowd then its predecessor and it would be a great place to grab some drinks locally in Brandon or to go out on a date night or a night out with friends for young professionals or professionals in general.

Yellowtail Nigiri @s__bar #CarlosEats #tampafl #tampabay #foodies #brandonflorida #brandonfl #sushi #nigiri

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The Executive Chef for S Bar, Gia Tran, has previously worked at Ocean Prime and won the Sushi Battle last year in 2016 and also ran the Urban Sushi Burrito food stand that could be found at most Big City Events festivals such as the Margarita Festival and Rum Festival.

If you’re in Brandon driving down State Road 60 off I-75, stop by and give it a look.  The restaurant is open late daily and apparently brunch is in the works.

S Bar - now open

Restaurant name: S Bar

Cuisine: Sushi, Southern

Neighborhood: Brandon

Address: 1025 W. Brandon Blvd., Brandon, FL 33511

Phone Number: (813) 575-7227

Website: http://www.thesbar.com/

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

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

Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach’s Ocean Hai Supports Local Charities

The next time you dine at Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach‘s Ocean Hai restaurant, sit at table #31 to support Pinellas County local charities.

Bamboo + 💚 #werklife #bcvsocial #foodstyling #bcvtravels

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The program “You Dine, We Donate” will select a new local charity every month to feature and donates all net proceeds from food and non-alcoholic beverage purchases at the assigned table to a cause. Here is the upcoming list:

  • April: Autism Awareness Month – Tampa Bay Chapter
  • May: Troop Rewards
  • June: Pinellas County Lifeguards
  • July: Clearwater Marine Aquarium
  • August: Pinellas County Schools
  • September: Eckerd Kids
  • October: Hooked on Hope
  • November: Clearwater for Youth
  • December: Arts for Life

Not a bad view for lunch!

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Ocean Hai is the signature restaurant at Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach serving Asian-fusion cuisine with inspirations from Asian countries such as Japan, Thailand, and China.

Chef de Cuisine John Capponi previously worked at Tampa’s On Swann in Hyde Park Village as Executive Chef and as Executive Sous Chef at Skytop Lounge in Pennsylvania.

The Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach is located at 100 Coronado Drive and is ocean-front. Clearwater Beach was recently named #4 on the 2017 “Top 10 Traveler’s Choice Beaches in the United States” by TripAdvisor.

Visit Ocean Hai online to book a reservation at http://www.wyndhamgrandclearwater.com/dining/ocean-hai

St. Petersburg restaurant features Trump Tower Burger

Boulevard Burgers & Tap House located in St. Petersburg (not in Russia but Florida) will honor President-Elect Donald Trump with a “Trump Tower Burger” special for the month of January. Donald Trump’s Presidential Inauguration will occur on Friday, January 20, 2017.

Trump Tower Burger

According to a press release, the burger will embrace the traits of Mr. Trump and “his empire” with features that embody him including: “double patties for “Trump Tower” sky-high height, onion straws that embody Trump’s famous blonde locks, and good ol’ American cheese”.

Donald Trump is a well-documented fast food junkie, often frequenting fast food chains instead of local shops during the campaign trail and has been recorded stating he eats fast food because “at least you know what they are putting in it”.

Like many Americans, Donald Trump is considered overweight and has slightly high cholesterol, according to Bloomberg Politics. Trump’s fast food habit led Esquire to state “large obnoxious man enjoys large obnoxious meals”.

The restaurant claims they want to “Make American Cheese Great Again” as well – whatever that means. Boulevard Burgers & Tap House was opened in 2014 on Gulf Boulevard across from St. Pete Beach and features burgers, craft beer, fresh seafood, and live entertainment on weekends.

Boulevard owner, Marco, has establishments throughout New York and St. Petersburg’s Fortunato’s On Central and the Local 662. The management recently acquired De’Lites Ice Cream next to Boulevard Burgers with a new concept planned for Fall 2017.

Boulevard Burgers & Tap House. 5905 Gulf Boulevard, St Pete Beach, FL 33706. (727) 201-4906. blvdburgers.com

Dave & Buster’s arcade coming to Brandon

Popular game arcade and sports bar, Dave & Buster’s, is making plans to come to Brandon after years of speculation of when they would arrive in the Tampa Bay market. The 40,000 square-foot facility features a restaurant and 412 parking spots.

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The restaurant serves American food fare including burgers, ribs, steak, seafood, sandwiches, and salads. Alcohol options includes wine, bottled beer, local beer, and spirits.

Let’s hope they bring the new Dance Dance Revolution over to the Brandon location (cue: 90’s and early 2000’s memories).

Major local competitor GameTime just finished a remodeling worth $1 million in Ybor City that includes high-end modern materials and furnishings, 65 TV’s, and new attractions and games. Time will tell if Dave & Buster’s has any impact on their business.

The greater Brandon area has been rapidly building new apartment complexes and home projects keeping in line with all the new business coming to the area with TopGolf and Bass Pro Shops already established in the area. In addition, this fall Goodrich Quality Theaters will open a multiplex in Gibsonton and Xscape Theatres will open in Riverview on the corner of Progress Blvd. and I-75 soon as well. Previously the only option for Brandon residents was AMC Regency 20.

Izakaya Japanese pub ‘Noble Rice’ now open

Tampa residents can enjoy a whole new experience with the soft opening of Noble Rice, an izakaya or Japanese style pub in South Tampa on Platt Street. These pubs normally serve Japanese appetizers and beer/sake wine to customers in an intimate setting used for socializing or meetings.

The restaurant is aiming for a traditional Japanese environment and menu with some inspiration from the south. Head Chef and Co-Owner, Eric Fralick, feels “southern comfort food and Japanese comfort food are so compatible, they were meant to be together”.

Fusion dishes include Sake Ribs utilizing Japanese sake to kick up a southern favorite and Tan Tan Men Wings inspired by buffalo wings. Many of the traditional dishes also incorporate fusion elements into them.

Traditional Japanese izakaya finds include yakitori (meat and vegetable skewers), takoyaki (octopus balls), gyoza (pan-fried dumplings), yamakake (grated yam), and a number of nigiri/sushi options. Ramen lovers will also find a variety of Shoyu ramen soups (soy-sauce base).

It wouldn’t be a true izakaya if we were not also discussing the drink selections. Sake lovers can find a wide-selection of rice wine. Noble Rice serves a Japanese distilled spirit, called shochu, which is derived from a variety of ingredients including sweet potato, barley, buckwheat, and sugar cane. Popular local craft beer will also be available on tap.

Here is a current list of beer/wine (7/21/16):

Shochu

  • Satsuma Shiranami – Sweet Potato
  • Hakutake Shiro Kome -Rice
  • Chiyonosono 8,000 Generation – Rice
  • Kintaro – Roasted Barley

Sake

  • Ama No To Heavens Door
  • Junmai
  • Kikusui Blue Junmai
  • Southern Beauty
  • Born Gold Konteki Pearls of Simplicity
  • Tozai Snow Maiden Nigori
  • Hiko’s Reserve Junmai
  • Eiko Fuji BanRyu
  • Sword of the Sun

Wine

  • Cabernet Savignon – Grayson Cellars
  • Pinot Noir – Block Nine
  • Chardonnay -Annabella
  • Sparkling – Francois Montand Brut

Beer on Tap (rotating to local companies)

  • Big Storm – Wavemaker
  • Coppertail – Free Dive
  • Coppertail – Unholy Tripple
  • 3 Daughters- Beach Blonde
  • Darwin- Parata Pils

Bottled Beer

  • Duchesse de Bourgogne
  • Nest Red Rice Ale
  • Seadog Blue Paw
  • Stella Artois
  • Woodchuck Granny Smith Cider
  • Motorworks – V Twin

Here are some photos via Noble Rice Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NobleRiceCo/

Yakitori

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Blood Orange Ramen

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Noble Rice. 807 W Platt St, Tampa, FL 33606. (813) 284-7423 noblericeco.com

Mema’s Alaskan Tacos closing shop, last day to visit October 14th

Mema’s Alaskan Tacos, a popular taco eatery in Ybor City that opened shop in 2004, is closing down and having their closing bash Friday, October 14th, at 4:00PM. There will be a limited menu with tacos, nachos, burritos, and beer. They will stay open until they run out of food and beer. Restaurateur Sean Godin’s grandmother, Mema, learned how to make their tacos in Alaska during the 1950s.

Mema’s Facebook page reads:

“To all of our loyal customers.I want to thank you for the good times. Our closing is an unfortunate result of many things, most of all the deadstill economy and rising prices. Rather than sacrifice quality and service, the decision was to close the doors. So, thank you Tampa, for everything.”

I personally was only able to visit Mema’s Alaskan Tacos once during my many years of living in Tampa, but the experience was a positive one. I still remember the great taste of their chorizo taco and the refried beans. For many years I remember reading the raving reviews online (over 100 on Yelp) and always being curious about the late-night taco shop in Ybor City. Mema’s Alaskan Tacos will be missed and I am sad I will not be able to have their tacos one last time  before they close shop.