Shula Burger now open in SoHo District

Full disclosure: I was invited to Shula Burger to try their food for my opinion and to do a story about their opening which I wanted to publish. The opinions mentioned are my own based on my visit and do not represent Shula Burger.

Shula Burger is now open in the SoHo District in South Tampa at 500 South Howard Avenue, Tampa, FL 33606. The Fort Lauderdale-based gourmet burger concept is part of the same family as Shula’s Steak House and similar Shula brands. Named after Don Shula, an NFL legend and Hall of Fame Coach who won back to back Superbowls in 1972 and 1973 with the Miami Dolphins.

Shula Burger

Shula’s Signature Burger is made from premium black angus beef, short rib, and brisket. The burgers are fresh and never frozen. Bread buns comes from Tom Cat Bakery, one of the original artisan bread bakeries in New York City. Tampa Owner and Operator, Zydrunas “Z” Rackauskas, seeks to bring something different to the South Tampa area that provides quality food and customer service to a busy and active area.

Another important factor for Z is turnaround time. New technology allows Shula to provide burgers made in less than 5 minutes to customers making it a good option if you’re in rush for lunch.

Those looking for something besides a burger can check out the Goodseed Organic Veggie Burger and Marinated Chicken Sandwich as alternatives.

I found the “Perfect Burger” to be more filling than I originally anticipated. It has a clean taste and pretty solid flavoring. This burger features two patties with Shula’s Special Sauce, cheese, pickles, tomato, and lettuce on a bun. The onion rings were flavorful and I think they were the kind of big onion rings I’d want to dip in some mayo in the future. The strawberry milkshake was a guilty pleasure. I still need to try the french fries in the future and other menu items.

Some toppings I am interested in checking out include their Korean barbeque sauce, Sriracha mayo, fried jalapenos, and tomato-bacon marmalade.

The new location is planning a Grand Opening on March 7th with the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Don Shula will be in attendance. The new location hopes to have beer and wine for sale in the next two months. Customers can enjoy nearly daily discounts leading into the opening day.

First-Responders and Military-personnel can enjoy 15% off with uniform or ID.

Shula Burger is open from 11AM to 11PM from Sunday to Wednesday and 11AM to 4AM from Thursday to Saturday making it an option for those hitting the bars and nightlife in South Tampa.

Restaurant Name: Shula Burger

Neighborhood: South Tampa

Cuisine: Burgers, American

Cost: $

Address: 500 South Howard Avenue, Tampa, FL 33606

Phone Number: (813) 867-8230

Website: http://www.shulaburger.com

Menu: http://www.shulaburger.com/menu/

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Gasparilla Party @ The Drynk Soho – 1/27

The Drynk Soho will have a Gasparilla party from 4PM-3AM on Saturday, January 27th, 2018. The event will be hosted by Floribama Shore’s Gus Symrnios.

The Drynk is located at 302 South Howard Avenue, Tampa, FL 33606.

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Tickets are now on-sale and are currently at $15 for General Admission. The event is presented by The Black Heart Group.

Buy tickets: https://www.tablelist.com/e/gasparilla-2018-day-party-at-the-drynk-soho-d68b062de86254f4

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

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

Bella’s Italian Cafe

I had dinner at Bella’s Italian Cafe the other night after driving up Howard Ave. looking for a place to eat. After successfully finding parking (the lot was packed) right in the front (score!) I walked inside to put my name in to eat. The restaurant was packed, but it only took about five to ten minutes to get seated. I was seated in a booth and the waiter immediately brought me some water and some bruschetta and started helping with my order.

Bread & Butter

I decided to order Fettuccine Alfredo (I’m quite a traditionalist) and the waiter, Andrew F., quickly put my order in and brought me some warm bread and butter. This waiter had to be one of the best severs I have ever had in Tampa Bay and frequently checked on me throughout the night to make sure my meal was satisfactory. Within about 10 to 20 minutes I had my Fettuccine Alfredo arrive at my table.

The Alfredo sauce was just as good as the waiter said it would be, a unique taste…reminded me of a sauce I had in San Francisco once. It was thick and creamy just how I like it, not watered down like the Fettuccine I had at The Italian Kitchen on 301. It has to be one of the best pastas I have had in Tampa and the price was $10.99, more than Olive Garden but cheaper than eating at Carrabba’s. The pasta had a great texture and wasn’t thin like I have also had at some Italian restaurants recently. The Fettuccine Alfredo won my love and I would recommend it to any pasta lover.

There was plenty of pasta and I was feeling full before I knew it. After some debate I decided to go with dessert, a half-size of Tiramisu for $3.75. Andrew F. quickly took my Fettuccine Alfredo and boxed it up and put the date and item on the box with a smiley face. I felt like a kid, but that is quality service. Who doesn’t like to be treated great in a restaurant?

My Tiramisu was out within a few minutes. The waiter was kind enough to pour the chocolate over it. They give you the same amount of chocolate whether it’s a half or whole size of dessert so I was in sweet heaven once the chocolate was poured. The Tiramisu was different from what I have had, much richer in chocolate and sweeter. It was great and the half-size was just right with an entrée.

The waiter brought me the bill after my dessert, but didn’t pressure me to leave. He kept checking on me and re-filling my water I requested during my dessert and that is quality service. The service kept going even after the waiter finished his duty of delivering the food. Bella’s impressed me with its tasty Italian food and phenomenal customer service (props to Andrew F. for making my first visit a great one). I spent less than $20 and ordered the Fettuccine Alfredo, a soda, and a Tiramisu. While browsing the menu I came across their lunch menu which has many dishes for under $5! Have to have lunch at Bella’s someday.

Bella's Italian Cafe on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Bella’s Italian Cafe

Cuisine: Italian

Address: 1413 S Howard Ave. Tampa, FL 33606

Neighborhood: Hyde Park

Phone Number: (813) 254-3355

Website: http://www.bellasitaliancafe.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bellas-Italian-Cafe/47956797890