Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Creative Loafing Tampa. I have partnered with them for their upcoming Margarita Wars and have received tickets in exchange for my post about their upcoming event and cross-promotions. Opinions are my own and do not reflect Creative Loafing or affiliates.
Ready to sip some margaritas? Creative Loafing is back with their annual Margarita Wars on Friday, July 26th at TPepin’s Hospitality Centre in Tampa from 7PM to 10PM. More than 15 of Tampa Bay’s mixologists will duke it out for who makes the best margs in town. All guests will enjoy unlimited samples of margaritas as well as food samples, entertainment, and voting in the Best Margarita competition.
Tickets are now on-sale. Prices will rise at the door if available on the event date. VIP includes an extra hour of admission as well as a VIP-area, swag, one beer, a $25 voucher to Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa, and more. It’s a great way to beat the rush and start the party early.
Use discount code CARLOSEATS to get $5 off your ticket until June 30th.
Event name: Margarita Wars
Venue: TPepin’s Hospitality Centre
Date & Time: Friday, July 26th, 7PM to 10PM, VIP starts at 6PM
Creative Loafing‘s annual food event, Meet The Chefs, is approaching quickly at The Vault in Downtown Tampa and will occur on Wednesday, June 12th, 2019 from 7PM-10PM. VIP is already sold out and GA is selling quickly as well.
General Admission includes small plates by each chef and more as well as an opportunity to meet them at the event (hence the name). The event is for ages 21 years and older and is rain or shine.
Some items on the menu include Gnocchi alla Vaccinara, Tete de Moine Rosette with lavender honey, Scallop Crudo with meyer lemon and dried herbs, Burnt End Arepas, Southern Lump Crab Cakes, Beef Tartare, and more.
Tickets are $55 in advance and will increase at the door. This event does sell out though so make sure you buy your tickets early if you want to attend.
I joined forces with a new food startup called Lunchpool on Sunday, May 19th for a Foodie Photoshoot / St. Pete Lunchpool Takeover. The idea was to eat our way through a section of Downtown St. Petersburg and connect people over food while trying some new places or outposts of businesses I have seen around Tampa.
Food has always been a passion of mine and a huge part of my life and this was another new avenue where food can make a difference.
The event was sponsored by Carlos Eats and also Rising Tide Innovation Center, a cowork space located in Downtown St. Pete that works to connect like-minded collaborators.
We made several stops throughout the day at popular restaurants, cafes, and shops in Downtown St. Pete. Some of them I was familiar with, but many of them I had never heard of as a citizen of Tampa across the bridge.
What I found is that there are plenty of awesome spots just waiting for people from Tampa to try. We cross the bridge for Rays games, Rowdies games, concerts at Jannus, and for First Friday. These are spots we should know and so I want to share them with you.
I love coffee and Intermezzo has to have one of the most beautiful shops I have seen in the Tampa Bay area. The espresso pours are excellent, the staff is friendly, and it is conveniently located next to plenty of restaurants on Central Avenue.
During this visit with Lunchpool I also tried the matcha for the first time through a friend and it was obvious that Intermezzo does its best to provide a quality product to all its customers. They have cocktails for those looking for a chill venue in the evenings after a long day working on your laptop.
Ford’s Garage has exploded in growth as a franchise in recent years. I still remember the first location in Brandon and how crazy packed it gets compared to its predecessor. Ford’s Garage has a wide-variety of burgers on the menu and an option to build your own as well.
We mainly shared appetizers and one thing that was surprising was how good the wings were. If you love craft beer, Ford’s Garage also has a very expansive beer menu with tons of local options which is how it should be everywhere in this town.
Poke has been absolutely on-fire in Tampa and across the bridge it is also taking hold of St. Petersburg. What I really like about Pacific Counter is the different options for their poke bowls and sushi burritos, but also the atmosphere which has a surfer ambiance.
So many places across the bridge fail to make an ambiance that is enjoyable and I notice St. Pete is especially good at this. During a second recent visit on another food tour I had the noodles and salmon and it was excellent. Also: try the Dole whip ice cream. It’s excellent and perfectly refreshing in this horribly hot weather.
This spot originally from across the bridge in Channelside has long been a favorite of mine and is on my Top 7 Pizza List. The owners hail from Italy and they do everything they can to put a quality experience into their product.
I love almost all their pies, but my sinful favorite is their Nutella Pizza which is something you have to treat yourself to after a long week of work! Their wines are actually also imported from their own vineyard in Italy if I’m not mistaken. The Downtown St. Pete location is just as beautiful inside as the Tampa spot.
Dessert was a fun-filled affair with Lunchpool. From the torch-roasted cakes at Swah-Rey to snapping photos of popsicles at The Hyppo, we were having a blast. I actually needed a coffee to keep myself going so I grabbed an espresso shot at Swah-Rey and it was quite enjoyable. The staff was super friendly as well.
Swah-Rey 625: 625 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. (727) 767-0527.
After a long day of walking, making new friends, and seeing so many things that St. Pete had to offer, we ended up at The Canopy at Birchwood, a rooftop bar in Downtown St. Pete that overlooks The Vinoy and the upcoming St. Pete Pier. The views from The Canopy are great and our server was a delight. The Canopy is the perfect way to end any day in Downtown St. Pete and it is probably one of my favorite places in the neighborhood.
Have you ever wanted to have a chef cook in your home for you and some guests but not been sure how to go about it? Hiring a private in-home chef can be a stressful affair, from trying to negotiate the cost per head, to sourcing ingredients, annoying callbacks, and trying to find someone who is available during your preferred time period. A new food start-up based in Tampa called Table Dot hopes to change that.
Table Dot’s mission is to provide quality, in-home chefs available on-demand to hungry customers. Whether it’s a romantic dinner for two, a family gathering, or a reunion with old friends, Table Dot hopes to simplify the process of connecting with a in-home chef and provide food tech solutions that will make it easier to book a party at your home.
Founder, Katherine Allen, has created a platform that allows customers to mix courses and options and get an upfront cost, avoiding any surprises along the way. The entire process is handled by Table Dot including shopping, food prep, and cleanup.
The goal is to provide access to chefs in a responsible way, enabling cooks a simple solution and diners a hassle-free method to connect with private in-home chefs. The cost will vary according to the menu items sought, but could be as low as $12 a head according to Allen.
The start-up is seeking chefs and cooks to join their program. Table Dot hopes to build a large community of cooks and chefs and to empower line cooks and other chefs who have aspirations to cook on a different scale to join their cause. Allen herself has a background in providing in-home chef experiences and was inspired by her own experiences and difficulties to create Table Dot.
There are plans for an iOS and Android app in-development for Table Dot and Allen hopes to have a system that will be as easy as taking out your phone and planning your next gathering or meal at home in the future. Table Dot sounds like a promising and innovative product that could be very successful with the right combination of chefs and tech.
To find out more about Table Dot, visit them online at tabledot.com.
Looking for something to do for Easter Sunday 2019 in Tampa Bay? Numerous hotels, restaurants, and bars are having events with buffets. Most have options for kids as well.
Here are some options:
Shepard’s OCEAN FLAME: This Clearwater Beach spot is serving your favorites from 10AM-9PM and offering brunch items until 2:30pm. Reservations are strongly encouraged. 619 S. Gulfview Blvd., Clearwater Beach 33767. (727) 442-5107. http://bit.ly/shepoceanflame
Bizou Brasserie: Bizou’s Easter brunch buffet in Downtown Tampa will be served from 10AM to 3PM. Buffet prices are inclusive of all non-alcoholic beverages. Bloody Marys and Mimosas will be offered for $6 each (after 11AM) during brunch. Buffet is $45+ for adults and kids over age 12, $22+ for ages 5-12 years old, and FREE for kids ages 4 and under. Reservations are highly recommended, as preferred dining times fill up quickly. 601 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 227-9555.https://www.opentable.com/bizou-brasserie.
GameTime: Head over to Ybor City for Easter brunch with Sonic the Hedgehog, everyone’s favorite mascot. Take a picture and enjoy a delicious buffet on Easter Sunday, April 21st from 10AM to 3PM. Enjoy food and entertainment for all ages. Only $16.99 per adult, and $9.99 per child under 12 years old. 1600 E. 8th Ave., Tampa, FL 33605. (813) 241-9675.
Rusty Pelican: Enjoy a waterfront Easter Sunday Champagne Buffet from 9:30AM to 4PM. Tickets are $75 for adults and $35 for children ages 5 to 12. On the menu: Applewood Smoked Prime Rib, Pesto Crusted Leg of Lamb, Honey Glazed Salmon, Crab Legs, Raw Bar, Decadent Desserts, Bottomless Mimosas, Bloody Mary Bar, Photo Booth, and more. 2425 N. Rocky Point Dr., Tampa, FL 33607. (813) 281-1943. http://bit.ly/2UdieSI
FarmTable Cucina: Enjoy a special Easter brunch for $89 per person from 11AM to 3PM, which includes bottomless mimosas. On the menu: Seafood Bar, Bowtie Pasta, Potato Salad, Roasted Beet Salad, Caprese, Panzanella, Breakfast Pastries, Breads, Desserts, and more. 179 2nd Ave N., St. Petersburg, FL 33701. (727) 523-6297. http://farmtablecucina.com/reservation/
Sirata Beach Resort: Head to the beach for an annual Easter Buffet Brunch. Enjoy fun, food, and festivities for the entire family. $49.95 for adults and $16.95 for kids. and $39.95 for Seniors. Add an unlimited Bloody Mary & Mimosa Bar for just $20. 5300 Gulf Blvd, St Pete Beach, FL 33706. (727) 363-5100. http://bit.ly/SirataEasterBrunch
Gourmet burger giant Shake Shack opens today at The Mall at University Town Center (UTC) Sarasota. The burger franchise hopes to have 200 locations by 2020.
Shake Shack is serving the Pie Oh My Concrete, which has vanilla custard mixed with a slice of Four & Twenty Blackbirds seasonal pie. 5% of the sales of this item will support Sunshine Community Compost.
Their goal is “to strengthen community connections and give back to the planet through accessible education and action programs that increase local composting, resource recovery and zero waste efforts”.
Local Florida craft beer will be for-sale at the location including Crooked Can Brewing Company, Cigar City Brewing, and Orange Blossom Brewing Co. Shake Shack’s own exclusive Brooklyn Brewing ShackMeister® Ale.
The Herald-Tribune reported live from the opening today.
Now hopefully Shake Shack will set the stage and come to Tampa soon, hungry fans are still waiting for the franchise to enter the market. The Tampa Bay Times reported that the lease in Sarasota is for 10 years.
Shake Shack was founded in 2001 as a hot dog cart that has grown into a massive burger business. The company entered the New York Stock Exchange in 2014 and prides itself on “100% all-natural Angus beef, vegetarian fed, humanely raised and source verified. No hormones or antibiotics – EVER”.
Address: 190 N Cattlemen Road, Unit 1 Sarasota, FL 34243
Phone Number: (941) 413-1351
Hours: 11AM to 10PM, Sunday – Thursday, 11AM to 11PM, Friday & Saturday
The 8th Annual International Cuban Sandwich Festival was a success yet again. Competitors came from all around to compete for the World’s Best Cuban Sandwich. Cuban Sandwich Festival is a precursor to the World Food Championships. This year’s event was held in Historic Ybor City at Centennial Park which is where the event was first hosted 8 years ago.
The winners of the event are split into categories that competitors participated in.
Tampa Historic Sandwich:
Las Palmas Latin Grill: This is a small restaurant near Wesley Chapel and New Tampa serving Cuban food. 6431 E County Line Rd Suite 104, Tampa, FL 33647. (813) 803-3903. laspalmaslatingrill.com
First Harvest Deli
GloriRod’s Coffee Shop: Lowry Park coffee shop named after Figuereo matriarch founded by Juan and Kir Figuereo, Gloria that serves sandwiches, pastries, empanadas, and salads, among other things. They claim their secret is their pork, which is marinated with Gloria’s secret recipe and slow-roasted until it melts off the bone. GloriRod’s opened in late 2018 and found the Cuban Sandwich Festival via Facebook, they wanted to enter due to the important of the Cuban Sandwich to history and culture in Tampa. 7901 N. Armenia Ave Ste B, Tampa, FL 33604. (813) 650-1332. glorirodscoffeeshop.com
Smokin Showin Catering: Two firemen who love to cook based out of Land O Lakes. They do a variety of bbq including smoked pork, chicken, meatloaf, ribs, and more. (813) 294-9892. smokeshowincatering.com
Popular Cuban Sandwich:
Cuban Spot: Houston food truck serving up Cuban eats. Originally from Miami, but living in Texas for 14 years. These minds behind Cuban Spot have no formal kitchen training, but are passionate about Cuban food. Owners say the Cuban population is rising little by little in Houston due to the cheap cost of living. Cuban Spot’s founders were tired of all the taco spots in Texas and decided to create a spot for Cuban food 4 years ago in 2015. Initially focusing on Cuban dishes such as Cuban fritas, the Cuban Sandwich became a shining star for them and after being called the best by their customers, they decided to enter the Cuban Sandwich Festival. They credit their success on their modifications to their Cuban bread, their flavorful and juicy pulled park, and using hot pork instead of cold slices. (713) 679-3802. thecubanspot.com
Tampa Sammich, LLC: Local sandwich standard serving up Cubans made with La Segunda Bread. (813) 447-4316. facebook.com/tampasammich
This Little Pig: Food stand specializing in creole, bbq, fusion. Chef John originally hails from Miami and worked at the Brennan’s at Palace Cafe, Bourbon House, and Dickie Brennan’s Steak House in New Orleans. After reviving and running Maple Street Patisserie Et Deli on Magazine Street, Chef John held the Executive Chef position at Upperline restaurant before coming back to Florida to be closer to family and raise children in Tampa. This Little Pig does pop ups at local breweries and “open format” catering. Chef John used his influences from Miami and Tampa to guide him in this sandwich that uses in-house cured and smoked Tasso, pork roasted in traditional mojo, a dijon/majo blend, and crispy garlic dill with salami and swiss served on historic La Segunda Cuban bread with butter and foil wrapped cobblestones. This Little Pig also offered a Po’ Boy version with lettuce, tomatoe, and spice creole comeback sauce – a nod to their time in New Orleans. (813)526-3497facebook.com/thislittlepigbbq
World’s Best Cuban Sandwich:
Chef Iliana Concierge Chef: Chef Iliana competes all over the country in food competitions. This will be her second time at the World Food Championships and she has won 3 golden tickets in total to the competition. She works with Fight2Feed to create competitions to help feed people in need in 26 cities. She signed up for the Cuban Sandwich Festival as a way to challenge herself and competed with the support of her family this year who she cooked with as a family exercise. She also won the Kissimmee Cuban Sandwich Festival earlier in 2019. www.facebook.com/conciergechefevents
Chef Jeannie Pierola from Edison: Food + Drink Lab has been nominated as a Semifinalist for Best Chef in the South 2019. Chef Pierola has been nominated numerous times in the past for the James Beard Foundation awards. She previously worked as a chef at Bern’s Steak House and SideBern’s in South Tampa. Her most recent project is Edison’s Swigamajig at Sparkman Wharf.
Chef Rachel Bennett from The Library in St. Petersburg is nominated as a Semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year 2019. The Library is the latest project from the owners at the Oxford Exchange in Tampa. Rachel is a graduate of the Hillsborough Community College (HCC) Culinary Program. Her past projects include Bern’s Steak House, Edison, Puff ‘n Stuff Catering, and the Oxford Exchange itself.
Congrats to these chefs and keep up the great work!
This post comes from Deborah Bostock-Kelley. Deborah is a food writer and is going to highlight some great vegan and gluten-free eats for us. I am asked all the time about vegan food, but it isn’t my specialty so I am very excited to have her writing for us.
It’s hard enough to find restaurants when you are following a gluten-free lifestyle, but throw meat, dairy and egg-free into the mix and you would think your eating-out meal options would be limited to salad, salad and, yes, more salad.
For most chain
restaurants, that option is sadly true, but surprisingly in Tampa
Bay, individually-owned gems are making healthy living – vegan,
vegetarian, and gluten-free – more mainstream, affordable, and
available to an appreciative public.
With the help of the Now Find Me Gluten-Free, Happy Cow, and Vanilla Bean Vegetarian/Vegan restaurant-finder apps, my husband and I have been able to navigate this lifestyle to find several delicious options on the weekends through restaurants that can accommodate.
3 vegan eats to start your trip around Tampa Bay
Here are the first three restaurants to dip your toe into the animal-products-free lifestyle:
1. Thai Legacy
First and foremost, the family-owned Thai Legacy, is hands-down the best Thai Restaurant for vegan options. Open for just two years in February, from the complimentary puffed shrimp toast with chili dipping sauce to an every-visit order of the huge bowl of lemony Tom Yum Soup, (family-sized because we love the leftovers) to the Pad Thai or Drunken Noodles or scratch-made red and green curries ranging from mild to I-can’t-feel-my-face hot, the separate Vegan menu offers nearly 30 different options – appetizers, soups, fried rice, noodles, curries, specialty meals and desserts.
Our favorite, Veggie Pad Thai, is incredibly flavorful stir-fried rice noodles with diced tofu, sweet radish, beansprouts, and crushed peanuts. It’s cooked in a mouth-watering, homemade, vegan Pad Thai sauce. Owner Preeda Saeiab always make you feel welcome and her chef, son Perry makes sure you leave with your belly full and taste buds happy. 120 North Parsons Avenue Brandon, FL 33510. (813) 685-8005. thailegacyrestaurant.com
2. Loving Hut
Loving Hut is a staple to the vegan community on the USF college side of town. Every menu item is affordable as the founder wants healthy vegan food accessible for everyone. We visit for their monthly buffet (usually the first Saturday of the month) featuring soups, salads, summer rolls, spring rolls, pasta dishes, sandwiches, veggie dishes and desserts that are always changing.
The restaurant features appetizers, salads, vegan chick’n wings, shrimpless shrimp and fishless fish, as well salads, burrito wraps, sandwiches with staples like French fries and vegan mozzarella sticks. While my husband gravitates to the sandwiches and wraps, as the soy substitute is not gluten-free, I enjoy the spring rolls and creamy potato kale soup with vegan cream cheese or the delectable Beyond Meat Burger without the bun. The large menu can please even the most finnicky of palettes. 1905 East Fletcher Avenue Tampa, Florida. (813) 977-7888. lovinghut.us/tampa/
3. Rawk Star Café
At Rawk Star Café it may seem odd that a restaurant would not have an oven, but it makes sense when you realize everything you eat there is raw. If you are what you eat, you are super healthy raw vegetables masquerading as burgers, pizza, spaghetti, and chili and you taste incredible.
Peanut, wheat/gluten, and soy-free, Rawk Star Café serves only organic, raw, and living vegan cuisine. From powerhouse smoothies, Mother Kombucha on tap, Bulletproof Coffee, eggless egg salad, collard leaf wraps, and salads to Rawghetti, a Raw Burger, Raw Pizza, a Raw Chili plate, and many types of raw desserts and sweets, there is something to tempt even the strongest meat-atarian.
My absolute favorite, the Raw Chili plate, is loaded with fresh tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, carrots, celery, shiitake mushroom, red bell pepper, and jalapeno and cayenne for heat. It’s served over a bed of thinly chopped zucchini, and then topped with a macadamia nut “sour cream,” fresh tomatoes, and house-blended Prama Sprinkle. Despite normal, non-supersized portions, you do not leave Rawk Star Café still feeling hungry. The high nutrient food leaves you feeling full longer. 4011 Tampa Road Oldsmar, FL. (813) 855-0007rawkstarcafe.com
Next time, we’ll visit Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant, Ray’s Vegan Soul, and Halelife Bakery.
About Deborah: Deborah Bostock-Kelley is a busy restaurant reviewer, Broadway World theatre critic, playwright, producer, director, actress, children and young adult author, reporter for Groove Magazine, Seedling Magazine UK and Tampa Bay News & Lifestyles Magazine, and owner of The WriteOne Creative Services, a graphic design, web design, and copywriting company. As the philanthropic side of her company, she founded Life Amplified variety showcase in 2013 to give back to her community and was recognized in February 2016 as Bay News 9’s Every Day Hero and in May 2014 as FoxTV’s Hometown Hero. Life Amplified CONNECTIONS Broadway Tunes for Project No Labels is at Stageworks in June 2019 is her 13th showcase. Winning a 2017 Theatre Tampa Bay Jeff Norton Dream Grant, in January 2018 she wrote and produced the 2018 Broadway World award-winning (Best Actor & Best Actress) production, A Necessary Conversation (with Peter Nason) about bullying/gun violence/mental health with a community talkback at the Straz with proceeds going to Moms Demand Action, Tampa Chapter. The show has been expanded and she is directing later in 2019. Her one act plays have been performed in competition at Carrollwood Players, Tarpon Arts and Tampa Bay Theatre Festival. She also runs a blog about her gluten-free and vegan journey. www.dkvk.fun.
Looking to party the night away on New Year’s Eve 2019? I have you covered.
Here are some recommendations of events happening around town:
New Year’s Eve Gala at Armature Works: Celebrate NYE 2019 at one of Tampa’s hottest spots this year. Armature Work changed what people view Tampa’s waterfront to be and opened the floodgates to a whole new part of town. Armature Works. 1910 North Ola Avenue, Tampa, Florida. $205+
New Year’s Eve at MFA – 1st Annual: The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg is throwing their 1st annual bash to ring in 2019. Options include dinner or just partying the night away with special exhibitions available to guests and a view to Downtown St. Pete’s NYE fireworks display. Museum of Fine Arts, St. Pete. 255 Beach Drive, St. Petersburg, Florida. $175+
New Year’s Eve Pool Party at Postcard Inn: Those looking for a relaxing and chill NYE might opt for a casual night of beach-front fun at Postcard Inn on St. Pete Beach. Swim shorts not included. Postcard Inn. 6300 Gulf Boulevard, St. Pete Beach, Florida. No cover.
6th Annual Black Tie BBQ at Cafe Dufrain: New Year’s Eve is one of the busiest nights for restaurants as diners splurge on a special evening with warm wishes for a new year. Make sure to get your reservation in early. Cafe Dufrain. 707 Harbour Post Drive, Tampa, Florida. $45+
New Year’s Eve at American Social Tampa: American Social has one of Tampa’s best waterfront views and is always a prime location for fireworks and displays on the bay. If you’re ready to party, American Social is ready to get down. American Social. 601 South Harbour Island Boulevard #107, Tampa, Florida.$150+
Havana Heights: Mandarin Heights and Bodega Seminole Heights are joining forces to provide a Cuban-inspired affair with cocktails and delicious food flowing all night long. 5901 North Florida Avenue, Tampa, Florida. $100+
NYE 2019 on EDGE Social Drinkery: Those looking to escape to a bar and chill can enjoy a casual NYE on top of the Epicurean Hotel in South Tampa. Drink specials all night. EDGE Social Drinkery. 1207 South Howard Avenue, Tampa, Florida. No cover.
New Year’s Eve Tiki Fest at The Birchwood: One of the best spots in Downtown St. Pete on Beach Drive is offering a New Year’s Eve Tiki Fest this year to ring in 2019 with gourmet food and an open bar. Tickets are going fast so get yours soon. The Birchwood. 340 Beach Drive Northeast, St. Petersburg, Florida. $135+
Party Like Its 1999 NYE Party at The Bricks: Take it back the late 1990s and 2000s at The Bricks in Ybor City to ring in 2019 for New Year’s Eve. Don’t forget your windbreaker. The Bricks. 1327 East 7th Avenue, Ybor City, Florida. No Cover.
Punkcade NYE Party: Seminole Heights retro-gaming bar Lowry Parcade is having a punk-themed party for NYE 2019 with beat’em up games at the center of the fun. Plenty of games and fun all night. Lowry Parcade. 1213 West Waters Avenue, Tampa, Florida. No cover.