Reviews

Cantina Laredo Tasting (Wesley Chapel)

Full disclosure: I was invited to Cantina Laredo for a tasting of their new menu items. My meal was provided at no charge in exchange for my opinion so please keep that in mind. Opinions are my own and do not represent the views of Cantina Laredo.

I recently visited Cantina Laredo at The Shops at Wiregrass for a tasting of their menu. The restaurant has been in the Wiregrass mall for a few years and serves what I would call contemporary Mexican cuisine. It isn’t traditional Mexican cooking, but a gourmet and modern take on it with various Mexican inspirations spread throughout.

We had the most excellent server in the house and her name was Rosie if you want to flag her down for your meal. She works most days and was completely hospitable, relate-able, and had a full understanding of the menu – easily able to make any recommendation or to answer any questions. I’d recommend her as a server.

The tasting began with appetizers.

The Ceviche ($10.49) features marinated fish and shrimp drenched in lime juice and Cholula with avocado and is gluten-free. Personally, I felt the portion for the appetizer could be larger considering that it is meant to be shared but the overall flavors were very good. Everything tasted fresh.

The Ahi Tuna Tacos ($10.29) came next and were also enjoyable, but also quite small for the price. Tuna appetizers are usually on the lighter side anyway so it wasn’t that surprising. The tacos would be a great snack with a drink if you’re not too hungry.

Both soups: Sopa de Tortilla and Arroz Con Pollo were both delicious and affordable at $4.99 a cup and $7.29 a bowl and I would recommend both soups. Mexican and Spanish soups in general when made right are really great meals and enjoyable.

One of the more popular things on the menu at Cantina Laredo is their freshly-made guacamole which I had with their queso appetizer ($9.49) and thoroughly enjoyed.

The guacamole is made table-side and uses Haas Avocados (as all guacamole should), jalapeno, tomato, red onion, cilantro, and lime juice. Queso fresco is added for this appetizer and is one of my favorite cheeses as a transplant from California.

We tasted a few cocktails during our visit and the one I will recommend you order is their Strawberry Mint Margarita ($12). That was delicious and all their margaritas packed a punch (you’ve been warned).

Moving on to entrees.

My two favorite things we tried were the Cascabel Ribeye ($29.99) and Camaron Poblano Asada ($24.99). The steak at the restaurant is clearly top-notch from the juiciness of the ribeye and the tenderness of the asada.

I get a little skiddish about ordering Carne Asada in Mexican restaurants nowadays because many of them have tough skirt steak that isn’t flavorful enough. Not a problem at all with the steaks I tried at Cantina Laredo.

The ribeye was completely juicy and definitely better than I have had at numerous restaurants around Tampa Bay. The bone-in ribeye is dry-aged for 21 days and brushed with a Cascabel sauce that I recommend on the side. It was a tasty sauce – but not one I would want to be drenched over my ribeye. I need to taste the juicy parts in my mouth by themselves – this steak needed no sauce and certainly no ketchup. 😉

There is nothing worse than ordering a steak and being disappointed and I will order the steak again in the future at Cantina Laredo after my positive experience.

I ordered the Acapulco Combination as my entree ($13.99). The tamale was delicious and tasted authentic and flavorful. I gobbled it up. The enchiladas were also enjoyable – although the sour cream sauce was better than the cheese enchilada and I would prefer two sour cream sauce enchiladas in the future.

I felt the crispy beef taco tasted decent, but needed more flavor – this could be solved by adding some sauce inside and some sour cream. I make crunchy tacos at home all the time and its easy to make them taste better – but you have to add more than just meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomato. Sour cream is normally a game changer when this happens.

The rice and refried beans were both tasty with the entree.

For a lower price-point, the combinations make sense – but I definitely would long for the ribeye and asadas in the future.

The tasting then concluded with a wide-range of desserts including Mango Tres Leches ($7.29), Mexican Apple Pie ($7.29), and a Mexican Brownie ($7.29).

The Mango Tres Leches was tart and I am used to enjoying my tres leches soaked all the way in. For me it wasn’t my favorite, but the rest of my party loved it so it may depend on your taste.

The Mexican Apple Pie was excellent to me and had cinnamon ice cream on top that made it quite delicious. The Mexican Brownie was sizzling goodness – perfect for someone with a strong sweet tooth.

Overall, the menu has changed quite a bit at Cantina Laredo over these past few years and these new additions seem to be suggesting major changes within the menu. I like the experimentation and thought there were plenty of interesting flavors to try. Definitely different visits could yield different results depending on who you dine with and what they are looking for.

The new fajitas seem to be taking over every Mexican restaurant menu lately and I didn’t try them so that might be something for the future.

One interesting thing that I did not know is that Cantina Laredo features Happy Hour in the bar from Monday to Friday from 4PM-7PM and 9PM to closing as well as Saturday from 11AM-5PM. House margaritas are $5 during this time and appetizers are half-off. Domestic beers are $2, imported beers are $3, and well-drinks and house wines are $4 – which explains why every time my parents go shopping at Wiregrass they always end up drinking at Cantina Laredo.

I’d recommend giving Cantina Laredo a look if you’re in the Wesley Chapel area – they also have specials on Taco Tuesday with discounts on tacos and beer.

Restaurant name: Cantina Laredo

Neighborhood: Wesley Chapel

Cuisine: Mexican

Address: 2000 Piazza Avenue, Wesley Chapel, FL 33543

Phone Number: (813) 907-3068

Website: http://www.cantinalaredo.com/location/tampa-florida/

Restaurant News

Oishi launches early bird sushi happy hour (Channelside)

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Oishi Sushi located in Channelside. I was invited to taste the sushi in exchange for writing up a post about their new sushi happy hour and for my opinion on their sushi. Any opinions written are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the sponsor.

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Oishi Ultimate Japanese Cuisine located in Channelside has launched an early bird sushi happy hour for hungry fans to enjoy sushi at more than reasonable pricing. The special is every day from 4PM-7PM except during special events.

Enjoy Gyoza, Shumai, and Karage (Japanese Fried Chicken) for just $4 during happy hour. Sushi rolls are $5 or $6 and include favorites such as the Rainbow Roll, Volcano Roll, Hi-5, Rock Lava, and more.

Hibachi is also discounted during the early bird special to $12-$14.

It had been some time since I visited Oishi (or Channelside) and was really impressed with how good everything tasted.

Oishi seems less busy now that the Tampa Riverwalk has taken much of the thunder of Channelside, but the product still tastes fresh and approachable.

I remember a similar thing happening in the past with Qachbal’s Chocolatier downstairs. The shut down of the movie theater in Channelside really hurt the local businesses there.

Love boat sushi from Oishi

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During my visit I tried the Double O Roll, Fire Fighter Roll, Hurricane Roll, and Sex on the Moon.

I normally wouldn’t order sauce on my sushi and keep my rolls fairly simple, but these rolls had balance and you could taste each part well. The caviar and roe on top of the rolls was a nice touch.

My favorite roll I tried was the Hurricane Roll ($11.50) which is spicy octopus, conch, avocado, and fish egg inside a roll topped with white and red tuna, onions with spicy mayo, and eel sauce on the side. I am not normally a fan of octopus – but I gobbled it up.

Another favorite was the Sex on the Moon ($12.95) which has cream cheese, asparagus, avocado, eel, shrimp tempura, smelt roe with tuna, tempura flakes, eel sauce, spicy mayo, caviar, scallion, and sesame. Cream cheese and asparagus in my sushi rolls are not my thing normally, but I was impressed at the flavor combination. I recommend it.

If it was up to me, I would have some live music and try to have more events and promotions to bring people back to Channelside – the plaza is still great for having events – it has to compete more now that the Riverwalk is busy with tourists and locals though.

I hope local businesses like Oishi pull through – if you haven’t been in awhile I recommend heading back for a taste – the happy hour is more than fair.

See full happy hour menu:

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BONUS: Since Oishi is located next to Thai Thani – they also have delicious Thai Tea 🙂

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Restaurant Name: Oishi Ultimate Japanese Cuisine

Cuisine: Japanese, Sushi

Neighborhood: Downtown Tampa, Channelside

Address: 615 Channelside Dr. Tampa, FL 33602

Phone: (813) 228-9202

Website: http://oishitampa.com

 

 

Food Events

CL Meet The Chefs 2017 coming June 15th

Creative Loafing is bringing back Meet The Chefs on Thursday, June 15th, 2017 from 6PM-9PM. The event will showcase many of the best chefs in Tampa Bay and take place at The Vault at 611 N. Franklin Street in Downtown Tampa.

The event will kickoff CL’s Tampa Bay Restaurant Week 2017.

Each of the chefs will be sampling a soup, appetizer, main course, or dessert to make up a small plates meal featuring wine pairings handpicked by the chefs. The event will be a cocktail-style event and is 21+ only.

General Admission tickets cost $50 in advance and $60 at the door. VIP Tickets are SOLD OUT. Hurry because the event sold out in 2015 and 2016.

Event is rain or shine and no refunds will be given.

Participating restaurants include:

  • Ava – Chef Joshua Hernandez
  • Castile – Chef Nicolas Lebas
  • Cru Cellars – Chef Brad Sobo
  • CW’s Gin Joint – Chef Gui Alinat & Chef Cody Tiner
  • Dr. BBQ – Chef Ray “Dr. BBQ” Lampe
  • Elevage – Chef Jonathan Atanacio
  • Haven – Chef Courtney Orwig
  • Holy Hog BBQ – Chef Danny Hernandez
  • Mise en Place – Chef Marty Blitz
  • Proper Kitchen & Cocktails – Chef A.J. Lambden
  • Rowe Bar & Sea Porch at Don Cesar – Chef Patrick Gossett
  • The Black Pearl – Chef Christopher Artrip
  • The Living Room – Chef Tony Bruno
  • The Refinery + Fodder & Shine – Chef Greg Baker

VIP presented by Saltblock Hospitality and Catering with Chef Viet Vo.

Buy tickets: https://www.xorbia.com/events/cltampa/chefs/

Facebook RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/220014065170265/

Giveaways

Tampa Theatre upgrades coming this Fall

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post for the Tampa Theatre in support of their upcoming upgrades. I have been provided tickets to a showing in exchange for running a giveaway on my blog. Opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the sponsor.

Summer + movies are always a perfect match in my book. Hot popcorn, ice cold drinks, and a movie to cool off from the blazing hot sun here in Florida. One of the best local places to watch a movie in Tampa is the historic Tampa Theatre. Beautiful both inside and out – if you haven’t been you are missing out.

The theater is managed by the Tampa Theatre Foundation, a non-profit that “hosts more than 600 events each year, including a full schedule of first-run and classic films, concerts, special events, corporate events, tours and educational programs”.

Tampa Theatre Orchestra Level Rendering

Tampa Theatre Mezzanine Level Rendering

This is an exciting time for Tampa Theatre! All of the seating in the auditorium will be replaced and updated this Fall of 2017. Not only will the seating be designed to match the original 1926 design by theater architect John Eberson, but the aisles will have more leg room (finally), the seats will have cupholders (yay!), and they’ll be even more vibrant.

Celebrate this moment in Tampa history and join in by sponsoring a seat or making a donation at CushYourTush.org.

Enter to win: 2 tickets to see Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along at Tampa Theatre this Sunday, June 4th at 3PM. Enter by commenting below. The winner will be drawn on Friday, June 2nd, 2017.

cocktails · Food Events

5th Annual Tampa Bay Margarita Festival this Saturday!

Looking for something fun to do this Memorial Day Weekend? The 5th Annual Tampa Bay Margarita Festival is this Saturday, May 27th, 2017 at Curtis Hixon Park from 12PM-11PM. The 21+ event will feature Barenaked Ladies as the main act.

The 21+ event will feature Barenaked Ladies as the main act with live music all day from other acts. Tickets are on sale and start at $25. Buy tickets: http://ticketf.ly/2qaFAGj

Full drink list: http://www.tampamargaritafest.com/margaritas

This year there is a new RFID wristband system that features no more topping up (if using a credit card), no more waiting in double lines, no more refund fees, and no more waiting for refunds.

There will be a new double bartender system implemented to help shorten lines and increase drink turn-around time.

The event is pet-friendly as well!

Check out the Margarita Run before the event begins -registration gets you into the race, a t-shirt, and one Zignum Mezcal Margarita drink at the festival: http://www.tampamargaritafest.com/margarita-run

Tequila enthusiasts can check out the Grand Tequila Tasting (a separate add-on) which will feature over 30 tequila brands for $25: http://www.tampamargaritafest.com/tequila-tasting

Tampa is currently projected to be sunny and warm on Saturday – perfect for an outdoor event.

Event name: 5th Annual Tampa Bay Margarita Festival

Venue: Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

Date & Time: Saturday, May 27th, 2017 12PM-11PM

Address: 600 N Ashley Dr, Tampa, FL 33602

Ages: 21+ only

Buy Tickets: http://ticketf.ly/2qaFAGj

Website: http://www.tampamargaritafest.com/

Food Events

Festa Italiana 20th anniversary this weekend!

Festa Italiana will celebrate their 20th anniversary this weekend in Ybor City.

The opening event, Wines of Italy, has already taken plan and the weekend will bring plenty of delicious feasts and events on Saturday with the main event happening Sunday, April 9th, at Centennial Park from 11AM to 6:30PM.

Over 35 of Tampa Bay’s top restaurants will participate in the festival. Italian singer, Zucchero, will headline the cultural food and wine festival on Sunday. Proceeds will benefit the Italian Club Restoration Fund.

The Italian Club was founded in 1894 that was created to unite the Italian community in Tampa to overcome social and economic challenges when they first arrived in the area. The mission of the group is to preserve and honor the culture, traditions, and heritage of the Italian community and maintain the historical facility as a memorial to the working class immigrants.

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Tickets can be purchased online via Eventbrite: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/festa-italiana-the-main-event-20th-anniversary-feat-zucchero-tickets-29982099266

Children ages 12 and under are FREE to the main event. Centennial Park is located at 1800 East 8th Avenue Tampa, FL 33605.

Food Events · Restaurant News · Sponsored

Ceviche Paella Porch Party Sundays: $25 Unlimited Sangria and Paella

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant about the Paella Porch Party series they are currently hosting. I have been compensated for this article. Any opinions expressed are my own.

Sundays in South Tampa are getting more upbeat with Ceviche’s Paella Porch Party series being held on Sundays from 11AM-4PM. Enjoy unlimited paella and endless house sangria (white/red) for $25 during this special event.

For those who haven’t tried Paella – it is a Valencian rice dish from Spain. The name of the dish comes from the Old French word paelle which means pan and the Latin word patella meaning pan. The dish is often cooked in a large pan with all the ingredients cooked to perfection. It can also be cooked in small pans for personal servings.

House sangria normally goes for $7 a glass and around $20-$40 a pitcher and the Paella on the menu is normally over $20 – making this a great deal for Sunday Brunch attendees.

I’m personally a fan of Ceviche’s sangria and have celebrated numerous occasions there with friends – it definitely stands as one of the top places to get sangria in Tampa Bay.

Ceviche South Tampa is located at 2500 West Azeele Street Tampa, Florida 33609. Ceviche was founded in 1997 as the original tapas restaurant in the region.

Visit Ceviche online at http://www.ceviche.com/tampa/

Apps · Articles · Restaurant News · Uncategorized

Cut restaurant wait time down with TorchFi interface

Tired of downloading apps for businesses you frequent to your smartphone? I cannot count how many different apps I have downloaded to my phone for businesses that I never open.

Local start-up company, TorchFi, aims to end the push for restaurants to make their own app and gives restaurants the ability to connect with their customer via a Wi-Fi connection.

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Customers can access restaurant menus through the TorchFi connection and order their food and pay online – avoiding getting caught in line during busy lunch or dinner rush times. They can simply walk into a restaurant and sit at a table and order their food when they connect to the available Wi-Fi. The wireless interface can also help customers call a waiter to help them.

On the business side, the restaurant will receive data about overall customer buying habits/trends and make life easier for their customers – repeat customers can easily order their regular orders with a smart interface that remembers past orders by a customer. All without forcing a customer to download their individual app.

TorchFi is currently targeting fast-casual businesses with busy lunch and dinner rushes. Tampa is a perfect target with plenty of concepts having their beginning here or expanding in the area including Burger 21, PDQ, 4Rivers Smokehouse, Mission BBQ…to name a few.

TorchFi is starting locally with The Attic and Moxie’s Cafe. Downtown Tampa, South Tampa, Brandon, and Carrollwood all have busy lunch rush crowds that could be alleviated using this interface. The interface can also be used for malls and food courts, retail brands, salons, and spas.

For more information, visit TorchFi online at http://www.torchfi.com/

Dining Guide

Valentine’s Day 2017 @ Vuelo Mexican Grill

Looking for an affordable and tasty Mexican meal for this V-Day? Celebrate Valentine’s Day 2017 at Vuelo Mexican Grill located at 17641 Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. The restaurant will offer 3 courses for 2 people for $20.

Here is the menu:

Appetizer (shared)
Select from Queso Fundido or Nachos Vuelo

2 Entrees
Select from Enchiladas, Vuelo Burrito, or Street Tacos

Dessert: Churros (shared)
With spicy chocolate dipping sauce & powdered sugar

For more information – contact Vuelo at (813) 972-4800.

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Vuelo Mexican Grill recently opened in New Tampa off Bruce B. Downs. The restaurant features fresh, gourmet Mexican cuisine with a menu prepared by Chef Mark Estee. Estee is a James Beard Semifinalist and has been featured on The Cooking Channel and The Food Network.

Vuelo regularly hosts a weekly Taco Tuesday and Sunday Brunch in addition to daily specials and a great happy hour.

Restaurant News

Fuzzy’s Taco Shop Opens January 26th in Temple Terrace

Fast-casual restaurant chain concept Fuzzy’s Taco Shop is expanding into Temple Terrace and opening doors to the public on Thursday, January 26th. The restaurant is 4,100 square ft. The first Tampa Bay restaurant, built in February 2016, is located in Brandon and is located off Causeway Boulevard and Providence Lakes Road.

The University of South Florida location, located off the corner of Fowler Avenue and 56th Street, will feature a large garden-style patio with “truck-bed seating”, large communal style tables, a live music stage for local singers and DJs, and a full-liquor bar with six barrels of signature frozen cocktails and 16 beers on tap.

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Fuzzy’s Taco Shop’s 100-plus locations serve breakfast all day long, offering a robust selection that includes breakfast tacos and jumbo burritos (guests can choose from eggs, bacon, cheese, potatoes, chorizo, and shrimp) as well as the brand’s “breakfast favorites”, including huevos rancheros, migas, chilaquiles, and the breakfast taco plate (all served with Latin-fried potatoes and refried beans), or the signature Big Fuzz Breakfast Sandwich.

Considering how successful all-day-breakfast has worked for fast food restaurants – it’s interesting to see a fast-casual concept also offering this option. Fowler Avenue is filled with a variety of breakfast options from IHOP to First Watch.

Parents note: kids menus will be available serving taco plate, nachos, cheeseburgers, quesadillas, and chicken sticks, with carrots and ranch dressing offered as a side.

The restaurant will be open late – a plus for students. Service at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop will be provided from 8AM to 12AM from Monday to Wednesday, 8AM to 2AM from Thursday to Saturday, and 8AM to 11PM on Sunday. Catering will also be available.

For more information visit: www.FuzzysTacoShop.com