The Godfrey Hotel Tampa upcoming Winterland + holiday events

Looking for some holiday cheer this December?

The Godfrey Hotel & Cabanas Tampa located at 7700 West Courtney Campbell Causeway has a number of upcoming events for the holidays that guests can enjoy.

The main event is “Winterland” which will have a number of rotating events throughout December and a pop-up bar. The event is FREE on weekdays with the exception of private events and family-friendly until 10PM. Winterland is 21+ after 10PM. The event will operate 7 days a week.

 

Winterland is produced by Matthew McCahill, who leads the growing division of Food and Beverage as Corporate Food & Beverage Director at Oxford Hotels and Resorts. 

During McCahill’s 28-year career, he has worked alongside top chefs/restaurateurs including Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, and Nick Nicholas in fine dining restaurants and hotels from Las Vegas and Los Angeles to Chicago.

Christmas Caroloke will be available on Thursdays December 6th, 13th, 20th, and 27th. Sing your favorite Christmas songs at Winterland.

Families can enjoy photo ops and dinner with the Grinch: Saturdays on December 8th, 15th, and 22nd from 5PM to 9PM.

The dinner buffet will feature an special holiday menu along with cookie decorating for kids, hot chocolate and eggnog bar, a giant snowman, and FREE photo ops with the Grinch. Dinner is $24.95 for adults and $12.95 for kids ages 6 to 12. 50% off for first-responders. 

Here are some notable events to keep track of:

  • Wednesday, December 5th (6PM to 2AM) – Grand Opening of Godfrey Hotel & Cabana Winterland: Enjoy a FREE event featuring a lighting of Winterland ceremony at 6PM, tour of Winterland, and the Grinch’s Cave, a meet-and-greet with the Grinch, holiday-themed Instagram photo ops, 12 cocktails of Christmas, and an eggnog and chocolate bar for kids and adults.
  • Thursday, December 6th (4PM to 9PM) – Pets in Wonderland: Bring your pets to this FREE event and enjoy some special photo ops with Winterland festivities on this day.
  • Friday, December 14th (5PM to 9PM) – Ugly Sweaters & Toys for Kids: Come out to an ugly sweater party at The Godfrey benefiting families in need. Tickets are $10. Donate a used or new toy for a FREE cocktail.
  • Monday, December 24th (5PM to 9PM) – Christmas Eve Dinner with Mrs. Claus: Enjoy a holiday dinner on Christmas Eve featuring a ham carving station, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, and more. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be in the Winterland this day. Tickets are $24.95 for adults and $12.95 for kids ages 6 to 12. 50% off for first-responders.
  • Tuesday, December 25th (11:30AM to 8PM) – Christmas Day Buffet: Celebrate Christmas Day with a holiday buffet. Tickets are $24.95 for adults and $12.95 for kids ages 6 to 12. 50% off for first-responders.

For more information visit Winterland online at www.winterlandtampa.com

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Restaurant News: Sparkman Wharf now open

FeaturedImage via Strategic Property Partners

Sparkman Wharf is now open in the latest Water Street Tampa completion.  I had the pleasure of going to a blogger preview this Tuesday of the new food destination. 

After visiting I can say it is more of an outdoor food hall with multiple vendors selling different kinds of food and drinks. 

Speaking of Edison’s Swigamajig they were by far my favorite booth at Sparkman Wharf. They brought their culinary chops to the menu and still made food you can eat easily. Their grouper sandwich was phenomenal and there is an obvious approach to not cut corners despite being outside in a box restaurant.

My second favorite booth was Boat Run Oyster Company which was serving an excellent clam and oyster chowder during my visit. I’m from San Francisco and finding a good clam chowder can be a chore in Tampa, thankfully this place delivered with a hearty chowder that still had plenty of ingredients to munch including a generous portion of oysters.

The gelato at Whatever Pops was excellent and a nice snack, but don’t miss out on their grilled cheese sandwiches. I had one last year at Curtis Hixon Park and it was one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve had in the Tampa Bay area.

Craft beer fans should check out Fermented Reality Biergarten whose co-owner, Joel Bigham, has a rich history with craft beer in Tampa and plenty of know-how to bring in some of the best craft beer options to Sparkman Wharf. Downtown Tampa is lacking breweries and I hope this will be a sign for them to look around Water Street and setup shop.

Foundation Coffee is serving up coffee however I did not try it during my visit. I’m sure it is no different from the one up the road in Tampa Heights.

BT To Go had a couple of Vietnamese options up for sale, we decided to try the banh mi which was tasty but will run you back $12 which is a little too pricey for that dish that is easily $3-$6 at most sit-down restaurants. One of my favorite things about BT is her culinary prowess and I hope maybe the dishes at BT will get a little more creative and experimental versus playing save dishes like Vietnamese Summer Rolls that you can find almost anywhere now.

Gallito was serving up tacos and we decided to do a pork belly taco, but were not impressed with the flavors. The pork belly lacked flavor and was overpowered by the pineapple in the taco. Hopefully that won’t be the case with the other tacos on the menu.

Also – The outdoor nature of Sparkman Wharf just doesn’t justify an expensive menu price system unless the food is top-tier to complement.

Speaking of Sparkman Wharf being outdoors, there is limited shading and seating around the venue. I can definitely see that being a problem when it starts raining every single day in the summer for months, but it should be enjoyable as we enjoy these short winters and cold fronts for now.

Parking is also an issue with the lot across the street still under construction and expensive and the nearby lot charging $20 to park during Lightning games and events at Amalie Arena (which are frequent). Hopefully they will add a system to validate your parking ticket like other restaurants have inside Sparkman Wharf to help offset this for people who just want to stop by to eat.

It wouldn’t be bad idea to add some valet parking as well as Tampa once had when Channelside was in this spot.

When I asked about it during my visit I was told parking isn’t the responsibility of Sparkman Wharf which was a little unsettling.

One thing I was surprised about was the lack of liquor around the main stands except for the excellent Edison’s Swigamajig. You can grab a cocktail inside Splitsville which just re-did their menu or hit up craft cocktails at Edison’s Swigamajig.

Overall, Sparkman Wharf has potential – it does bring new food options to town from many people that we already know in town and provides a way to enjoy the outdoors when the weather allows it. Most of the food I tried was delicious and you should make it a point to try it when you have a chance.

My journey through Busch Gardens Christmas Town 2018

Full disclosure: I was given complimentary tickets to Busch Gardens Christmas Town in exchange for an article about my experience at the annual event. Any opinions expressed are my own and do not represent Busch Gardens or any other entity.

My family and I hit the road on Saturday for an evening at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay for their annual Christmas Town event.  The weather on Saturday was perfect for a day at a theme park. It’s normally hot whenever I visit theme parks, but it was in the mid-60s on Saturday.

Immediately upon entering the theme park we encountered a few of the local workers dressed in excellent holiday outfits which made for great photo ops. If you are trying to take some family photos, Christmas Town is filled with props and characters to help build some great memories.

We decided to hit the ice skating show first called “Christmas on Ice”. I tried to hit this show last year, but arrived too late to enter the show. You need to arrive early if you want to watch this show, I recommend 30-40 minutes before the show at the minimum for good seats. 

“Christmas on Ice” was a really great show with some exceptional ice skaters and plenty of different themes that can appeal to families, couples, kids, and various groups. I really enjoyed this show and recommend it to anyone visiting Busch Gardens during Christmas Town.

After the show we made our way over to the Christmas Village. They relocated the village this year to the lanes by Gwazi due to construction in their old zone. There was a good number of food and drink options, but it did feel slimmed back a little.

I had a turkey panini that was excellent here, however there was quite a line and wait for food, which was definitely frustrating. I also tried the Chicken N Waffles, which were delicious but went a little too heavy on the apple butter.

I recommend hitting up Christmas Village earlier if you’re going to get food because some booths were overwhelmed by crowds and didn’t seem to have a proper system in place to handle them. It have also been the fact that the booth I was mainly at was making mac and cheese grilled cheese sandwiches, which may be logistically difficult. 

A nice added feature was wine tastings and a whiskey addition, which gives you some liquor options unless you to venture over to Dragon Fire Grill & Pub or one of their other restaurants for some libations (we eventually did). 

After we grabbed some food, we wandered over to the Serengetti Overlook Restaurant to watch the Carol of the Bells light show which is always fun and great for kids. After that we ventured back and headed towards the Sing-a-Long Train which is always one of my favorite things to do at Christmas Town and great for when you’re tired of walking and need a break.

We wanted to hit up Santa Clause and Rudolph but the wait times were over an hour so we decided to skip it since we didn’t have much time left until the theme park closed. Busch Gardens does sell priority access to these areas for $24.99 for those who would rather pay to skip the line. 

One thing we didn’t see this year that I expected to see was the snow machines, which I appreciate quite a bit living here in Florida. Hope those come back in the future. 

Overall, my family and I had a great time at Busch Gardens Christmas Town. The lights were beautiful and we enjoyed all the Christmas trees and cheer as well as all the photo opportunities to make some memories. Christmas Village could be improved a bit more logistically, but it was still enjoyable overall.

I recommend getting there early so you can get the most out of it or return back multiple times if you are a passholder and take your time going through the areas of the park and enjoying the holiday spirit.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Veteran’s Day 2018 Freebies

Looking for some freebies on Veteran’s Day 2018?

The national holiday will occur on November 11th and be observed on Monday, November 12th, 2018.

Veteran’s Day was originally founded as “Armstice Day” by President Woodrow Wilson on November 11th, 1919, the first anniversary of World War I and eventually become a way to commemorate all who have served our country.

Here is a list of places offering discounts – make sure to bring your valid identification to qualify:

  • 4 Rivers Smokehouse: All veteran’s and first-responders (with valid ID) will receive a complimentary sandwich at their local 4 Rivers) on Monday, November 12th.
  • Applebee’s Grill + Bar: All veterans and active-duty military can enjoy a free full-size entree Sunday, November 11th, from a selection of eight dishes
  • BJ’s Restaurant + Bar: Free meal up to $12.95 + free Dr. Pepper Sunday. 
  • Bonefish Grill: Free bang bang shrimp on Sunday, November 11th.
  • Buffalo Wild Wings: Free small order of traditional or boneless wing with a side of fries on Sunday, November 11th
  • California Pizza Kitchen: Free meal from special menu on Sunday, November 11th. BOGO card valid November 12th to November 18th. 
  • Chipotle: BOGO deal on Sunday, November 11th
  • Cracker Barrel: Free slice of Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake or Craft Coffee Beverage
  • Cici’s Pizza: Free adult buffet on Sunday, November 11th.
  • Denny’s: Free Build Your Own Grand Slam from 5AM to 12PM Monday, November 12th for active, inactive, and retired military personnel. 
  • Grimaldi’s Pizzeria: Men and women who have served can enjoy 15% off their bill on Sunday, November 11th. Alcohol excluded. Not valid in NY, NJ, or CT.
  • IHOP: Free Red, White, and Blue pancakes or patriotic pancake combo on Monday, November 12th from 7AM to 7PM.
  • Longhorn Steakhouse: Free appetizer or dessert on Sunday November 11th.
  • Miller’s Ale House: 50% off meal on Sunday, November 11th.
  • Olive Garden: Free meal from special menu on Sunday, November 11th
  • Outback Steakhouse: Free bloomin’ onion and non-alcoholic beverage on Sunday, November 11th
  • Red Robin: Free Red’s Tavern Double with bottomless steak fries on Sunday, November 11th
  • Shake Shack: Free scoop of Shake Shack custard on Sunday, November 11th.
  • Sonny’s BBQ: Free pulled or sliced pork big deal combo for veteran’s and active duty on Monday, November 12th. Dine-in only.
  • Starbucks: Free tall hot brewed coffee on Sunday, November 11th.
  • Texas de Brazil: Two veteran’s dine complimentary and 20% off for up to 6 more guests on November 11th and November 12th.
  • Texas Roadhouse: Free lunch from special menu on Sunday, November 11th for active, former, or retired military. Dine-in only. 
  • Tijuana Flats: Free entree and drink Sunday with military ID. Dine in or take out. Limit 1 per person.
  • World of Beer: Free draught beer for veteran’s or $5 off your bill.
  • Zaxby’s: Free chicken filet sandwich on Monday, November 12th. 

Here are local spots in Tampa Bay offering deals for Veteran’s Day:

  • Brandon Harley-Davidson: Free food and drinks for all veterans, active duty, and retired military personnel on Saturday, November 10th from 11AM-3PM. 20% off general merchandise official licensed products. 
  • Fresh Harvest at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa: 2-4-1 buffet or 50% OFF buffet. $20 in free play will be offered to veteran’s (must visit Player’s Club to redeem).
  • Prost Kitchen + Bar: Free meal for active/retired military on Sunday, November 11th and Monday, November 12th. 
  • Tampa Bay Grand Prix: $10 per race special all weekend for all veteran’s and their families.
  • Tampa Beer Works: $1 off drafts for veterans on Sunday, November 12th

Guide: Don’t miss these Election 2018 voting discounts

Early voting starts in Hillsborough County and Pinellas County on Monday, October 22nd and will go until Election Day 2018 on Tuesday, November 6th.

This Election Day is important with seats such as the race for Governor, House of Representatives, and Senate on the line as well as plenty of amendments and tax proposals.

Learn more about voting in Hillsborough County: http://www.votehillsborough.org/

Learn more about voting in Pinellas County: http://www.votepinellas.com/

Uber and Lyft are providing FREE rides to the polls on Election Day. No excuses.

Some great local businesses will offering perks to voters who show up with their “I Voted” stickers during early voting through Election Day. 

Here is a list of participating local businesses with discounts I rounded up:

  1. Ginger Beard Coffee – 10% OFF with “I Voted” sticker. 1208 E Kennedy Blvd #112, Tampa, FL 33606
  2. Ybor City Wine Bar – One FREE glass of select wine or bubbles. 
    1600 E 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605
  3. Rooster & the Till – Show your “I Voted” sticker and enjoy at 15-percent ‘Neighborhood Love’ discount. 6500 N. Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33604
  4. Nebraska Mini Mart – Show your “I Voted” sticker and enjoy at 15-percent ‘Neighborhood Love’ discount. 4815 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa, FL 33603
  5. Bullfrog Creek Brewing Co. – $1 OFF your craft beer.  3632 Lithia Pinecrest Rd, Valrico, FL 33596
  6. The Refinery – 10% OFF per person with “I Voted” sticker. 
    5910 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33604
  7. Surf & Turf Cafe – FREE side of fries when you order a sandwich or salad bowl from the cafe with “I Voted” sticker. 101 N Franklin St., Tampa, FL 33602
  8. Angry Chair Brewing – BOGO beer with “I Voted” sticker. 
    6401 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33604
  9. The Lab Coffee Tampa – $1 OFF any espresso beverage with “I Voted” sticker. 1703 W State St, Tampa, FL 33606
  10. Empamamas (Armature Works) – 10% OFF your order with “I Voted” sticker. 1910 N. Ola Ave., Tampa, FL 33602
  11. Mekenita Cantina – 10% OFF your entire order with “I Voted” sticker. 
    6707 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33604
  12. Independent Bar and Cafe, Tampa – 15% OFF with “I Voted” sticker. 
    5016 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33603
  13. Sulphur Springs Sandwich Shop – 10% OFF to whoever is wearing their “I Voted” sticker. 9000 N. Florida Ave. A, Tampa, FL 33604
  14. Jet City Espresso Seminole Heights – 10% discount off of all coffee/tea drinks with sticker.6601, 5803 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33604
  15. Leaven Brewing – 10% OFF with “I Voted” sticker. 
    11238 Boyette Rd., Riverview, FL 33569
  16. Heights Pizza – 10% OFF to anyone who presents the “I Voted” sticker on pickup or delivery. 7504 N. Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33604
  17. Snobachi – Buy 1, Get One 50% OFF from Tuesday to Thursday with “I Voted” sticker until Election Day. 2206 E. 7th Ave., Tampa, FL 33605, Tampa, FL 33605
  18. Cigar City Brewing – 10% OFF for “I Voted” Sticker on Election Day 2018 (Nov. 6). 3924 W. Spruce St., Tampa, FL 33607
  19. Brew Bus Brewing – FREE house beer to people with “I Voted” sticker (Election Day only). 
    4101 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33603
  20. Hemingway’s (Armature Works) – 15% OFF with your voting sticker from now until Election Day! 1910 N Ola Ave, Tampa, FL 33602
  21. Coppertail Brewing Co. – Come with your “I VOTED” sticker and get a FREE beer. We are honoring this during early voting through Election Day (one per person on the day you voted please). 2601 E. 2nd Ave., Tampa, FL 33605

Tampa Bay Food Fight 2018 a smashing success

Metropolitan Ministries had their Tampa Bay Food Fight 2018 charity fundraiser tonight at Armature Works in Tampa Heights.

St. Pete edged out Tampa for the best food city with chefs claiming victory from The Mill, Parkshore Grill, Locale Market, Dr. BBQ, Red Mesa, Il Ritorno, The Birchwood, and The Peabody.

Metropolitan Ministries raised $250,000 at the event and is still aiming for $300,000 as their goal to help them in their mission to fight poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

The proceeds help their Culinary Arts Program that teaches valuable skills to those seeking to improve their lives and work in the food industry.

You can donate at 
http://secure.metromin.org/site/SPageNavigator/ITB_Culinary_Arts_Program.html


Here are highlights from the evening:

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#tbff2018 #behope #tampabayfoodfight @levy.restaurants

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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.

Tampa ranked #12 in foodie cities by WalletHub

Tampa was ranked #12 in “foodie” cities by WalletHub for 2018 beating out popular cities such as Chicago, Denver, and Charleston. This adds to a growing number of lists that Tampa is finding itself on.

Tampa’s food scene has grown incredibly since I began writing in 2010. The last 8 years have seen a growing food truck scene, explosion in craft breweries, and a healthy growth of so-called “third wave of coffee” shops around the bay area.

Local restaurants and national chains have made aggressive expansions across the city and many suburban areas such as Wesley Chapel and the Brandon/SouthShore area have experienced major growth in the last few years and the economy recovers from The Great Recession. 

There is so much more to come as well with the growth of Tampa Heights, completion of the Tampa Riverwalk, and Water Street Tampa opening in the next few years in Downtown Tampa.

Related – Guide: Top 8 Local Coffee Shops in Tampa and 10 Great Local Craft Breweries in Tampa Bay

Support Tampa Bay Food Fight October 16th at Armature Works

The Tampa Bay Food Fight is returning this October in the fight against poverty and hunger. Chefs from Tampa and St. Petersburg will put out their best food in the name of charity. Which city do you think will will win? The fundraiser will occur on Tuesday, October 16th, 2018 from 6:30PM-9:30PM in Tampa Heights at Armature Works (1910 North Ola Avenue).
 

The competition will be hosted by WWE Superstar Titus O’Neil and Radio Personality Mike Calta. Tickets are $125 and are now on-sale. Buy your ticket at tampabayfoodfight.org Participating Tampa restaurants include:
  • Elevage
  • CENA
  • Steelbach
  • Oystercatchers
  • Armani’s
  • Hemingway
  • Ava
  • Oxford Exchange
  • Bern’s Steak House
  • Inside the Box
  • Dough Nation
  • Cru Cellar
  • Graze 1910
  • World of Beer
  • Zukku Sushi
  • Ciccio Cali
  • Ocean Prime
  • Mise en Place
  • The Rez Grill
  • Rooster & The Till
  • Forbici
  • Haven
  • Chismis
Participating St. Pete restaurants include:
  • The Mill
  • Parkshore Grill
  • The Avenue
  • Noble Crust
  • Better Byrd
  • Hawker’s
  • The Birchwood
  • Big Storm Brewery
  • Mini Doughnut Factory
  • Il Ritorno
  • The Peabody
  • Locale
  • Dr. BBQ
  • Red Mesa
  • Ichicoro
The line-up is truly exceptional. The event is organized by Metropolitan Ministries and benefits Metropolitan Ministries and Inside the Box which are working to fight homelessness, poverty, and hunger.

News: Petit Piquant now closed. New concept in the works.

Scoop: Petit Piquant located near North Hyde Park is now permanently closed. The French-inspired bakery served a wide range of pastries, sandwiches, and coffee. I was personally a big fan of their Kouign-Amann pastries.

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Coming soon, Tampa! 🌮🌮🌮

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Rumor Mill: The owners Ricardo Castro and Rosana Rivera are pursuing a new business venture called Xilo Mexican Steet Food. The concept was first used a pop-up at The Hall on Franklin in Tampa Heights.

More details as I get them!

Check out Xilo Street Mexican on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/xilostreetmexican/

Check out Xilo Street Mexican on Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/xilostreetmexican/