My latest Creative Loafing article is on my 1st time having seafood pancakes at Korean restaurant Sa Ri One.
My latest Creative Loafing article is on my 1st time having seafood pancakes at Korean restaurant Sa Ri One.
Check out my latest Creative Loafing article on Cafe Kili (one of my favorite cafes near USF) here: http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/dailyloaf/2010/08/30/cafe-kili-a-great-university-area-alternative-to-starbucks/
Hearing from many that New York, New York Pizza in Ybor City has some of the best pizza in town we decided we would give it a shot after a night at Gameworks. We arrived into the place, perhaps not the nicest looking restaurant…but plenty of customers. We found a booth and were quickly waited on. The waiter gave us some time to look over the menu and we decided to go with a large pepperoni pizza.
When the pizza came out it smelled fantastic. There was dim lighting so it was hard to get a good picture of the pepperoni pizza. I took a few photos so hopefully we could portray what it really looked like. The crust was nice and crunchy, the cheese was oozing (thankfully not too hot so we wouldn’t burn our mouths, but just right) and the quality was the best I have had in Tampa. The pizza had little grease as well. Each pepperoni was enjoyable, easily passing any other places visited so far on the pizza tour. Seasoned just right, they made sure not to go overboard with the add-ons and had the additional condiments available to us for our use.
The picture that does the best justice to the pizza is this picture of a slice of pepperoni pizza. You can see how cheesy the slice is, you can tell the pepperoni was cooked right, and see some of the seasoning, as well as a toasted crust. Just looking at this picture is making me hungry all over again for some of their pizza. I can’t count how many times I have walked by this place while visiting Ybor City and never knew what was inside.
I’ll have to make it back here sometime to try some of their other pizzas, but this pepperoni pizza was the best I have had so far.
Restaurant Name: New York, New York Pizza Bar & Grill
Address: 1512 E 7th Ave Tampa, FL 33605
Phone Number: (813) 248-1845
Tonight my parents took me out to That’s Amore, an Italian restaurant on Harbour Island where a singer they used to follow at the Jazz club “The Fox” was spotted by a friend singing. Being the food critic guy that I am, I started researching the place before I got there and found many negative reviews around Urbanspoon and Yelp. We cautiously headed to the restaurant unsure of what to think about it.
When we got there we were greeted with a pretty spectacular view of Downtown Tampa and complimentary valet parking. Upon entering we heard the piano and found a few seats by the door. The place was pretty busy, but the entertainment had yet to really start. We ordered some drinks and we noticed that the waitress was swamped, her ability to keep up with our table and many others was quite impressive. I think the restaurant should probably look into getting her some help during these busy nights, she seems to be managing…but a little too slow and you could get one of those angry writers. After taking a look at the menu my parents ordered a Veggie Pizza and some wings.
My Step-Dad was pleased with his wings and we discovered that one of my family’s favorite bartenders was also working in this place. The pizza arrived and looked quite unique. I had a slice so I could add it to my pizza tour. The sauce was made from marinara and not from your regular pizza sauce, it gave it a fresh and powerful taste. The toppings were all on thin crust and it almost tasted like something you could whip up in the oven, but much better. All the toppings were pretty good and the pizza actually had a slight kick of spice to it as well, which my family loved, and although I am not much of fan of spicy food fan, I still liked it.
After the pizza I decided to give some of their dessert a shot. I ordered a Tiramisu ($8.95). It was decent, although a little too much liquor for my liking. It stayed true to the taste, but I think I prefer the Olive Garden when it comes to this dessert.
If I was just going to review this place based on food and service, I would probably say that it is a mediocre experience and that it has a nice view (like many others have said). However, once the main Jazz singer for the night Cleo Heart (visit her website) hit the stage it was clear that all these critics had missed something. Vibrant and full of energy, she brought the crowd to the place and really brought that restaurant to life along with her on key pianist. She brought the experience from okay, to I’ll be back for sure. Extremely friendly to any stranger in the crowd, she was witty and her songs all had pizzazz. To be able to kick back to her singing while having a meal or some drinks, now that is worth coming here. She performs Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturday nights so I would recommend visiting during these times.
A restaurant that advertises itself as a “romantic Italian restaurant” has made the right move to have her sing there. The view of downtown waterfront, some interesting food, a bar, and live music combined makes this place a pretty cool spot to be at in Tampa.
Restaurant Name: That’s Amore
Address: 700 Harbour Post Dr. Tampa, FL 33602
Phone Number: (813) 221-9889
Then check out my 1st Creative Loafing article about the best places to find boba around Tampa Bay: http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/dailyloaf/2010/08/19/got-boba-where-the-bubble-tea-is-brewing-in-tampa-bay/
This past weekend my friend and I were hungry and trying to think of a place to have dinner at. We wanted a place that had some good-quality food, affordable prices, and something almost home-cooked. We are some picky eaters, but after some thinking I finally thought of a spot we could eat at: Cuenelli’s Peruvian Style Rotisserie Chicken.
A small restaurant located next to Green Iguana in Riverview in the Winthrop Plaza, Cuenelli’s has been around for some time now but is still unknown to many Tampa Bay residents. Offering many Peruvian specialties at affordable prices (usually under $10) on their menu, such as Papa la Huancaina (a Peruvian salad of boiled yellow potatoes in a spicy cream sauce), Lomo Saltado (grilled sirloin with onions and tomatoes, served with rice and french fries), and Bisteck a lo Pobre (Palomilla steak served with rice, beans, fried egg, french fries, and plaintains). They also have several desserts, such as Flan, Tres Leches, Churros, and various specialties during the weekend.
When my friend and I arrived we were able to choose where we wanted to sit. The server was patient as I explained the menu to my friend and we ordered Inca Cola (a lemon verbana-flavored soda) to drink. Another popular drink at Cuenelli’s and many Peruvian restaurants is Chicha (a purple corn soft drink which people rave about it though I have never personally tried it). My friend finally decided to order their Bisteck a lo Pobre ($10.95) and I ordered their Chicken Sandwich ($6.99). The wait time was pretty short for our meals.
My friend’s Bisteck a lo Pobre looked so good that I had to make sure I showed my readers. The palomilla steak is pretty big as you can see. He had a hard time eating it by himself and there have been plenty of times when I have ordered this and not been able to finish my food. My friend ate his food one thing at a time, but I believe that the best way to eat this entree is to break the yolk and mix everything together. There have been days when I was feeling sick and this meal made me feel way better and energized.
My Chicken Sandwich was fantastic. The chicken was tender and easy to chew, it just melted in my mouth. The lettuce, tomatoes, and onions inside added even more flavor to a well seasoned chicken. I added a little extra mayonnaise to make it a little more moist. Although this photograph may make it seem like the sandwich was small, it was loaded with chicken and I actually was only able to finish half of this sandwich despite how hungry I was. The french fries taste homemade (without too much salt and a nice soft interior) and are an excellent complement to many of the choices at Cuenelli’s.
Service was great and the waiter made sure to constantly check on our drinks and to ask us how our meal was. My friend was really impressed with the food and will be coming back soon. I know I will.
Restaurant name: Cuenelli’s Peruvian Style Rotisserie Chicken
Address: 6260 Winthrop Town Center Ave. Riverview, FL 33578
Phone #: (813)681-7773
Hours: Monday closed, Tuesday through Saturday 11am to 9pm, Sunday 12pm-8pm
It has done in the past and now I will be reviving an old tradition to search for the best pizza around Tampa Bay. No location will be overlooked in the search (even that spot you drive by all the time, but never stop to check out). I will report on my findings in different neighborhoods (starting with my own) and hopefully find the best pizza spots around Tampa Bay in the process. If you would like to recommend a spot to me feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment.
Our first stop in this tour: Wize Guyz Pizza
Located right next to the AMC Regency 20 movie theater in Brandon, I have been past this place a million times, but never stopped inside. Holding an impressive five star rating on Yelp with pleased reviewers I decided to give it a shot today. Upon entering I was greeted by the cashier with a smile. I decided to order a slice of pepperoni pizza with a small fountain drink ($1.50) with the total coming to $4.50. The place was pretty empty with only one other customer inside. The fountain drink was pretty good quality, it did not taste like seltzer but like real Coca-Cola.
The pizza was not screaming eat me by looking at it, but smelled pretty good. It was slightly greasy, with some spots here and there, but nothing too bad. The slice was pretty big, I think two slices of this would get a hungry person full. The crust was soft and just right to me. The pepperoni was not very appetizing, I think the pizza would have been better as a plain cheese pizza. The pizza also was not very warm, maybe it would have been better if it was fresh. Overall the pizza was just decent, but I have certainly had better. I have heard their calzones are good, but this is not a calzone tour is it? I left pretty disappointed.
Restaurant Name: Wize Guyz Pizza
Address: 2498 W Brandon Blvd. Brandon, FL 33511
Phone #: (813) 643-1200
Pupusas are a way of life in California. When you’re driving down the street you can find them almost anywhere on each block. They go well with breakfast, lunch, and dinner and make the perfect late-night snack as well. Most people in Florida don’t know what a pupusa is and giggle when they hear “poo” in its name. This weekend I took two friends to perhaps the only pupuseria in Tampa called Pupuseria CentroAmericana.
Located on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, the restaurant certainly fits a hole-in-the-wall look, but then those places are usually the best places to get something to eat. Upon entering the blue and white building we found a booth right near the entrance and had a seat. A server came out and brought us our menus. They took our order for drinks as I explained the different items on the menu to my friends. Friend #1 ordered a horchata (rice-water cinnamon drink that I introduced to her at the Taco Bus) and Friend #2 had a Coca-Cola (they come by the bottle…but honestly I don’t think it would go well with the food there). They also have different fruit juices available, but we didn’t try any. I stuck with a water because I’m trying to save money at the moment.
It took us some time to decide what we wanted to eat, but the waitress was patient with us. Friend #1 decided to have their Ham Special ($7.50), which comes with a type of hard cheese (called Queso Fresco), sour cream, refried beans, fried plantains, two eggs, and tortillas. Friend #2 ordered the Steak breakfast combo #40 ($7.50), which comes with everything that is in the Ham Special (minus the ham). They also both ordered a pupusa ($2.00 each) with refried beans and cheese mixed together. I ordered two pupusas ($2.00 each), one with cheese and one with refried beans mixed with cheese. In addition, I ordered a side of sour cream ($1.00) and refried beans ($1.75) so my total would only come to $6.75. Quite a deal!
Friend #1’s Ham Special.
Steak Special #40
Both their breakfast orders came out before the pupusas and were making my mouth water! Friend #2 noted that his steak had some good seasoning on it, I was suspecting it was maybe Carne Asada…but I wasn’t sure, I will try it for myself sometime in the future. Before I knew it the pupusas came out and they looked delicious! Nice and big, not too greasy.
The pupusas were excellent; I couldn’t tell the difference between these and those in California. I attacked those pupusas with all my hunger, but just like those in California they were heavy and made me full fast. The cheese was excellent and the mixed pupusa was fantastic, the refried beans were certainly homemade and not the canned kind you find in many Florida Mexican restaurants these days. I was glad I didn’t order extra food. My friends could barely finish their food, but I’m glad they ordered regular breakfast as well so they could play it safe in case they didn’t like pupusas.
Both my friends commented on how much they liked pupusas and my mission was successful! Now to take my other friends here…
Restaurant Name: Pupuseria & Cafeteria CentroAmericana
Address: 2504 West Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Tampa, FL 33607
Phone #: (813) 874-1248
Hours: 9am-8pm, Closed Thursdays
As I said before, my friends said we would return and a few weeks back we finally did return to Gino’s Restaurant & Bar. This time I came ready with my camera. The restaurant wasn’t as busy earlier in the day and we had the same server as last time, with great service still present. I ordered a Cheeseburger with Onion Rings ($9) and my friend ordered their Gnocchi with Grilled Chicken ($16), which also came with some bread and salad.
My cheeseburger was perfectly on par with all my other visits to Gino’s (with Cheddar cheese oozing over it) and the Onion Rings were also just as good as always. Still maintaining that crunchy and juicy taste. The onions, lettuce, and tomato on the burger were also fresh and although I’m not a big fan of pickles I usually eat mine when I am dining at Gino’s.
The Gnocchi with Grilled Chicken had a nice and thick, creamy sauce and for my first time trying it I enjoyed it very much. The Grilled Chicken was also excellent, fitting perfectly with this entree.
The bread that came with the Gnocchi was pretty good, a little too much garlic but still quite appetizing.
The salad that came with the Gnocchi Grilled Chicken…you really do get a full meal for the price.
My friend and I had nothing to do for the next few hours and were trying to kill time and the waiter eventually talked us into having their Bananas Foster over Edy’s Vanilla Ice Cream ($9)…we couldn’t resist after how good it was last time.
The whipped cream was excellent and the ice cream and bananas were fresh and perfectly ended this great visit to Gino’s. Once again we were greatly impressed with what Gino’s had to offer us. I am sure whenever a burger or Italian craving hits us again we will find ourselves again at Gino’s Restaurant and Bar.
Restaurant Name: Gino’s Restaurant and Bar
Address: 10006 North Armenia Avenue Tampa, FL 33612
Phone #: (813) 933-1089
Last week was full of all kinds of food adventures. Sushi, burgers, and pizza were on the menu for this jam-packed week. It started on Wednesday with the Tampa Mashable Meetup at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company. In the middle of all the socializing and new people being met from all kinds of backgrounds and career fields was me eating the “Bomb” burger, a burger with a soft potato-like shell that houses oozing cheese and lots of beef. Certainly a tasty burger, but probably too much inside for one person. Their other burgers looked pretty appetizing as well.
The “Bomb” burger untouched.
Inside the “Bomb” burger.
After having a good time meeting all those people at the Tampa Mashable Meetup. My friend and I checked out Gameworks and decided we would return the next day for their $10 all you can play special. We returned the next night with a few more friends and played video games from 7PM-1AM for only $10…quite a deal. In the middle we got hungry so we left Gameworks and headed over to Samurai Blue for some sushi.
My friend and I split a Salmon Roll, Geisha Roll, and Crunchy Tuna which were fresh, but probably still not the best sushi I have had, a little too salty and the salmon lacked it’s usual flavor. The waitress was friendly though and quick to put in our orders so that was nice. I haven’t been to Samurai Blue in quite some time so it was nice to visit again. The atmosphere inside is just as nice as always.
Saturday my friend and I were visiting a friend in Riverview and decided to try East Coast Pizza on Lincoln Rd. after hearing some good things about it. She ordered a cheese pizza and I went with their pepperoni with a garlic roll and a fountain drink. I got 20% off because I joined their rewards program and it was my first visit there.
They had some excellent service for a pizza diner and the slices of pizza are big, you can’t tell from the picture but it was probably like 3 slices of a Dominos or Pizza Hut pizza. They cook their pizza in New York brickovens, which gave the pizza a completely different taste. It wasn’t overly greasy and they put just the right amount of tomato sauce so it wouldn’t take over the taste of the cheese. I added some parmesan to my pizza because I wanted it to be a little cheesier. They had all the things you might want to add-on right there on your table. The fountain drink was inexpensive, which was nice when in some places you might have to pay $3 for a fountain drink today. The garlic roll was also great, although it would have been even better with some marinara sauce. I’ll be back for sure the next time I’m in this area.
That wraps up last weeks food adventures.
Tampa Bay Brewing Company
Address: 1600 E. 8th Ave. Tampa, FL
Phone #: 813-247-1422
Address: 1600 E. 8th Avenue, #C208 Tampa, Florida 33605
Phone #: 813-242-6688
East Coast Pizza
Address: 13340 Lincoln Rd., Riverview, Florida 33569
Phone #: (813) 234-1700