Valentines Day Dining in Tampa Bay

It would seem that almost every restaurant in Tampa Bay is having some kind of Valentines Day special for the big day of love. Here is a listing of some of the specials I have noticed, for the late-minute diner like myself. Even if you don’t have a Valentine – you might want to have a bite on some of these deals.

Bernini: This delicious Italian restaurant in Ybor City is offering 1/2 price pastas and entrees all week long until 7PM. $2 Finlandia Martinis. (813) 248-0099

BurgerMonger: Famous for its delicious Akaushi Kobe Beef – BurgerMonger will be giving away chocolate-covered strawberries to couples (while supplies last) on Valentines Day. They say the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – and a BurgerMonger burger sure does please my stomach! (813) 968-6860

Cafe Kili: Dixie Blue will play an eclectic mix of country, early rock and roll, and cajun songs for visitors starting at 7PM. Special drinks will be on the menu including the Red Velvet Frappe and Raspberry White Mocha.  (813) 988-2879

Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant: The usual $4 tapas menu will be in effect Tuesday at Ceviche, in addition to two lovers specials: Mixed Grill and Mixed Fish specials for $39. First-come, first-serve basis. Numerous locations around Tampa Bay and Orlando.

Datz: Special cocktails, entrees, and desserts will be sold for V-Day. Some examples are pink polka dot pancakes and cherry martinis. (813) 831-7000

Fly Bar & Restaurant: Open 4PM-3AM. Patio dining and rooftop deck in Downtown Tampa. Live jazz music from 8-11PM and dinner. (813) 275-5000

Origami Sushi (Hillsborough): Free dessert on Valentines Day. Happy Hour 3-7PM with $1 sushi rolls. All beverages reduced price. (813) 878-2145

Pelagia Trattoria: This hidden Italian restaurant in the International Plaza will have a special Valentines Day menu available fro 5:30-10PM. Some things on the menu include lobster bisque, veal osso buco, and Godiva chocolate cake. (813) 313-3235

The Rack: Valentines Day blues troubling you? The Rack will have happy hour all night long on Valentines Day, in addition to their regular Tuesday specials. (813) 250-1595

The Refinery: Special Valentines Day menu available at this hot spot Tampa restaurant. The steak tartare sure caught my eye. Make sure to call ahead – they may already be filled to max capacity. (813) 237-2000

Senor Taco: Lots of buzz online for this Pinellas Park Mexican restaurant lately. Taco Tuesday brings tacos to the amazing price of $1. (727) 289-7080

Soobak: This excellent Davis Island Asian restaurant is offering a 5-course Valentines Day dinner which includes salad, appetizer, sushi, choice of meat, and dessert for $35 per person (+tax). Be sure to call ahead as space is limited. (813) 258-3377.

SoHo Sushi North: USF-area SoHo Sushi will feature a $55 (+tax) special for couples featuring 2 soups, 2 salads, 2 drinks, 2 sushi rolls, and dessert. (813) 977-8744

Spain Restaurant & Toma Bar: Offering a 4-course pre-fix menu for $45 per person (+tax) includes 1 alcoholic beverage, appetizer, salad , entree, and dessert. Live romantic music from 6-9PM. Regular menu also available. (813) 223-2831

Wimauma: The current talk of Tampa Bay. Special Valentines Day menu available for $40 per person (+tax).  (813) 793-1687

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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

Hope For Japan: Charity Dinner and Candlelight Vigil @ USF Tampa

“We all know of the devastation that happened in Japan on March 11, 2011.

-A deadly 8.9 earthquake and a massive 23 foot tsunami stormed the country
-The effects of this natural disaster has killed over 10,000 innocent people and left over 500,000 homeless and thousands have been without power
-The effects of these disasters are devastating, still lingering within Japan and they need our help!

We need to come together as the University of South Florida and show that we care and we want to help this country in need.

Together as one we will make the difference…

Hope for Japan Charity Dinner and Vigil
Date: 4/7/11 5pm-7:30pm
Location: MLK Plaza

All donations will go to Charity
$5 per ticket
Enjoy speakers and performances
Tickets will be sold at the event
Raffles will be sold off. Come out and win gift certificates and other things for donating to Japan relief!

Food provided by:
Sushi Tsu
The Rack
Hiro’s
China First Buffet
Tum Nak Thai

Hosted by:
Japanese Club at USF
Chinese Culture Language Club
Vietnamese Student Association
Korean American Student Association
Asia Students in America
Red Cross Club
WWAKE
Association of Filipino Students
Khmer Student Organization
INTO at USF
Sigma Beta Rho
alpha Kappa Delta phi
Pi Delta Psi

Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=189918907719216

The Rack (Hyde Park)

The Rack has long been one of my favorite spots to grab some sushi and chill. The food is consistently good, the bartenders are chill, and there is a crowd there from evening to close. Although they have billiards there, I have never played there. My last visit there was on a Tuesday night. It was freezing cold outside and the inside was at max capacity so I decided to sit outside and have a drink and some food.

I have never tried sake before so I decided to try their Gekkeikan small sake ($6). The sake was pretty bitter, but packed a punch. Hardcore drinkers might like this, but someone with an aversion to bad tasting liquor like myself would probably never have that again after a first try. Service outside was spotty, but still not bad. I had a California Roll ($5.95), which includes crab stick, avocado, and cucumber…though I asked for the cucumber to be removed because I feel cucumber detracts from the taste of sushi.

The California Roll was pretty disappointing.  The crab was good and helped kill that sake taste in my mouth, but as you can see they barely gave me any avocado once the cucumber was removed. Maybe a sprinkle? For the price of almost $6, a California Roll should have plenty avocado and masago on it, when places like Samurai Japanese Restaurant only charge 3 or 4 dollars for that same roll with plenty of ingredients. Being cheap with these toppings is really cutting corners.

However, The Rack does have some quality special rolls such as their extremely popular Volcano Roll (only $5 each on Wednesdays) and a number of other quality rolls I regularly have there. I just wouldn’t order from their regular rolls in the future. I have also tried their wings and American food and it’s usually great. The Rack also has started an unlimited menu from 7-9PM in Hyde Park and 9-11PM in Brandon which includes appetizers, sushi, and drinks (really want to try this out). Their unlimited menu has started a trend in South Tampa and now Koto Japanese Restaurant and Cheap are offering the same thing. Once I finished my California Roll I closed my bill outside and went inside to the warm bar.

The bartender inside was really friendly and personable. She took good care of me and my time inside was much more enjoyable and made up for my time spent outside. It was loud and busy inside, but I’m young so I like that kind of atmosphere. They have free Wi-Fi inside as well, which is a plus. The shots and drinks were good and inexpensive. I left The Rack happy.

The Rack on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: The Rack

Cuisine: Sushi, American

Address: 1809 W Platt St. Tampa, FL 33606

Neighborhood: Hyde Park

Phone Number: (813) 250-1595

Website: http://www.hittherack.com/