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NEWS: Hot Pot BBQ is now open on Fowler Avenue and serving unlimited hot pot and Korean BBQ

Update: The owners of Nine Spices Hot Pot in St. Petersburg have reached out to clarify that they are not affiliated with the Hot Pot BBQ spot on Fowler. The business licenses were strangely similar.

The rumor mill has been swirling for quite some time, but now Hot Pot BBQ is now open to the public.

Diners can enjoy unlimited hot pot and Korean BBQ for around $30. The option to exclude bbq will save you a few bucks, but I don’t suggest doing that.

I stopped by for a visit earlier this week and tried the Korean BBQ and hot pot and was pleasantly surprised at how delicious the food was. The quality of the meat and seafood were far superior to competitors throughout the Tampa Bay area and although the prices are a little higher than Izziban BBQ in Orlando, I do think the higher price-point is worth it.

The quality of the spicy pork belly cut and bulgogi was noticeably great. The Korean BBQ grills cooked the meat cuts quickly and efficiently. The restaurant offers butter to grease the surface. Hot Pot offers your standard lettuce wraps available and side veggies to add to your meats. I highly recommend the Korean BBQ at Hot Pot BBQ.

The seafood selection was also satisfactory and on-par with popular hot pot places in Orlando and St. Petersburg with crawfish, squid, clams, mussels, fish balls, and more. The broths for the hot pot are a little on the blander-side, but you can easily spice it up with their sauces and side offerings including heaping of garlic and cilantro.

Veggies, fruits, and desserts rotate around the restaurant on a conveyor belt that is similar to many modern Asian eateries around the country. Diners can simply pick up anything they like to eat and add it to their food. Some things we enjoyed were the cake desserts, oranges, instant ramen, dumplings, and more.

Beware that there is a fee for those who do not finish their food that is marked at $13.99 and a 2 hour limit for enjoying the buffet.

I recommend Hot Pot BBQ and suggest you give it a look if you’re interested in trying something new in Tampa. Soon Yum Yum Hot Pot AYCE will also be joining this area. The winner, of course, is diners in Tampa.

Restaurant Name: Boil Spot Hot Pot BBQ

Neighborhood: Uptown, USF

Cuisine: Hot Pot, Korean BBQ

Address: 1120 E Fowler Ave, Tampa, FL 33612

Phone: (813) 374-9947

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Articles Food News Restaurant News

NEWS: Sweet Buns Bakery opens by USF in Tampa’s Uptown

Sweet Buns Bakery is now open by USF in Tampa’s Uptown. The Asian bakery is originally from Gainesville and has the same ownership as Yummy House. It is yet another new business to come to the area in recent months.

The concept is similar to a popular chain called 85°C Bakery Café, a Taiwanese bakery chain that serves a variety of baked breads and pastries as well as drinks to customers. 85°C Bakery Café is currently experiencing rapid expansion across the United States.

Here’s a list of the cake offerings at Sweet Buns.

This concept is notably going to compete with a number of bubble tea shops already in the area which usually sell snacks and sweet beverages. There is a quite a few other Asian concepts currently in the works for the neighborhood.

According to the Sweet Buns website the stores “feature free wifi, made-to-order baked goods, cakes, and a relaxing environment to study or just hang and enjoy some sweets.”

Sweet Buns Gainesville photo from @eldublibrarian
Photo credit: Instagram user @xo_jt_xo

The bakery is located at 2788 East Fowler Avenue,Tampa, FL 33612.

Visit them online at sweetbuns.co

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Articles Restaurant News

RUMOR: Nine Spices Hot Pot expanding to Tampa’s Uptown near USF (UPDATED)

Update: The owners from Nine Spices Hot Pot in St. Petersburg have reached out to say they are not affiliated with the new HotPot BBQ on Fowler Avenue.

The license for the business says 9 Spices Hot Pot, but the location in St. Petersburg is actually “Nine Spices Hot Pot“. It is a very bizarre coincidence. 

A new hot pot place has appeared on Fowler Avenue near USF and Tampa’s Uptown called HotPot BBQ.

There isn’t much online for it yet, but the license for the location points to Nine Spices Hot Pot in St. Petersburg as the owners of the location and this spot is in the old Hong Kong House spot in front of M.D. Oriental Market at 1120 East Fowler Avenue Tampa, Florida 33612.

Licenses:

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Articles Dining Guide

Dining Guide: Where to eat in Tampa’s Uptown (University Area)

I spent quite some time at USF in my late teens and early 20s. One of the interesting things about that side of Tampa, now called Uptown, is that many people seem to be unaware how multicultural the area is.

You can find food from most cuisines within a few miles of each other and some food that you cannot find anywhere else in Tampa Bay. Places have come and gone over the years and the neighborhood is still evolving from when I lived, studied, and worked there, but there are definitely great food finds in Uptown.

Here is what I recommend:

Tacoson Mexican Grill

The original founders of El Taconanzo which was sold and became the Taco Bus, Tacoson is the only entity to survive the numerous changes in the Mexican scene in Tampa. It remains a solid spot for the taco faithful in Tampa. It gets crazy packed (especially around lunch time) so come ready to wait, but the food is filling and tasty. Daily deals and breakfast specials are part of the rhythm here.

Tacoson Mexican Grill. 7521 N 56th St., Tampa, FL 33617. (813) 989-2080

Chuck’s Natural Fields Market

Chuck’s Natural has a few locations around Tampa Bay with vegan friendly food options. They opened a cafe next door called Windmill that serves food as well. The thing I notice the most about this place is that prices are still fairly approachable despite being organic, GMO-free, and healthy. The shakes are also excellent. This spot can easily rival local restaurants and is a good spot for when you need to detox.

Chuck’s Natural. 11301 N 56th St, Temple Terrace, FL 33617. (813) 980-2005

Soul of Korea

Korean restaurants are a rare find in Tampa, but Soul of Korea is a solid restaurant with a home-cooking feel to it. The owner previously owned a restaurant in Seoul and bought Soul of Korea this past year from some other proprietors. Most of the menu has stayed the same with some extra additions to the menu. I would call it comfort food.

Soul of Korea. 7612 N 56th St, Tampa, FL 33617. (813) 989-9030

Babushka’s Traditional Russian Cuisine

 

Russian food is pretty much unheard of in Tampa Bay. Babushka’s has a great menu with absolutely delicious pierogies, draniki, sweet kasha, blinchiki, and more. Service can be a little slow when they get packed so make sure you are not in a rush if you visit.

Babushka’s. 12639 N. 56th St, Temple Terrace, FL 33617. (813) 515-7415

Quickly USF

When it comes to bubble tea and snacks, QuicklyUSF is where its at. They serve some lite Vietnamese food and Taiwanese-inspired dishes. My favorite drink on the menu is their Kiwi Lychee Fruit Tea which is a must-order for me. They have a huge menu though and the cafe is a great place to work out of and study at or meet a friend.

QuicklyUSF. 5731 E Fowler Ave, Temple Terrace, FL 33617. (813) 860-8841

Mojo Books & Records

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White chocolate strawberry latte with almond milk

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Mojo is one of the last standing record stores in the Tampa area and they have great coffee and books for-sale as well. I just love drinking a coffee inside of a bookstore. It’s the best. They serve Zeal Coffee which is one of my favorites in Tampa. The baristas are super friendly and they also have a nice tea list as well. Support this great Tampa gem.

 Mojo Books & Records. 2540 E Fowler Ave, Tampa, FL 33612. (813) 971-9717

Mr. Dunderbak’s Brewpub

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Mr. Dunderbak’s is a Tampa institution that goes back to when the University Mall once a busy and bustling mall. They are now their own restaurant and brewery in New Tampa just off Bruce B. Downs by USF. It is the best place to be on Oktoberfest and during the World Cup (if you’re rooting for Germany). The food is great and the beer selection is even better. They have one of the largest beer lists in Tampa and prices are fair. You haven’t experience Tampa until you go here on a busy day.

Mr. Dunderbak’s. 14929 Bruce B Downs Blvd, Tampa, FL 33613. (813) 977-4104

Tacos Gone Mobile

I’ve never really understood why Tampa lacks a taco truck phenomenon. Tacos Gone Mobile is the closest I have ever had compared to quality Mexican food in California. These tacos are affordable and delicious. It’s a take-out truck, but they do have seating if you want to eat there. One thing you’ll notice is that actual Mexican people eat here which you hardly see in Tampa’s popular places that have Americanized menus.

Tacos Gone Mobile. 1309 E Fletcher Ave, Tampa, FL 33612. (813) 400-9439

Enjoy!

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Articles Reviews

Prost Kitchen is Tampa’s best new restaurant

After a few visits to Prost, I am happy to say that Prost Kitchen + Bar is Tampa’s best new restaurant.

The owners of Prost have shown a true dedication to quality food and drinks. Out of all the restaurants in Tampa, Prost is showing strong promise and dedication to providing a great experience for customers.

The story behind Prost is an interesting one that starts with a college bar called The Study. The owner there and his roommates decided that they would open a restaurant with some of the money he made on that venture. After heading to Germany for research, they found a great cook and made plans to open Prost Kitchen on Bearss Avenue.

It isn’t the most sophisticated neighborhood in town, being located smack dab between New Tampa and USF’s University Area. Don’t let that stop you though, there is plenty of parking in their parking lot and ample seats both inside and outside Prost.

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Image Credit: @prosttampa

The menu is obviously inspired by Germany, but also features modern American cuisine and the burgers are a MUST. I had the Maple-Bourbon Burger on my first visit and was blown away by the quality and attention to detail that Prost uses. It features bourbon bacon jam, cheddar cheese, a fried egg, and hash-brown served on a pretzel bun.

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So this past weekend I decided to visit @prosttampa for a bite to eat. I kept seeing friends check-in there and I couldn’t tell if it was hype or the real deal. This restaurant was great. Truly quality food and service. Everything from the pretzel bun to the quality of the beef and the egg inside were all perfect in this Maple-Bourbon Burger ($12). The tavern chips were excellent. Shoutout to Bourbon Bacon Jam! This might be my new favorite restaurant in Tampa and the price wasn’t ridiculously high either – I actually am wishing I lived by USF again just so could come here more…well sorta haha. #carloseats #tampa #burgers #foodies #tampabayfoodies #tbeatsout #hiddentampa #choosetampa #igerstampa #usf #university #newrestaurants #food #tampaflorida

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Let me start by saying the burger was cooked exactly as requested. The fried egg was cooked to perfection – no burnt edges. All the toppings enhanced the burger instead of distracting from it.

The meat quality in the burger was above your typical burger joint. Eggs on burgers are always messy, but this was a good messy and the incredible pretzel bun did not suffer at all from the ingredients moving around inside of it.

Oh and the tavern chips and beer cheese served with it? Completely delicious. The cost? Only $12. Oh so worth it.

It was during this visit that I met the bar manager who comes up with their cocktails and drink menu. He has put lots of thought and emphasis into their bar selection. It is far above your typical college bar list and they offer a cocktail flight every month that is centered around a certain country. During this visit they were doing Britain so there was a butter beer cocktail on the list made with vodka.

Their craft beer list is quite solid as well and they made sure to source some German beer. It isn’t quite the caliber of Mr. Dunderbak’s, but maybe there is an opportunity there for a collaboration?

One thing I’ll say is Prost still has lots of room to grow with the growing beer and bartender community we have in Tampa.

My next visit was for Taco Tuesday where Prost offers deals on tacos and 2-4-1 Margaritas. The tacos were far from traditional, but were still delicious, savory, and packed with ingredients.

Prost offers deals most days of the week obviously understanding their college student base. This is a good thing for everyone though – Tampa isn’t the highest paying city in the world and a good deal is always a great way to try something.

$8 bottomless mimosas on the weekends and a brunch menu also are not a bad thing. I still need to make a visit for that.

On my most recent visit I tried the Jager Schnitzel. You can’t really review a German business without trying their actual German food. The schnitzel was excellent. There was no dryness to it and the mushrooms and gravy topping were great.

The price was still fair compared to other German spots in town.

The attention to quality has been clear on ever one of my visits to Prost. I am happy to say that it is the best new restaurant in Tampa. If you haven’t been to visit yet, you should be making plans soon.

Restaurant name: Prost Kitchen + Bar

Neighborhood: USF, New Tampa

Address: 2802 E. Bearss Ave., Tampa, FL 33613

Phone Number: (813) 466-5249

Website: http://www.prostkitchen.com

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Articles Reviews

U Poke Spot: Quality poke bowls arrive in Tampa near USF

Full disclosure: I was invited to try the menu at U Poke Spot in exchange for my opinion about their food. These opinions are my own and do not reflect U Poke Spot.

U Poke Spot opened recently just a block away from USF across from MOSI by Einstein’s and Qdoba. It’s a fast-casual Hawaiian-style poke restaurant.

Despite the national popularity of poke, it hasn’t quite taken off yet in Tampa. Many restaurant have tried to use poke as a marketing tactic to upsell their typical fish without offering real poke. Often times the sauces will be downright awful or the fish doesn’t taste good.

Poke Rose at The Hall on Franklin was the first serious take on poke in Tampa, but unfortunately it does not allow you to customize your bowls. The Poke Cafe may be good to the people in Dunedin, but to me it was a disappointing example of poke.

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U Poke Spot resembles more of what I expect in a poke restaurant. The owners background ties back to sushi restaurants, so the fish and toppings reflect that and they go well.

They have salmon, tuna, spicy salmon, spicy tuna, octopus, and even chicken for people who are trying to avoid fish all together. Some toppings include masago, edamame, tempura flakes, seaweed salad, guacamole, mango salsa, crushed nuts, and more.

The main sauce is poke sauce but there are at least 4 other available. The eel sauce and spicy mayo sauces I tried were also great and just what you would find at any sushi restaurant. To be honest, this is the best poke I have had since I last went to San Francisco.

Some things I hope to see added to the menu are tamago (Japanese egg) and eel.

I went with the spicy salmon all the way and added a bunch of toppings and I found all of them to be fresh and flavorful. I built my bowl the same way I would build a sushi burrito or a sushi roll and modern poke is pretty much that.

The guacamole was flavorful, but I would be interested in seeing the guacamole mixed with some other things perhaps in the future. I’a Poke in San Francisco has sun-dried tomato guacamole which sounds ridiculous, but is actually ridiculously amazing with poke and sushi burritos. The cool thing about poke bowls is you can constantly re-invent the menu for customers.

The key to a good poke bowl will depend on how you mix the fish, toppings, and sauces. You have to think about how the flavors all complement each other. There are pre-arranged bowls to help those who might struggle with that.

The prices seem a little expensive for the college area it is situated in with 2 proteins at $10.95 and 3 proteins for $13.95, but it is actually comparable to other poke restaurants. The price will mostly increase when you add higher end toppings such as guacamole or avocado which is expensive pretty much anywhere.

On average I think a typical for me would probably run around $13-15 which isn’t unfair for the bowl portions in my opinion. The truth is quality fish is never going to be cheap without something else to make up for the margins lost such as alcohol or events.

The owners could mitigate that feeling for students by providing a rewards program, student discount, or flash sales that will draw them in even if they are reluctant. Although students claim to be price-conscious, they are willing to spend extra for the right brands. See Chipotle, iPhones, electronic music festivals, etc.

I was also a fan of the drink selection with numerous drinks from Japan available including various green tea brands, Japanese Ramune sodas, and Calpico which I love.

This selection was also available at poke places I visited in San Francisco and the owners of U Poke Spot told me much of their inspiration came from poke restaurants in New York that they visited.

The interior is modern with digital screens and clean and to me makes a good case of probably a franchise one day if U Poke Spot is successful.

The owners indicated they will be adding sushi burritos to the menu as well which I look forward to trying in the future.

I really enjoyed U Poke Spot and look forward to coming back again soon. It is the first time I have felt like poke is being done how I imagined it in Tampa. I recommend giving them a look.

Restaurant name: U Poke Spot

Neighborhood: USF, Temple Terrace

Cuisine: Poke

Address: 5001 E. Fowler Ave., Unit F, Tampa, FL 33617

Phone Number: 813-533-3707

Hours: 11AM-10PM Sunday-Thursday, 11AM-11PM Friday & Saturday

Menu: http://www.upokespot.com/menu-2/

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Articles Restaurant News

NEW: H20℃ Boba Shop & Thai-Rolled Ice Cream opens near USF

USF has no shortage of dessert shops and cafes. There has to be over 10 cafes and shops near the USF campus.

Last year Ice Smile was one of the shops in Tampa to popularize Thai-Rolled Ice Cream and people went nuts for it. We’re talking over an hour wait for Thai-Rolled Ice Cream. Now a new shop has emerged on Fletcher Avenue just minutes from USF.

H20℃ opened in August on Fletcher by the USF – Tampa Campus and is serving Thai-Rolled Ice Cream and bubble tea at 13520 University Plaza Street. The bubble tea is served in light bulbs which has been a popular fad on the west coast for over a year now.

Got Tea was one of the first shops in Tampa to serve light bulb boba last year.

For more info on H20℃ visit them on social media:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/H2OCicecream/

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/h2oc_tampa/

It is open daily from Monday to Sunday from 12PM-11PM.

You can reach them at (813) 559-1645.

 

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Grand Opening! Thai Inspired Roll Ice Cream in Tampa.

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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

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Food Events Food Trucks Reviews

USF Homecoming XX Food Truck Rally

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Tampa Bay Food Truck Rally. I have been compensated for my time and writing. Tampa Bay Food Truck Rally works with more than 100 food trucks and books them for events, corporate and private catering, among other services. Opinions posted are my own and do not represent the views of Tampa Bay Food Truck Rally or businesses listed.

On Friday I visited the University of South Florida Sun Dome for a food truck rally for USF Homecoming XX. Food trucks were spread around the event including Boom Boom BoxChurroland TampaJust Smokin BBQ, Kebablicious, SantoriniSawadee Thai Food, and WING BOX. Homecoming is one of USF’s longest traditions, dating back to 1964, the year after USF’s first graduating class.

Boom Boom Burger

First we stopped at Boom Boom Box food truck. It was hard to decide what to order – but their Boom Boom Burger looked appetizing so we decided to order it. Indeed, it was an extremely delicious burger down to the last bite and a large portion that would be filling for hungry food truck rally attendees. The sauce really makes this burger and definitely makes me want to try the other things on the menu that utilize it. The fries were also great.

Sawadee Thai Food Truck

Next we stopped at Sawadee Thai Food Truck, not to be confused with Sawatdee Thai Cuisine located on 56th Street by USF. I wasn’t really sure what to expect out of a Thai food truck – but we decided that a Pad Thai would be a quick way to judge whether the food was good at Sawadee.

Chicken Pad Thai

I was surprised with both the portion size and dedication to quality on Sawadee Thai Food Truck. It tasted just as good as a Pad Thai you can get in a Thai restaurant and the price was fair at around $7. The attention to detail was there and the owners at the food truck were really friendly and remembered a friend of mine who visited the truck over a year ago.

Noodles

One of the last things I tried was the noodles off the Sawadee Thai Food Truck. Also delicious and clear dedication to authentic cuisine. I’d definitely go back to this truck and try some other more exotic things in the future – they had quite a few choices and the prices were definitely inviting.

Overall, we had a blast wandering around the food truck rally trying different food at the rally and the weather was favorable thanks to Hurricane Matthew bringing in a cold front and lots of windy weather which is welcome after an extremely hot summer. This concluded our visit to the USF Homecoming XX Food Truck Rally.

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Reviews

Gyro Zone serves up excellent, affordable Lebanese food

There is this is hole-in-the-wall restaurant I have been frequenting by USF and the University Mall called Gyro Zone. It fits every definition of the phrase “hidden gem”.

The prices are fair and trend under $10 with student deals and combos that can appeal to the college students. The hours are also college-friendly with Gyro Zone open until midnight from Monday-Saturday (good luck finding a decent meal after 10PM at other places by campus). The food will leave your heart and stomach in a good place.

When you walk into Gyro Zone – you’re not sure what to expect. The place is simple enough – a long hallway with tables and a counter for ordering your food and pickup. The kitchen is open you so you can see the schwarma in all its fine excellence and their dedication to quality as they prepare the food.

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Picking a menu item can be tough – I have trended towards chicken schwarma on most visits – simply because it is the best chicken schwarma I have had in the Tampa Bay area. It’s incredible. I usually grab it in a pita, but on my last visit yesterday I decided to go for the Schwarma Bowl which comes with rice, chicken schwarma, some veggies, and a drink. All for around $7. It. is. amazing.

Gyro Zone has 41 reviews on Yelp and seems to have organically reached a 5-star average, yet every time I visit the place isn’t busy which has me concerned, so here I am…writing my love to this excellent food. I have visited over 6 times in the last 3 weeks and I left happy and satisfied every single time.

The fries that they serve with their pita are better than Five Guys and cooked to perfection. The owner (I assume) and employees who work there are always super chill and friendly. They offer delivery (I hear they may be on UberEats soon? – let’s hope).

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I finally tried the hummus on my last visit. I LOVE hummus – but my experiences with it are all over the place depending on what restaurant you eat it at. The hummus at Gyro Zone was excellent and came with some of their pita chips which I’ll add are also crazy good. Everything here is just on-point and exceeds expectations.

My friend was feeling adventurous yesterday and decided to order the cheeseburger at Gyro Zone. Sure – not an ode to Lebanese cuisine. However, I took a bite or two or three out of his burger and it was insanely delicious. I’m not sure if it was the sauce in the burger or the seasoning in the beef that made it taste so good – but this burger was not your average burger and it seems like that applies across the entire menu at Gyro Zone.

It’s hard to open a great, local business and restaurant in Tampa Bay and all the right elements are at Gyro Zone. All that is left is for people to go and experience it for themselves. Don’t just take my word for it. Go try it yourself. The prices are fair and the food is excellent.

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Restaurant Name: Gyro Zone

Address: 2709 University Square Dr. Tampa, FL 33612

Phone Number: (813) 284-0777

Website: http://www.gyrozonetampa.com/

Menu: http://www.gyrozonetampa.com/menu.html

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Gyro-Zone-166848396852439/