Category Archives: Restaurants

>Restaurant Notes

>Recently, I moved to Riverview. It’s near Brandon and not far outside of Tampa. I’ve been to a bunch of restaurants since I moved, but none of them were full post worthy. I would imagine you have tried some of them yourself.

  • Crispers – It has a feeling like Panera or Atlanta Bread Company, but they bring the food to your table. It’s not a bakery, but they do have cookies, shooter desserts, and a gelato station. I’ve been a bunch of times now and we like it. We took the kids and they really liked it also. We usually get the “Pick Two” special which allows you to get a salad and half a sandwich for $5.99. That’s generally the perfect amount of food for me. The kids get a wooden nickle, so when they finish their lunch they get two mini cookies. The employees are not tipped, but if you leave one it will be donated to the United Way. TIP: The Tomato Bisque is very good. Smooth tomato taste that is followed by a warming spice blend.
  • Mellow Mushroom –  The Mellow Mushroom is decorated exactly like it’s name. There are huge mushrooms EVERYWHERE. I’m not going to lie. I liked it the design. I felt like I was Alice. The food was fairly priced.I know it is a pizza place, but I had the Tomato Bisque. To be honest, it was marinara in a bowl. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I would consider Tomato Bisque. The real story here is about the beer. They feature a wide variety to choose from including selections from Rogue Brewery, including Dead Guy Ale. (They get extra points for that.) I think next time we go I’ll try the pizza. 
  • ABC Pizza – I know everyone in Tampa Bay has tried it, except for me, but today I changed that. Sadia needed to eat and she planned to drink a glass of milk and a pain pill for lunch. I was not having any of that talk. (She’s not anorexic, she has an impacted wisdom tooth.) I asked her what she wanted and she decided she wanted ABC Pizza’s $2.99 Spaghetti lunch special. Another employee wanted the special and I decided on the $5.95 calzone and salad lunch special. When I went to pick up the food I was surprised at the amount of food they give you for $2.99. They give you what appears to be about 2 cups of spaghetti and sauce, two meatballs, and two pieces of garlic toast. Sadia and the other employee who I have not asked permission to list here said that the spaghetti was good, but they felt the sauce could use a slight amount of tweaking.

          My calzone was pretty good too. I didn’t add anything to it, so it was just a cheese calzone, but I thought it was pretty good anyway. The crust seemed too hard at first, but when I actually ate it I had no complaints. It was good. The salad was very confusing. It starts out with about 1 cup of shredded lettuce. That is followed but one half slice of beef steak tomato, one half slice of cucumber, a sprinkle of Feta, and an olive. I ordered blue cheese dressing, but I got what appears to be their Greek dressing. I usually cringe at shredded lettuce because it tends to be bruised and browning, but this was fresh and crisp as if they had made it while I drove over. The best thing about the salad was the dressing. It was amazing. I didn’t miss my blue cheese at all. I liked the freshness of the salad, but I would have made it with more tomato and cucumber. 
The restaurant we want to try next is Joel’s Steakhouse in Valrico. Have any of you tried it? It looks interesting.

>Update: Jazzy’s BBQ

>Friday, I went back to Jazzy’s. I wanted to try some new things and see they were. I know I got some crap for disliking their Mac N’ Cheese, but I stand by that. It’s not something I would serve in my house.

Moving on to the new things, this time I got ribs, chicken, collard greens, corn bread, and potato salad. I didn’t have the potato salad or the chicken before. The chicken was tender and juicy with a nice coating of barbecue sauce. I thought it was pretty good.

I had a few thoughts about the potato salad. First off, from a flavor perspective it tasted as it should. I liked it. I was surprised, pleasantly, that they put hard boiled eggs in it. I love eggs in my potato salad. I thought it was a little on the runny side. The upshot of that is that if you are like me and generally unable to finish a meal when you come back to it later it’s still going to be moist and delicious.

Speaking of moist, get a load of their corn bread. I know I said I loved it before, but it’s worth saying again. I love it. It doesn’t have corn in it like my mother’s, but it’s still incredibly moist.

I definitely suggest trying Jazzy’s. Just because I don’t like one thing they make doesn’t mean that I hate the restaurant. I reserve that for restaurants that don’t cook their own food and still manage to suck.

>Jazzy’s BBQ

>A few weeks ago, a friend of mine suggested that we go to Jazzy’s BBQ for lunch. I decided to try it since I’ve heard so much about it. I love food, so any opportunity to expand my horizons is welcomed.

What you see here, from left to right, is Corn Bread, BBQ sauce, Sweet Potato Pie, Collard Greens, Macaroni and Cheese, and BBQ Ribs.

I’ll start at the top and go item by item:

Corn Bread – Amazing. I loved it. It wasn’t too sweet or dry. It was moist and blissful cornbread perfection.

BBQ Sauce – Good Stuff.

Sweet Potato Pie – It’s the most amazing thing I think I have ever eaten. Seriously. This size pictured is the small and I sincerely wished I had sprung for the large. The pie crust is sweet and the filling and smooth and perfect.

Collard Greens – Good enough for my kitchen and good enough for my grandma.

Macaroni and Cheese – The dark spot in this otherwise delicious meal. It seems that they use chunks of bread in it. It’s absolutely awful and flavorless. I’m not sure how this passes their test, because everything else is so full of flavor. It wasn’t a lack of salt. It was a lack of flavor altogether.

The Ribs – The Ribs were very good. Even if you didn’t douse them in BBQ sauce, they were delicious and not at all dry.

The Bottom Line: Try Jazzy’s but skip the Mac N’ Cheese.

Jazzy’s is located at 5703 W Waters Avenue, Tampa, FL 33634. You can call for pick up at (813) 243-8872.

>Cameron and Courtney’s Outback Adventure

>In case I have failed to mention him before, Cameron is my little brother. By little brother I mean, he is 6’5”, but three years younger than me. It’s unfortunate. I was large and in charge until he turned 13. He then transformed into a mutantly large human being, which is lucky for him because it offsets the sheer wingspan of those ears. (Gimme a break, he’s my little brother. I gotta bust his chops.)

Cameron and I get together for dinner about once a week. We like food, books, and hanging out for short periods of time. Last night, I was craving some beef. We discussed Longhorn Steakhouse, Cody’s, and Sam Seltzer’s, but Cam wanted to go to Outback Steakhouse. I missed the turn lane for my choice so we headed for Outback.

We went to the Outback Steakhouse in Largo located at 3690 E Bay Drive. We found an excellent parking space and headed in. We arrived at about 7:50pm and were seated immediately. Our server was Sarah. She had the patience of a saint. Cameron and I took our time ordering and attempting to plan out the meal. We lamented the complete and utter lack of Spinach dip on the menu (to ourselves). We settled on the Bloomin’ Onion. I realize it has enough calories and fat to feed a small country for a few days, but it’s delicious and we don’t worry about our weight. (Cam has to support those ears, after all.) You can never go wrong with a Bloomin’ Onion and even though we only ate half of it, it was so worth it. I love the horseradish sauce that comes with it. I could eat that on almost anything.

I always forget to take the pictures before I eat.
For our main course, we ordered the Outback Special. I got the 9oz and Cam got the 12oz. (He is a growing boy afterall. I mean, man. Very manly man. The manliest of men. Moving on…)
The Outback Special is described on their website as follows: “Our signature sirloin is seasoned with bold spices and seared just right.” It is served with a salad and a side. It comes with a Blue Cheese Wedge salad, but I don’t like them so I asked for a house salad with blue cheese dressing instead. Cameron stuck with the Wedge. He doesn’t like to rock the boat or give the server a hard time. (NOTE: Cam is a server too at a different restaurant.) For my side item I chose the seasonal vegetables and Cam got the potatoes. (I told you, very manly.)
My untouched food as it was given to me.

Here’s my take on the steak. I found it to be kind of gritty. It was flavored appropriately, but it just had a strange mouth feel this time. I still ate it and enjoyed it though. Cameron said his was good. My only real problem with my meal was the seasonal vegetables. I love vegetables and no matter what they would have been I would have been fine, except for the fact that they were overcooked and mushy. This kind of made them flavorless. Cameron said that his garlic mashed potatoes were killer.

This was on the table and also repeated on the website. While I can’t agree with it because I think that Tampa Bay has several places in the same price range that are better for steak, I enjoyed my meal. I’d also like to say that our server was wonderful and she timed everything perfectly. That always makes me very happy.

Outback Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

>My visit to The East Lake Cafe

>Sunday, after learning that my newest favorite restaurant was no longer in business, I had to find a new restaurant for breakfast. My stomach was rumbling, my daughter was starving, and my boyfriend had a suggestion. He suggested the East Lake Cafe. It was close to where we were, so we stopped in.

We walked in the door and were seated promptly. The restaurant was clean and comfortable. Not long after we were seated we ordered our drinks. We ordered coffee and my daughter ordered Apple juice. I did not try the juice my self, but I was assured it was good. Our coffee arrived, and though we loved the large colorful mugs, the coffee was very watery.

I ordered the The Cafes Southern Special which includes eggs, 1 biscuit & gravy, grits, and sausage patties. I ate the sausage patties first and they were good. They were juicy and what you would expect in a sausage patty. I then ate the biscuits and gravy.

I should probably note that I have been making biscuits and gravy for a long time. I make it about 3 times a month and it’s one of my favorite breakfast dishes. I think it’s usually incredibly flavorful. When I received the biscuits and gravy from the kitchen it was lukewarm and completely devoid of any meat flavor. It was actually slightly sweet. I found that really confusing. The “meat” itself could actually be mistaken for sawdust because the pieces are so incredibly tiny. The biscuit was a very dense flavorless lump. I ate half of it and gave up. It was very disapointing.

A note about the grits. I never order grits in restaurants. I’m a real Southern girl and the majority of the grits I have eaten were made by my Grandma, who could outcook Emeril in my book any day of the week. Her grits are cooked through and are soft and creamy in your mouth. No matter where I have ordered them outside of her house they are hard, gritty, and raw. This restaurant was the exact same, but I beg you to not hold that against them since nearly every restaurant in the area makes them the exact same way (unfortunately.)

My daughter got a waffle which she actually devoured. I am going to assume she liked it because getting her to eat anything is generally a giant pain and a long process and she finished before I did.

The plates were garnished with a large leaf of something that I am assuming is parsely and an orange slice. We gave my daughter the oranges and after one bite she refused to eat them. Since oranges are one of her favorite foods I became curious and took a bite. It was very sour. I am of the opinion that nothing should ever go on a plate that is not expressly meant to be eaten. The food should speak for itself.

Bob got the Traditional – Canadian bacon – Eggs Benedict. He said that it was very bland and had very little flavor.

We found ourselves saying at the same time that we were off the opinion that very little, if anything other than the eggs, were cooked here. The kitchen is silent. There is no rushing of hot food. There are no clanging pans in the kitchen. It really was confusing as they have a sign in front that claims that they are they best in Palm Harbor.

Their website makes the claim that “All of our selections are made to order with the finest ingredients & the greatest of care, and trans fat free! Your patience is appreciated!” However, there was about 4 minutes between the time we ordered and the time that we recieved our food. I would argue that the previous statement is blatantly untrue.

The one bright spot in this trip was the service. Every staff member keeps a watchful eye on your table and they are quick with coffee refills and anything else you might need. I feel terrible about what I have written because I felt that the staff worked hard and were genuinely kind, but the food was not acceptable.

East Lake Cafe on Urbanspoon
Urbanspoon rocks

>Food Review: Big John’s Alabama BBQ.

>Yesterday, my brother Cameron and I ventured out into Tampa to look at an apartment. On the way, we saw a giant smoke stack and Cam yelled “Stop! We are going THERE!”

The place in question was Big John’s Alabama BBQ. We walked into a place filled with the aroma of roasting meat. It was wonderful. I never know what to order because I want everything. Cameron ordered the chopped pork sandwich and I followed suit. Cameron ordered the slaw and beans. I ordered the macaroni salad and potato salad, so all of the sides were sampled.

Cameron scarfed the slaw down and loved it. He also liked the beans, but said he wanted to make his own at home later. I thought that the potato salad tasted alright, but that it had a much too liquid consistency. The macaroni salad also tasted as it should have, but it was not the best the restaurant has to offer.

After the opening act, it was time for the star of the show. It was time for the pork and barbecue sauce. I ordered my sauce on the side. Cameron did not. I tasted the pork first and it was wonderful. It was tender, juicy, and delicious. I tasted the sauce next. Cameron said that it tasted like ketchup with a lot of vinegar added to it. I agreed with him, but we both felt like it grew on you. It wasn’t bad at all.

Big John’s has the feel of a barbecue joint. The room has about 6 small tables, padded metal chairs, and plastic picnic style table clothes. You walk up to a big counter to order and they bring your food to you there. If you are thirsty they sell canned soda and I was very happy to find that they stocked Coca-Cola.

All in all, it was a good experience. The food was good. The pork was great. We were happy. My brother insists that I will take him there again.

Big John’s Alabama BBQ is located at 5707 N 40th St, Tampa, FL 33610‏.

Note: Due to the widening of 40th Street, Big John’s will be closing for three months starting on the first of April, 2009.

Big John's Alabama BBQ on Urbanspoon