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    Post #1 - April 2nd, 2007, 10:08 am
    Post #1 - April 2nd, 2007, 10:08 am Post #1 - April 2nd, 2007, 10:08 am
    I'm going to St. Pete on business next week and I'll have some time to check out some meals on my own or with a chow-minded friend. I know there is a lot of Spanish spoken in that part of Florida so I'm wondering of someone could point me to a good Mexican restaurant.

    OK. I know Mexican food is not what I really should be looking for. I was just checking to make sure JeffB was paying attention. I know he and others have posted about places in Tampa to get decent Cuban and Spanish food, so now it's time for me to pay attention to the recommendations.

    I'll be spending most of my time (although I will have a car) in St. Pete Beach. Someone told me about a place called Ted Peters Smoked Fish and another one called The Hurricane Restaurant. Ted Peters sounds especially interesting. Anyone care to comment on these?
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #2 - April 2nd, 2007, 11:02 am
    Post #2 - April 2nd, 2007, 11:02 am Post #2 - April 2nd, 2007, 11:02 am
    Funny you should ask. I live near that area and posted the following on another website for a similar question that was asked of me. There is also Habana's Cuban Restaurant in Gulfport (near St. Pete Beach) and some other spanish restaurants around, but I really don't go there much as spanish or Mexican are not among my favorites. Let me know if you have any questions:

    Posted - 02/20/2007 :
    Here are some suggestions for good meals down here.

    In between Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach on Gulf Blvd., which is the main road between the two seaside towns, are: The Lobster Pot ( in Redington Shores is a great place for lobster and other seafood. The Salt Rock Grill ( in Indian Rocks is the best steak and seafood restaurant in Pinellas County. A great breakfast place is the Frog Pond in North Redington Beach, with a second location opening in the Spring in St. Pete Beach (also on Gulf Blvd). Also in the same town is The Wine Cellar ( which is pretty popular. The Middle Ground Grill ( is a great new restaurant for dinner only in Treasure Island (right around the corner from me). It has gotten some great reviews lately and our Christmas meal there was fantastic. Also in Treasure Island is the famous Sloppy Joe's on the Beach ( and Gators Sports Bar and Restaurant (, which is a local institution and big supporter of University of Florida sports. Go Gators! A little off Gulf Blvd. in Treasure Island on 107th Ave. is a great little German restaurant called Cafe Berlin. It is a tiny, little place, but is one of the local's favorites. And across the street from Cafe Berlin is Gigi's Italian Restaurant and Pizza, which often has won the "Best on the Beach" Italian food award by local newspapers. And by John's Pass in Madeira Beach is a big area with bars, gift shops, restaurants and a waterfront boardwalk, which has a lot of boating activities (including gambling boats). In St. Pete Beach is Dockside Dave's, famous for their grouper sandwiches, hamburgers, onion rings, wings and other good things.

    A little off of Gulf Blvd. also in St. Pete Beach is one of my favorites, Philthy Phil's waterfront and rooftop bar, which is a very neat place that has great fish, including grouper, hamburgers, wings, fried chicken and much more. Also a little off Gulf Blvd. a couple blocks away is The Oyster Shucker ( and a little further south is Seacritters Cafe on the inland waterway ( And still a little further south from there is the famous Hurricane Restaurant ( The view of the beach and surrounding area from their rooftop bar is not to be missed.

    The three best pizza places in the area in the order in which I like them best are Paul's Pizza, at the intersection of McMullen-Booth Rd. and SR 590 on the east side of Clearwater, Charlie & Millie's at 110th and Seminole Blvd. in Seminole, and Post Corner Pizza on Gulfview Blvd., just across the street from the beach in Clearwater Beach.
  • Post #3 - April 2nd, 2007, 12:47 pm
    Post #3 - April 2nd, 2007, 12:47 pm Post #3 - April 2nd, 2007, 12:47 pm

    When you're down there, if you have a taste for fresh, inexpensive oysters, check out PJ's Oyster Bar. Very casual, but the best grouper sandwich around and...where can you get a dozen fresh oysters for $5.95? Maybe it's gone up to $6.95 but no more than that. It's at the end of the strip mall all the way down Gulf Blvd. where it intersects with Corey Ave.

    PJ's Oyster Bar
    595 Corey Ave Ste F
    St Pete Beach, FL 33706-3681

    P.S. Ted Peters is a trip-and-a-half, definitely worth a trip. Believe it or not, the smoked mullet is sublime.
  • Post #4 - April 2nd, 2007, 12:48 pm
    Post #4 - April 2nd, 2007, 12:48 pm Post #4 - April 2nd, 2007, 12:48 pm

    I've been to most of the places listed by BTB over the years. (not the brand new one, eg.) As with all travel, you'll want to keep track of "good for Tampa/St. Pete" versus "unique to Tampa/St. Pete" versus "good for anywhere." Since you're here in Chicago and I'm familiar with the sorts of places you seek out while travelling, I'll just run down the places where I tend to drop in when I'm down there (which includes later this week, as it turns out).

    Lobster Pot is good, but a very old fashioned "fancy" sort of place. Salt Rock is a bustling, semi-hip waterfront (channel side, not beach) steak and seafood place that's packed to the rafters and has somewhat spotty service. Coming from here, I honestly don't see the appeal in going to either -- unless you want to have a relatively high-end dinner (say with clients). In that case, I'd probably go with Salt Rock and hope for the best, service wise.

    Smoked mullet is a Gulf institution, and I think you should try Ted Peters. Good stuff.

    The Hurricane is a tourist trap with mediocre-to-worse food, but worth dropping by for a drink at sunset. Seacritters is better, but I really like a place further up the strand in Indian Rocks, not too far from St. pete beach, Keegan's.

    Sloppy Joes is part of the chain playing off the place in Key West. I'd avoid it.

    The Cuban place in Gulfport was good and it apparently remains one of the best places for Cuban around there. Avoid the Colombia branch in St. Pete, from what I hear.

    Further north, on Clearwater beach (best urban beach in the US, according to that beach scientist guy, which is saying something considering Oak Street, Waikiki, and Manhattan Beach), is the proto-beer and grouper spot, Frenchy's. Smack on the beach (most restos are on the channel side if not in a hotel), it's a favorite. But food-wise, it's not better then the other spots closer to your home base. If you enjoy a little more activity, a pier, kids with ice cream cones, bikers and bikini contests, Clearwater is worth the drive. A very pleasant beach town it is.

    Even further north off the eyesore US 19 (the inland north-south highway with notorious traffic, but nothing you're not used to) is, for me, one of the more interesting spots one can visit on the Gulf coast, Tarpon Springs. The little downtown is intensely Greek. Like Greektown in Chicago, it's hard to go too wrong with the food. I like a little place off to the side called Mr. Souvlaki. Next door to that is a beach-shack type place with a very nice sandy beer garden under a huge live oak called Ballyhoo. But the place that I most look forward to trying is Rusty Bellies, which has day boats.

    Some super-fresh seafood followed by coffee and dessert at a Greek bakery down the street sounds about perfect.

    Last, getting across the bay to Tampa isn't going to take much more time than driving up the beach, as it's almost all interstate driving and includes a long bridge. There's always Bern's (South Tampa) and the original Columbia (Ybor -- both near downtown/airport) for local institutions.

    Ybor City is a bit hard to take at night now that I'm old, but it remains a pleasant enough place during the day. The Tropicana is sort of a Tampa Cuban version of Manny's, with politicians, business people and locals mixing over coffee and sandwiches. I might consider grabbing lunch there followed by a drink/cigar at the bar in the Columbia. Demmi's Market on 7th, or whatever it's now called (locals will know it by that name), has very good NY style, tossed-to-order pizza. Otherwise, I'd avoid pizza in Florida. Not all bad, just not often great. If you have any interest in cigars, then Ybor is a must-visit (daytime).

    For more down-to-earth Cuban dining, Columbus Avenue near Dale Marbry is ground zero, with places such as Arco Iris, Terisita, Florida Bakery, and a few pan-latino groceries. Most of what's there is in the La Unica/Marianao divey style.

    Beyond Cuban, there is some good Vietnamese, red-sauce Italian, and one(or two)-off good Chinese, BBQ, Brazilian, Thai, and even Mexican* to be found, though I wouldn't waste time and gas looking for it. (*Clearwater has a small but robust, recent Mexican community, mostly all from the same small town in Mexico; the St. Pete Times had an interesting article on it last year.)

    Oh, bakeries might be interesting also. The grand dame is La Segunda in Ybor, close to everything else (including ancient coffee roaster Naviera). But it's really more of an industrial business. Other than fresh loaves of Cuban bread, not much to buy there. Two Italian-Cuban places with good Cuban sandwiches are Castellano and Pizzo and Alessi (same family that imports Italian stuff under the Alessi label and Spanish under Vigo). Both are close to the airport, with C&P in the nice South Tampa neighborhood, not far from Bay Shore Blvd., which is worth checking out as it's all very large but mostly tasteful homes facing the bay and downtown. Seems impossible that the stretch has remained residential in a state that otherwise appears to be void of any zoning regs. And another decent option is the Tampa branch of Venezuelan chain Don Pan, right off the interstate at Dale Mabry (near the airport).

    At any of the Cuban places or bakeries, try a "devil crab" which is a doughy croquette of day-old cuban bread with a crab/sofrito filling. unique to Tampa and a product of the cast-offs from two industries-- baking and crabbing. A last meal for me could be a Tropicana Devil crab with garbanzo soup and a cup of cafe con leche.

    Here's a short but accurate Times article on Ybor. ... A9649C8B63

    Hope that helps.

    (BTW, I needed to do this for my own planning as well, so thanks for the bump!)

    PS, Dockside Dave's is a good bet also.

    PPS, also in or near Gulfport (the artsy little town on the inland side of the intercoastal from St Pete Beach) is a classic cracker place, Skyway Jack's. Originally it catered to the fishing fleet workers. Haven't been in a very long time, but people still seem to love the Biscuits & Gravy, grits and such..
    Last edited by JeffB on April 2nd, 2007, 5:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #5 - April 2nd, 2007, 1:25 pm
    Post #5 - April 2nd, 2007, 1:25 pm Post #5 - April 2nd, 2007, 1:25 pm
    I'm going to be down in that neck of the woods (Tampa) for a surgical strike mid-June, so this is great timing for me.

    A question, Jeff... while I have a deep appreciation for the colorful/skeezy/ramshackle and will be hitting those joints during the day, we're down there so that my wife can take the boards. So while we're food first folks and she's ordinarily more than happy to be dragged to any number of hole-in-the-wall establishments, comfort and ambiance will be at a premium for the few hours she has to relax. Given this, are any of these spots ones that we should gravitate towards or avoid?
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and
  • Post #6 - April 2nd, 2007, 3:02 pm
    Post #6 - April 2nd, 2007, 3:02 pm Post #6 - April 2nd, 2007, 3:02 pm
    Assuming you'll be in Downtown Tampa, you'll likely want to get out to, for example, nearby South Tampa (sadly dubbed SoHo for south of Howard Avenue) for SideBern's, the modern sibling to nearby Bern's or Spartaco, a quirky mother-and-son Italian-from-Italy place.

    Bern's Steakhouse is unique and worth the hassle, especially if you want to do some preliminary wine research and pick a rare old bottle (same for Columbia if the wine is Spanish -- two of the largests lists in the US, both with lots of verticals going way back). Be forewarned, the food is just very good, not great. The overall experience, the wine and cheap caviar are the draws. (Plus the over-the-top circa 1979 desset room with private booths made from wine casks.)

    Downtown or nearby are Spain, a hip-ish, reasonably-priced place with a general Spanish menu but some Gallego specialties. Good flamenco shows. Mis en Place is a fancy spot that has been going strong for at least 15 years, but it never knocked me out. St. Bart's Island house is in a nice indoor/outdoor spot, but again the food is not great. You might detect that I am underwhelmed by the places in Tampa that try to make higher end stuff.

    Apart from steak (Bern's Charley's, national chains), seafood, latin, and some Italian, the consensus "high end" choices seem to be SideBern's and Roy's -- the Tampa Roy's is sort of a flagship for the Outback Group and is quite good.

    Ybor's Columbia is dark and comfortable for dinner during the week, as is the Italian Bernini. Avoid the latter on weekends, as it becomes sort of a club (unless that's what you want, then it's a very good choice).
  • Post #7 - April 3rd, 2007, 12:17 pm
    Post #7 - April 3rd, 2007, 12:17 pm Post #7 - April 3rd, 2007, 12:17 pm
    Hurricane is a huge, overcrowded tourist place with so-so food. I went with a large group (about 10) and three hours later we left, with only half of us fed.

    I had a beer and some conch fritters at Seacritter's. It's the kind of place I like - it seemed full of locals, not tourists. Right on the water, where locals can dock their boats and come in. The conch was my first, so I can't judge, but I enjoyed them - more tender then I thought. here's a shot -


    We found a really good small Italian place nearby, where the owner was the waiter, and his wife was the cook, but I can't remember the name or find it listed anywhere.
  • Post #8 - April 3rd, 2007, 2:00 pm
    Post #8 - April 3rd, 2007, 2:00 pm Post #8 - April 3rd, 2007, 2:00 pm
    I spent a couple years in Tampa my frosh and soph years of college so its been about five years but I have been back a few times, some damn good food spots...

    First choice southern BBQ- By far the best BBQ I found in the area, you'll know when your close, this place is the real deal. Slow cooked for 3-4 hours and beautiful smoke rings on every rib with great southern hospitality.

    Wrights- If you ever find yourself in South Tampa cruising down dale mabry this place has been around forever for good reason, great sammys, and while I havent been in a long time I doubt it has changed one bit. During lunch hours be prepared to wait in line.

    Berns- The premier steakhouse of Tampa, should not be missed by the steakhouse connoisseur dont be surprised if you see George Steinbrenner sitting at the bar, it seems like he was there every time I ate there. Tampa also has an outpost of Charley's, a famous steakhouse in Orlando, ill give the edge to Berns but Charleys didnt dissapoint. Sideberns is like a smaller version of Berns with smaller plates if you wanna go easy, still not cheap.

    Mazzaro's- A must stop for any foodie, this Italian market will have you wishing there was something like it here in Chicago.

    Jerk Hut- Real deal island cooking.

    Five guys burger and fries- The famous Virginia burger shack has a new location in tampa, near the USF campus. I havent been to this one but I have been to a location in DC and this place is pretty good for fast food burgers.

    Gladstones grilled chicken- They have two locations and I pretty much ate at the one downtown at least three times a week for lunch, just really good grilled chicken at a more than reasonable price.

    Cuban sandwich's- Tampa has the best in the world. Make sure you try one. The most important part of a Cuban sandwich is the bread. So they say true Cuban bread cannot be found outside of Tampa or Miami. I reccomend Brocato’s (this is my favorite sandwich in the world not called italian beef) where I remember that they made their own mojo pork and the sammys came stacked a mile high, if you go to just one place on this list, go here. Silver ring in Ybor also has some great cuban food, I heard it may closed but I guess its back.

    Also if you make it over to Ybor and do a little exploring off the beaten path you will come across all sorts of hidden gem like bbq pits, jerk pits and fried seafood shacks. Mema’s Alaskan Tacos located in Ybor are good late night food.

    Brocatos Sandwich Shop
    5021 E Columbus Dr
    Tampa, FL 33619
  • Post #9 - April 3rd, 2007, 4:13 pm
    Post #9 - April 3rd, 2007, 4:13 pm Post #9 - April 3rd, 2007, 4:13 pm
    Good info, Beef. You got around for a college kid. I've never been to Mazzoros (St. Pete is a "drive thru" for us Tampenos going to the beach).

    You should have seen the first Silver Ring (circa 1940's-1980's) before it came back as an OK place in the '90s. It closed and came back again, but I hear it's very disappointing.

    Speaking of random places in Ybor, I also like the fried seafood place Ladies of the Sea, with fresh, battered when ordered fish and shrimp. The original is among the Ponce deLeon projects, which I assume have been razed to make the trip from downtown to Ybor more tourist-friendly.

    Carmine's, the Italian-Cuban bar doesn't do any one thing the best, but it's a pleasant place to cool down with a beer in Ybor during the day.

    Right about the Cuban bread.
  • Post #10 - April 3rd, 2007, 4:28 pm
    Post #10 - April 3rd, 2007, 4:28 pm Post #10 - April 3rd, 2007, 4:28 pm
    Awesome stuff, thanks so much, guys.

    As mentioned, we're not going until mid-June, but I'll definitely report back once we do.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and
  • Post #11 - April 3rd, 2007, 5:21 pm
    Post #11 - April 3rd, 2007, 5:21 pm Post #11 - April 3rd, 2007, 5:21 pm
    Thanks everyone for what sound like some great tips. I'll never be able to make it to half of these places due to work schedule and the fact that I am only goiong to be there for 4 days. I'll report back.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #12 - April 3rd, 2007, 8:00 pm
    Post #12 - April 3rd, 2007, 8:00 pm Post #12 - April 3rd, 2007, 8:00 pm
    I was down in Tampa in December to play golf. I was having stomach issues which sort of limited me, but I still had two very good meals at La Teresita. Nothing fancy, just what I would call Cuban diner food. I had a Cuban sandwich one day, roast pork the next, both with excellent soup.
    "Fried chicken should unify us, as opposed to tearing us apart. " - Bomani Jones
  • Post #13 - April 18th, 2007, 7:20 am
    Post #13 - April 18th, 2007, 7:20 am Post #13 - April 18th, 2007, 7:20 am
    My trip to Tampa/St. Pete Beach was a smashing success thanks to the recommendations I got in this thread. I seemed to mostly follow in the footsteps of JeffB (I'm no fool) and jnm123. As soon as I landed, I drive over th Ybor City for a quick Bebe Special Cuban sandwich at the charmingly divey La Tropicana Cafe. This place is patronized mostly by locals and was aptly described as Manny's-like in that there is a large bar, behind which your waitress or perhaps another worker, will make up your sandwich to order between conversation with the regulars who might be sitting at the bar or perhaps at one of the tables nearby. The sandwich was very good...especially the bread. What struck me about the Tampa, or perhaps more specifically the Ybor City, variant of the Cuban sandwich was that it was not placed in a sandwich press as it is in Miami. Rather, the bread is warmed and the "stuffing" was served at room temp, piled high rather than compressed. The cheese was not melted. Although a bit different that what I am accustomed to, this is a fine sandwich. The bread is a thing of beauty. Sorry, no pictures.


    The next day, I went to the JeffB recommended Skyway Jack's for breakfast. This is a diner just dripping with charm situated just inland from the sea on the Schaumburg-like Hwy 19.

    Skyway Jack's

    The interior is tchotzkie laden and the old school waitresses are a friendly as can be as they peddle their wares.


    Skyway Jack's is open for breakfast and lunch daily and has a full menu as well as some interesting breakfast specials including meatloaf and eggs, brains and eggs and, of course, the Old Navy which consists of smoked sausage and beans.

    Skyway Jack's Breakfast Specials

    I decided to pass on those and instead ordered a "standard" breakfast of two eggs over easy with sausage and grits. Breakfast was served with toast and home made red pepper-cherry jelly.

    Skyway Jack's Eggs & Sausage

    I also got a side order of biscuits & gravy. While the gravy was good, it was a bit on the bland side. The biscuits fresh baked and flaky to a fault. I'm sure these would have passed the JiLS biscuit taste test.

    Skyway Jack's Biscuits & Gravy

    Skyway Jack's is a superb diner. If I lived in this part of the country, I'd be a regular for sure!

    Although I was busy in meetings for the rest of the day, when dinner time rolled around and I heard the suggestion to send an assistant to Bennigan's to get some take out, I resisted the temptation to laugh out loud and instead suggested that we send our assistant to the jnm123 recommended PJ's Oyster Bar to get take out instead (my original suggestion of Seacritters didn't work out because they were already closed). This turned out to be an excellent meal. Thanks to jmn123 for a rescue from a fate worse than death!

    I'll post more later.

    La Tropicana Cafe
    1822 E 7th Ave
    Tampa, FL

    Skyway Jacks
    2600 34th St S
    St. Petersburg, FL

    PJ's Oyster Bar
    595 Corey Ave Ste F
    St Pete Beach, FL
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #14 - April 18th, 2007, 9:07 am
    Post #14 - April 18th, 2007, 9:07 am Post #14 - April 18th, 2007, 9:07 am

    Glad the suggestions worked out! You touched all the bases for Tampa/St. Pete, as far as local food goes: Cuban, Cracker, Seafood Shack.

    Good observation about the non-pressed sandwiches at La Tropicana. There's something of a local historical debate regarding the original way to heat a Cuban. Most old-time Ybor City places (Tropicana, Silver Ring, Columbia) tend to toast the bread and offer more of a composed sandwich, whereas in other parts of town (West Tampa) presses are much more common. To confuse matters more, one of the old standard-bearers in Ybor, Carmine's, has always used a massive multi-sandwich press. in the streetside window. Some old-timers claim to recall sandwiches being heated in a commercial pants press, like those used to great comedic success by Moe Fine. I have a couple of guesses. First, if you have bread that is as brilliant as fresh loaves from La Segunda (just a few doors down from Tropicana, and one of the oldest continuously operating bakeries in the US), pressing is less attractive. While the press definitely improves the Gonella that substitutes for Cuban bread here, pressing fresh la Segunda bread is a bit like pressing a fresh croissant from Fox & Obel. On the other hand, Carmines does just that, and it makes for a fine sandwich. Carmines itself might hold another clue to pressing -- it's one of the many Sicilian-Cuban institutions in town, along with Alessi Bakery, Brocato's, Cacciatore, Castellano & Pizzo, and La Russa & Piniella (both from Tampa's Sicilio-Cubano community). Possibly, the Italian influenced places applied the panino technique to the sandwich early on.

    PS, the cafe con leche at Tropicana is terrific, too. They have a massive old chrome contraption with a spigot for Cuban coffee on one side and hot milk on the other. The Cuban coffee is produced in the correct way, with a big sock/colador.

    Here's some sandwich history. ... dwich.html

    Skyway Jack's is the kind of place where Carl Hiaasen's characters meet to plot a harebrained, get rich quick, trash the environment scheme. I'd have a hard time choosing between the brains and the scrapple.
  • Post #15 - April 21st, 2007, 7:09 pm
    Post #15 - April 21st, 2007, 7:09 pm Post #15 - April 21st, 2007, 7:09 pm
    kiplog wrote:
    We found a really good small Italian place nearby, where the owner was the waiter, and his wife was the cook, but I can't remember the name or find it listed anywhere.

    If it's right across Gulf Blvd. from Sea Critters, that would probably be Gennaro's. Before it expanded, it had literally 4 tables and three booths. They did an absolutely kick-ass carryout business for everyone on Pass-A-Grille, and if you wanted to eat in, you were definitely waiting, outside the place, by 5:15.

    But it was homemade & cheap. Fresh fried calamari, with more tentacles than rings. Ziti with gravy was $6.95, two meatballs a buck extra. Comped garlic bread. No china, more a plastic-type dishware and baskets for the bread and appetizers. Pizza was thin, good and burn-a-layer-of-skin-off-the-roof-of-your-mouth hot.

    From approximately 1988 to 2002 or so, during my annual trip to see the folks in St. Pete Beach, we'd dine or carry out at least twice each year. I think they expanded in about '03, and I haven't been back. My folks say it's not as good, but I'm not so sure. Older folks will love a place for 20 years, then one thing goes wrong, and it's 'we won't be back'. Capisce?
  • Post #16 - April 22nd, 2007, 5:30 am
    Post #16 - April 22nd, 2007, 5:30 am Post #16 - April 22nd, 2007, 5:30 am
    Day 2 of my stay in St. Pete Beach had me leaving the opulence of the Don CeSar Hotel for another run to the Tampa airport to pick up my assistant.

    Don CeSar Beach Resort

    As soon as we got his luggage, we made a bee line to one of Ybor City's most famous restaurants for a bit of lunch.

    Columbia Restaurant

    Opened in 1902, this restaurant wears its history on the outside via a series of tableaus presented via beautiful, larger than life tile murals.

    Exterior of Columbia Restaurant

    Also in front of the restaurant is a sort of walk-of-fame featuring engraved bricks honoring various members of the Hernandez Gonzmart family, the founders and still owners of the Columbia, and a few notable others.

    Tribute to a Singing Waiter

    As impressive as the outside of the restaurant is, the interior is perfectly preserved in all of its 102 year old splendor.

    The Room in Which I Ate

    But how were the portions you ask?

    Columbia has a broad menu featuring Spanish classics with a Cuban touch. This is a place that could take many visits to do justice to reviewing the good looking dishes on the menu. We were there for a late lunch, so we both ordered a combination of 1/2 Cuban Sandwich and a portion of the Columbia's "1905 Salad", which is a signature dish.

    The salad is based on a 102 year old recipe and is prepared tableside. It's more or less a glorified Julianne consisting of iceberg lettuce, ham, swiss cheese, tomatoes, green olives (straight from the jar), romano cheese and their house vinaigrette.

    Columbia Restaurant 1905 Salad Being Prepared Tableside

    The salad was paired with 1/2 of a Cuban Sandwich, which was prepared in that particularly Ybor City style I wrote about upthread in which the sandwich is piled high with ingredients and not pressed. This was an outstanding sandwich served on what appeared to be the same bread used at La Tropicana. An interesting thing about the Ybor City Cuban bread was that there was a dried ribbon of some sort of leaf (perhaps corn?) that ran the length of the bread. This leaf was removed before consuming the bread, but I found it an interesting touch, and perhaps a way to judge if the bread was authentic or not. If that was really the purpose of the leaf, it was not necessary because one taste should be enough to identify this bread.

    Columbia Restaurant 1/2 Sandwich and Salad Combo

    Columbia Restaurant is a gem. I wish I was able to return for dinner to explore some of the more elaborate dishes on the menu and to explore their extensive wine list. At least I have a reason to return to Tampa at some point in the future.

    Columbia Restaurant
    2117 E 7th Ave
    Tampa, FL

    More to Come.....
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #17 - April 22nd, 2007, 3:19 pm
    Post #17 - April 22nd, 2007, 3:19 pm Post #17 - April 22nd, 2007, 3:19 pm
    In a previous live, I traveled to Tampa/St. Pete for business. It's been 15-years years since I've eaten at the Columbia - your pictures bring back lots of good memories. Maybe I've missed your mention of it, but was there a floor show when you were there? There was the times I've visited.
  • Post #18 - April 22nd, 2007, 3:27 pm
    Post #18 - April 22nd, 2007, 3:27 pm Post #18 - April 22nd, 2007, 3:27 pm
    Bill wrote:In a previous live, I traveled to Tampa/St. Pete for business. It's been 15-years years since I've eaten at the Columbia - your pictures bring back lots of good memories. Maybe I've missed your mention of it, but was there a floor show when you were there? There was the times I've visited.

    No floor show, but I was there at around 2:30 in the afternoon, so there was not much going on. I imagine that if there was a floor show, it would be in the evening. I plan on returning for dinner someday, so I'll let you know. :wink:
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #19 - April 22nd, 2007, 5:59 pm
    Post #19 - April 22nd, 2007, 5:59 pm Post #19 - April 22nd, 2007, 5:59 pm
    The atmosphere - like much of Ybor City - varies from day to night. The restaurant is very laid back during the day (weith no entertainment) and comes alive at night.

    And the food is done very well.
  • Post #20 - April 22nd, 2007, 11:31 pm
    Post #20 - April 22nd, 2007, 11:31 pm Post #20 - April 22nd, 2007, 11:31 pm
    Nice work, Steve. It's a photogenic spot that you did justice. But the sandwich/salad photo is calendar material. A week earlier, I was in the gift shop buying a bag of arroz bomba and a hand-rolled perfecto from the lady rolling them.

    The leaf is a palm frond from the palmettos that grow wild everywhere. It splits the bread and identifies it as a quality artisan loaf, most assuredly from La Segunda, the bakery a few doors down.
  • Post #21 - April 23rd, 2007, 9:35 am
    Post #21 - April 23rd, 2007, 9:35 am Post #21 - April 23rd, 2007, 9:35 am
    After an extremely disappointing diner at the Hotel Concierge recommended Madfish the night before (as a public service, I'm warning you to stay away), on Day 3 we headed out to a place that my friend/assistant remembered from a visit to Tampa some 8 - 10 years ago, Crab Shack on Gandy Blvd. This roadhouse-like shack of a place is located just over the Gandy Bridge on the St. Petersburg side. Crab Shack (no The) is a no frills crab N' beer joint that has serving up fresh crabs and seafood since the 50's.

    We started with pristine mussels served in a garlic butter. These were some of the plumpest, freshest mussels I have ever encountered in a restaurant regardless of the price point. the fact that they only cost $5.25 for a huge order was a bonus.

    Crab Shack Mussels in Garlic Butter

    I followed that up with a "crab sampler", consisting of Blue Crab, Snow Crab & Stone Crab. The blue crabs were prepared with a sort of cajun spice sprinkled over them and were quite delicious, as were the stone and snow crabs. Everything was extremely fresh. For $21.95 for this huge plate of food, I'd say it's a real bargain.

    Crab Shack Crab Sampler

    A real bonus was that the crusty, but very friendly waitress cleaned and shucked the first blue crab tableside. After admonishing me to pay attention, she said I was on my own for the rest of them.

    Aw Shucks

    Crab Shack is a locals only dive that is probably off any guidebook's radar (just the way I like it), but should be a must visit for any LTHer finding themselves in the Tampa Bay area.

    Crab Shack
    11400 Gandy Blvd
    St. Petersburg, FL

    More to Come
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #22 - April 24th, 2007, 5:16 am
    Post #22 - April 24th, 2007, 5:16 am Post #22 - April 24th, 2007, 5:16 am
    stevez wrote:Crab Shack Mussels in Garlic Butter

    Quite an evocative picture.
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #23 - April 29th, 2007, 8:44 am
    Post #23 - April 29th, 2007, 8:44 am Post #23 - April 29th, 2007, 8:44 am
    On Day 4 of my Tampa area visit, our work was done by 1:00 P.M., so we headed to Tarpon Springs.


    Tarpon Springs is a town steeped in tradition and inhabited mostly by Greeks. This is a place that The Chow Poodle has long wanted to visit because of her Greek heritage. Unfortunately, she did not accompany me on this trip, but we'll surely be making a return visit so she can experience this place first-hand. While the sponge fishing industry isn't what it used to be, Tarpon Springs still honors it's citizens who risked everything, and sometimes lost, for you and I to be able to successfully bathe.

    Tarpon Springs Memorial Statue

    Tarpon Springs is a tourist destination, make no mistake about it, but it is also a town where people live and, despite the overwhelming Greek influence, it is still close to Tampa and there is also a bit of Cuban influence as well.

    Tarpon Springs Cigar Stand

    One of the more interesting businesses and dining destinations is a place called Rusty Bellies. I had already scoped this place out as a potential destination when JeffB mentioned it in his post upthread. That sealed the deal for me. Rusty Bellies is family owned and is part of a mini-empire which consists of a small fleet of fishing boats, a retail seafood store called Pelican Point Seafood (located next to the restaurant) and the restaurant itself.

    Rusty Bellies

    All of the fish and seafood served at the restaurant is caught by their own boats and it is a fresh as can be. The fish you eat is probably no more than a few hours away from having been swimming in the Gulf minding its own business. Also, the view of a scuttled shrimp trawler from the restaurant really adds to the atmosphere. By the time you visit, this trawler might have been moved because it appears to be right in the middle of a navigation lane.

    A Three Hour Tour

    We started out with an appetizer of artichoke and feta dip, surprisingly served with multi-colored tortilla chips rather than pita bread. This dish was nothing particularly special. In fact, I didn't even take a picture of it. That was followed up by a combination plate of grilled fish called the E. Sea Rider (Many of their combination dinner plates are named after local fishing vessels) which consisted of skewers of grilled shrimp and grilled scallops with a fillet of grilled grouper on a bed of saffron rice. The plate comes with your choice of side. In my case, I chose corn casserole.

    Rusty Bellies E. Sea Rider

    Everything was, needless to say, very fresh and cooked with an extremely deft hand. Both the seafood and the grouper had the slightest kiss of smoke from the hardwood over which it was grilled. Despite the casual atmosphere of Rusty Bellies, this dinner ranked among the top five seafood dinners I have ever had. I still think about it some two weeks later.

    After dinner, it was off to Hellas Bakery for some desert and coffee. Hellas is a surprisingly large bakery with at least 20 - 30 tables along with a huge selection of Greek pastries.

    Hellas Pastry Counter

    Besides pastries, Hellas also has quite the selection of fresh Greek bread in various styles.

    Hellas Bread Selection

    I couldn't resist the charm of this lovely bakery girl, so I might have overbought. What a surprise. :wink:

    Hellas Bakery Girl

    After my last disappointing diplas encounter at the otherwise stellar Central Gyros, I was glad to see that they had a bunch of fresh ones (visible to the bakery girl's right). I had one of those on the spot and it was everything you want in a dipla...flakey with just the right amount of honey coating.

    Hellas Diplas

    My visit to Tarpon Springs was wonderful and a great way to end my quick 4 day trip to the Tampa area. It had been at least 10 - 15 years since I had been. It won't be that long before I return again.

    The next morning, I boarded a plane and I was off to Las Vegas. I'll post some Vegas stuff in my old "Vegas - Mostly Off the Strip" thread.

    Rusty Bellies
    937 Dodecanese Blvd.
    Tarpon Springs, FL

    Hellas Restaurant & Bakery
    785 Dodecanese Blvd.
    Tarpon Springs, FL
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #24 - April 30th, 2007, 9:06 am
    Post #24 - April 30th, 2007, 9:06 am Post #24 - April 30th, 2007, 9:06 am

    I'm very glad you had the chance to try some of these places, particularly in Tarpon Springs and Ybor. The ethnic enclaves, old, dense and vibrant, are really quite special and somewhat unique in the US. I think that some of the delight people find in small towns throughout Europe or Latin America comes through in both places, if you know where to look. [And, like a holiday town in Southern Europe, there's plenty of touristy junk. But even that junk is relatively immune from the homogenization that affects tourist towns throughout North America.] Both places have long-standing immigrant communities that are still very much tied to the old country and tradition. They do things the right way (the only way), regardless of the fact that it can't be mass produced for expansion. Rusty Bellies presents another variation on the theme, tied to the tradition of small family fishermen. Certainly, there are only a handful of people doing what the folks at Rusty Bellies have accomplished. They are not the chef on the satellite phone with a fisherman -- they are the fisherman. To get an idea of how much of a throwback these guys are, read the story on the site regarding the owner's quixotic but completely successful decision to handcraft the family shrimp trawler from scratch. That's one hell of a hobby.

    And, yes, the day-boat seafood at Rusty Bellies is fantastic. Wild Gulf shrimp, crabs, real grouper, mangrove snapper, mullet, scallops, even clams from Indian River. Hard to beat in terms of variety, taste, and freshness. If you step into the seafood store downstairs, you can purchase whole, freshy-caught grouper. That would make for a nice 4th of July fish fry...
  • Post #25 - April 30th, 2007, 9:56 am
    Post #25 - April 30th, 2007, 9:56 am Post #25 - April 30th, 2007, 9:56 am
    While Bern's has been mentioned a few times in this thread, I think it deserves a bit more attention. I plan on making a trip (pilgrimage) to Tampa for a few days just so I can have the pleasure of dining at Berns'. Bern's dry ages their steaks for 5 to 8 weeks. The wine list consists of almost seven thousand choices and a cellar of almost two million bottles, with many old bottles at ridiculously low prices. It claims to be the largest cellar of any restaurant in the world. They also have their own farm raised free range chickens that are remarkably flavorful (but I'm not suggesting that one order chicken in a steakhouse). I couldn't imagine being within striking distance of this establishment and taking a pass. 1981 Chave Hermitage Blanc? $45. Enough said.
  • Post #26 - April 30th, 2007, 11:53 am
    Post #26 - April 30th, 2007, 11:53 am Post #26 - April 30th, 2007, 11:53 am
    ...and the largest list of dessert wines, and huge salt-water fish tanks, and a tremendous, inexpensive caviar program, and career waiters, etc. I'm a fan, and have discussed it many times. The wine is reason enough to go, for sure. It really stinks that cigars are no longer permitted upstairs, despite the incredible air filtration system. A post-prandial smoke with a glass of old booze was part of the experience.

    You're right, everything there is a bargain, including the steaks. I'm a little critical of the meat, though I should hedge by stating that the really large cuts to be shared by 3 or more are far superior. (Understanding that they all come from the same place.)
  • Post #27 - April 30th, 2007, 2:29 pm
    Post #27 - April 30th, 2007, 2:29 pm Post #27 - April 30th, 2007, 2:29 pm
    deesher wrote:I couldn't imagine being within striking distance of this establishment and taking a pass.

    Given one or two more nights I would have been there, but steak was low enough on my priorities that in the few nights I had in the area, I just didn't get around to it. In fact, the whole time I was in St. Pete Beach, the closest I got to Tampa at night was when we went to Crab Shack.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #28 - June 19th, 2007, 11:09 pm
    Post #28 - June 19th, 2007, 11:09 pm Post #28 - June 19th, 2007, 11:09 pm

    We've arrived!

    Not much to report today, unfortunately. Upon checking in, I had some issues with the 'net connection, and was without my resources (read: you guys) for our lunchtime selection. Columbia was the only one I could remember offhand ("Tampa's Cuban Manny's" doesn't get you far with the front desk, apparently), so I don't have too much to add to Steve's report thus far. It is, indeed, a unique and fun place, if not culinary nirvana. I'm forever amused by aging relics that dress their waitstaff in scruffy tux jackets and bow ties, and I'd swear that was one of the Gonzmart patriarchs sitting in the entryway as we left.


    Figuring I'd get my fill of Cuban sandwiches at the places I'm planning to hit over the next couple of days, I ordered somewhat arbitrarily. I have little to no frame of reference for what I'll be eating this trip, but my instincts tell me that Columbia's palomilla isn't in the running for best of breed. Nonetheless, a relaxing and enjoyable lunch.

    After an extended nap (early flight) my ladylove wanted to get back to bed quickly and didn't want to drive anywhere for dinner (some pesky medical boards she has to take over the next couple of days), so I'll spare you the details of the national Italian chain across the street.

    No, not THAT one.

    More substantive reporting tomorrow...
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and
  • Post #29 - June 20th, 2007, 9:26 am
    Post #29 - June 20th, 2007, 9:26 am Post #29 - June 20th, 2007, 9:26 am

    Here's a list (no particular order).

    West Tampa (Columbus near Dale Mabry-- close to the stadium and TPA)

    La Teresita
    3246 W Columbus Dr, Tampa, FL
    (813) 879-4909 (all night Cuban cafeteria; gritty; huge menu; not the best, but quite good)

    La Ideal
    2924 W Tampa Bay Blvd
    Tampa, FL 33607
    (813) 870-0150 (Ideal Cuban cafe with locals; couple of streets over from Columbus))

    Arco Iris
    3328 W Columbus Dr
    Tampa, FL 33607
    (813) 879-1357 (Quite similar, but with some Chino-Cubano)

    Snack City
    2506 W Columbus Dr
    Tampa, FL 33607
    (813) 872-7502 (Famous for hand-made tropical ice cream. If you liked Miami flavors or dig mango kulfi, this should be great.)

    Florida Bakery
    3320 W Columbus Dr, Tampa, FL
    (813) 870-0756 (big bakery with Miami-style (lardy) Cuban bread, pastry. Compare to the more austere Tampa style)


    La Tropicana
    1822 E 7th Ave, Tampa, FL
    (813) 247-4040 (Manny's of Tampa. Do try the cafe con leche, devil crab (unique to Tampa) and the potaje de garbanzos, among the best around)

    (Demmi's) Market on 7th
    1816 E 7th Ave, Tampa, FL
    (813) 248-2356 (Sicilio-Cubano institution; mostly a bar; good NYC style pizza, live music)

    1802 E 7th Ave
    Tampa, FL 33605
    (813) 248-3834 (Also Sicilio-Cuban; good sandwiches, crabs and soups; avoid most Italian but look for crab enchilado, the ultimate Tampa fusion -- crab in a spicy marinara-meets-Spanish sofrito sauce, ladled on pasta or rice; getting hard to find outside the home)

    La Segunda
    2512 N 15th St
    Tampa, FL 33605
    (813) 248-1531 (Near Columbia; Cornerstone Cuban bakery, over 100 years old, I think)
    Just down the street is La Naviera, a quite similar business that has been roasting Cuban coffee forever in the same spot); and also right there is the best Cigar shop in Ybor. Look for the Fuente sign.

    Solid non-Cuban on the 7th Ave. strip includes Bernini for upscale Italian, Moses White for BBQ, Ladies of the Sea (if it is still there) for southern fried seafood; Green Iguana for Florida beach food (grouper sammy, beer, burgers).

    513 N Tampa St, Tampa, FL
    (813) 223-2831 Modern tapas and northern Spanish; owners are from Spain (Vizcaya?); good flamenco show. Silver Ring, a venerable Cuban sandwich place originally in Ybor has an outpost nearby. Mixed reviews. Look out for the Jamaican jerk places that seem to come and go downtown as well.

    Have fun
  • Post #30 - June 20th, 2007, 10:38 pm
    Post #30 - June 20th, 2007, 10:38 pm Post #30 - June 20th, 2007, 10:38 pm
    Tampa / St. Pete's Day II
    ... or ...
    Now We're Talking!
    ... or ...
    Don't Feed Me Until Next Thursday

    After a slow start, my itinerary for day two was perhaps a little overly ambitious, but it yielded one of my tastiest days in recent memory. I'm going with click-to-enlarge for day two, since the load time for this page is becoming somewhat formidable.


    The (late) morning started with a tour of JeffB's Pan-Latin ground zero, the series of strip malls on Columbus just east of Dale Mabry. Owing to an alarm clock mishap I didn't have time to do a comprehensive survey, but I managed to hit a few spots. I started at Borinquen Meat Market, a small grocery with a butcher counter and a tiny hot table with a few lunch selections in the corner. It seemed a little early for the lunch rush, but there was a crowd clamoring for cafe con leche, of which I partook while strolling the strip, wandering into markets here and there.


    Just as I drained my cup, I reached La Teresita, so I decided it was time for lunch. It's a charming little dive with pink walls, three U-shaped jetties posing as counters, and a stern fellow tending the joint who, with the addition of a surfboard and wide-brimmed hat, would make a fine Lt. Colonel Kilgore (even if it doesn't show in this particular photo). At 11:30, the stools were nearly full, displaying a delightful spectrum of leathery Floridians, native Spanish speakers of all types, retirees, power lunchers and sun visor clad tourists.


    I started off with a bowl of the garbanzo soup, just one of a huge selection of eight or ten, mostly bean-based. It was thick, rich, and quite porky, with a nice chunk of fatty, melty belly sitting right on top.



    I moved onto the Cuban, making my first mistake of the day... which wasn't that I ordered the Cuban, but that I ordered the large instead of the small. A lighter lunch would have paid dividends later that evening. In any case, based on my two-stop sample (the second in a moment), it appears that Cubans of the compressed rather than the composed variety dominate this particular drag. It was thin, crispy, meaty, melty and unexpectedly mayonnaisey. Is this typical? My Cuban experience is limited, but I don't recall encountering mayonnaise before today. I'm ordinarily a mayonnaise whore, but I think I would have preferred without. In any case, a minor complaint. Damn fine sandwich.


    On my way back to the car, I fell into Florida Bakery to grab something to bring back for my ladylove on her lunch break. It gave me the opportunity to sample a second Cuban (a taste of hers, not another one... yow), and also to try Jeff's recommended Devil Crab. Florida Bakery's cases are stuffed with sweets and cakes of all kinds, as well as a wall of bread on the far left when you enter.


    It's a pretty lively place around lunchtime. One woman arriving for her shift and finding a small crowd waiting at the counter went straight to pulling coffee without bothering to remove her purse. It remained on her shoulder until the wave had passed. I carried out my items and whisked them back to the hotel.


    I have to say, I was pretty underwhelmed by Florida Bakery's Cuban. The bread was, as Jeff mentions above, much more doughy and lardy, as opposed to the crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside style I've encountered everywhere else. If this is more typical of Miami, I think I prefer the Tampa version. Beyond the difference in bread, it was practically swimming in mayo and also included lettuce and tomato. Whether this is because Florida Bakery has a significantly different style, or because I stuck out like a sore thumb while ordering I can't say, but either way I was unimpressed.


    Their Devil Crabs, however, were awesome. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. The croquette was doughy, but the exterior was a deep golden brown and quite crumbly/crispy -- a very nice texture. The filling was way more potent than I expected, chock full of onions, garlic and tomato in addition to the requisite crab, but mostly it was about the VINEGAR. Loads of it. I loved it. We destroyed the Devil Crabs. The Cuban went nearly untouched.


    Fearing that I might not have the opportunity tomorrow, I scooted across the bay during my ladylove's afternoon session in search of smoked fish. On my way, I learned that seven-mile bridges are cool, that the high end of Wolfmother's lead singer's vocal range is a frustrating half step above mine, and that if my team played in the eyesore that is Tropicana Field, I'm not so sure I'd go to see them, either.

    I loved Ted Peters right off the bat. Stepping out of the car, I walked smack into a wall of sweet smoke that dazed me such that I didn't notice I was having camera issues. Note to self: air conditioned cars and muggy Florida weather beget foggy lenses. Ted Peters is laid out in such a manner that its coziness belies its location right on top of a six-laner. I eschewed the air-conditioned dining room in favor of the great outdoors, where a counter is surrounded on three sides by an assortment of lacquered wooden tables and benches, all under cover. I grabbed a stool, perused the menu and asked the woman helping me about their "Fish Spread Sandwich". She disappeared into the kitchen and returned shortly thereafter with two small dishes, one with a taste of the fish spread and one with the German potato salad. The potato salad was simple and delicious, barely dressed with big planks of bacon. The fish spread was stupendous. Creamy, sweet and smoky all in one, it was made from the smoked mullet with mayonnaise and relish, like tuna salad's deeper, more complex, underappreciated cousin. I briefly considered ditching Plan A in favor of the spread, but decided to stick to my guns and order the smoked mullet. I was warned that it was possessed of a very intense flavor, it would require careful bone removal, and if this put me off I might consider the mahi mahi or salmon. I was, of course, undeterred (though intrigued by the mackerel), and I assured her I was entirely comfortable with bold, pointy fish.


    And how. Wooooo, this was some good stuff. Embarrassingly, I have yet to visit Calumet Fisheries so I can't make any comparison, but damn, this was wonderful. Already feeling full-ish with dinner around the corner, I opted for the lunch plate which omitted the sides and gave me a single whole (well, headless) mullet, cleaved down the middle and smoked to a deep golden brown. I thought the warning of fishiness was vastly overblown. I can't imagine what anybody would find offensive about this, but then I can't imagine what anybody would find offensive about a lot of foods, so take that for what it's worth. I gave it just a touch of lemon, but it probably didn't even need that. This fish was a beautiful, beautiful thing and from this day hence I think I can safely say that every visit to Tampa (and perhaps Orlando) will include a visit to Ted Peters. Or maybe I've just never had good smoked fish before, which is entirely possible.

    Dinner was, mercifully, later in the evening and a bit of a trek, giving me some time to digest. Though I had hoped to provide more of a counterpoint to Steve's visit, the call of the day boat was simply too irresistible, so we also fell into Rusty Bellies. The view and scent from the deck were airy and refreshing at sunset (a good thing, since our server left us languishing for nearly half an hour), and dinner was right on the money.


    Again, not a broad base of experience, but they start you off with some damn fine hush puppies at this place.


    Fresh seafood, simply prepared was clearly the theme for the day. We started with a half bucket of their peel-and-eat shrimp, and I could have stopped them right there, ordered two more full buckets and called it a night. They were steamed with just a touch of seasoning and swimming in clarified butter. I spritzed them with a bit of fresh lime juice, waved them over a bottle of tabasco, and they were perfect. My ladylove declared them the best shrimp she's tasted. I'm certainly not prepared to go that far, but they were eminently scarfable and I explained that it was probably the first time she was eating shrimp that hadn't been frozen at some point.


    My ladylove went with a fried grouper sandwich, a total gimme. Crispy, moist fish with tartar sauce on a light, spongy bun. No frills, just awesome.


    I chose a specialty that isn't listed on their online menu, and I'm afraid I don't recall the name. Essentially, it was one of their catches of the day, grilled or blackened, with mashed potatoes, your choice of side and sauce -- tomato caper, lemon dill or creamy citrus. Grouper, grilled, tomato caper, corn casserole. The grouper was solid, but I didn't enjoy it as much as the shrimp or my ladylove's sandwich. I found it a little tough, but not overly so, and I would've felt better about a fresh tomato sauce. But still quite good. Corn casserole? Big winner. Moist, mushy and sweet.


    I must say, today Tampa exceeded my expectations. Big huge thanks to Jeff for guidance. I'm hoping to hit one or two of your places tomorrow, Beef, if I can fit anything in there. My stomach, I mean, not my schedule.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and