Sa Ri One (or, perhaps more properly Sa Ri Won) is the only Korean restaurant I have discovered in the Tampa area. It sits along I-275, clearly visible to passing motorists, but is kind of hard to find. They have a tiny parking lots that gets full even when only half of the tables in the establishment are full.
We arrived one Saturday night after Christmas shopping on nearby Dale Mabry St, and were starving after skipping breakfast and lunch. We started with the haemul jeon, which is a spicy Korean pancake stuffed with pieces of seafood such as octopus and squid. For our meals we decided on the traditional Kalbi ribs and the samgyopsal, with is basically bacon. The meals came with a variety of classic Korean sides such as bean sprouts, kimchi, and spinach.
The food was pretty good, but I was disappointed that it didn't live up to the great meals I enjoyed in Korea. The kalbi was cut wrong (across the bone rather than with the bone), and the only samgyopsal option had kimchi mixed in and didn't taste freshly cooked. Furthermore, I'd hoped the meat might be grilled on the table in front of us. Oh well, not a bad place!
Roberts Barbecue--officially known as Robert's Meat Market, Sandwich Shop, BBQ Smokehouse and Catering--is a hidden gem in an off-the-beaten-path location in South Tampa. The building barely looks llike a restaurant, perhaps more of an old school meat market, but the right side of the building does seat about 20 or 30 customers at the small tables covered with red checkered tablecloths.
We had a quick lunch here late on a Saturday afternoon. I had their 6 ounce grilled filet mignon sandwich ($7.99), topped with bacon, provolone, lettuce, tomato, and mayo and served with french fries. It was a tiny bit overcooked for a medium temperature, but it was still tender and flavorful. Laura had the blackended grouper sandwich ($10), with fries and cheese. I Thought it was a bit over seasoned, but just as good as the filet mignon sandwich.
They have a simple menu, just sandwiches and barbecue, but they have a huge variety of both. Their sandwiches include burgers, two kinds of steak sandwiches, Cubans, ham and cheese, turkey breast, chicken fajita, three kinds of fish sandwiches, and shrimp po' boys. Their barbecue includes ribs, pork, beef, brisket, chicken, and smoked salmon.
Good, friendly, unique spot in South Tampa, with a great variety of tasty smoked and barbecued meats
The refinery is one of the up and coming restaurants in an up and coming neighborhood of Tampa. The interior is plain and sparse, but the food is top notch and spectacular. They do have an open-air deck upstairs that is probably a great place to relax in the spring and fall when the weather is pleasant.
We wanted to start with the poached oysters, but the waitress informed us they had run out, so we chose the "machacado con huevo" ($7), a Spanish dish which consists of shredded dry beef scrambled with eggs served over a thin buckwheat pancake, with potatoes and corn. For my dinner, I chose their hanger steak ($19), cooked medium and served with roasted potatoes and squash. Laura had the grilled pork chop ($18), served with purple pole bean casserole, roasted carrots, and tarragon-horseradish butter. The food was some of the best I've had in Tampa, and the service good, if a bit amateurish.
For our beers, Laura had the Pumpkinhead Ale from Shipyard Brewery in Maine, I had the Hop Strike Black Rye-IPA from Tommyknocker Brewery in Colorado. The Hop Strike was interesting and tasty enough to drink two; the pumpkin head, a pumpkin ale, was below average.
Love's Artifacts Bar & Grill is a casual local restaurant in South Tampa, that started as a street stall and recently became an real restaurant with walls and a roof. From the outside Love's is pretty plain, but inside, it is rather unique, with antique furniture, models of historic objects, and old books.
When you walk in from the parking lot, the bar and lounge is on the left and a dining room is on the right. We sat in the bar area at a small table for two a few feet from the bar counter and the stage. Playing this night was a local guitarist and singer, who performed a variety of older 70s and 80s music like the Eagles.
For our meals we chose two of the house specials: the South MacDill Fried Chicken Platter and the "Did You See That Rack" of Pork Ribs. Both were great, but I particularly liked the tender, juicy chicken with crispy fried skin, which is served as a breast, a thigh and a wing. The ribs come with three big beef ribs, and both dishes are served with two side dishes.
Love's just opened in 2010 after converting from a used car lot to a food stand to a full scale restaurant.
Looking for take out food in Tampa late on a Sunday evening? Good luck; there really aren't many options. While driving around trying to find something, I stumbled across Gogos Greek Grill, which is open until 10pm on Sundays.
Their set up is "fast casual," similar to a Subway, Chiplotle, Panera Bread, or Qdoba, where you order at the counter, pay, then take your food to the casual dining area to eat. I wandered up to the counter and decided to try two of their pitas, one with beef, the other with chicken. On both I got the standard vegetables: lettuce, tomato, olives, onions, and a squirt of tzatziki sauce. For sides, I selected the Greek lemon potatoes, and herb seasoned rice. My total bill for two sandwiches and two big sides was about $10, very cheap for Tampa. I got the food to go, so I could get home and watch football.
The pitas were very good, especially the tender, juicy chicken. The sides were also tasty and seemingly authentic for a Greek place like Gogos.
The owners of Gogos also have started a number of other successful restaurant ventures including The Rack in the SoHo area of Tampa. Gogos offers dine in, carry out, online ordering, and catering.
On the way home from a bar one night, we decided to call Galley Pizza and order a large pizza with peperoni and mushrooms. We quickly made the call and were given a delivery time of 45 minutes. We arrived home, and shortly thereafter our pizza arrived, hot and fresh, for about $15 plus tip. This pizza was simple, but absolutely delicious due to the unique and flavorful blend of cheeses they use.
We've also stopped into the restaurant a time or two. The small establishment has a simple dining room on the left and a popular neighborhood bar on the right. We enjoyed a bit of baseball on TV while eating a few Philly steak sandwiches (some of the best around!). Our meals were less then $10 each, and the Yuengling drafts were only a few bucks.
They are conveniently located in South Tampa, near some other great spots like the original Westshore Pizza, the original Green Iguana, and the Wooden Door pub. The local establishment has been in business over 30 years. This is also the local Steelers and Eagles bar in South Tampa.
While we were there in 2011, we discovered the bar had recently been sold to the Tate family, and it will soon be renamed "Tate's Pizza." In the meantime, the bar is still open and offering the same good food in a friendly atmosphere.
The Pub, located in the International Plaza near Tampa's airport, is a big, traditional pub in a popular shopping center. The Pub, which features a British atmosphere, is a small chain with locations in about 10 cities, including Orlando and Dayton, Ohio. They have dozens of beers on tap, including local and European beers. They also offer great food such as fish and chips, bangers and mash, and the like. Even better, the waitresses all wear short plaid skirts. The bad news: the waiters wear short plaid skirts, too.
We had dinner here one summer evening and the restaurant was busy but not packed. We grabbed a few stools at the bar. I had a few beers and a hamburger; Laura had a lamb burger. The burger was good, but not great.
Pei Wei Asian offers very good Asian fast food, in a nice setting that feels almost like a real sit down restaurant. I guess the style--where you order at a counter, then the food is delivered to your table--is defined as fast casual, and is similar to Chipotle, Panera Bread, or Qdoba.
We arrived one evening and were surprised to find the Tampa Pei Wei restaurant full of young people, mostly teenagers and college kids. We ordered a few dishes-- I had the spicy Korean dish with beef, hot pepper sauce, garlic, mushrooms, onions, carrots, bean sprouts, and toasted sesame seeds. It definitely had all the right flavors and reminded me of my time in Seoul, Korea.
Pei Wei is owned by P. F. Chang's China Bistro, and they specialize in foods from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand. All of the food is made to order, rather then pre-made like traditional fast food. The price are very reasonable, with nothing on the menu over about $8 or $9. The chain has a hundred or so restaurants nationwide, including 21 in Florida. They offer ordering online, with pickup in the store.
We went to a birthday dinner at the Laughing Cat in Ybor City. Ybor is known for its dance clubs, gay bars, biker bars, and other societal riffraff, so I didn't expect much of the Laughing Cat. But once we found the place, I was impressed with this nicer-than-average restaurant tucked away on 15th Street.
We sat at a big table that barely fit our huge 20-person group, but it was comfortable and enjoyable. The service was far better than I expected, and the food spectacular. We started with a San Giuseppe pinot ($9) and a Peroni beer ($5). For dinner, Laura had he ravioli del golfo with shrimp, sea scallops, and crab meat sautéed with cheese ravioli, Portobello mushrooms, tomatoes and basil, finished in
white wine with a touch of cream and topped with Parmesan cheese ($23). I had the Gnocchi di Colore di Tri ($17), which included Filet Mignon, prosciutto, mushrooms, and onions sautéed in white wine, served over homemade tricolor potato dumplings, finished in a tomato sauce with a touch of cream ($17). The food was excellent and the portions enormous.
Mise En Place is one of the best restaurants in all of Tampa. I like Burn's Steakhouse a lot, but Mise En Place matches the quality of Burn's food, while topping it with a more creative menu, a much more modern--yet classy--ambiance, and windows.
We arrived for a late dinner and were warmly greeted by the older male maître d’, who quickly showed us to our table. We had a nice seat in the corner of the restaurant overlooking Grand Central Avenue. We started with beer and wine; the staff was informed enough to help me choose a good, dark English brown ale called Hobgoblin from the Wychwood Brewery in Oxfordshire, UK ($5 each) and Laura had a glass of Emeritus wine priced at $13. Our dinners started with two "first plates," the soft shell crab ($11) and tuna carpaccio ($9). The soft shell crab was coated in a light cornmeal, fried, and served with a potato almond salad--excellent! The tuna was a paper-thin layer of sushi-style fish, served with tempura mushrooms, a radish salad, and black sudachi rice.
Our main courses were equally creative and tasty. Laura had the "togarashi lemongrass rubbed duck breast," fried and served with mushroom chili dumplings, a sweet black rice called forbidden rice, a sweet pineapple kim chee, and sesame spinach ($28). The duck was juicy and the most tasty I've ever had.
I had the "ahi amarillo sous vide venison," juicy and medium rare, and served with a rabbit posole, and a jicama-lime salad. This is an amazing dish, with sumptuous and tender venison and small bits of rabbit reminding me of meals from my childhood in the woods of Pennsylvania!
Our desert was a spectacular creme brulee ($8) with a small glass of Quady “Elysium”, Black Muscat desert wine ($4). The creme brulee was perfectly done, with a thin crisp layer of toasted sugar on top a smooth, creamy pudding.
Our dinner was about $125, for some of the best food I've ever had in Tampa. The service was absolutely top notch. The only problem was a leak in the ceiling over a neighboring table, which didn't affect our meal, but it was distracting as the staff had to move the guests then place buckets under the steady stream of water that might have come from a broken pipe.
A great Thai spot in South Tampa and much better than both the Thai Market & Kitchen and Thai Orchid, both on Dale Mabry. We stopped in for a quick lunch, and I decided on the drunken noodles with beef ($10). Before the main course arrived, we were each served a great soup and a spring roll. The drunken noodles were excellent: tasty beef, plenty of noodles, just enough fresh vegetables and the perfect amount of spicy Thai heat.
On another visit, I had an even better meal of fried duck, scallops, and shrimp over mixed vegetables for about $23. It was a huge meal with a massive amount of perfectly fried duck and tasty veggies. One of the best meals I've ever had in Tampa.
The service was good, and the interior decorated in authentic Thai fashion with lots of Buddhist artwork and gold trim.
The Colonnade is an old time favorite in Tampa, these days aimed for Old Timers as well. The place is almost always crowded (that means noisy), freezing cold, and do try to reserve table next to the window. The bar is well stocked but stuck in a back room no windows no view only booze. The Food? The Colonnade has evolved from "anything you want as long as its fried" to a more well rounded menu with grilled and broiled options. Still nothing terribly exciting. The service is quick and kind but they won’t let you sit and eat quietly, constant recurring visits to insure that all is well-with a smile but still an unneeded and unwanted invasion. Not the place for a romantic evening unless your taste runs to overcrowded igloos.
Favorite Dish: The Wine
In South Tampa, across from Lowe's and buried in a grove of palm trees you may find Estela's, an average Mexican restaurant. Though the food is nothing special, the restaurant is nice and the service pretty good.
We arrived for dinner and were surprised to find the restaurant open pretty late. The outside patio was pretty full, but it was a warm night, so we decided to eat inside. Laura started with a house margarita ($8) and I had a Tecate beer ($3). For our meals, I had the #9 combo with a taco and an enchilada ($11); Laura had the carnitas dinner ($13). We also enjoyed lots of chips and salsa prior to our meals.
Overall, nothing special, but it is one of maybe two Mexican restaurants in South Tampa, the other being Chihuahua on MacDill Ave.
In 2011 Tampa Bay Metro Magazine named Estelas the "Best Authentic Mexican South of the Border" in the Tampa Bay area!
Pane Rustica is a very popular Italian restaurant in South Tampa. In fact many call this the best restaurant in South Tampa; it is certainly one of the nicest places around, despite it being located in a shopping plaza.
We were warmly greeted and quickly seated at a small table near the busy kitchen. I started with a Belgian Wittekirche beer, and Laura had a class of wine. Bread was quickly served by our waitress, and we chose their cassoulet appetizer with white beans and small pieces of duck.
For dinner I had the open faced lobster and king crab saffron ravioli, served with roasted fennel & leeks, tomato, tarragon, sherry, and lobster bisque for $23. Laura decided on the shrimp linguine. The servings was relatively small, but the food was delicious.
For our desert, we had a great, warm apple tart with gelato. It was absolutely delicious and worth the wait.
The food was creative and tasty, but with small portions and high prices, the service was friendly but a bit slow, especially when our dessert took about 30 minutes.
In 2011 Tampa Bay Metro Magazine named Pane Rustica the "Best Artisan Eatery" in the Tampa Bay area!
Square One has the best burgers and the most variety I've found in Tampa. To celebrate a birthday, we decided to try Square One. Did we stop by the restaurant for a meal? No. Did we call for pick up? No. Instead we called Tampa's restaurant delivery service called MealCab, placed our order through their handy website, and just waited fro delivery. Our food arrived within about 30 minutes, hot and fresh.
We each had a burger and fries. LHenne1 decided on the "Decadent" a great Kobe burger with carmelized onions, lettuce, brie, and sun-dried tomato mayo on a kaiser bun with fries for an expensive $15. I had "Valeries Toga Party," a great Angus burger with feta cheese, grilled tomato, sun-dried tomato mayo, and basil leaves on a wheat bun with fries for $8. While both meals were a bit expensive, particularly the Kobe burger, the food was delicious.
The next time we tried Square One, we went to the actual restaurant and were very impressed. We had a late lunch on a holiday weekend, and the restaurant was only moderately busy. We sat at the modern, stylish bar, and lucky for us, it was happy hour with 2-for-1 drafts. After sipping on a few Yuenglings, I decided on their spicy turkey burger called the firebird, which comes with pepper jack, smoked bacon, sauteed peppers, sliced jalapenos, lettuce, onion, and chipotle ketchup on a wheat bun for about $9 (or get the same burger with ostrich meat for $13). The fries were thin, crispy, and tasty, and the burger itself was sloppy but excellent.
Square One Burger offers nine types of burgers, including shashimi tuna, ostrich, buffalo, Kobe, and Angus, along with 3 types of buns, 25 toppings, 12 cheeses and 13 sauces.
In 2011 Tampa Bay Metro Magazine named Square One the "Best Burger Mix" in the Tampa Bay area!
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