Posts by Native:
I don’t know why, but it seems like there weren’t that many places that did Philly Cheesesteaks when I lived in Michigan. I really started having cheesesteaks after I moved down here to Tampa. Apparently the cheesesteak is regular bar fare down here. Now whether it’s good or not… that’s the question. Most of the places that I’ve been to end up using provolone or other white cheeses that need to be melted. The downside to this, is that if the meat/cheese cool down you end up with a meaty cheese log. I’m big on texture, so a cheese log isn’t really palatable for me. So I’ve been in search of the cheez whiz Philly.
We were talking about this with one of our coworkers last week, and he mentioned EATS!. So I went over to their website to check out what they had to offer. He mentioned they were on the Food Network or some such. First thing I noticed was the Philly Cheesesteak with Cheez Whiz. FINALLY! Last week was a busy week though and we didn’t make it over until today. (Matt noticed something else on the menu…)
They serve you some freshly made chips with a dip. Very nice surprise, and delicious. I ordered my usual unsweet iced tea which, by the way, was good.
And now you get to feast your eyes on what Matt had been eyeing since last week:
They have a food challenge. 2lb burger 1lb of fries. Matt was feeling the hunger today and decided to go for it. Above you can see the chef and our waitress presenting the burger castle. Matt starts in on the first burger and demolishes that quickly. His comments “This is really really good burger”. The 3rd picture is him finishing up the first burger. 4th picture he’s halfway through the 2nd patty and still feeling pretty strong and still commenting on how good the burgers are. There are some rules to the challenge. Chief among them the 30 minute time limit and if you get up you forfeit.
The rest of the party’s food also arrived while Matt was working on downing his burgers. I really like banana peppers or pepperoncinis on my philly, but they didn’t have them so I opted for the jalapenos. Subbed my fries for onion rings as well. Our roommate Jacob ended up getting the special of the day which was the Bin on Weck and our other roommate Phil decided to go in on a Philly served straight up (onions and shaved rib eye topped with the cheez whiz).
The shaved rib eye was salty and had a little char from the flat top I think, really great texture. The amoroso roll was incredibly light and is the perfect vessel for a philly. The onion rings are heavily breaded and fried. I normally don’t like heavily breaded onion rings, but these were cooked perfectly and it was almost like a little onion donut. Went incredibly well with the spicy remoulade. Phil and Jake ended up dipping their fries in the remoulade because it was so delicious. Anyways, back to the challenge.
In the first picture Matt still fighting the good fight, but he’s starting to feel it on the 3rd patty. He’s grazing on some fries and gathering his will to finish the 3rd one. He does, and then throws in the towel.
The challenge beat Matt today, but there is the possibility of a rematch. I ended up having a lot of the last burger. Matt ordered it well done, and while I prefer a burger medium this was still excellent. I’ve been looking for a good black and bleu burger down here and I think I need to come back to find out if EATS! does it right.
EATS! gets a Rating: rating. Excellent service, excellent food, and a nice atmosphere.
Matt here, reporting in with the latest in stomach news. While still struggling, I can report that the challenge was indeed delicious. I certainly advise anyone in a mood for a burger to give EATS! a shot. One thing that Dan left out, the proprietor of the joint attended us frequently throughout the challenge to give me time updates, ensure that I was sticking to the rules (No getting up, no sharing food, if the food falls to the floor and you want to win then you’ve got to eat it) and to provide words of encouragement. I must say, we received great service from our waitress (and in general) as she was spot on with water refills as well as making sure the other guys got everything they needed while they chuckled at my self-appointed misfortune. While I did NOT finish the challenge (as you can see by my sad mug) I do have tips that may help you conquer the challenge and be the master of your own Burger-Destiny:
1. Eat large meals the day prior (if you can, do a couple of days).
2. Get a good workout in the evening prior to help pique your appetite (this is what helped me bring a hearty appetite).
3. Drink water during the challenge.
4. Don’t order the burger with extras. Only order Meat/Bread/Cheese and ask for sauces to dip on the side.
5. Start fast and finish early.
Post meal I’d suggest drinking a lot of water to help with digestion. If you have the cajones to give it a shot, then good luck to you Sir or Madame.
New World Brewery
1313 East 8th Avenue Tampa, FL 33605-3611
New World is one of those spots in Ybor that we’ve been going to for a long while now. Excellent beers on tap. Great selection on and off the tap. I kept hearing about the BBQ Buffet but just never managed to make it over. We work on the opposite side of Tampa and most of the time if I’m driving out that way I’d rather just eat at home. So, since we took a day off Matt, Phil and myself decided to head out to lunch somewhere. We were thinking about grabbing a Falafel sandwich from the new Greek restaurant in Ybor. We parked and started walking down there when I spotted New World and remembered that they just started the Monday through Friday BBQ Buffet. Fucking. Wicked.
It’s also kind of weird being in/around Ybor around lunch time. Normally we stop by for a bite to eat at night or for drinks.
Anyways, one of my favorite things about establishments in Florida are the open air layouts. New World is easily one of my favorite spots for this. There is the main bar area that opens up into an atrium with seating. They have bands playing almost every night. The paradigm seems kinda strange coming from Michigan, you go out to a place and in the winter they keep the doors open but they roll out the space heaters to keep you warm and enjoying the outside. Anyways, they have things hanging on the walls, like a horse riding a bike and a mounted marlin guarding the beers. The atmosphere is inviting, but it’s the food we’re interested in.
Now, it’s BBQ, but they’ve put their twist on all of it. You come in and grab a plate and load up. You pay by the pound, so you can grab as little or as much as you’d like. There is also a current reigning champion for who has eaten the most. Andre Jones is the current champ. I don’t know how but Andre has dominated a couple of the local eating challenges. He’s also on the wall at this local hotdog place, Frankie’s. Anyways, back to the food. The potato salad is a curry potato salad, just absolutely ridiculous. Curry really pops, but it marries really well with the dish. I would come back just for the potato salad. Coleslaw was fairly standard, but it’s freshly made and the slaw sauce is good. The corn salsa was good, although I can’t recall the flavor that well now. I skipped on the macaroni salad, but that’s probably pretty legit as well. The corn muffins were light and I really like the presentation. Bite size if you have a big mouth, but otherwise a 2 bite endeavor.
One of my biggest beefs with chain restaurants and mall restaurants (shit.. most restaurants) is how they treat vegetables. They’ll give you a big heap of steamed broccoli, but then they drench it in a tankard’s worth of butter. Just give me some fucking greens that haven’t been converted to a saturated fat. Anyways, New World Brewery doesn’t do this. The green beans are clean and fresh, with a hint of salt to help bring out flavor. It reminds me of my Grandma Michael’s freshly picked green beans from the garden. The collard greens were pretty good, I thought it could use a little vinegar but that’s all personal preference. The baked beans have some chunks of green pepper that still had some snap to it, which was nice. I’m not a huge fan of baked beans but these are good as far as that goes.
They have some curried rice with pineapple. Awesome. A little kick, and just delicious (you might have noticed that I enjoy curry). I also sampled the mac and cheese, which is pork mac and cheese. Personally, I would like just little bits of pork, this is more of a casserole sort of thing. It’s good, just not what I prefer. The mashed potatoes were good, but nothing really out of the ordinary.
Onward to proteins! The smoked chicken is amazing. Tender, delicious and smoky. The sausage was completely stand out, I was dipping it in the Carolina style BBQ. Mustard base sauce to go with some ridiculous sausage. The pork was good, tender but not too tender. If it’s overcooked it will tend to fall apart too much which I don’t really like. The Kansas City and Carolina were my favorite sauces, but you gotta drop by and pick your favorite some time. You just can’t go wrong here, everything is good.
I’d prefer to be more critical and I don’t like to give these out, but this is definitely worth the rating. Rating: experience.
A little info about Rib Fest
November 11th, 12th, & 13th, 2011
22 Years of “ROCKIN’ RIBS – HELPIN’ KIDS”
Vinoy Park, 701 Bayshore Drive NE, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701
Gates open at 11 AM daily – No Re-entry
Day of Show at Gate
Active Military and family, with ID, No Charge at Gate
Some quick notes about the ribs
(Notes made by Matt on his phone, probably should have just brought a notepad.. but whatever. Also these are as is, as they were taken throughout the day)
Willimgham’s (http://www.willinghams.com/): ribs arent fall off bone but tender but moist. The rub is the winner very spicy. Spicy sauce is strong so is sweet.
Big Boned BBQ Co (http://bigbonedbarbeque.com/): tender and moist don’t taste rub. Habanero sauce stood out.
J&j barbeque (http://www.jjbbqtogo.com/): got an extra rib! Vinegar heavy sauce, meat is best thus far, so juicy, very tender, reminds Phil of Michaels. Best meat so far, but mild sauce was far too vinegary, hot was good.
Camp 31 (http://www.camp31.com/): apparently defending champions, not sure of this or something else. Most expensive so far at $9 but got roughly 5 ribs. As tender as 1st vendor but juicy unlike 1st. Comes with sauce painted on, no additional sauce available but that’s kinda nice. Sweet tea good not cloying. Refills are $1 on the $2 orig cost, so that’s good.
AUSSOM AUSSIE (http://www.aussomaussie.com/): different look to the vendor, also has aussie accent, not sure if real as I didn’t hear him say fuck or cunt once… but maybe that’s for appearances for my american brethren. Got shrimp on stick. Nothing to call home about, don’t get skrimps here.
Carolina Rib King, Spartanburg, SC (http://www.carolinaribking.com/): best rib so far. Great slow heat in the sauce.
Texas outlaws (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Texas-Outlaw-BBQ/171154736239282): pretty girls at counter and painting ribs. Good, sauce like Michaels… but the meat not as tender.
Thoughts about Ribfest
So, we ended up seeing some signs around town for something called Ribfest. I love some good bbq, so obviously I went home and shared the news of some sort of festival for delicious meats with the roommates. Looked up the information online about the shindig. We were all enthused about the prospect of a lot of different ribs. Unfortunately one of the roommates was heading out of town to visit a friend of ours in Cleveland. His loss.
The one downside is the car ride across the bay. I don’t know what it is about living in Tampa or St. Pete but it seems like everyone I talk to is loathe to cross the bay for events and stuff. It’s only a 30 minute or so car ride, but the bridges make it seem like it’s longer than that. Anyways, we knew we had to brave a 30 minute car ride for the prospect of ribs.
Expensive. I knew it wasn’t going to be cheap going into it but if you’re looking to sample a wide variety of ribs you will spend a pretty penny. Three of us went, and it was $20/each at the gate to get in. So that was $60 to start the day. Three bones were typically $7, so we hit up 7 different vendors and had ribs from 6 of them. The clear winner of the day was Carolina Rib King http://www.carolinaribking.com/. Even after being stuffed, they easily had the tastiest sauce and best texture for ribs. While I realize that what people want out of BBQ is variable, for me they were perfect. Tender, but still texture. A little kick in the sauce and not too smoky.
If I went again in the future I would definitely buy my ticket ahead of time. Preorder tickets were $10 or $13 or something, not too steep if you know you’re going. If you were looking to be there for a while/stick around for the concert stuff I’d suggest bringing some chairs and a blanket for the ground. The sound was kind of ridiculously loud, so if you’re really into your classic rock cover bands move right up to the speakers.. otherwise you might want to keep some distance.
It was a lot more county fair like than I expected, some activities for kids and a little car show with some bitchin’ restored/maintained old cars and trucks. Overall not a bad day.
The day was pretty fun walking around and people watching. The ribs ranged from Rating: stars to Rating: stars for the Carolina Rib King.
301 W Platt St # C
Tampa, FL 33606-2292
I can’t believe how long it has taken me to review this place. I mean, dead grass and leaves starting to come back.. hell.. long sleeve shirts were still appropriate daytime attire. Now it’s consistently in the 90’s and humid enough to swim. I’m on the brink of growing gills. Tangents about my lax writing schedule aside, I digress. I’ve dropped by numerous times for the shrimp Po Boy. Shrimp is always perfectly cooked, light layer of mayo on a semi crusty bread. Crisp lettuce and fresh tomatoes. Drop some hot sauce on the Po Boy and it’s the best Po Boy I’ve had in Tampa (to be fair, I’ve found very few places that offer shrimp Po Boys).
The prices aren’t too high, but it’s not cheap either. The quality of the food outweighs any misgivings I might have had though. Coworkers have told me about how good their beignets are, but it’s something I’ve yet to try. I keep wanting to try their Jambalaya and Gumbo, but the draw of a perfectly made Po Boy keeps me from straying. The decor is fun, but I’ve never been to New Orleans.. so I can’t really comment on how it relates to that. Cozy atmosphere and servers have always been friendly.
I give it a Rating: . Excellent Po Bo, but I’ve yet to try anything else out.
Square 1 Burgers
3701 Henderson Boulevard
Tampa, FL 33609
So I’ve been jonesing for a good burger dive for a while now. I’ve dropped by a couple other local places and still haven’t been excited about any of them. Lansing had Bonnie’s Place and Crunchy’s. I like the hole in the wall that serves stupid good cow between bread.
Anyways, Matt asked for some suggestions and our neighbor suggested we give Square 1 a chance. It’s down in the South Tampa area and it has the normal Tampa look. It seems like everything in Tampa really tries to look like some business casual dining place. It’s kinda bizarre. It seems like there aren’t that many places that have a grit to them. I digress, it’s a fairly inviting atmosphere and pretty cozy. The music kinda sucks, it was like VH1 in the 90s, lots of garbage I don’t particularly care for. Don’t hate it, but wouldn’t subject myself to it either.
I wasn’t blown away by the burger meat. Not very fatty, probably a 90/10 meat/fat mix. I prefer 85/15 but that might just be because I’m cheap. I didn’t really look at the menu at all. Blinders were on and burger-mode was in full effect. I saw a “Rise and shine” burger. Eggs?! BACON?! WHY NOT! I’m a pretty easy sell. Matt opted for the Black and Bleu burger (which also comes with bacon). We both ordered our burgers medium, unfortunately they showed up medium-well. While the burgers were overcooked, the egg was perfect. Runny, but still cooked. The rise and shine also came with onions, which were terribly overcooked. They might as well have been puréed for how much texture they had. That said, the bun was kind of like a firmer roll and the bacon was excellent. While my commentary on the cooking might paint the Rise and Shine in a bad light, the only terrible thing about it was how terribly delicious it was. The most notable thing about the bleu cheese burger is that they use real bleu cheese, so if you prefer your bleu cheese out of a dressing bottle you might want to steer clear.
Service was fast and the bartender was cute. The prices weren’t bad but nothing really knocked my socks off. It rates a solid Rating: .
I just read a (as my British colleagues would say) brilliant article by former food reviewer Steve Silberman about his last meal. He gives a lot of background into his relationship with food. Interesting and insightful, who doesn’t like a good food story? The following is one of my favorite excepts:
3313 North Nebraska Avenue
Tampa, FL 33603-6033
Ever since I moved down to Florida I’ve been craving a well made gyro. You would think it wouldn’t be too hard to find some shaved lamb on a spit in fresh pita with vegetables and tzatziki. Detroit seemed to be the land of plenty when it came to Greek food. I mean you can’t drive 2 blocks without seeing a Coney or Greek diner. So anyways, I was really jonesing for a Gyro and hopped on google and searched for Gyro and 33603. Gyro Land appeared to be the closest place, and you would think with a new like Gyro Land that they’d have Gyros. I didn’t take any pictures of the inside of the restaurant, but the place was pretty run down. The chairs looked older than Clint Eastwood, and he’s practically Skeletor.
So anyways, the place was beaten up. Walked in and it seemed a little sketchy, but a man’s gotta get his gyro, nom’ sayin? Ordered up 2 gyro’s with fries and some jumbo scrimp, because who doesn’t want some delicious scrimp? Sat down to wait for our food, some hobo wanders in muttering about timecube or some such. Did the needful and ignored him. Brought the food home and was thoroughly underwhelmed. It was some thick cut lamb, which was hopeful. It was a really well put together wrap but not quite a classic gyro. Tzatziki was kinda thick but otherwise decent. Most of the food was kinda chilly, but I think we can blame that on the drive back. Fries were fries. Same deal you get everywhere else. Lightly seasoned with some spice combination. The odd thing is that the scrimp was the standout in the whole affair. I’ve had some bad shrimp before, I mean.. I’ve been to a Red Lobster. The Gyro Land batter wasn’t too heavy and the shrimps were still nice and firm. Worth coming back for the shrimp, still not the gyro I’m looking for.
I give it 2.5 Rating: . Decor was nothing to write home about and the gyro was only okay. Not cheap, but not expensive either. If you’re hungry and want something quickly give Gyro Land a shot.
(Matt the Editor’s Note)PS~ To eat here you might get hit up by Bubbs for some smokes. Buyer beware on that one.