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Chicago Paulie’s serves the best hot dog in Tampa

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Several people have told me to try Chicago Paulie’s for the last few years. I made a mental note, but did not stop by until today. The restaurant stand is located in a gas station parking lot with a humble table and umbrella nearby in the corner of North Hyde Park (NoHo). This isn’t fancy eats, but an excellent culinary destination that most people will drive right past as they jump on Interstate 275 on Howard Avenue. Don’t be that person.

Chicago Hot Dog from Chicago Paulie's in Tampa

I ordered a Chicago hot dog and some fries. The hot dog was cooked to perfection. The toppings superb. No ketchup (of course), but a healthy amount of mustard. It was hot out. Summer is already starting to take over Florida and I really cannot think of a better thing to enjoy in the summer than a hot dog and maybe some beer. Fries were a nice add-on.

Chicago Paulie’s may be one of Tampa’s best kept secrets although people who love food know about it and they have won Best of the Bay from CL in the past. I thought about Taco Bus and California Tacos before Guy Fieri. Tampa has some good eats if you’re willing to go off the beaten path and many of them are undiscovered and hardly talked about. Chicago Paulie’s is one of those places that would immediately jump to the Food Network just for great eats.

My last visit to Portillo’s by USF was truly disappointing with a sad hot dog, mediocre toppings, a bad bun, and stale fries that would probably upset Mr. Portillo himself, but Chicago Paulie’s…now that is a good hot dog. Simple. I inhaled my food.

 

Chicago Paulie's storefront

The prices aren’t overly cheap or expensive, but just right. Chicago Paulie’s holds a 5-star rating on Yelp with 129 reviews in an era where people will 1-star you just for not having the right kind of ketchup or signage. Most of the customers seem to be natives from Chicago who know their food, and Mr. Paulie himself is a transplant from Chicago.

Chicago Paulie’s is open from Monday to Friday from 11AM-6PM and Saturday from 11AM-2PM. Closed Sundays. I have heard they do sometimes close so you may want to call ahead if possible.  I highly recommend Chicago Paulie’s. It is the best hot dog I have enjoyed in Tampa.

Restaurant Name: Chicago Paulie’s

Cuisine: American

Neighborhood: North Hyde Park

Address: 1301 N. Howard Ave., Tampa, FL 33607

Cost: $

Phone Number: (813) 494-4275

Website: http://www.chicagopaulies.com/

Carlos Eats

April 23, 2019 |

The best coffee in Florida is at Zeal Coffee Roasters and The Lab Coffee

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I was reading this article recently about the best coffee across the country in Food & Wine. This senior food editor looked at coffee across the entire country and seemed to give Tampa its due by listing several great spots in town, but somehow completely skipped the best place in Tampa Bay.

I drink coffee nearly every day of my life.

My job requires me to work on my laptop so I pretty much spend all day in coffee shops throughout this nation.

There are plenty of “okay” coffee shops and plenty of great shops. If we’re talking about clear quality and passion for coffee, Zeal Coffee Roasters is the best in Tampa and I’ll be bold enough to say it is the best in this state as well.

Why not? This guy seemed to think it was okay for him to make a declaration about this whole state and somehow ignored Panther Coffee in Miami and others doing great work in Orlando. Did he try all the coffee in the state? I’m not sure.

It is really interesting that all his decisions were King State Coffee outposts. This is nothing against King State because I’m sure their coffee is probably good, but they do not have a physical location yet in Tampa and it has been delayed like pretty much every other business in Tampa learns when they try to open a storefront. It is weird to put a place that isn’t even commonly used in Tampa as the best when they do not even have a location yet. I digress.

Zeal Coffee Roasters does the work. Ask baristas in the city and many of them will tell you they love going to The Lab Coffee Shop in North Hyde Park or NoHo for a coffee. I’ve asked myself. The Lab Coffee is the best kept secret in this city. Buddy Brew? Kahwa? Nope.

What about Bandit Coffee Co. in St. Pete you ask? They are a good coffee shop in St. Pete. I can best describe my many experiences there as okay and their coffee pours as good. Nothing exceptional. Also – St. Pete is not Tampa, please don’t confuse our two very different cities if you are not from here.

I happily spend my hard-earned cash regularly at The Lab Coffee and true coffee fanatics always end up bolting into the cafe while I am sitting there doing my work.

I always end up having a nice discussion with the baristas and customers stopping in – in fact doing work there is difficult because of all the great coffee people you will meet there, but I keep going either way.

There are other coffee chains with nicer decor, say Foundation Coffee or Blind Tiger which are beautiful shops. If we are talking just coffee quality though for your buck, the espresso pours, the lattes, the drips, you can drink Zeal Coffee black and taste plenty of excellent notes throughout each pour and they regularly change the selection.

I just enjoyed an excellent Brazil espresso there recently that was truly great.

There is passion and pride in their work. Their baristas care about their jobs and actually love coffee. They aren’t just there because they need a job, but because they want to be and it is noticeable.

I just grabbed myself a bag of Zeal Coffee’s El Salvador beans that I had waiting for me at home when I arrived back in Tampa from the West Coast, and it was a blissful feeling to come back home to good coffee. I love San Francisco, but there are so many terrible coffee shops there, it is unreal. Sometimes more is less.

The Lab Coffee is the best coffee shop and Zeal Coffee Roasters is the best coffee you can get in this beautiful state and that’s the word. Now back to my coffee.

Carlos Eats

March 29, 2019 |

Clearwater Beach named “Best Beach in America” 2019 by Tripadvisor

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Clearwater Beach has been named the “Best Beach in America” by Tripadvisor for 2019 beating out Siesta Key down south.

Clearwater Beach is known for powdery white sand, beautiful sunsets, and really embodies the heart of Florida. Tripadvisor analyzed the quantity and quality of the reviews for beaches over a 12-month cycle to decide on the list.

Credit: City of Clearwater

Clearwater averages 361 days of sunshine every year and holds the record for consecutive sunny days at 768.

The home of the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival and Clearwater Beach Uncorked has a number of beautiful resorts and hotels popping up every year along the Gulf of Mexico.

You really have not watched a Florida sunset until you’ve seen it at the top of the Grand Hyatt on Clearwater Beach with a drink and snacks in hand at their pool deck.

What are some of the top ranked restaurants in Clearwater Beach according to Tripadvisor?

  • Marina Cantina
  • Another Broken Egg Cafe
  • Caretta on the Gulf
  • Cristino’s Coal Oven Pizza
  • Badfins Food + Brew
  • Maggie Mae’s Sunrise Cafe
  • Salty’s Island Bar & Grille

View the complete beach rankings here: http://www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Beaches-cTop-g191

Carlos Eats

March 2, 2019 |

Cigar City Brewing at TPA in running for Best Local Dining award by USA Today

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USA Today‘s 10Best Reader’s Choice Awards currently has Cigar City Brewing at TPA (Tampa International Airport) in the running for two categories: Best Airport Bar/Restaurant Atmosphere and Best Airport Bar.

Cigar City Brewing opened last year in the Airside C of Tampa International Airport and is serving and brewing local craft beer to airport visitors daily with Cuban food. Popular crafts such as Jai Alai, Invasion Pale Ale, Maduro, and Florida Cracker can be found at the airport brewery along with other selections.

Votes are accepted daily and Cigar City and TPA is looking for locals in Tampa and fans of the craft beer success story to help spread the word.

How to vote:

Best Airport Bar/Restaurant Atmosphere: http://bit.ly/cigar2019

Best Airport Bar: http://bit.ly/cigarcity2019

Cigar City Brewing was founded by Joey Redner in 2007 in Tampa and pays homage to the rich history of Tampa and Ybor City. It is one of the biggest supports of Tampa Bay’s craft beer scene that now includes over 100 breweries. Cigar City produces over 60,000 barrels of beer a year and has released over 6,000 individual brands of beer. Their annual Hunapu’s Day release party is one of the most popular and exclusive craft beer events in the country.

Carlos Eats

January 19, 2019 |

Prost Kitchen is Tampa’s best new restaurant

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

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

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

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

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Image Credit: @prosttampa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Restaurant name: Prost Kitchen + Bar

Neighborhood: USF, New Tampa

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

Phone Number: (813) 466-5249

Website: http://www.prostkitchen.com

Carlos Eats

June 1, 2018 |

BEST OF METRO 2018: Dining & Spirits

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  Best of Dining & Spirits   The Hall on Franklin Best New Food Court Concept A chic new restaurant in the Tampa Heights area offers seven drink and food establishments, from a coffee bar to a cocktail bar and five eateries, from seafood to asian inspired street food. A great place to meet up […]
Tampa Bay Metro Magazine & Blog

January 8, 2018 |

BEST OF METRO 2018: Arts & Entertainment

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  Best of Arts & Entertainment   Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Best Entertainment Under One Roof The casino features high stakes table games, thousands of the hottest slot machines, as well as a new smoke free slots area. The new state-of-the-art Poker Room features 46 tables and a new art deco-inspired Mezzanine Level Casino, with […]
Tampa Bay Metro Magazine & Blog

January 8, 2018 |

BEST OF METRO 2018: Style & Décor

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  Best of Style and Décor   Val’s Home Décor Best Place to Accessorize the Home Within a warehouse setting in Carrollwood, there are aisles of home décor accessories to make your house a home. From table top décor to unique finds in florals, vases, candles, mirrors, and objects d’art, there is a huge selection […]
Tampa Bay Metro Magazine & Blog

January 7, 2018 |

BEST OF METRO 2018: Health & Beauty

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    Best of Health and Beauty   Nouvelle Beauty Bar Best Downtown St. Petersburg Salon to be Pampered The modern decor is chic and inviting for a manicure, pedicure, waxing or facial. Relax with a glass of wine or champagne and let the stresses of life float away. 727.896.2700; www.nouvellebeautybar.com. CAMP Best Fitness Camp […]
Tampa Bay Metro Magazine & Blog

January 6, 2018 |

BEST OF METRO 2018: Arts & Entertainment

Comments Off on BEST OF METRO 2018: Arts & Entertainment

  Best of Arts & Entertainment   Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Best Entertainment Under One Roof The casino features high stakes table games, thousands of the hottest slot machines, as well as a new smoke free slots area. The new state-of-the-art Poker Room features 46 tables and a new art deco-inspired Mezzanine Level Casino, with […]
Tampa Bay Metro Magazine & Blog

December 22, 2017 |

BEST OF METRO 2018: Style & Décor

Comments Off on BEST OF METRO 2018: Style & Décor

  Best of Style and Décor   Val’s Home Décor Best Place to Accessorize the Home Within a warehouse setting in Carrollwood, there are aisles of home décor accessories to make your house a home. From table top décor to unique finds in florals, vases, candles, mirrors, and objects d’art, there is a huge selection […]
Tampa Bay Metro Magazine & Blog

December 22, 2017 |

BEST OF METRO 2018: Health & Beauty

Comments Off on BEST OF METRO 2018: Health & Beauty

    Best of Health and Beauty   Nouvelle Beauty Bar Best Downtown St. Petersburg Salon to be Pampered The modern decor is chic and inviting for a manicure, pedicure, waxing or facial. Relax with a glass of wine or champagne and let the stresses of life float away. 727.896.2700; www.nouvellebeautybar.com. CAMP Best Fitness Camp […]
Tampa Bay Metro Magazine & Blog

December 19, 2017 |

BEST OF METRO 2018: Dining & Spirits

Comments Off on BEST OF METRO 2018: Dining & Spirits

  Best of Dining & Spirits   The Hall on Franklin Best New Food Court Concept A chic new restaurant in the Tampa Heights area offers seven drink and food establishments, from a coffee bar to a cocktail bar and five eateries, from seafood to asian inspired street food. A great place to meet up […]
Tampa Bay Metro Magazine & Blog

December 16, 2017 |

Boba Guys: Best Bubble Tea Business in the USA

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Boba Guys is the best bubble tea shop in the USA and a leader in their industry. It is much more than just a nice Instagram or Snapchat post. There are lots of factors that contribute to this opinion and they have been shaped over numerous visits over the last year.

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Consistency

One of the most important factors of any cafe or restaurant is consistency.

You want your drink or order to taste the same no matter which location or time you stop by at a business. I have visited at least 3 or 4 Boba Guys locations multiple times and have not been disappointed in the quality of my drinks on any visit.

The matcha strawberry latte or horchata drink tastes the same at all the different shops and that goes for their tea menu in general. This proves that there is proper training for baristas and oversight/quality assurance testing happening.

The tapioca pearls always have the same chewiness and are never overcooked or undercooked. This is a huge credit to their employees and management. I am quite a bubble tea fanatic in Florida and am often finding myself have boba balls slicing under my teeth or even tasting undercooked pearls.

Many people don’t know that the chewiness of boba balls is a Taiwanese cultural phenomenon and there should be a certain type of chewiness to the balls in order to have a quality experience. Boba Guys delivers on this experience. The sensation is called “QQ” in Taiwan and is essentially a type of texture.

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Quick Turnaround

I seem to visit San Francisco during every major national holiday when I am vacationing on the west coast and find myself at Boba Guys when there can be 30-60 people or more in line due to reduced operating hours. Despite this, the line always moves quickly and I never wait longer than a few minutes to get to the front. Once I order my drink it also comes out quickly.

I cannot say the same about bubble tea shops in Florida that sometimes take over 30 minutes to get you a drink when there are literally only 3 or 4 customers in the shop and half the time the employees forget your order completely. This goes back to management and how they train and manage their employees.

The quick turnaround is good for customers who have other things to do than waiting in line all day and for the business so they can turn as many orders as possible and make a better profit. Respect your customer’s time and your customer will respect your business. This brings me to affordability and quality.

Affordability 

When the bubble tea craze began an average drink was around $ 2 or $ 3, but the price of the drinks has soared in the last couple of years and many places are still using crappy artificial powders, low-quality creamers, and sweeteners. A few shops in Florida even charge close to $ 6 or $ 7 for a drink.

Boba Guys charges $ 4.50 and around $ 5.50 for a specialty drink with real ingredients in San Francisco, one of the most expensive places in the world to operate a business. San Francisco is filled with tons of costs you will not find anywhere else you operate a business.

It baffles me that shops in Florida are charging so much considering the rent is ridiculously cheaper in Tampa Bay compared to San Francisco and the minimum wage in Florida is under $ 9 an hour. The price of the drinks Boba Guys produces are a further testament to their commitment to their customers and to providing a great product at a price that general public can afford.

They could charge more and easily get away with it in San Francisco, but they would close their product off from a public that is already struggling with high rent and low wages in an increasingly expensive city. The ability to see this is definitely a credit to their business mindset.

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Quality

Quality would probably be first on any list about a great business you might read. However, many food businesses with great quality still fail without consistency, quick turnaround, and affordability and that is why I mentioned those factors first. Anyone involved in the food business is aware that the survival rate is less than 10% and perhaps lower in the San Francisco Bay area in the first two years of operations.

Boba Guys already survived those odds. No doubt quality has helped deliver Boba Guys this far and helped them to have a competitive advantage over other tea shops and boba shops which can easily be replicated and saturate markets (like many dessert or snack concepts).

No powders are used at Boba Guys. They use real tea. This is the first step in changing the quality of the drinks and advancing bubble tea. The artificial flavors and ingredients used to make bubble tea at most shops are hazardous to your health – not the case at Boba Guys because they use REAL tea. It sounds ridiculous that I have to emphasize this, but prior to Naga Tea in Tampa – you could never find a shop that did this in Florida.

There is plenty of research out there about how artificial food coloring and flavorings are bad for your health and Boba Guys may be one of the first, if not the first shop to push using real tea in drinks.

Boba Guys uses Straus Family Creamery organic milk which is local to California, organic, and rGBH-free and that really makes the difference in their drinks compared to most boba shops. I get hives from the creamers used in shops in Florida which does not happen at Boba Guys. Boba Guys also has options for lactose customers including Califia Farms Almond Milk and Organic Soy Milk.

Good luck trying to get more information from shops about their powder and sources for milk tea in Florida or trying to get almond or soy milk at a tea shop in Florida.

Housemade syrups used are brown-sugar based, no fructose. I don’t think I should have to really explain why fructose is bad for you. Sweetness levels are customizable as well which is catching on in Florida boba shops as well now. 100% sweetness might be a little much nowadays.

Clearly, the owners of Boba Guys considered what they love about bubble tea and what they could change to make experiences for customers better and implemented changes that are improving bubble tea cafes in general.

Transparency

Part of owning a business is your relationship with your customers and the owners of Boba Guys do their best to communicate with their customers and let them know how the progress of their business is going and answer any questions customers may have weekly.

Price changes and hour changes are clearly communicated so customers aren’t left confused and there is clearly lots of customer feedback that is helping shape their business into a successful one.

You will not find this kind of commitment to a business in general and I am a little blown away by how much energy and effort the owners of Boba Guys put into having a relationship with their customers. It is simply awesome and most certainly a key to their success.

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Boba Guys is the best bubble tea shop business in the USA and I will visit them anytime I am near one of their shops and support them. If you haven’t visited them, I highly recommend visiting them if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area or New York City.


Carlos Eats

July 7, 2017 |
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