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Dining Guide: Great local restaurants to eat at in Brandon

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Full disclosure: I have performed sponsored work for Kiwami Ramen Sushi. These opinions on this list are strictly my own and do not represent any sponsors or paid work.

Brandon has been transforming over the years from a quiet suburban town to a busy place with tons of apartment complexes and subdivisions rising around the area. There is now a Top Golf, Dave and Buster’s, and the Westfield Brandon Towncenter has exploded with traffic. People are moving south to Riverview and East to Valrico. The new Riverview GDX and Xscape Riverview theaters further prove the population growth of this area.

Many people complain that there are not local options in Brandon, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You’ll find a wide-variety of food from a variety of cuisines around the area, if you know where to look. Most places will run you around $ 10-20 per person for a meal. The options continue to grow, here is a list of some of my recommendations.

Allegria Italiana: Your old school Italian eatery with white table covers and a romantic vibe, Allegria Italiana has a great variety of gourmet Italian food that is better than many places around the bay. The servers have been friendly on my visits and prices are about what you would expect for this kind of concept. Everything from the appetizers and pasta to dessert is great. $ $ 518 Oakfield Dr., Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 651-1166 allegriaitaliana.com

La Cubanita: Great Cuban sandwiches and steak sandwiches. You can’t really go wrong with their cafe con leche and a sandwich. They also have great deals on platters of food and have specials daily. There are many places around Brandon with sandwiches and coffee, but this is one of the best. They serve La Segunda bread which is of course the best. $ 723 W. Lumsden Rd., Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 661-2253. 

Kiwami Ramen and Sushi: Newcomer serving quality, gourmet ramen and sushi. The perfect marriage no matter what your mood is. Prices are fair and far less than the options in Tampa and St. Petersburg. Lunch specials on weekdays and happy hour deals make Kiwami and even better choice. The rolls are different from you’ll find in most places in Tampa. 10262 Causeway Blvd., Tampa, FL 33619. (813) 393-0683. kiwamiramensushi.com

Ploy Thai: Ploy Thai has been serving Thai food for over a decade on State Road 60. The restaurant has changed and evolved over the year from more of a sushi concept and then back into a more Thai-focused restaurant. The menu is large and they have transitioned more into a finer dining concept. $ $ 1941 W. Brandon Blvd, Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 684-5007.

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Sushi Kampai: If you like some simple rolls or great deals, Sushi Kampai is for you. The rolls are affordable and they also have lunch combos and bento boxes. You’ll find some Chinese, Japanese, and Korean food options on the menu as well. Service can be slow when they get busy so plan ahead. They also offer delivery and take-out if you’re feeling lazy. $ 10312 Bloomingdale Ave. #111, Riverview, FL 33578. (813) 620-3717.

Taste of Berlin: This German eatery is owned by some German expats and has a great schnitzel. Most items on the menu are made from scratch down to the sauces. The German beer selection isn’t quite as expansive as Mr. Dunderbak’s in Tampa, but there are some decent options on the menu for those looking to wash down their food. The owners regularly host events here especially for Oktoberfest. $ $ 526 Oakfield Dr, Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 685-9392.

LC’s Cafe and Supper Club: LC’s Cafe is a nice little spot for a lite breakfast or brunch. They have some Cuban food options and also some breakfast options. It isn’t anything fancy, but the decor feels like home and it is a great place to go and catch up with someone. It is a family-owned small business. $ $ 1602 Oakfield Dr #103, Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 526-9395.

Shrimp Boat: If you love seafood, you will love Shrimp Boat. This busy local restaurant on Bloomingdale serves quality seafood dishes and even their regular American dishes scream quality. It gets very busy, but there is usually some space in the bar area. They have happy hour deals and specials regularly and you also cannot go wrong with their soups. $ $ 1020 Bloomingdale Ave., Valrico, FL 33596. (813) 571-5858. shrimpboatgrille.com

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Green Island Frozen Yogurt & Tea Bar: Green Island has been around for over a decade if I’m not mistaken. They were one of the first boba shops and frozen yogurt shops to open in Tampa Bay. It’s a nice option if you’re on State Road 60 and heading to the nearby M.D. Oriental Market. Their bubble tea isn’t my favorite, but their Thai tea is pretty good and so is the coconut smoothie or watermelon smoothie (when available). $ 10047 E. Adamo Dr, Tampa, FL 33619. (813) 374-9006. 

Smokin Pig BBQ: Smokin Pig serves some great barbeque options and has plenty of space inside for those who want to dine-in. They have family deals as well as specials and combos. My favorite thing here is their Mac and Cheese, it is incredibly cheesy and delicious. Their brisket tastes great and I like their corn bread. $ $ 3834 US-301, Riverview, FL 33578. (813) 512-2500 smokinpig.com

Chicago’s Best Burgers: If you want some truly amazing burgers do not miss Chicago’s Best. They maintain a low profile online, but they serve one of the best burgers I have enjoyed in Tampa Bay. You’ll spend a little more than some other shops, but the taste is well worth it. I highly recommend it. $ $  1925 W Brandon Blvd, Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 654-3232.

 

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Carlos Eats

August 27, 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 |

American Craft Beer Week 2018: 10 Great Local Craft Breweries in Tampa Bay

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It’s American Craft Beer Week 2018. There are 6,000 breweries in the U.S.A. and 98% are small and independent craft brewers. Small and independent brewers also grew by 6% in 2016.

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Tampa Bay has an awesome and growing craft beer scene with over 60 breweries. Here are 10 places that I recommend in the bay area.

Note: Just because I didn’t put a place on the list that doesn’t mean it isn’t great, I haven’t been to every brewery in town yet or tried everyone’s beer – these are some of my favorites though.

1. Arkane Aleworks: When I went to the Brewer’s Ball I fell in love with Arkane’s Gimme Swelter and Mezcal Blackbird. I finally visited the actually brewery this past week and loved almost everything I tried. The brewery isn’t too big, but can still handle some parties. Sour beer is my current favorite type and they have plenty of it. The Wry Ask Rye was excellent during my last visit. 2480 E Bay Dr #23, Largo, FL 33771. (727) 270-7117. http://www.arkanebeer.com/tap-list/

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2. Coppertail Brewing Co.: Living in Brandon has always made Coppertail a convenient drive for me. The facility is beautiful and historic. True to its roots in Ybor. Coppertail always had a wide-range of beers and also great food as well from Stein & Vine. The Slam Piece Berliner Weissbier is my current favorite there but another fave is The BOMP. I love hanging out with a friend and chatting on the second floor of the brewery. 2601 E. 2nd Ave., Tampa, FL 33605. (813) 247-1500. http://coppertailbrewing.com/

3. Hidden Springs Ale Works: I randomly wandered into Hidden Springs one day during a Commune & Co. pop-up long before Tampa Heights was even a thing, but Hidden Springs has grown beautifully. I continue to be impressed with their new beers popping and especially their new cans. The bartenders are usually chill and they have their own parking lot, which is a luxury in Tampa Heights. The last great beer I had from them was their Riot Juice – a Berliner Weisse. 1631 N Franklin St, Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 226-2739. http://hiddenspringsaleworks.com/

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4. Crooked Thumb Brewery: If I find myself over near Safety Harbor, Crooked Thumb has a beautiful tasting room and nice outdoor space, occasionally they also have food trucks there serving food. Their Grapefruit Gose is a solid beer. Their beers can get a little darker for those who like that as well. 3821, 555 10th Ave S, Safety Harbor, FL 34695. (727) 724-5953. http://crookedthumbbrew.com/

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5. Leaven Brewing: Leaven Brewing has a special place in my heart as the first brewery in Riverview. They have so much passion and potential, I truly believe they will be one of the top breweries of the future. The owners and staff have also been really great to talk to. They are still growing so the tap list is a little limited, but the Is Good Kölsch is great. Show them love if you come out to the east side of town. 11238 Boyette Rd, Riverview, FL 33569. (813) 677-7023. https://www.leavenbrewing.com/

6. 81Bay Brewing Company: 81Bay is one of the few breweries that I haven’t been to that I can confidently recommend. I constantly see them out at events and participating in the community and their beer is excellent. They can take a beer type I wouldn’t normally drink and make me a fan. Their brewers and employees are also super cool and I have enjoyed meeting them on various occasions. I do plan to eventually make it to Gandy to visit them in the not too distant future, but either way that shouldn’t stop you! Their beer list is constantly rotating so check their website for more. 4465 W Gandy Blvd #600, Tampa, FL 33611. (813) 837-2739. http://81baybrewco.com/

7. Cycle Brewing: I visited Cycle Brewing one First Friday in Downtown St. Pete for a drink and became a fan. Their beers tend to be darker, but I like the vibe there. It captures that feeling of St. Petersburg, kinda grungy – but filled with soul. I like the Hazelnut Cream + Sugar coffee porter. It’s black like my soul. 534 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. (727) 320-7954.

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8. Dunedin Brewing: One wild trip around Dunedin ended at Dunedin Brewing. The brewery is quaint. The staff kinda reminded me of being at a dive bar and the beer and food were both great (pro-tip: get the cheese curds). I liked the Apricot Peach Fruit Wheat Beer the most out of my flight. 937 Douglas Ave, Dunedin, FL 34698. (727) 736-0606. http://www.dunedinbrewery.com/

9. Brew Bus Brewing: I had tried Brew Bus beers and the accompanying Florida Ave. Brewing beers for years, but hadn’t made it over to the tasting room and brewery until a few weeks ago and I have been missing out. Besides the Brew Bus which can shuttle you around the city to different breweries (a place for a place with tight parking like Tampa), Brew Bus also has an Executive Chef and quite an extensive beer menu.

I liked both the Brew Bus beers and the sours that are heavily present on the Florida Ave. Brewing list. The Cucumber Berliner Weisse is completely refreshing in this sticky Florida weather. There is plenty to see at Brew Bus and they are certainly growing in the Seminole Heights area. 4101 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33603. (813) 990-7310. https://www.brewbususa.com/

10. Cigar City Brewing: You can’t really write a craft beer list in Tampa and exclude Cigar City. The biggest player in town that helped start a movement here in Tampa. Cigar City regularly offers tours that I highly recommend and all their events that I have attended have been great experiences. My favorite beer at Cigar City is the Florida Cracker Ale and the Guava Grove (I actually love everything guava..being a Hispanic).

Cigar City has great beer and a great brand and has helped to make Tampa a great place for beer that we can all enjoy. It’s also located minutes from the Tampa International Airport, making it convenient for any traveler to stop at. 3924 W Spruce St, Tampa, FL 33607. (813) 348-6363. http://cigarcitybrewing.com

Carlos Eats

May 17, 2018 |

Top 7 Local Pizza Spots in Tampa

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Pizza is one of those things that depends on preference. Do you like a cheesy pizza or a saucy pizza? Lots of toppings or just plain cheese? Does pineapple belong on pizza? (the answer is YES) –  I keep things simple normally, but it varies depending on my mood.

Tampa is overrun with corporate pizza chains and plenty of below mediocre strip mall pizza spots, but there are some quality local spots out there as well and they need some love.

Here are my Top 7 Local Pizza Spots in Tampa. Your top choices may vary and that’s okay.

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7. Full Circle Pizza Grill: This pizza spot in Wesley Chapel/New Tampa area is not easily accessible to most of Tampa, but trust me the Chicago pie is worth a look if you are in the area. The portion is simply huge so make sure you bring some friends and call ahead to see if they are serving Chicago pizza, because some days it is unavailable. It’s a more affordable option to a Cappy’s Pizza in my opinion. 19651 Bruce B Downs Blvd., Tampa, FL 33647. (813) 994-3700. http://www.fullcirclepizza-grill.com/

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6. New York, New York Pizza: Many drunk nights in Ybor City end at New York, New York Pizza. They’ve expanded their reach over the years, but kept the quality pizza there. I would consider their pizza to be up to my standards for a good pizza, tasty cheese and toppings. Most of my visits are reserved for times out in Ybor at night though and nowadays in SoHo as well where they opened another location. 533 S Howard Ave., Tampa, FL 33606. (813) 253-3929. http://places.singleplatform.com/new-york-new-york-pizza-11/menu?ref=google

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5. Wood Fired Pizza Wine Bar: This is that gourmet pizza place that you take someone to on a date or that you go to with a really good friend or a group gathering and it does get busy. Wood Fired Pizza is a full-service restaurant and has a nice beer selection as well as a tasty butter beer I have enjoyed in the past. The owner is very passionate about pizza and it shows. The prices are on the higher end and will run you around $ 15-$ 20 for a pie, but you get your value for sure.  2822 E. Bearss Ave., Tampa, FL 33613. (813) 341-2900.  http://woodfiredpizzatampa.com/

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4. Cappy’s Pizza: A bit of a Tampa institution. Cappy’s has branches all over the Tampa Bay area. My personal favorite location is their New Tampa location. I feel like the service there has always been stellar and it is never overcrowded. Plus they take card and I’m pretty sure the Seminole Heights location is cash-only. I don’t carry cash in 2017. Cappy’s has a solid NY-pizza, but it is more popular for it’s deep-dish Chicago pizzas. Come hungry. 16019 Tampa Palms Blvd. W, Tampa, FL 33647. (813) 512-8947. http://www.cappyspizzaonline.com/

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3. Fabrica Pizza: This Channelside pizza restaurant is like no other in town. The owners roots are in Italy and they are doing their best to provide a quality and authentic Neapolitan pizza. Everything is delicious. The wine is great and so are the meatballs. It is probably one of the best pizza spots in town if we are talking ambiance and located blocks away from the Tampa Riverwalk. Oh and the nutella pizza? To. Die. For. 142 S. Meridian Ave., Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 605-0764. http://www.fabricapizza.com/

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2. Sally O’Neals Pizza Hotline: Many of the restaurants who have survived the many changes on SoHo serve some of the best food in town. Sally O’Neals have been around for over 30 years and this quality pizza is a must for anyone wanting to try the best in town. I first tried their pizza at Taste the Best of Tampa Bay at the Straz Center where a mob of people kept chowing down on their excellent pie. From the first bite, Sally O’Neals changed my opinion about pizza in Tampa.  The quality is there. 1319 S. Howard Ave., Tampa, FL 33606. (813) 251-0220. http://sallyonealspizza.com

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1. Eddie & Sam’s NY Pizza: There is no denying the magic of Eddie & Sam’s NY Pizza in Downtown Tampa, which has served the area since 1998. The options are numerous and I have never felt disappointed with an experience there. I like pizza by the slice and Eddie & Sam’s serves excellent slices that will brighten even the worst of days. It is the best pizza available in Tampa in value, quality, and it may not be fancy, but who needs fancy when the pizza is going to blow your taste buds away. I’ll be at a quality, local, dive any day over a fancy restaurant. Go to Eddie & Sam’s if you haven’t. We need more like it.  203 E. Twiggs St., Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 229-8500. http://www.eddieandsamspizza.com/


Carlos Eats

October 16, 2017 |

Ricopan Bakery: delicious, affordable, local eats

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Looking for a quick spot for lunch today we decided to hit up Ricopan Bakery. Most restaurants seem to be closed on Sundays in the area, but Ricopan is open 7 days a week.

We found their online profiles, but weren’t aware that they sold sandwiches and arepas until we arrived.  It looks like they might have a sister store in Kissimmee.

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Everything there was affordable and roughly $ 7 or less. The menu included Cubans, Medianoches, Steak subs, and more. Apparently they also have tamales on the weekends and other goodies.

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The place has a mom and pop vibe to it and is located right by the popular Liborio’s Latin Cafe on Causeway just off 78th Street in Brandon. The two attendants at the front were friendly, though a little shy.

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We ordered two cafe con leches, a steak sandwich, breakfast arepa with eggs and chorizo, and two guava cheese pastries. The cafe con leche was good, but not the best. Many of the locals stopping in went for Postobon which is to be expected at a Colombian spot. They also had Malta, coconut juice, freshly squeezed OJ, and natural juices as well.

Another thing I noticed on the back of the menu was Colombian burgers, salchipapas, and various other Colombian fast-food being sold at Ricopan which I would be interested in trying in the future.

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The Colombian empanadas were also quickly being purchased by their customers that I observed.

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The food was excellent. I had the breakfast arepa with cheese on top. Eggs and Chorizo on the side. It was excellent.

Probably one of the best arepas I’ve had in awhile. I definitely would go back to try their chicken or beef arepas in the future. Price was fair too. Scrambled eggs had plenty of ingredients including tomatoes and bellpeppers and tasted homemade. The chorizo was good, but I could barely touch it before I was full.

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The steak sandwich we ordered was also excellent. The bread was perfect, the steak was nice and juicy on the inside, it wasn’t tough or dry like you’ll have in some palomilla steaks when you go to latin cafes and order a sandwich. They put the shredded potato sticks on top. It was also a big portion for just $ 7.

I’d definitely come back to get the Cuban which I noticed was $ 4.99.

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The two guava pastries we had were tasty and they put a good amount of guava on them. I think next time I would try the croissant instead just because I prefer the softer bread texture. All their pastries looked delicious though and were fairly priced.

I’m glad that we went and tried Ricopan Bakery today and will be back in the future and recommend you give it a look if you’re in Brandon sometime as well!

Restaurant name: Ricopan Bakery

Neighborhood: Brandon, Palm River

Cuisine: Colombian, Bakery, Sandwiches, Arepas

Address: 8216 Causeway Blvd, Tampa, FL 33619

Phone Number: (813) 846-4970

 


Carlos Eats

October 1, 2017 |

Guide: Top 8 Local Bars in Tampa

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Drinking in Tampa is a mixed bag. Lots of bars close early and many overcharge for drinks that contain almost no alcohol or have downright terrible service. City officials and bar owners are also regularly working against each other. There was even an incident in 2013 where the city once tried to change the closing hours for bars to midnight?!

At the same time, Tampa is home to one of the largest United States Bartenders Guild chapters in the country and holds an excellent Repeal Party in December every year. Tampa has a booming craft beer industry and plenty of wine dives around town as well as liquor distilleries on the horizon.

Ybor City and South Tampa have been had their moments in the sunshine for nightlife and over time both have waned as Seminole Heights, Tampa Heights, and Downtown Tampa become the center of town. Only time will tell.

Here are my Top 8 Bars in Tampa. This is a personal list and you may not agree with my choices and that is okay.

#8 – Ybor City Wine Bar

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Ybor City Wine Bar is a great place to catch up with a friend or go on a date. The shop is quaint and all the bartenders I have encountered there have been friendly. You can sit inside or outside depending on the type of night you are looking for – both are enjoyable. The owner holds a wine class every Wednesday and has also expanded over into Seminole Heights. The wine selection is solid and I have enjoyed a few great evenings there.

1600 E 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605. (813) 999-4966. http://www.yborcitywinebar.com/

 

#7 – First Chance, Last Chance Bar

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Want a hipster dive bar? First Chance, Last Chance Bar in Ybor City is exactly that. If you’re spending $ 10 or less be sure to bring cash. Lots of shot specials and plenty of spirits. A nice outdoor courtyard with a DJ spinning regularly as well. Drinks prices are nice and cheap and the happy hour is great.

1707 N 16th St, Tampa, FL 33605. (813) 248-5555. https://www.firstchancelastchance.com/

#6 – Mr. Dunderbaks

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You like craft beer? What about German beer and food? Oktoberfest? Mr. Dunderbaks has an impressive beer list and now has installed their own brewery into the mix. Stepping into the restaurant makes you feel like you departed Tampa into a German pub. The best place to be during the World Cup. The food is pretty good too.

14929 Bruce B Downs Blvd, Tampa, FL 33613. (813) 977-4104. http://dunderbaks.ieasysite.com/

#5 –  C. 1949

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Seminole Heights is the mecca of hipster bars and C. 1949 provides a huge list of craft beer to visitors for great prices  – many of them recently released. Events are held regularly including Taco Tuesday and a Monday night farmer’s market. The interior is modern and cool and the outside deck is perfect for autumn or winter weather. Live music is regularly put on as well.

6905 N Orleans Ave, Tampa, FL 33604. (813) 990-8883. http://c1949.com/

#4 – Lowry Parcade

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Finally a place for nerds. Lowry Parcade fuses craft beer enthusiasts with video game nerds into one building. The outcome is a great local neighborhood bar in Seminole Heights that allows both crowds to indulge in their passions. We need more of this in Tampa.

1213 W Waters Ave, Tampa, FL 33604. (813) 915-9180. http://lowryparcade.com/

#3 – Ciro’s Speakeasy and Supper Club

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When you’re talking high-quality cocktails, Ciro’s delivers an experience you will not forget. They regularly host cocktail dinners and any night there is an experience that will take you back to the 1920s. The drinks are delicious although quite pricey. It’s a perfect place to celebrate a special night with friends or a date.

2109 Bayshore Blvd, Tampa, FL 33606. (813) 251-0022. http://www.cirostampa.com/

#2 – Hotel Bar

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Refined cocktails from hotels around the world. Hotel Bar has an elegant interior and the staff is excellent every time I visit. I only wish Hotel Bar had a larger location, but maybe that is one of the things to appreciate about it as well. Drink prices are what you would expect from a place called Hotel Bar. Not overly expensive and not cheap.

200 N. Tampa St, Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 533-2650. http://hotelbartampa.com/

#1 – Anise Global Gastrobar

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The best in town. Anise Gastrobar has consistently remained the best place to drink in Tampa since it opened a few years back. The cocktail menu is constantly evolving with the building – they regularly hold events and interact with the industry around them. The space inside is beautiful and it is right across the street from Curtis Hixon Park. The prices have always been fair and the happy hour is excellent. Anise is the best place to drink in Tampa – hands down.

777 N Ashley Dr, Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 225-4272. https://www.aniseglobal.com/


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Carlos Eats

September 21, 2017 |

Guide: Top 8 Local Coffee Shops in Tampa

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This list has been overdue. Tampa has a blossoming coffee scene, you would be hard pressed to find a local coffee shop 5-10 years ago. Recently local coffee shops have been showing up all over town. Here are my current top 8 coffee shops in Tampa.

The factors used to rate the cafes are quality of coffee, affordability, consistency, atmosphere, and customer service. This is a personal list and your list may differ from my own and that’s alright.

Here we go:

#1 – The Lab Tampa – Coffee Shop

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Most baristas around town I’ve talked to and local business people mention The Lab. Local coffee has a community that has built around Zeal Coffee Roasters and The Lab was started as a partnership between Blind Tiger Coffee and Zeal Coffee Roasters. It’s obvious that these two ambitious local businesses joining forces would create a great product.

I only recently visited The Lab for the first time, but the coffee, conversations, and customer service has been top notch. The interior is being renovated and worked on, but to be honest – the coffee I have had here makes up for anything in the atmosphere. The friendliness of all the people who stop in also is something to appreciate.

Of all the coffee shops I have visited and constantly visit, The Lab has impressed me the most. It may not have a beautiful courtyard or baristas with bowties, but it captures the essence of what makes a good coffee shop and that makes it the best in my book.

1703 W State St.,Tampa, FL 33606. (813) 451-6662. http://www.zealcoffeeroasters.com/location/

#2 – Buddy Brew Coffee – Hyde Park Village

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If we’re talking atmosphere – Buddy Brew Coffee in Hyde Park Village is a beautiful shop that I love to visit. Hopefully one day the rest of the construction in Hyde Park Village will subside and match this shop. The baristas at BBC are friendly, but not quite as friendly as some other shops. The coffee I ordered on various visits has been enjoyable.

The selection is also a little limited – but to me the atmosphere here makes up for that. Plus there is plenty of parking with the Hyde Park Village garages nearby which can be an issue at numerous shops around town. Buddy Brew has numerous locations around Tampa, but this one is my favorite.

1605 W Snow Ave, Tampa, FL 33606. (813) 575-2739. http://www.buddybrew.com/locations/hydepark/

#3 – Caffeine – Kennedy

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I enjoyed the Caffeine location in Downtown Tampa in the past, although parking is an issue both in Downtown and also at their new shop on Kennedy. I love the atmosphere inside the new Caffeine on Kennedy. The coffee here is good though not the best in town, but I do enjoy stopping by for a cup and the shop is incredibly accommodating to people who work on laptops.

The baristas are also super friendly and the poached egg and avocado toast is excellent. Nothing wrong with a coffee shop that actually has a great food selection.

2420 W Kennedy Blvd, Tampa, FL 33609. (813) 644-7245. http://www.caffeineusa.com/

#4 Spaddy’s Coffee Co. – Seminole Heights

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I met Greg Spaddy last year at the Seminole Heights Japan Fest. The man has always been a friendly neighborhood guy that anyone can converse with. When he opened shop in Seminole Heights this year in the courtyard next to Red Star Rock Bar, lines of customers were ready for him.

The coffee and tea selection has always been excellent at Spaddy’s and prices are fair. Coffee is sourced from Zeal Coffee Roasters. One of the best things at Spaddy’s Coffee Co. is watching the locals stop by and chat about what is happening in the Seminole Heights neighborhood. That’s what community is all about and Spaddy is a community player.

The only downside to Spaddy’s is that this location is outdoors and prone to the hot Florida weather and rain. Little by little, changes have been made to address this by adding shade and power outdoors. Don’t miss the First Friday events at the truck that bring in other local food trucks and live music to the neighborhood.

5206 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33603. (954) 829-2111. http://www.spaddyscoffee.com/

#5 Ginger Beard Coffee

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Ginger Beard Coffee is known as one of the first shops to sell nitro brew coffee in Tampa. Their audience is niche and mainly drawn from locals in Channelside, but I’ve always enjoyed my experiences at their shop at Grand Central on Kennedy.

The shop regularly partners with other local players such as Bake’n Babes and TeBella and keeps releasing fresh ideas. Plus I love the red ginger beards the owners have. I’d recommend giving Ginger Beard a look – it won’t be for everyone, but I love it personally.

1208 E Kennedy Blvd #112, Tampa, FL 33606. (813) 434-0795. http://www.gingerbeardcoffee.com/

#6 Foundation Coffee – Tampa Heights

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Foundation Coffee was one of the early players in Tampa Heights which is now starting to boom. Originally from Riverview, Foundation is often not afraid to take risks and enter untested markets which is commendable.

The coffee at Foundation can be best described as good, but not the best I’ve had. The baristas are friendly, but not in a memorable way.

The atmosphere at Foundation in Tampa Heights cannot be beat. The outside courtyard is truly relaxing and makes you wonder why more people do not utilize the outdoors in this fashion.

Also – personally the Wi-Fi at Foundation is terrible and disconnects frequently making it a difficult shop to get any work done at. On the plus side there are plenty of plugs to charge your devices.

1607 N Franklin St, Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 358-5781. http://www.foundationcoffeeco.com/

#7 Tre Amici at The Bunker – Ybor City

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This shop has been in Ybor City for over 10 years and is a beautiful bungalow. There is a wide variety of options for coffee sourced from Buddy Brew and also tea and excellent Cuban toast that is representative of Ybor City.

The baristas I have encountered at Tre Amici have been friendly. Paid parking is available nearby, but actual parking spots can be a little scarce near the shop. The shop is constantly packed with customers and locals.

There are a ton of tables and plugs lying around for people who need to get work done or have a meeting.

1907 N 19th St, Tampa, FL 33605. (813) 247-6964. http://www.bunkerybor.com/

#8 The Attic Cafe – Downtown Tampa

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Coffee shops are a mix of coffee and your experience there. The Attic relies heavily on experience and is more of a mix shop serving a variety of things. The thing not to miss here is the view.

The Attic has a beautiful skyline view of Downtown Tampa that you will not find anywhere else. Visit during sunset and it may be one of the best city views in Tampa.

The coffee is satisfactory – not the best I have had. The staff is much more like what you would find at a local sandwich shop, the baristas do not seem to have the same kind of passion for coffee you’ll find at other shops around town. Still – the view at The Attic cannot be beat.

There are also plenty of plugs and excellent Wi-Fi at The Attic. Parking can be a pit of a pain due to the meters in Downtown.

500 E Kennedy Blvd #400, Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 226-1003. http://www.atticcafe.net/


What are your favorite coffee shops? Let me know in the comments.


Carlos Eats

September 15, 2017 |

Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach’s Ocean Hai Supports Local Charities

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The next time you dine at Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach‘s Ocean Hai restaurant, sit at table #31 to support Pinellas County local charities.

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The program “You Dine, We Donate” will select a new local charity every month to feature and donates all net proceeds from food and non-alcoholic beverage purchases at the assigned table to a cause. Here is the upcoming list:

  • April: Autism Awareness Month – Tampa Bay Chapter
  • May: Troop Rewards
  • June: Pinellas County Lifeguards
  • July: Clearwater Marine Aquarium
  • August: Pinellas County Schools
  • September: Eckerd Kids
  • October: Hooked on Hope
  • November: Clearwater for Youth
  • December: Arts for Life

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Ocean Hai is the signature restaurant at Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach serving Asian-fusion cuisine with inspirations from Asian countries such as Japan, Thailand, and China.

Chef de Cuisine John Capponi previously worked at Tampa’s On Swann in Hyde Park Village as Executive Chef and as Executive Sous Chef at Skytop Lounge in Pennsylvania.

The Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach is located at 100 Coronado Drive and is ocean-front. Clearwater Beach was recently named #4 on the 2017 “Top 10 Traveler’s Choice Beaches in the United States” by TripAdvisor.

Visit Ocean Hai online to book a reservation at http://www.wyndhamgrandclearwater.com/dining/ocean-hai


Carlos Eats

March 27, 2017 |

Local Legendary Burger @ Hard Rock Cafe Tampa

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Full disclosure: I was invited by the Hard Rock for a complimentary tasting of their new burger. The opinions expressed are my own based on my experience.

This past Monday I visited the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino restaurant, Hard Rock Cafe, to taste their Local Legendary Burger: Old Bay Burger. The idea of the burger is to prepare something in-house that has “local flavor and flair”. During my visit I also tried an appetizer, drink special, and dessert.

Southwest Chicken Flatbread

I started off with the Southwest Chicken Flatbread as an appetizer. Flatbreads always sound great when I order them and they are usually disappointing. Not the case with the Southwest Chicken Flatbread at the Hard Rock Cafe. This was one of the best flatbreads I have eaten in the Tampa Bay region. It captured a nice mix of flavors and had fresh avocados served on top. The crust had just the right crunchy – not too crispy or too tough. I highly recommend this.

Summertime Blues drink

The Summertime Blues drink is a special added to the menu currently. It is made with Blueberry Real syrup, house-made lemonade, and Red Bull Yellow energy drink. The mixture is sweet and packed with plenty of energy. This beverage is non-alcoholic.

Local Legendary Burger

Local Legendary Burger

After the appetizer was gone, the main course arrived: the Local Legendary Burger called the Old Bay Burger. Named after Old Bay Seasoning – a product of Maryland where crabs are plentiful. The burger utilizes a crab cake mixture laid on top of the burger (important to note for anyone with allergies).

I really enjoyed this burger – it’s totally different from what you’d normally find on a menu and it’s really filling as you can see in the photograph. You can taste the seasoning in each bite and how the different parts of the burger interact. Part of me wanted to actually just have the crab cake part and cut out the beef just to see how that might change the mix of flavors – it was enjoyable regardless though. The chef also made a sauce to accompany the burger.

I’d love to hear people’s opinions on what they think of the Local Legendary at the Hard Rock Cafe and see how it compares to my experience.

Key Lime Pie

Finally, the meal ended with the dessert. The newest addition to the Hard Rock Cafe is their Key Lime Pie so I decided to go with that. The filling was reminiscent of a flan due to it being soft and almost like pudding. The taste was not too sour or sweet – somewhere in between. The crust was excellent and definitely the highlight of the dessert.

Thus the meal came to an end. There are plenty of new things worth trying at the Hard Rock Cafe whether you are looking for a snack or a meal.

Hard Rock Cafe. 5223 Orient Rd., Tampa, FL 33610. (813) 627-7757 seminolehardrocktampa.com


Carlos Eats

July 31, 2016 |

Local teen attends Sunscreen Film Festival thanks to Children’s Dream Fund

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Hollywood stars of today and tomorrow were out Thursday night at the 11th Annual Sunscreen Film Festival in St. Petersburg, including one local teen who is literally "living the dream."

  • Actors Paul Sorvino, Gary Busey attending
  • 16-year-old Jared Closterman attending thanks to Children’s Dream Fund
  • Closterman traveled to Hollywood in February to meet director Ridley Scott

The opening night featured red carpets, flashing lights and movie stars. If it wasn’t for the big Saint Petersburg sign, this could be mistaken for a Hollywood movie premiere.
 
“To see it all is just crazy. And it’s so cool to see that it’s happening in the local area,” said 16-year-old Jared Closterman.
 
The future film director got a taste of how Hollywood works earlier this year. In February he traveled to Hollywood, where he met one of his idols, Ridley Scott, the director of "Alien", "Blade Runner", and more recently, "The Martian."
 
“It was incredible," said Closterman. "It was so unreal to meet him. And being able to meet someone I look up to and looked up to my whole life.”

The St. Petersburg-based Children’s Dream Fund helped Closterman go on his dream trip, and also to this year’s Sunscreen Film Festival as a special guest.
 
Closterman has faced some daunting challenges in his life. He has a condition that affects his immune system, but he isn’t letting that stop him.  
 
“It’s a great story," said Pinellas County Film Commission spokesperson Tony Armer.  "It’s just another opportunity to help continue his dream and maybe give him the opportunity to live his dream and meet some film makers to help move forward with his career.”
 
And along with the big names expected at Sunscreen this year, actors like Paul Sorvino and Gary Busey, what better way to get to know about movies than with an actor in one of this year’s films? Closterman met with 9-year-old Max Mazzacurati, who’s starring in a film this year.
 
“It’s very fun and I can’t believe it. It feels like a dream,” Mazzacurati said.
 
The Sunscreen Film Festival runs through May 1. For more information, visit http://sunscreenfilmfestival.com/.

Bay News 9 – local-news

April 28, 2016 |
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