I don’t often mourn the closing of a restaurant, but when we were headed out to the Boston Cooker in Oldsmar last night & found out it was closed, I was seriously bummed out. This was the only restaurant in the area that had Ipswitch belly clams that tasted like the ones I had as a child growing up in New England. Their website says the Boston Cooker in Spring Hill will remain open, but that’s a bit of a drive just for dinner. Sigh…
Wow, it’s the end of April already? Looks like we ate out 21 times this month and spent $484. Here’s the best and worst for the month:
Best Rolls: Boston Cooker
Favorite Lunch: Crawfish Etouffee at Cajun Cafe
Most Flavorful Meal: Bawarchi Indian Cuisine
Best Ribs: Munches Sundries
Worst Dessert: The Big O at Pete & Shorty’s
Not a lot stood out in the month of March. We ate out 18 times, plus another 5 that I forgot to blog about (mostly take out) and spent a total of $580.
So, here’s what made an impression:
Best Dessert: Black Forest Cake at The German Restaurant
Best BBQ: Ribs from Georgia Boys BBQ
Best Soup: Chicken Coconut from Tom Yum Thai and Sushi
Best New Restaurant: Lulu’s in Safety Harbor
Worst Overall Meal: Bollywood Cafe
Worst Service: Julian’s Little Italy
Looks like we ate out 20 times in February and spent $600. Gotta say, we had some really bad service this month, from forgotten orders to just being ignored.
So, here are the highs and lows from February:
Best Dessert: Citrus Crepe at Crepe-ology
Best Flavors: 5th Element Indian Cuisine
Best Sushi Roll: Tao Roll at Zen Bistro
Best Overall Experience: Zante Cafe Neo
Overpriced for the Experience: Walt’s Seasonal Cuisine
Worst Sandwich: Eggplant Parmesean at Niko’s Pizza & Seafood
Looks like we ate out 24 times in January and spent $611. Starting off the year with a bang. A lot of the meals in January were just run of the mill, but a few stood out both good and bad.
Best Appetizer: Avacado Egg Rolls at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse
Best Sushi Roll: Lobster Roll at Ban Thai
Best Dessert: Palermitana at Portofino Mediteranean Grill
Most Disappointing: Bascom’s Chop House
Worst Breakfast Item: Stuffed Crab Benedict at Lenny’s
Hard to believe I started this blog a year ago. Food is definitely a big part of our lives and budget. Looks like we ate at 162 different restaurants, plus another 16 on our trip to Hawaii. There were a few restaurants we ate at a bunch of times (Cuban Breezes, Amarit Thai), but I was surprised that we ate at so many different ones in the area.
Looks like 13 of them didn’t make it through the year though. Based on our experiences at most of them, gotta say, I agree with the decision to close.
We ended up spending about $7500 going out to eat this year. Yikes! We eat out about 20 times a month since I rarely cook on the weekends.
So, what were our favorites in 2010?
Overall Best of the Best:
Zante Cafe Neo in Tarpon Springs
Walt’s Seasonal Cuisine in Dunedin
Restaurant Hapa in Oldsmar
Green Springs Bistro in Safety Harbor
We only ate at each of these restaurants once, but they all left a wonderful impression on us. They’re all on the more expensive end of the spectrum, but both the food quality and overall experiences were worth every penny.
Best Pizza: Grandmas Rustic Pizza at Corteo’s in Palm Harbor. This pizza just has the best sauce we’ve tasted. The fresh tomatoes, basil and garlic just can’t be beat.
Best Sushi Rolls: Super Crunchy at Keiko in Safety Harbor, Rainbow Roll at YoYo Sushi in Oldsmar. Loren would say the Scott Roll at Keiko. YoYo Sushi has some of the best salmon we’ve tasted.
Best Brisket: Brady’s BBQ in Safety Harbor. I’ve just recently converted over from pulled pork to brisket and it was the brisket at Brady’s that did the trick.
Best Chinese Food: Big Bok Choy in Safety Harbor. The service is great and the food is always fresh and tasty.
Best Pie: Lilikoi Pie at Hana Hou in Hawaii. Best dessert ever. A little far to travel for dessert, but if we make it back to the Big Island, we’re heading here for pie.
Best Greek Salad: Athenian Garden in Largo. We’ve eaten a lot of Greek salads this year, but this one topped them. The dressing was amazing.
Best Cheap Eats: Cuban Breezes. Everything on their menu is reasonably priced and it just tastes good. They often have specials and a coupon out on Restaurant.com. You just can’t beat the amount of food for the price.
Best Chain: Cracker Barrel. I’m a sucker for their mac & cheese. This is where we head when we just want some comfort food.
I was on vacation for two weeks in December, but we still managed to eat out 23 times and spend about $485. We found a new favorite restaurant this month in Tarpon Springs and hopefully we’ll get back there a few times in 2011.
Best Overall Meal: Zante Cafe Neo
Best Shrimp: Crispy Tiger Shrimp Burrito at Mekenita Mexican Grille
Most Tasty Leftovers: Pasta dishes at Jonny Primo’s
Non-Existent Service: Salsa’s Mexican Restaurant
Worst Shrimp: Shrimp Chimichanga at Hacienda Mexican Grille
Longest Wait for Food: Zerillos Italian Grille
We only ate out 15 times this month spending $448. Guess we were making up for the excess of last month.
Best Sub: Cheesesteak at Delco’s
Best Pasta: Fratelli’s
Best Dessert: The Bomb at Greek City Cafe
Best Chicken Dish: Fricase de Pollo at Cuban Breezes
Best Rolls: Yeast Rolls at Cody’s
Worst Deals and Meals: Dining at Disney
We ate out quite a bit in October. Looks like this was our highest spend yet at $757 at 30 restaurants. Hmmm… I must not have cooked at home much this month.
Best Sushi Roll: Ocean Roll at Bua Siam Thai
Best Potatoes: Mashed at Molly Goodheads
Most Addictive Appetizer: Mee Krob at Thai Nana
Best Dessert: Black Raspberry Pie at Yoders
Worst Dessert: Galaktobouriko at Greektown Grille
Worst Appetizer: Queso and Chips at Ruby Tuesday
We didn’t eat out as much in September as we have other months. Looks like a total of $418 at 20 restaurants.
Best Spice: Shrimp Etoufee at Cajun Cafe
Best Pizza: Grandma’s Rustic at Corteos
Best Dessert: Bubba’s Brownie at Chicos Woodfired Grill
Worst Service: Sakua Japanese Restaurant
Worst Atmosphere: City Fish
We ate out 20 times in August and spent about $500 between the two of us. Think this was the least we’ve spent out to eat in a month all year.
Here are the highs and lows from August:
Best Salad: Greek Salad at Athenian Garden
Best Dessert: Chocolate Lovin’ Spoon Cake at Panos Kouzina
Best BBQ: Brady’s Backyard BBQ
Best Sushi Roll: Yama Big Roll from Yama Taiyo Sushi
Best Burger: Pete & Shorty’s
Worst Ribs: Flamestone American Grill
Worst Entree: Steak kabobs at Koz
Worst Breakfast: EggStyle Breakfast
We ate out 26 times in July and spent about $680 between the two of us.
Here are the highs and lows from July:
Best Soup: Chicken Coconut Soup from Tom Yum Thai & Sushi
Best Sushi Roll: Lobster Tempura from Samauri Blue
Best Overall Flavors: Deeya Indian Cuisine
Worst Chinese Food: Takee Outee
Worst Lasagne: Vincenzo’s
We ate out 25 times in June and spent about $620 between the two of us.
Here are the highs and lows from June:
Best Pizza: Grandma’s Rustic Pizza from Corteo’s
Best Sushi Roll: Ocean Roll at Bua Siam Thai
Best Dessert: Chocolate Cake from Cody’s Original Roadhouse
Worst Dessert: Dessert Pierogies from Pierogi Grill
Worst Soup: Clam Chowder from Cuban Breezes
We ate out 42 times in May and spent about $1425 between the two of us. Sure, this is a little over double of our normal monthly food spend, but we spent 10 days on the Big Island of Hawaii eating our way around the island. And we ate some really good food.
Here are the highs and lows from our Hawaii trip:
Best Overall: Hilo Bay Cafe
Spiciest Food: Thai Thai
Best Pie: Lilikoi Pie at Hana Hou
Best Appetizer: Ahi Roll at Kaleo’s Grill
Worst Meal: Manago Hotel
We ate out 26 times in April and spent about $646 between the two of us.
Here are the highs and lows from April:
Best Overall Experience: Restaurant Hapa
Best Calamari: Bonefish Grill
Best Fish: Swordfish at Tuscano’s Grille
Best Bread: Dominic’s Grille
Best Value: Lenny’s Restaurant
Best Depth of Flavor: Laziz Indian Cuisine
Best Empanada: Pico Rojo
Best Sushi: Yuki Japanese Restaurant
Worst Overall Experience: Kuzina Mediterranean Grill
Worst Tacos: Jolli Mons
Worst French Toast: East Lake Cafe
Worst Value: Pickles Plus
Looks like we ate out 23 times in March and spent about $615 between the two of us.
Here are the highs and lows from March:
Best Salsa: Casa Tina
Best Sushi: Kaiko – especially the Super Crunchy roll
Best Service: Marie at Eagle’s Landing
Best Dessert: Crepe-ology
Best Mac and Cheese: Cracker Barrel
Most Food for the Money: Yanny’s
Worst Pasta: JC Cravers
Worst Appetizer: Fish Tail Willie’s
Looks like we ate out 20 times in February and spent about $565 between the two of us. That brings the year total to 43 meals and $1125. Damn, we eat out a lot.
Here are the highs and lows from February:
Best Soup: Lobster/Shrimp Bisque from the Grind House Bar and Grill
Best Bread: Yeast rolls at the Boston Cooker
Best Presentation: Cobb Salad at Jack Willie’s
Best Salsa: Caramba’s
Best Service: Big Bok Choy Bistro
Best Dessert: Brownie sundae at the Grind House Grill and Bar
Worst Service: Chili’s
Worst Veggies: Acropol Inn Restaurant
Most Disappointing: Tiffany’s Restaurant
Hard to believe January is over already. Looks like we visited 23 different restaurants and spent about $560 between the two of us. There were definitely some memorable dining experiences… both good and bad.
Here’s my best and worst of January dining:
Best Appetizer: Mexican roll at Thirsty Marlin
Best Dessert: 7 Layer Dark Chocolate Cake at Green Springs Bistro
Best Bread: Garlic bread at Panos Kouzina
Best use of Cheese: Queso Supremo at Tia’s
Best Fries: Sweet potato fries at Whistlestop Grill
Best Value: 2 for 1 Fajitas at Chicos
Best Atmosphere: Green Springs Bistro
Worst Service: Ozona Pig
Worst use of Cheese: Wild Mushroom Risotto at Kuzina Mediterranean Grill
Worst entree: Shrimp Lo Mein at Hin Lee II
Worst Side Dish: Potato Salad at Thirsty Marlin
My buddy, Jeff, has mentioned this to me several times, and I finally tried it tonight. Restaurants.com allows you to search your local area for restaurants that are registered with them and they sell gift certificates at a significant discount. You can usually get deals like $10 for $4, $25 for $10, etc. Good stuff if your local restaurants are listed. Fortunately, a lot of restaurants in our area ARE listed. In fact, two of them are places we go regularly!
But, wait, it gets better… they offer discounts on their discounts! There are always discount codes available, up to 70 or 80% sometimes. You can find discount codes here. (also a great resource for any other website that will accept a discount code) Currently, the code “INDULGE” will get you 80% off. So, I just spent $14.60 on $145 worth of gift cards. If we have no issues with these cards, you can bet I’ll be doing this again!
Don’t you just love those end of the year summary credit card statements? You just don’t realize how much you spend in any one category until you see it all grouped together. I was a bit surprised to find out I had spent $3305 at restaurants in 2009. The scary part is that my hubby, Loren, spent about the same amount on his credit card (we have separate checking accounts, so we usually alternate who pays). And those totals don’t include the occasional times when we actually paid cash.
What surprised me even more than the amount was that we’d eaten at about 75 different restaurants during the year. Mind you, we ate at some a lot, but I didn’t realize we had eaten at so many different places. Some of them were really good, some of them shouldn’t still be open in my opinion.
I’ve thought about creating a food blog for a while, but never seemed to get around to it. What’s finally motivated me is that we’re planning a trip to Hawaii in the spring and I’ve been researching where to eat on the Big Island. The best reviews have come on blogs from people who live there. I’m not after the touristy high end places and I try to avoid chain restaurants. I want the down home cooking where the locals eat.
So, hopefully, I can shed some light on the food around the Tampa Bay area. If nothing else, at least I’ll have a reminder of where I spent 10% of my take-home pay.