The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

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Archive for the ‘BBQ’ Category

Spent my day driving my car on a race track today, good times!  But, a racer has to eat… and that’s what this is about.  Now, “track food” isn’t known for being good eats.  Occasionally it’s okay, but more often than not… it’s merely expensive and convenient nutrition that you’re stuck with because you’re at a race track in the middle of nowhere.  Well, wouldn’t you know it, the concessions at this track were closed today!  Darn!  But, the track is within 5 miles of Keystone Heights, FL… which isn’t far from nowhere, but at least they have some restaurants!

My buddy Steve and I tried our luck at a fairly well-established local BBQ joint called Johnny’s.  The place “felt” like a Sonny’s, but the food was marginally better.  Good barbecue, not “great” barbecue.

Steve ordered the pulled pork and commented on it being moist and tender, but not “greasy”.  And he got that and a giant glass of iced tea for 8 bucks and change!  Me?  I saw St. Louis style pork ribs on the menu for $9.99 and just couldn’t come up with any good reason to not order them.  They were very well-smoked with lovely pinkness and flavor.  Could have been meatier, but I didn’t go away hungry.  For sides, I got a baked potato and baked beans.  Baked potatoes are hit or miss in a place like this, but in this case, it was definitely a hit.  Well-cooked, fresh and hot.  The beans were from a can, but very well seasoned.  I like fresh-cooked beans better, but I’ll take really good canned beans over weak fresh beans, so I’m not complaining.  I was sad that there were no greens on the menu.  As “country” as this place was, I really expected some fresh-cooked down home sides.  At least the waitresses were cute!

A nice cool break from the 104-degree heat-index at the track, some good grub, and much-needed hydration.  Would could ask for more?

Johnny’s BBQ and Catering
7411 State Rd 21
Keystone Heights, FL

Johnny's-bar-b-q & Catering on Urbanspoon

  • Filed under: BBQ
  • On Saturday, we were heading up to Hawi to go ziplining and drove though Kamuela to eat breakfast at the Hawaiian Style Cafe.  This is a cash-only restaurant that gives you a ton of food for the money.  

    I ordered a loco moco, but it wasn’t as good as the other ones I had on the island. 

    I didn’t like the hamburger patty and my over-easy eggs were a bit overcooked.  There was plenty of it though.

    Loren ordered their Kalua Pork omelet special which came with hashbrowns and pancakes.

    This was a breakfast made to be shared.  The pancakes alone were enough to feed at least 2 people and the omelette was stuffed full of pork.  The whole breakfast was under $20 and there were plenty of leftovers.

    Hawaiian Style Cafe on Urbanspoon

    After ziplining, we hiked down to Pololu Beach.  Beautiful views from the trail as you head down. 

    Then we stopped for some Tropical Dreams Ice Cream in Hawi.  Loren had the Coconut cream and the Ginger White Chocolate.  I got the Tahitian Vanilla and chocolate.  They were all wonderful.  The only thing I didn’t like was that my chocolate ice cream had M&M’s in it and ice cream as good as this really didn’t need anything extra.

    We stopped to watch the sunset before stopping for dinner.

    Huli Sue’s BBQ in Waimea was our dinner stop tonight.

    We split the BBQ Sampler which had pork, ribs, chicken, sausage and brisket plus two sides.  We got cole slaw and corn bread pudding and ordered a couple of extra sides as well, an Oriental Bok Choy dish and some black beans. 

    Again, lots of food (this seems to be a theme in Hawaii).  The BBQ sauce had a tang to it and all the meats were pretty good.  The black beans were ok, but the other sides were better.  The Bok Choy completely did not go with the meal, but it was still tasty. 

    And I had to get a piece of their famous banana cream pie to go. 

    I understand why it’s famous.  It was soooo good.  I took it out to take a bite and almost finished it right there.  Smooth and creamy with a nice crust and topping.  Total dinner was $47 and there were plenty of leftovers.

    We actually went back to Huli Sue’s later in our vacation after a very disappointing meal at Manago (I’ll get to that later).  We were just going to get dessert, but ended up getting some BBQ nachos as well as a slice of chocolate cake.

    The nachos were good, but I just wanted some sweetness. 

    Thick, rich, chocolatey goodness, in a moist delicious cake.  Huli Sue’s makes good BBQ, but their desserts are amazing.  Our little snack run cost us $17.

    Huli Sue's BBQ and Grill on Urbanspoon

    By Sunday, day 5 of our vacation, we were completely whooped.  But that didn’t stop us from doing some spelunking in Kaumana Cave.   It was a very cool walk through an old lava tube. 

    For lunch, we headed over to Pahoa to Kaleo’s Bar and Grill.  We ordered the Tempura Ahi roll for our appetizer.

    It was absolutely amazing.  This was one of the best things we ate on the island.  Crispy on the outside, with Ahi, rice and veggies on the inside.  I should have just ordered a second one for my entree.

    I ordered the Chicken Katsu, but wasn’t too impressed.

    The rice wasn’t cooked well, and the chicken was a little dry.  It definitely needed a dipping sauce, but the one that came with it was a bit too spicy and when I asked for a sweeter sauce, I ended up with an even spicier chili Thai sauce.

    Loren was much happier with his meal.  He ordered the Mahi BLT and just raved about it.

    And, what did they have for dessert?  Lilikoi cheesecake!  My new favorite dessert in the whole wide world.

    It was so good.  Light and creamy with a wonderful passionfruit flavor.  I have got to find a recipe for this pie. $46 for lunch and we left with happy tastebuds.

    Kaleo's Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

    We spent the afternoon walking around the Lava Tree Park, McKenzie Park, and East Point, then headed back to Hilo for dinner at Pescatore’s. 

    If there’s calamari on the menu, we usually order it.

    Normally, the calamari we get is in rings and not quite as thick as these pieces were.  The batter didn’t have a lot of flavor, but the marinara sauce was good.

    I’m always happy when they bring out the bread basket.

    Loren started with a salad and I got some pasta fagioli.

    They were both ok.  The soup had a nice flavor and lots of veggies in it.

    I ordered the fettucine alfredo with shrimp for my entree.

    It was ok, but there was a flavor in it that I didn’t care for.  I don’t know what it was, but it just wasn’t one of my favorite alfredo dishes.  Loren ordered their mahi ahi fish special. 

    He really enjoyed it.  There were two different sauces on the fish and it came with a pesto spaghetti.  I had heard they had a killer chocolate truffle cake here so I got one to go.

    Talk about disappointing.  I don’t know how to describe the texture, it wasn’t smooth at all.  Sort of crumbly.  The flavor was ok, but overall, it was not as good as I had been led to believe.  This was our most expensive meal on the island at $72.  We had much better meals for a lot less money elsewhere.

    Pescatore on Urbanspoon


    Brady’s Backyard BBQ is our go to place for BBQ.  They’re located on Main Street in Safety Harbor and we’ve never had a bad experience there.

    They were busy tonight, but we were lucky enough to find a small table when we walked in. 

    Loren ordered his usual, riblets with a side of collard greens and a “try” of baked beans.

    The riblets have a lot of meat on them and they give you a bunch of them.  He always has a few left over to take home.  He likes to dip them in their mango BBQ sauce.

    I ordered the BBQ pork sandwich with a side of corn bread pudding.

    I love their corn bread pudding.  It has a wonderful flavor and texture to it.  Their pulled pork is very tasty too.  They pile it on the sandwiches.  I got a small sandwich and there was easily enough pork on it for two people.

    We tried the apple pie for dessert.

    It was ok, but didn’t taste homemade, more like something you’d buy in a grocery store. 

    Two entrees, dessert and a drink ran us $29.  Brady’s smokes all their meats on site for 14-20 hours and you can definitely taste it.  Everything is fresh and flavorful.

    Brady’s Backyard BBQ
    340 Main Street
    Safety Harbor, FL

    Brady's Backyard Grill on Urbanspoon

  • Filed under: BBQ, Safety Harbor
  • Had an unscheduled lunch with the boss today.  Conveniently, he chose a place near me this time.  One of our favorite lunch places (yes, we have a lot of favorite lunch places), Brady’s Backyard BBQ in Safety Harbor.

    I forgot to take pictures of the food, but I had my phone out while I was waiting for the boss, so you get an “atmosphere” shot.

    Brady’s has been around for 4-5 years, and used to be in a quaint old house on 3rd street across from the post office.  I liked that place, it had a homey feel to it.  But, I guess it wasn’t the greatest place to run a restaurant, and the parking wasn’t the best.  They moved a couple blocks to one of the strips along Main street a few months ago.

    I love me some pulled pork, and some ribs (their rib tips are AWESOME), but a few months ago I discovered their brisket sandwich, and that’s what I had today.  It’s pretty basic.  A bun with two huge chunks of super-tender and tasty brisket.  It’s gotta be a half-pound of meat, and it’s good stuff.

    The small sandwich comes with chips and a pickle.  What else do you need?  Well, you need collard greens!  Fortunately, their chip guy hadn’t shown up yet today, so we got to choose a side.  Did I mention that their collard greens are top notch?  Really, all of their sides are good.

    The kicker for me, however, is their mango barbecue sauce.  It is to die for!  Very unique flavor, just sweet enough, just tangy enough… MmmMmmMmm!

    The small sandwich basket is only like $7, you can’t go wrong.  So, yeah.  We like Brady’s.  Best BBQ in this area.  I like Hot Rod’s a little better, but I’d have to drive 20 miles to Lutz for that.  Within 5 miles, nobody else challenges them.

    Brady’s Backyard BBQ
    340 Main Street
    Safety Harbor, FL 34695

    Brady's Backyard Grill on Urbanspoon

  • Filed under: BBQ, Safety Harbor
  • Got home from work around 5:30pm and decided to see if I could get any decent photos of the full moon since it was supposed to be its biggest and brightest of the year tonight.  Unfortunately, it was cloudy over the horizon, so I wasn’t able to get any shots of the moon rising, but did manage a few decent ones once it got above the clouds.

    I got back home around 6:30pm and Loren had a hankering for steak, so we drove out to Longhorn Steakhouse in Palm Harbor.  The drive through the parking lot showed a large crowd of people waiting on tables and there weren’t any parking spots, so I suggested Outback instead.  I saw some empty parking spaces when we had passed it on the way to Longhorn.

    We parked at Outback only to go in and find there was a 50 minute wait.  By now, we were both fairly hungry and being the geeks that we are, Loren whipped out his cell phone and searched for steakhouses near our location.  The gps came up with Ozona Blue in Palm Harbor, so we headed out there.

    Unfortunately, though, the gps didn’t have the address correct, so we drove right by the restaurant and headed into Ozona.  We were at the Ozona Pig before we knew it.  We’d eaten there before and the food was good, so we pulled into the parking lot and our steak dinner turned into BBQ instead.

    The last time we were at The Ozona Pig, it was almost empty.  Not so tonight.  It was packed and noisy.  So noisy that we could barely hear each other from across the table.  Our waitress brought our drinks and then it took a while before she returned to take our order.  It was an omen of things to come, but we didn’t know it at the time.

    I ordered the pulled pork dinner with macaroni and cheese and potato salad for my sides. 

     Loren got the half rack of ribs, garlic mashed, and baked beans. Both dinners came with a deviled egg and we ordered a couple of extra too.

    The ribs and the pulled pork were really good.  They definitely know how to do BBQ.  We even had some leftovers.  The sides were a different story though.  The potato salad and the beans were ok.  The macaroni and cheese was dry, the deviled eggs were tough, and the garlic mashed could have warded off Dracula and all the vampires from Twilight and True Blood combined.

    All during dinner, we didn’t see our waitress.  In fact, for at least 45 minutes after we’d finished eating, we didn’t see hide nor hair of her or any other waitstaff for that matter.  I get that they were busy, but you can’t just ignore tables all night.

    Evenutally, she made her way over to us and said, “Ya’ll haven’t been feeling neglected back here, have you?”.  Ummm.. yeah. 

    Total bill was $28 and the BBQ was good, but the service was horrible.  Perhaps take-out would have been a better option.

    The Ozona Pig
    311 Orange St
    Ozona, FL

    Ozona Pig on Urbanspoon

  • Filed under: BBQ, Ozona