I’ve been wanting to try the new PF Chang’s at Countryside Mall, but the wait has been outrageous since they opened. We happened to be over there early today and were able to get a table in the bar area. We started off with the salt and pepper calamari.
Definitely not worth the wait and we waited a long time for the appetizer to come out of the kitchen. They don’t put the salt & pepper on it when it comes out of the fryer, instead giving you a container to sprinkle it on. It loses its appeal because it doesn’t stick to the calamari properly. As for the calamari, it was chewy. The dipping sauce that came with it tasted like it came right out of a jar. It was not good. For his entree, Loren chose the sesame chicken.
He liked the flavor of it, but the veggies didn’t taste fresh at all. The chicken was tender and the sauce was sort of sweet and spicy. I tried the honey chicken.
Again, the flavor was ok, but the chicken wasn’t tender enough for me. Overall, it tasted like overpriced chain restaurant food. Nothing we ate had any sort of freshness to it. It was all just very generic. The wait was ridiculous for both the appetizer and the entrees. It’s just not an efficiently run restaurant at this point. When we got up to leave, a woman came barreling at us to grab the table since the wait for the dining room was so long. Total bill with a drink was $41.
P.F. Chang’s China Bistro
27001 US Highway 19N #115
We went over to Cafe Alfresco in Dunedin for lunch today. The restaurant was packed and we ended up with about a 20 minute wait. It wouldn’t have been so bad except that they don’t have any place inside to wait and it was so hot & humid outside. I was melting by the time our table was ready. Loren decided on the buttermilk chicken sandwich and I went for a cheeseburger.
Both were tasty and the fries were nice and crunchy. This is one of our go-to restaurants when we want simple, tasty food. Total bill with a drink was $23.
344 Main St
After lunch, our friend took us over to Sweet Caroline’s and treated us to dessert. Loren got a chocolate salted caramel cupcake.
He made those nom nom noises that indicated that I wasn’t going to get more than one little taste of it. The cupcake was moist and the the frosting was thick and creamy without being overly sweet. He was in cupcake heaven. I couldn’t resist the French eclair.
Yeah, I made those same nom nom noises too. It was decadent and delicious, filled with a custard and whipped cream. Might have to make Sweet Caroline’s a more frequent stop on our travels through Palm Harbor. Yum!
3347 Tampa Road
Palm Harbor, FL
We went to lunch with a friend of ours today and he hadn’t been to the Surfside Cafe yet, so that was our destination. They had a shrimp burger on their specials menu today and we each got one. He went for the grilled and I went for the fried with sweet potato fries.
My expectation was that it was going to be ground up shrimp with lots of filler, boy, was I wrong! This was made with whole shrimp, no filler and a nice, crispy exterior. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and it had a nice crunch. The tarter sauce served with it had a distinct fresh dill flavor to it. Very yummy! The grilled version was identical except for the breading on the outside. Loren decided to try the blackened grouper sandwich.
He was very impressed with it as well. He commented how he’d been so disappointed in grouper sandwiches in general lately that he’s been ordering mahi more often than not. He said this sandwich put him back on the grouper bandwagon. Fresh, perfectly cooked, and lightly blackened. I got the distinct feeling he’ll be ordering this again. This was our second visit here and everything was delicious. I expect we’ll be back many more times. Total bill for the three sandwiches & two drinks was $34.
Harr’s Surfside Cafe
3235 Tampa Road
Palm Harbor, FL
Johnny’s Italian Restaurant on a Friday night is a very crowded place. We had to wait about 20 minutes for a table. Salads and bread started off the meal while we waited for our calamari.
The Johnny bread is one of the best things about this restaurant. The oil & garlic dipping sauce will have you warding off vampires for a week. The bread is just perfect and we ended up getting a second loaf. It’s hard to resist. Next up, calamari.
It was very tender and had a nice crunch. The dipping sauce that came with it was rather spicy with lots of red pepper flakes. I was feeling the heat for a while. Loren ordered the Tuscan Steak with Portabella Sauce.
The interesting thing was that he actually tried to order something else, but the waitress talked him out of it. I can’t remember what the other item was, but she said it didn’t have a lot of flavor and that he’d enjoy this one more. And he did. I went for the chicken marsala with a side of fettucine alfredo.
The chicken was tender and the marsala sauce had a really nice flavor to it. When they get their alfredo sauce right, it’s really good here. Tonight was one of those nights. I could have eaten an entire bowl of just that. I felt the need for chocolate tonight so we ordered the chocolate cake.
This was an incredibly rich and chocolately cake. It had thick ganache layers and just melted in your mouth. Perfect ending to a very good meal. Total bill with a drink was $45.75.
Johnny’s Italian Restaurant
2907 SR 590 #1
Salt Rock Tavern recently opened up in Oldsmar and from start to finish, this was not a pleasant experience. For some reason, they chose not to use the entrance in the front of the building, instead choosing to use an unmarked door on the side. We really weren’t sure we were in the right place when we walked in from the parking lot. It was 5:30pm when we got there and though the inside looked spacious and rather empty, we were told there was an hour wait unless we wanted to eat on the patio or at a communal table in the bar area. We went ahead & chose an outside table.
Our waiter brought over a lukewarm carafe of water and two small glasses. Since I drink water with my meals, I had to ask for a larger glass with ice. Loren ordered the crispy chicken sandwich which came with fries.
The Texas toast was quite a bit bigger than the piece of chicken and the name “salt rock” aptly applied to this sandwich. The chicken was coated in what tasted like large crunchy rocks of salt. Loren actually thought it was bacon at first, but since bacon wasn’t listed on the description and it had no bacon flavor, I have to assume it was just salt. Quite inedible in my opinion. My meatloaf sandwich wasn’t much better.
It was almost as salty as the chicken sandwich and had a strong fennel flavor to it. I’m guessing the meatloaf was made partly with sausage. There just came a point where I couldn’t ingest any more salt. The fries weren’t hot or crispy and tasted like they had been sitting in the kitchen for quite a while.
The layout of the patio was also poorly planned. While we were out there, a typical Florida thunderstorm came through drenching the one table of people that were at the edge of the seating area & sending everyone at the bar running inside. There wasn’t an overhang between the restaurant and the side of the patio we were on, so the waiter got wet every time he had to go back inside. Their satellite TV went out with the first raindrop. We won’t be back. Total bill with a drink was $18.
Salt Rock Tavern
3689 Tampa Road
Hot Tuna Sushi Bar & Grille just opened up in Oldsmar, so we headed over there for dinner tonight. We went early and were the only ones there for a while. It’s an elegant looking space, but the thumping music they had playing just didn’t do it for us. I admit, I’m not a twenty-something looking for a party atmosphere. I just wanted a nice, quiet, tasty dinner. They did deliver on the tasty part. We started off with a salad and some dumplings.
Loren liked the dressing on the salad and we both enjoyed the dumplings. They were a little crispier than I had expected, but the filling was flavorful. For our sushi order we decided to try the fresh salmon nigiri, a California roll, a Mexican roll, a Gator roll, a Rainbow roll, and a Lollipop roll.
Though I loved the way the Rainbow roll looked with it’s rainbow colored fish eggs, the crawfish salad inside of it was a bit too spicy for me. I didn’t eat the Gator roll since it was also spicy, but Loren said it was good. The other rolls were also fresh and tasty. I did find the sushi rice to be a little colder in temperature than what I’m used to. Loren didn’t notice it, but it was the first thing that hit me about my first bite. We both enjoyed the freshness of the lollipop roll. The crunch of cucumber instead of rice is just such a nice change of pace. I also couldn’t pass up a dessert called the chocolate trilogy.
It was beautiful to look at and tasted wonderful; however, it was frozen solid. It absolutely needed to be thawed out for a while before serving so that it would have had more of a mousse like texture instead of ice cream like. Besides the annoying music, I also found the use of brown butcher block paper on the tables to be less than appealing. Every drink or cool dish left a mark on the paper. It just seemed inconsistent with the vibe of the rest of the restaurant. Total bill with a drink was $66.
Hot Tuna Sushi Bar & Grille
3689 Tampa Road #302B
Harr’s Surfside Cafe recently opened in the space vacated by MecaFresh. It’s owned by Harr’s Surf & Turf next door. They don’t have a very large menu, but I couldn’t resist the lobster roll & chowder combo.
Though I did think the lobster roll was a bit on the small side, it was all fresh perfectly cooked lobster meat with just a hint of celery and mayo. This is the perfect lobster roll in my opinion. Nothing to get in the way of the lobster. The chowder also had some nice flavors going on. Loren ordered one of the specials, the spicy pastrami.
I made him get the mac & cheese as his side dish. Though it had a very cheddary flavor, it wasn’t quite creamy enough for my tastes. He said the pastrami wasn’t very spicy, but overall the sandwich was good. Total bill with a drink was $23.
Harr’s Surfside Cafe
3235 Tampa Road
Palm Harbor, FL
Quite a few restaurants are closed on Memorial Day so we ended up at the new Five Guys in Boot Ranch for lunch.
The restaurant is big and bright, plenty of windows letting in lots of light. The burgers & fries are what we’ve come to expect from Five Guys and I actually think these were a little less greasy than the ones we got recently at the Westchase location. A little cheeseburger with grilled onions & mushrooms for me and a little bacon cheeseburger for Loren. Plus you can’t leave here without some awesome fries. Total bill was $15.
Five Guys Burgers & Fries
300 East Lake Road
Palm Harbor, FL
We were driving back from The Fringe in Orlando and stopped at Harry’s Seafood in Lakeland for dinner. We were seated very quickly in the back of the restaurant and then the waiting began. Once our server finally showed up, he was an extremely polite and friendly guy, but unfortunately that doesn’t make up for the continuous waiting and incorrect things that happened with our meal. Our waiter brought out some bread.
It was warm and crusty and the herbed butter was tasty. Good thing we had it because the wait was pretty long for our entrees. Loren ordered the redfish with a side of collards.
He enjoyed them both. The fish was cooked well and not overly spicy. I ordered the crawfish etoufee.
When the waiter took my order, he asked if I wanted green onions on it or not. I said no, but when it arrived it was covered in them. I sent it back and from what was returned back to me, I can only surmise that someone just took it back to the kitchen & picked them all off of the same dish. It was a bit spicier than I remembered from the last time I had it here. I ended up taking half of it home with me. We decided to try the chocolate bread pudding for dessert.
This was an unusual dish. It was brownie-yet-bread like and went very well with the sauce and ice cream. We both enjoyed it. It wasn’t overly chocolatey, but interesting. Here’s where the waiting started again. We actually watched another table get seated and then walk out when no one ever came to take their order. Loren’s drink order was wrong and the amount of time we spent just sitting there waiting was ridiculous. I don’t know if they were short staffed or what, but they definitely needed better coverage in the back area where we were seated. Total bill with a drink was $44.
Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grill
101 N Kentucky Ave
We usually spend our Sunday mornings at the movies and then head out for a late lunch. Today it was Star Trek and Thirsty Marlin. We started off with some calamari.
We order calamari almost every place we go, and this was surprisingly good. It had a crunchy and flavorful batter and was pretty tender. It came with marinara sauce, but I got a side of ranch which made it even better. For his lunch, Loren ordered the blackened mahi sandwich.
He said the fish was cooked well and had good flavors. I went for a steak philly and onion rings.
Though the first few bites were good, I found the saltiness became overwhelming after a while. It just continued to build until I couldn’t take anymore. I didn’t like the onion rings at all. They lacked the appropriate crunch and were also overly salted. I did enjoy the cole slaw though. Total bill with a drink was $37.
1023 Florida Ave
Palm Harbor, FL
With so many Thai restaurants in the area, we decided to circle back to Ban Thai for dinner tonight. They were crowded as usual, but had a few tables open so we didn’t have to wait. I’m still on my “must have dumplings” kick, so that’s where we started.
I think this is the first time we’ve ordered them here. They were tasty little bundles of pork and veggies, but very dense. Loren went for the ginger chicken.
He said it was very good. I find the flavors here to be on the dark side. I don’t know if that makes any sense or not, but there’s just something about their sauces that don’t thrill my senses. Loren likes it though. For me, it’s all about the lobster roll.
This one sushi roll is a meal in itself. It’s huge, incredibly sloppy to eat, and oh so good. Besides the actual rolls, there are also chunks of lobster piled up on the side. It’s my favorite roll here. We also shared a Rainbow Roll.
This was very fresh and tasty. It’s a huge contrast to the sauce drenched lobster roll, but perfectly delightful in its own right. With sushi, simplicity can be quite awesome. Total bill with a drink was $45.
Ban Thai Restaurant
2519 McMullen Booth Road
I received a coupon in the mail for $8 off two entrees at Outback, so we headed out there for dinner tonight. They were also doing a 4-course special, so we both opted for that. The kitchen was backed up, so it took a while to get our bread and soup and salad.
We both chose the clam chowder which was quite a bit spicier than I had anticipated. It was creamy and had good flavors though. What we didn’t know, until the bill came out, was that there was an upcharge for the clam chowder. I’m always a little miffed for things to show up on the bill that we weren’t told about ahead of time. Our waitress said she didn’t know there was an upcharge.
There are a limited number of choices on the 4-course entree menu, but that wasn’t an issue for Loren. He got the 6 oz sirloin with a baked potato.
Though the presentation left a bit to be desired, he said the steak was cooked a perfect medium. He enjoyed it. Normally, I order the Alice Springs Chicken, but it wasn’t one of the options, so I tried their new Honey Mustard Chicken.
That was a mistake. There’s a distinct difference between lightly charred and burnt. This fell into the burnt category. I tried to eat around the crispy parts. The main reason I didn’t send it back is that Loren would have been finished with his meal before something new could come out of the kitchen for me. We’d already been waiting a long time so it wasn’t worth the effort. The waitress asked if I wanted to bring the leftovers home and I told her no, couldn’t she see how burnt it was? The manager came over and was very apologetic and took it off the bill. Let’s face it, something that looks like this never should have made it out of the kitchen. For our last course, we got one of each desserts offered, the cheesecake and carrot cake.
For me, the cheesecake was the best part of the meal. It was creamy and the raspberry sauce was good. Loren liked the carrot cake. Since we no longer had two entrees on the menu, I didn’t use my coupon and the final bill ended up being $21 with a drink.
31988 US Hwy 19 N
Palm Harbor, FL
Sometimes it’s the silly little things that amuse us to no end. Something that just catches you off guard and makes you giggle. We went over to Athens in downtown Safety Harbor for breakfast and they had the Popeye omelette on their specials board. What does Popeye love? Spinach and Olive. Loren had to order it just because it made us giggle.
Along with the spinach and olives, it also had bacon in it, everything’s better with bacon, right? He really enjoyed the omelette. I went for the blueberry pancakes and eggs over easy.
The pancakes were very tasty, but I forgot just how hot blueberries can get and burned my tongue on the first bite. The eggs were perfectly cooked as well. Our waitress was a little frazzled this morning, but other than that, it was a very enjoyable $15 breakfast.
226 Main St
Safety Harbor, FL
Always on the lookout for places we haven’t visited yet, we ended up at Pensare Italian Bistro in Dunedin for dinner tonight. The place was packed and really loud. We were seated in this little alcove and I felt like the sound just reverberated off the walls. Our waiter came over and explained the specials and brought bread and oil to the table.
The bread was warm and crusty and the dipping oil was very flavorful. We were optimistic about the rest of the meal only to be quickly disappointed when our appetizer arrived.
It was a fried platter of calamari, shrimp and zucchini. The calamari was thin and like rubber. The breading had no flavor whatsoever. The shrimp were overcooked and the zucchini was burnt. If our waiter had actually come back to the table in a reasonable amount of time, I would have sent it back. Salads came with our meal and we both got the mixed greens.
Loren likes mixed green salads, I’m not a fan. They also brought oil & vinegar to the table & you can have the waiter dress the salad or you can do it yourself. Eventually, our entrees came out. At this point, I felt like we had been there for quite a while. Loren ordered the Salmone Asparagi which was salmon in a lemon buerre-blanc sauce and asparagus.
He said it was pretty good. I found the sauce to be a bit too tart and sour for my tastes. I went for the pappardelle bolognese.
This was not a good dish. The pasta was undercooked and the sauce was flavorless. It was just very uninspiring. Our waiter disappeared at this point, I think he had tables out on the patio, so we didn’t see much more of him. My expectations were so low at this point that I didn’t even bother with dessert. We won’t be back. Total bill was $59 with a drink.
Pensare Italian Bistro
799 Highland Ave
We went over to Surf Shack for lunch today. They were pretty busy, but we were able to get a table inside which was good because it was a bit warm out on the patio. Loren tried the Hula Burrito again with a salad.
I love how colorful the salad is. As for the burrito, just like last time, he had to put some of the salsa from the chips & salsa on it to give it some flavor. I ordered the West Coast tacos and added avocado to them. For some reason, I just think a West Coast taco should already have avocado as one of its main ingredients.
I did the upgrade for mac & cheese as my side and that was a mistake. I’ve tried it here several times with mixed results, but the majority of the time, it’s just too dry. There’s just not enough cheese sauce on it. The tacos were ok. They’re pretty plain, just chicken, lettuce, tomato, and sour cream. Total bill with a drink was $22.
Surf Shack Coastal Kitchen
12217 West Linebaugh Ave
We eat out a lot and one of the things I’ve noticed is that a lot of places have gone to a very minimal presentation of their food, but that’s not the case with Pacific Thai Cuisine. Their plating makes the food look that much more appetizing and it’s those little details that can take a meal to that next level. Loren decided to try the Yum Beef tonight.
He got it medium spicy and he was sniffling a little by the end, but really enjoyed the dish. He loves entrees with lots of veggies. I went for the Pad Se-ew tonight.
It’s a very simple dish, but they do it well here. It has that right mouth-feel, the veggies are crisp, the flavors subtle, and the noodles are cooked perfectly. It’s just a pleasant dining experience from start to finish. Must be why we eat here quite often. Total bill with a drink was $33.
Pacific Thai Cuisine
4058 Tampa Road
I think we’ve found our new favorite German restaurant down in Largo. German Bistro 2 is in a little strip mall, has about 10 tables inside and some very tasty and hearty German food. They started us off with some bread and coleslaw.
The bread was fresh and tasty. The coleslaw was a bit on the peppery side, but still very good. I knew I shouldn’t have ordered an appetizer, but I just love potato pancakes.
Normally, Loren isn’t a fan, but he really enjoyed these. They were nice and crispy with a little bit of herbs on them and served with applesauce and sour cream. I have to admit, I was already full by the time our entrees arrived. Loren got the Gypsischnizel with a side salad and dumpling.
They forgot to bring out the dressing for his salad, but other than that the meal was very good. His pork had a tomato and green pepper sauce on it. The dumpling was made of stuffing. It was different. I ordered the Jaegerschnizel with spaezel and warm potato salad.
The pork was very tender and the mushroom gravy had lots of thick slices of mushrooms. The spaezle was so good that I had to order seconds. I forgot to mention, all the sides have free refills. Loren really enjoyed the potato salad. It had bacon and that distinct vinegary German flavor. We both ended up with lots of leftovers and yet, we still ordered the apple strudel for dessert.
It was served with ice cream and whipped cream. Seriously, we were both so stuffed by this point that we couldn’t finish the pastry, though we did eat all of the apples inside. Another thing to mention is that they also offer complimentary beer or wine. It was a very enjoyable experience. The owners are very friendly and accommodating. They want to make sure you enjoy every last thing on your plate. This is definitely a restaurant we’ll be returning to. Just have to remember to bring a big appetite. Total bill was $55.
German Bistro II
1300 E Bay Dr Ste L
Loren took me out to my favorite little Italian restaurant tonight for our anniversary. I don’t know why we don’t go to La Trattoria more often, I really do love the food. If you’ve never been, it’s quite the experience. There’s no menu and the owner is this jovial Italian man who just makes you feel like you’ve walked into his home for dinner. He’ll be wandering around the restaurant singing and it’s just a hoot. There’s nothing fancy about this place, but the food is excellent. We started off with some bread, little pizza pieces, and salad.
The little pizza pieces are almost identical in flavor to what my Italian grandmother used to make. The dipping oil for the bread has huge chunks of garlic in it and the salad is just lightly dressed with oil & vinegar. First off, you get shown the appetizers of the day. Tonight there were artichokes, stuffed mushrooms, and stuffed eggplant. Loren went for a mushroom and I tried the eggplant.
Both were tasty. I liked the tomato sauce on mine. Once you’re done with the appetizers, the owner wheels out the cart o’ seafood and meats and tells you all the different ways he can prepare it for you. I have a favorite dish here, the pasta with crab in a pink amaretto sauce. I just can’t make myself order anything else. You can get chicken, pork, veal, steaks, fish, pasta, ravioli and who knows what else in a variety of preparations. Loren ordered the grouper in a piccata sauce with artichokes and sundried tomatoes.
He said it was very tasty. My pasta with crab was just divine.
There are huge chunks of crab in this dish. Loren says the sauce tastes like dessert because it’s so sweet. I just love it. And even though we were both stuffed, I couldn’t resist some ricotta cheesecake.
If you’ve never had ricotta cheesecake, it’s more cakelike in texture and not as creamy as a NY cheesecake. It’s somewhat dense with a little lemon flavor to it. Overall, it was an excellent meal. Total bill with a drink was $60.
2152 Main St
Back out to Mike’s Sushi tonight to order way more sushi than two people should eat at one sitting. Ok, we did have some leftovers and they were pretty good too.
Tonight’s selection included some salmon, a make-your-own with salmon, tuna, avocado and cucumber, a Mexican roll, a Crazy Roll, a Yami Yami roll, a Pink Dragon, and a Blue Moon roll. This was the first time we tried the Yami Yami roll. The sauce on it was sort of like a bbq mayo. I don’t know how else to describe it. It was tasty though. All the sushi is excellent here. Total bill with a drink was $60.
33855 Us-19 N
Palm Harbor, FL