The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

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We were in Lakeland today test driving a Miata and on the recommendation from the guy at the car dealership, we ate lunch at Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grill.

It’s a pretty big restaurant and was fairly crowded, but we were able to get a table without a wait.  One waitress came and took our drink order and then another came to the table to take our order.  What was impressive about this was that the original waitress came back to our table and apologized for having to give our table to another waitress because she had three other tables that just got seated and felt that she wouldn’t be able to give us the service we deserved.  I really appreciated that, especially since we’ve been to several other restaurants lately where the server was obviously overwhelmed but unwilling or unable to ask for additional help.  Kudos for Harry’s for being staffed appropriately and allowing the servers to judge their own workload.

As for the food, I ordered the shrimp etouffee and Loren got the Taste of Orleans platter which had jambalaya, etouffee, and gumbo, plus they started us off with some nice warm bread.

The herbed butter had a lot of garlic in it and melted wonderfully on the toasty bread. 

The shrimp etouffee had good flavor, but didn’t have that simmered for hours taste about it.  It was fairly generic.  The rice had a few too many pieces in it that were crunchy, like the rice had too much time to dry out from when it was cooked. 

The gumbo was the best thing on the Taste of Orleans platter.  It had a deep, rich flavor to it.  The jambalya was ok, but a little dry.  Total bill with a drink was $28.

Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grill
101 N Kentucky Ave
Lakeland, FL
(863) 686-2228

Harry's Seafood, Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon



When I went to Zerillo’s earlier in the week, I noticed another restaurant in the same shopping center call “A Taste of Heaven New Orleans Cuisine”.   Since they’re only open for dinner, figured we’d head out there tonight.  It’s not like there are a lot of New Orleans/Cajun places to eat around here.  The closest one that we like is the Cajun Cafe down in Pinellas Park. 

The restaurant was empty when we got there a little before 6pm.  The owner/chef, Jocelyn, came out to greet us.  She’s really personable and made us feel very welcome.

We ordered our drinks and she recommended the tea so Loren got a glass.

I’m not a tea drinker, but trust me, this is not what I would consider tea.  It was a sweet fruit drink made with fresh pineapple, mango, and raspberry.  Almost like a lemonade.  I ended up ordering a glass of my own.  It was actually too sweet for Loren, but just right for me.  Jocelyn said she makes different fruit blends depending on what fruit is in season.  Definitely order the tea when you visit.

We ordered our meals and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Patience was definitely the order of the evening.  Granted everything was made fresh to order, and we were warned that the homemade corn bread would take 15-20 minutes, but it took at least an hour to get our food. 

Finally our entrees arrived.  Loren ordered the Jammin’ Jambalaya. 

The jambalaya was good.  It had some spice but not too much.  She actually asked what level of spice we wanted in the food.  He said it was dryer than what he wanted, but had plenty of chicken, sausage and shrimp in it.  He’d probably order it as a side dish next time, not a meal.

I ordered the shrimp etoufee and a side of mac and cheese, sweet potato casserole, and corn bread.

The menu said the etoufee came with fried okra slices, but it didn’t.  I ordered it non-spicy and though it had a good flavor, it was actually a little bland.  I think it needed some of the spice afterall.  The sauce was smooth and the shrimp and rice were both cooked well.  The menu also said warm cornbread upon request, which I assumed meant it came with it, but we were charged separately for it. 

The thing about the cornbread is that it was supposedly the reason our meal took so long to come out and unfortunately, it wasn’t worth the wait.  It was ok for cornbread, but nothing to write home about.

I like mac and cheese and this one was a tasty version.  Homemade, very cheesy with a hint of garlic.  Even Loren liked it and he’s not that into mac and cheese.

The sweet potato souffle had a strong clove flavor.  Loren liked it more than I did.  I like a sweeter version of the dish, more cinnamon, less clove.   It had a nice consistency and the ramekin it was in kept it steaming hot. 

Our waitress was Jocelyn’s 13 year old daughter.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the necessary experience, nor would you expect her to at her age.  A few more customers came into the restaurant while we were eating so it took a while for her to get back to our table.  They didn’t have any desserts on the menu, only for special occasions we were told.  I was really hoping for some beignets, but no such luck. 

We finally got our $43 check, but then they had to fight with their credit card machine.  So we waited.  And waited.  Luckily, we had enough cash on us because they didn’t get the machine working.  This was about a 2 hour outing for dinner and we were the only customers when we got there.  I really wanted to love this place.  I definitely recommend going for the food; it was fresh and made to order.   Jocelyn is a great host and has a wonderful personality, but since she’s also the chef, once she went into the kitchen, the dining room lacked the service and attention to detail it needed. 

A Taste of Heaven
11665 Countryway Blvd
Tampa, FL

A Taste of Heaven New Orleans Cuisine on Urbanspoon