The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.


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Archive for the ‘Tarpon Springs’ Category

We drove into Tarpon Springs tonight to have dinner at Zante Cafe Neo.  We walked right by it thinking it was a thrift shop.   This has to be the most unusual decor I’ve ever seen in a restaurant and there was lots of it.  It was like someone emptied out grandma’s attic, hit a few garage sales, and then dug in the back of everyone’s closet.  The photo below is the view from the entryway.

We were seated by the owner’s 13 year old daughter who was also the waitress.  There were other kids doing homework at a nearby table and another young lad brought us some dinner rolls. 

These were some mighty fine rolls.  Buttery and slightly crunchy on the outside, soft and delicious inside.  They also came right out of the oven. 

Everything here is freshly made, so takes a while to come out.  Trust me, this is a place where the phrase “Your patience will be rewarded” is so true.  Luckily, while you wait, you have quite a bit to look at.  Every time I turned my head, I found something else odd and unusual around me.  From the full sized cut out of Johnny Depp dressed as the Mad Hatter to funky lamps to a drawing of Sean Connery. 

Our dinners both came with a choice of soup or salad and we both went for the gumbo.

Delicate flavors in a thin broth with chicken, okra, and other veggies.  It was so warm and cozy on a chilly night.  There wasn’t a drop left in either of our bowls.  

We ordered the Louisiana crab cakes as an appetizer.

All crab, no fillers and quite delicious.  The Creole Remoulade wasn’t spicy, but added a nice flavor to the crab cakes.  Everything we’d eaten so far left us craving more. 

Did I mention the rolls?  Yeah, we needed another batch of those.

Fresh out of the oven a second time around.  Normally, I don’t like such a long wait for food, but it was well worth it.

And then came the entrees.  Loren ordered the jambalaya and I ordered the crawfish etouffee.  Our waitress asked what spice level we wanted on a scale of 1 to 10.  I picked a 1 and Loren picked a 6 for his dish.  I also asked to have the scallions left off of mine.

This is my etouffee with scallions on it.  There weren’t that many, I just assumed she didn’t hear me when I asked that they be left off.  She saw me picking them off the dish and said the chef must have mixed up the dish because Loren’s didn’t have any scallions on his and normally the jambalaya has scallions. (I’d already transferred a few of mine on to his plate before I took the photo)

So, as I’m picking off the remaining scallions, Loren starts to eat his and says it’s really not all that spicy for a spice level 6.  Just as I’m about to take my first bite, it dawns on me that if the scallions ended up on my dish, there’s a good chance the spice level did too.  Oh yeah, wimpy me ended up with a spice level 6 etouffee.  If it hadn’t been so tasty, I probably wouldn’t have eaten it.  It definitely had some spice, but it wasn’t a killer.  They had to refill my water glass a couple of times though. 

Both dishes had wonderful flavors to them.  The jambalaya had a smoky flavor and had chicken, shrimp, and sausage in it.  Mine had tender crawfish, onions and mushrooms in a dark roux etouffee sauce. 

They also brought us a slice of pumpkin pie and pecan pie to make up for the mistake with the spice levels. 

They were both pretty good.   The table next to us had bananas foster and when the chef came out and flambed it at the table, I was thinking that’s what we’re having next time.  And yes, there will definitely be a next time. 

Total bill was $51.  Absolutely worth every penny for the made from scratch, authentic food we were served.  Though I’m not a fan of having children as waitstaff, I have to say, she was very polite and took care of us just fine.  And when we got the bill, she had absolutely written down our order correctly and the kitchen mixed them up.

Zante Cafe Neo
13 N Safford Ave
Tarpon Springs, FL

Zante Cafe Neo on Urbanspoon


Since Los Mexicanos was closed when we tried to go on Labor Day, we decided to head out there tonight.  The first thing we noticed upon walking in the door was how loud it was.  On the plus side, it means a lot of people are eating there, however, it was rather difficult to hold a conversation.

They brought out some chips and salsa.

It’s not a chunky salsa, but Loren still enjoyed it.  He ordered the steak fajitas.

The waitress brought the pan of fajitas to the table along with my entree.  She said she’d be right back with the plate that came with the fajitas.  Then she disappeared for awhile.  She came back and grabbed his empty drink glass and brought it back, before disappearing into the kitchen one more time to get the plate that goes with the fajitas.  We were just sitting there stunned.  How hard is it to bring all the food to the table?

The fajita meat was tender, but in tiny strips.  We weren’t impressed.  I ordered the chicken chimichanga dinner.  Since it only came with rice, I also ordered a side of refried beans.

If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a million times, chimichangas should be crispy on the outside.  If they’re not crispy, they’re burritos.  These were definitely stuffed full of chicken though.  Unfortunately, without the crispy exterior, it just lacked the texture I was craving. 

Overall, the entire dining experience was just lacking.  Sure, there was plenty of food and I probably brought over a pound of it home as leftovers, but neither the quality of the food, nor the service was worth the $27 bill.

Los Mexicanos
38954 US Hwy 19
Tarpon Springs, FL

Los Mexicanos on Urbanspoon


We went to the movies this morning and saw “The A-Team” and then headed out to Tarpon Springs for lunch.  We drove through the Sponge Docks and ended up at Costa’s for lunch.

Some bread for the table is always appreciated in my book.

It would have been better warm, but otherwise it was nice and fresh.  My entree came with a salad.

Lots of feta cheese on top and a tangy dressing.  We also ordered some dolmades.

Loren enjoyed them.  Not too much rice inside and a nicely flavored filling.  He ordered the souvlaki sandwich.

He said the pork was tender and overall it was pretty tasty.  I ordered the pastitsio.

I thought it was really bland.  The texture was good, but it just didn’t have a lot of flavor.  I’ve had this dish at several restaurants and this was just lacking compared to others.

I also have to mention the service at the restaurant as it was rather non-existent.  Our food came really fast.  Normally, this isn’t an issue, but when you’re still eating one course, you don’t expect the next before you finish.  Once our entrees arrived, we never saw our waitress again.  She never cleared any plates from the table or came back to ask if everything was ok or if we needed refills.  Luckily, we didn’t need anything else. 

Lunch ran us $25.  We haven’t eaten at a lot of places in Tarpon Springs, but I think we’ll try some others before we try Costas again.

521 Athens Street
Tarpon Springs, FL

Costa's on Urbanspoon