The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

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We went to an early movie this morning & then headed over to Johnny Grits for lunch.  It was a bit less crowded today than it usually is when we try to go on Sundays.  We tried to start off with some fried green tomatoes, but while we were waiting, the waitress came back to our table & said they were out.  She did, however, bring out a complimentary skillet of their black & bleu grits.

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Though it was a really nice gesture, neither of us like bleu cheese.  I wasn’t even going to take it, but Loren saw bacon on the grits and wanted to try it.  He pretty much ate around the bleu cheese, scooping up the bacon & grits (which were delish), but the pungent smell of the cheese was killing me.  As soon as the waitress came back to the table, I asked her to take it away just so I didn’t have to smell it anymore.

Loren tried to order the grouper sandwich, but the waitress told him it wasn’t good and to order something else.  She said their supply of grouper just wasn’t up to snuff that week and several people had returned the dish back to the kitchen.  We appreciated the honesty.  Instead, he went for the Rooster sandwich.

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It was grilled chicken with bacon and roasted red peppers.  He said it tasted good, but the lower bun was really soggy.  He also ordered fries which didn’t come out with the sandwich.  When they finally brought them out, they brought out sweet potato fries, so he had to send those back as well.  Eventually, he got his regular fries, which were right out of the fryer hot.   I’ve been on a grits kick lately, so couldn’t pass up the shrimp & grits.

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The thing that really takes this dish to the next level is the white wine creole cream sauce.  I’ve had their grits on their own and they’re good, but this sauce is what makes this dish something I’d order again & again.  The shrimp were perfectly cooked & the grits was creamy and delish.  I’m not a big fan of bacon in the dish, but Loren managed to scoop up most of it.  Though we certainly had some issues this time around, my taste buds went home happy.  Total bill with a drink was $21.

Johnny Grits
857 E. Klosterman Rd
Tarpon Springs, FL
727-942-4748

Johnny Grits on Urbanspoon

Food3/5
Service3/5
Atmosphere3/5
Value3/5
3.0/5

We were driving through Ocala today and at the recommendation of a friend, stopped at the Ivy House for lunch.  It’s a good thing this place isn’t closer because I’d be eating there constantly.  This is what down home southern food should taste like.  We started off with the BBQ shrimp and grits appetizer.

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I could have eaten two bowls of these grits.  They were creamy, cheesy, and perfectly seasoned.  The shrimp was nicely cooked with a tangy BBQ sauce.  I’m pretty sure we licked the plate clean.  For his entree, Loren got the Krispy chicken salad.

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Perfectly cooked chicken with a tasty ranch dressing.  It also came with a roll and cornbread.  I ordered the Krispy chicken platter.

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It came with macaroni & cheese, a side salad, veggies, a roll & cornbread.  I was in heaven.  The chicken is drenched in butter and covered in Rice Krispies and baked to a mouthwatering tenderness.  The mac & cheese was creamy and tasty.  Everything on the plate was delicious.  We couldn’t leave without dessert.

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This monstrosity is the Hot Tin Roof sundae.  There’s a brownie buried in there somewhere, plus ice cream, whipped cream, strawberries and all sorts of sauces drizzled on top.  It looks like a mess, but it was tasty.  I was very impressed with the food and the prices were very reasonable.  I would absolutely eat there again.  Total bill with a drink was $44.

The Ivy House
917 East Silver Springs Blvd
Ocala, FL
352-622-5550

Ivy House on Urbanspoon

Food5/5
Service3/5
Atmosphere4/5
Value4/5
4.1/5

We’ve seen so many new restaurants come and go lately that I’m pleasantly surprised when one makes it past their one year anniversary.  The first time we visited Southern Fresh in Safety Harbor, I didn’t think they’d survive with such a limited menu.  Don’t get me wrong, the food is amazing; but with so few choices, I had my doubts as to how often customers would return to eat there.  I’m happy to say that they had a packed house tonight and the quality of the food has remained constant.

Loren started off with the BLT soup.

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This is one of those dishes that you have to taste to believe.  It has all the flavors of a BLT in a warm, peppery broth.  The fresh crunch of the lettuce is such an interesting texture for a soup.   Because the restaurant was full, there was a bit of a wait for our entrees.  We were seated inside and I could see into the kitchen where the fried chicken magic was happening.  Every piece was hand breaded and cooked in cast iron skillets.  I also spent some time just looking at the decor.  I liked the old fashioned glass domes on the ceiling fans.

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Our entrees arrived fresh and hot out of the kitchen.  Loren ordered their special tonight which was a blackened red fish with saffron rice and roasted veggies.

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He said it was delicious.  The fish was perfectly cooked and seasoned.  The roasted veggies were tasty, but some were unevenly cooked so harder than others.   I went for their famous fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy and the roasted veggies.

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My only complaint is that I wish it was served on a larger plate.  It was a bit crowded and hard to not knock things off onto the table.   I ordered the dark meat which meant two thighs and a leg.  The chicken was crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside.  There’s nothing I like more than real mashed potatoes and these were the real deal.  Banana pudding is the only dessert on their menu, but tonight they also had a strawberry shortcake on their specials menu so we had to have some.

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Though I’m not a big fan of sponge cake, the rest of this dessert was delicious.  Fresh strawberries, not overly sweet and a perfect portion for two.  The service here is also very good.  They all help each other and clear plates and fill glasses.   Overall, a great dinner for $44.

Southern Fresh
122 3rd Ave N
Safety Harbor, FL
727-216-6341

Southern Fresh on Urbanspoon

Food4/5
Service4/5
Atmosphere4/5
Value3/5
3.9/5

Awesome Grits


Johnny Grit’s recently opened up where Nana’s was in Tarpon Springs.  We were amazed at how different the interior looked.  It went from kitschy to classy.  It was like watching an episode of Restaurant Impossible.  Remove the clutter, remove the carpet, repaint and all of a sudden the whole restaurant seems brighter.  Loren went for the shrimp and grits with andouille sausage.

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Johnny definitely knows his grits.  I kept stealing bites off of Loren’s plate.  The grits were creamy and cheesy and perfectly cooked and seasoned.  Loren said he could have eaten just a bowl of grits with the sauce on top.  The andouille was spicy and flavorful.  The only thing he didn’t like was that the shrimp still had the tails on so that made them a little difficult to eat.  I’d definitely order this dish again.  I went for the Southern Chicken Hash which came with two sides.

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The hash was delicious.  The chicken was tender and the gravy was flavorful and rich.  It also had potatoes, onions, and mushrooms.  So good.  I ate every last bite of this dish.  The sweet potato fries were good.  Loren actually liked the mac & cheese more than I did.  I like a more mild, creamy cheddar and this one was a bit too sharp for me.  The menu said that the chef is Italian and his mother made him put cannoli on the menu, so how could I pass that up?

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It was a pretty tasty cannoli.  Mom knows best.  The restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch, but we’ll definitely be back.  I wish I had a bowl of those grits right now.  Mmmm.. Total bill with a drink was $29.

Johnny Grits
857 E. Klosterman Rd
Tarpon Springs, FL
727-942-4748

Johnny Grits on Urbanspoon

Food5/5
Service4/5
Atmosphere4/5
Value4/5
4.4/5

On the Porch


The weather’s finally beginning to cool down here, so we went over to Southern Fresh and had a very pleasant dinner out on the porch.  They had a guitar player on the patio which completed the lovely atmosphere.  Loren had to start off with the BLT soup.

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How a soup can taste like a sandwich is beyond me, but this one does it.  The broth has a wonderful flavor from the tomato and bacon and you get the crisp crunch of lettuce in each bite.  It’s a tasty little soup.  For his entree, Loren got the roasted pork with mashed potatoes and greens.

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The pork was cooked perfectly.  It had a nice smokey flavor and was tender and juicy.  I had to steal a couple of bites.  I went for their famous fried chicken with roasted veggies and mashed potatoes.

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Normally, it’s two pieces of chicken, but the waiter said because the pieces were small, they were serving two thighs and a leg for the dark meat portion tonight.  The chicken is perfectly seasoned and cooked.  It’s got a nice crunchy exterior and very juicy inside.  Some of the best chicken in the area.  The roasted veggies and potatoes were good too.  We both cleaned our plates, so that meant we could have dessert, right??  Tonight, they had just finished making a peach crisp.

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I had mixed feelings about this dessert.  On one hand, it was quite delicious.  The peaches and crumb base were excellent.  The only part that didn’t work for me was the candied lemon peel on top.  Some bites were ok, but others were way too bitter.  Overall, though, this was a great meal for $39.

Southern Fresh
122 3rd Ave N
Safety Harbor, FL
727-216-6341

Southern Fresh on Urbanspoon

Food4/5
Service4/5
Atmosphere4/5
Value4/5
4.0/5