The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.

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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

We were sitting at home watching an episode of Chopped where the chefs had to make burgers for every round.  By the end of the show, we were trying to figure out where to go for burgers for dinner.  We ended up at TGI Friday’s in Westchase.

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Loren got the bacon cheeseburger, and I just got a regular cheeseburger.  They were both cooked well and I really enjoyed the seasoned fries.  The best part of going to TGI Friday’s though is the vanilla bean cheesecake.

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This has to be one of the all time favorite desserts.  The cheesecake part is good, but the vanilla mousse on top is awesome.  So yummy.  Total bill with a drink was $29.

TGI Friday’s
11705 W. Hillborough Ave
Tampa, FL
813-891-6496

T.G.I. Friday's on Urbanspoon

 

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

Hard to Eat


We fought the crowd for brunch at Johnny Grits this morning.  There was a line out the door.  Unfortunately, our experience today wasn’t as good as it’s been in the past.  Loren ordered the chicken sandwich with bacon and a side of fries.

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The chicken was very thick which made it hard to eat as a sandwich.  It really needed to be flattened more to fit on the bun.  His bacon was overcooked and his fries weren’t crispy enough.  I ordered the breakfast bowl special.

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It had potatoes, bacon, sausage, two eggs, a biscuit and sausage gravy.  My bacon suffered the same fate as Loren’s, being way overcooked.  The sausage was also overcooked.  My over-easy eggs had already broken by the time it got to the table.   The biscuit & gravy was probably the best thing on the plate.  Total bill with a drink was $19.

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

Johnny Grits on Urbanspoon

Food2/5
Service4/5
Atmosphere3/5
Value3/5
2.9/5

We went to a movie this morning and ended up at the reopened Village Inn over on Racetrack Road near Westchase.  The original Village Inn that was there closed a while back, but another franchisee bought the space and opened it up again.  They were crowded and we ended up with about a 10 minute wait for a table.

Loren wanted lunch & I wanted breakfast so he got a soup and burger and I got a skillet.

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He liked the soup, but said the burger was really bland.  Completely lacking in seasoning.  I got the California skillet which had avocado in it that could probably have used another day or so to ripen further.  The pancakes were spot on and the rest of the skillet was tasty.  The only thing that got on my nerves about our dining experience is that every time a server went in or out of the kitchen they yelled that they were coming in or out.  Total bill with a drink was $25.

Village Inn
13001 Race Track Rd
Tampa, FL
813-814-0488

Village Inn on Urbanspoon

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

We decided to try the new Brick House Tavern and Tap in Clearwater tonight.  The noise level is off the charts from the moment you open the door.  I think we counted at least 30 TV’s from where we were sitting and I’m sure we missed some.  Our waiter came to take our order and after that, we barely saw him again.  We started off with the spiked calamari.

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We had to flag down another server to ask for plates and silverware since our waiter neglected to bring any to the table.  The calamari was really good.  Thick pieces with a nice crunch.  It was tasty.  For his entree, Loren ordered the grilled mahi mahi.

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He said it was cooked well.  The fish was tender and flaky and had a nice seasoning to it.  I ordered the pork meatball sandwich with a side of tots.

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I liked the flavor of the meatballs, but wasn’t too keen on the bbq sauce on them.  It was a bit spicy and just a little too strong that it covered up the delicate flavor of the meatballs.  My drink was empty halfway through the meal, but our waiter was no where to be found.  Eventually, he came by to clear the plates and cleared my empty glass without asking if I’d like something more to drink.  Now,  here’s the odd part.  When he brought the check, he brought two to-go cups filled with water & tea which we didn’t ask for.  It would have been nice to have our drinks filled during our meal, but why would you just bring to-go drinks for no reason??   Overall, the food was good, but the poor service and the fact that it’s a loud sports bar will likely mean we won’t be back anytime soon. Total bill with a drink was $41.

Brick House Tavern and Tap
28795 US 19 N
Clearwater, FL
(727) 726-6352

Brickhouse Tap And Tavern on Urbanspoon

Food4/5
Service1/5
Atmosphere1/5
Value3/5
2.5/5