The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

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Comfort Food

It’s been raining for two days and all I wanted for lunch today was warm and cozy comfort food.  For me, that’s Cracker Barrel a big ol’ heaping helping of macaroni and cheese.

I did order some meatloaf with my mac and cheese and some cole slaw too.  There’s just something about the mac and cheese at Cracker Barrel that makes me so very happy.  It’s always thick and creamy and cheesy with so much ooey gooey goodness.  I’m addicted. 

I usually get the chicken fried chicken, but since I had chicken last night, went for the meatloaf.  It’s standard fare, nothing out of the ordinary, but it doesn’t disappoint.  The biscuits were fresh and tasty too. 

It’s a lot of food for $8.  I couldn’t finish all of the meatloaf.  It wasn’t very crowded in there today at lunch which was nice too.  Sometimes it can get kind of loud in there.  It was a shame I had to go back to work because after all those carbs, I was ready for a nap. 

Cracker Barrel
13833 West Hillsborough Avenue
Tampa, FL

Cracker Barrel on Urbanspoon

  • Filed under: American, Oldsmar, Tampa
  • Loren picked me up for lunch today and I had a cheesesteak craving, so we headed over to Marina’s in Westchase on Linebaugh for lunch.

    I’ve been to Marina’s a few times, but I don’t think I’ve ever had anything but their cheesesteaks.  Today they had a 1/2 size on special with fries and a drink.  That’s probably a good thing since their regular size cheesesteak is huge!

    It was ooey and gooey and cheesy, but the bread wasn’t as soft as I like it.  I think they use a different roll on the full size sub.   Not the best cheesesteak I’ve ever had, but it definitely fills you up. 

    Loren got the Italian sub.  He said it was good, but lacked something.  Then he doused it with oil and vinegar and that did the trick.

    For $13, we got 2 subs, fries and a drink. Marina’s also has pizza and other Italian dishes.  One of these days, I’ll try something other than the cheesesteak. 

    Marina’s Pizza and Pasta
    12121 W Linebaugh Ave
    Tampa, FL

    Marina Pizza on Urbanspoon


    Given the choice between going to the grocery store or going out to eat, I’m choosing a restaurant every time.  Tonight’s choice was Cafe’ Alfresco in downtown Dunedin.  The patio was really loud, so we sat inside.

    Let’s face it, we both like soup.

    I got the Sicilian white bean soup and Loren got a cup of the creole.  The rice wasn’t quite done enough in his, but overall the flavor was good.  My bean soup was very tasty.

    We got the “must try” appetizer, the Feta Alfresco.

    It’s feta cheese, lightly breaded in panko crumbs, fried golden brown
    and served over red sauce with garlic cheese bread.  Neither of us had ever had feta cheese this way.  At first, the flavor seemed overwhelming, but the more you ate, the more it mellowed out.  The garlic bread was good too.  I doubt we’d order it again, though.  As usual, we were both pretty stuffed at this point, but then came the entrees.

    Loren ordered the salmon salad.

    It was a huge piece of blackened salmon over a salad of lettuce, olives, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and artichokes with a Greek dressing.  He said it was very good.

    I ordered the half portion of the chicken marsala.

    It had a very nice marsala sauce.  The chicken was very tender and the pasta was good.  Both meals came with rolls that were really tasty too.

    And because I just can’t pass up dessert, I got a slice of raspberry cheesecake to take home.

    It was a hard choice between this and the death by chocolate cake.  I’ll have to try the cake next time.

    Appetizer, two soups, two entrees, dessert and a drink for $38.  The food was fresh and had very good flavors.  The only downside was that our waitress wasn’t very good at refilling drinks.  Otherwise, it was a really nice dining experience.

    Cafe Alfresco
    344 Main St
    Dunedin, FL

    Cafe Alfresco on Urbanspoon

  • Filed under: American, Dunedin
  • Call me crazy, but I think two people should be able to get in and out of a chain restaurant within an hour for lunch.  Such was not the case at Chili’s in Oldsmar today.

    When my friend Cathy & I walked in, we even remarked how empty the restaurant was, so as much as they wanted to tell us they were busy, I find it difficult to believe.  Incorrectly staffed, perhaps, but definitely not busy.

    We sat down and waited for about 10 minutes before our waitress even came to the table.  We watched two other tables of 4 get seated near us during this time too.  We ordered off of their specials menu, an appetizer and entree for just under $10.  Seemed like a good deal.  About 30 minutes later, our appetizers showed up.  

    I got the cheese sticks and Cathy got the Southwest egg rolls.   About 15 minutes after that, the other tables who sat down after us got their food. 

    At this point, we’re convinced that our order just got lost.  We flagged down the waitress who was a bit snotty and told us how busy they were.  We just said to put our food in to go boxes.  The manager came by with our to go boxes and also told us how busy they were.  That our order had only been in the kitchen for 14 minutes.   Ummm, yeah, then the waitress must have taken a very long stroll from when we ordered to when she put the order in.

    Then we sat again waiting for our check.  The manager came by once more and gave us $5 coupons for next time and we asked him if we could perhaps have our check.  Honestly, at this point, wouldn’t you have just comp’ed the food?  The waitress finally brought the check and we just dropped $22 cash on the table because who knows how long we’d have to sit there if we had given her credit cards.

    All in all, a rather uninspiring visit to Chili’s.  Though the cheese sticks were tasty, they were not what I had in mind for lunch.  But, I guess I have leftovers for later.

    3701 Tampa Road
    Oldsmar, FL
    (813) 814-7769

    Chili's Grill & Bar on Urbanspoon

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  • Filed under: American, Oldsmar
  • I was off work today and Loren works from home,  so I sweet talked him into going to see “Valentine’s Day” with me at the movies (he hates to admit it, but he actually enjoyed the movie).  Then it was time for lunch and I wanted to try some place we’d never been before, so we drove to Palm Harbor and went to Tiffany’s Family Restaurant. 

    They had chili on the menu and you could get it over macaroni and cheese, so I just had to try it.

    Imagine my disappointment when it came to the table and it was chili over Kraft macaroni and cheese.  Yeah, the blue box, baby.  I have to admit, the chili was good and tasted fine over the mac and cheese, but totally not what I was expecting.  Unfortunately, after watching “Diners, Drive-In’s, and Dives” too many times, I always expect these family owned restaurants to make everything from scratch to where you can taste love in every bite. 

    Loren ordered the German pot roast which came with a potato pancake, sweet and sour cabbage and a side of spinach.  He thought it was ok.

    I ordered the meatloaf dinner with mashed potatoes and a side of cole slaw.

    This really didn’t do it for me.  The mashed potatoes tasted like they were out of a box or maybe a combination of actual potatoes and potato flakes.  The mushrooms in the gravy were out of a can and the meatloaf was nothing to write home about.  My best description is that it tasted like institutional food.  Something that might be served in a school or hospital.  Put it this way, I didn’t eat most of it and didn’t even bother to take it home. 

    For $32, I left quite disappointed and unlikely to go back.  The items on the menu sounded really good, but the execution was less than tasty. 

    Tiffany’s Family Restaurant
    35000 US Hwy 19 N
    Palm Harbor, FL

    Tiffany's on Urbanspoon