We were on our way to Tampa to see the musical “9 to 5″ and found a little Peruvian restaurant called Machu Picchu on Hillsborough Ave near Dale Mabry. It’s not a very big restaurant, set up like a diner, but the folks there were very friendly.
This being our first time trying Peruvian food, we asked the waiter what he recommended and he brought us out a mockup of their new menu which included photos of the dishes. He said seafood was the way to go, recommending a dish resembling paella. They also had a goat special that Loren ordered, but found out they had just run out, so he ordered another of the seafood dishes.
We started out with some calamari.
It was a little chewy for my taste. It also had a piece of fried yucca on the plate which was pretty good. Loren ordered the fried fish in a seafood bisque, Pescado a lo macho.
It was tasty. The batter on the fish went nicely with the sauce. It also had calamari, shrimp and mussels. He said he would have liked some veggies instead of all of the other seafood, but overall it was very good. They also gave him a hot sauce that added a little kick. I would definitely order this dish again.
The paella dish I ordered also had shrimp, calamari, octopus and a mussel in it. It was called arroz chaufa de Mariscos.
There was enough on this plate for at least two people. The flavors were very subtle, but everything was cooked perfectly. I ended up taking half of it home.
Total bill was $35. The dishes were very authentic and even as they were trying to close up for the night, more customers kept coming in, which is a wonderful sign in this economy.
3974 W Hillsborough Ave
We ate out quite a bit in October. Looks like this was our highest spend yet at $757 at 30 restaurants. Hmmm… I must not have cooked at home much this month.
Best Sushi Roll: Ocean Roll at Bua Siam Thai
Best Potatoes: Mashed at Molly Goodheads
Most Addictive Appetizer: Mee Krob at Thai Nana
Best Dessert: Black Raspberry Pie at Yoders
Worst Dessert: Galaktobouriko at Greektown Grille
Worst Appetizer: Queso and Chips at Ruby Tuesday
Since we weren’t able to get dessert at dinner, we stopped off at Cheddars to see what they had.
Four words… hot fudge cake sundae.
This is another one of those instances where the photo doesn’t do it justice. It was a really big piece of moist, fudgey chocolate cake, smothered in hot fudge sauce, plus vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Soooo goooodd!
The hot fudge sauce was a little gritty, it was either undissolved sugar or maybe even salt, but it wasn’t enough to distract from the overall goodness of the dessert. And we even had some leftovers! Total bill was $7.50 for the cake and a Coke.
Cheddar’s Casual Cafe
2655 Roosevelt Blvd
Clearwater, FL 33760
I’m beginning to think we’ll never run out of new Thai restaurants to try. Tonight we headed over to Thai Basil in Clearwater. There are two Thai Basil restaurants, one on East Bay and one further down on West Bay. We were at the East Bay location.
It was a small restaurant in a strip mall. Typical decor for a Thai restaurant, though the music playing was a little too loud. We were the only customers in the restaurant. We’ve been to quite a few places lately where we’re the only ones there. I just hope these small restaurants can survive the economy.
We started off with some egg rolls.
The wonton wrappers on these were nice and crispy. They were definitely fresh. The ends were a little too crispy, but overall, they had a good flavor.
Loren ordered the chicken with ginger sauce.
It had a very appetizing aroma when it came to the table. He said it was tasty.
I ordered the chicken pad thai minus the sprouts and peanuts.
Yeah, it’s basically a bowl of noodles, but they were good noodles. I especially liked the fact that the color wasn’t an unnatural looking red that you get at some places. The chicken was a little dry though.
We were going to get the fried cheesecake, but they were out, so we ended up with a $22 bill and leftovers for tomorrow.
4445 E Bay Dr
We headed over to Shish Kebab Mediterranean Grill in Tampa tonight for dinner with a $25 off a $50 meal coupon from Restaurant.com in hand.
For a Friday night, the restaurant was empty. Just one other customer in there when we came in. We started off with the mixed hot appetizers which included falafel, zucchini pancakes, rolled cheese pie, and potatoes.
What you can’t see in this photo is that the potatoes are crinkle cut french fries. I had to laugh. It was like playing a game of which one of these is not like the other. When the waiter brought the dish, I asked what everything was and when he got to the fries, he called them “Turkish fries”. I asked what made them “Turkish” and he said the seasoning. All I could see was a little bit of parsley on top of them, but I guess that’s considered Turkish seasoning.
The rest of the items in the sampler were pretty tasty. The best were the zucchini pancakes. They had a wonderful flavor and texture. The falafel was very dense and a little dry, but had a subtle herby flavor. I didn’t think I was going to like it, but it was pretty good dipped in the red sauce that was on the plate. The rolled cheese pies were different. They had a feta cheese mixture inside which gave them a very salty taste.
I ordered the beef musacca, but they didn’t have any tonight. They were also out of iced tea. On the recommendation of the waiter, I got the Beyti special which was ground lamb and spices in what looked like a tortilla.
I didn’t like it. It was too spicy for me and the tortilla wrapped around the filling added nothing to the dish. It just wasn’t a complementary texture. The rice was good though.
Loren ordered a mixed kebab with swordfish and filet.
This was very good. The filet was very tender and he thoroughly enjoyed the swordfish. The mashed potatoes were a bit lumpy, but at least they were actual mashed potatoes.
And since we needed to spend $50, I just had to order the triple chocolate cake.
There was definitely some goodness going on here. The cake was a little frozen in the center, but otherwise it was quite delicious. Thick, rich fudgey cake and filling, plus the entire plate was covered in chocolate sauce.
After the coupon and tip, the total bill was $42. Overall, the experience was enjoyable. Our waiter was very nice and personable and the atmosphere was pleasant.
Shish Kebab Mediterranean Grill
10061 W Hillsborough Ave
Went to Sonny’s in Palm Harbor for lunch today. Not my first choice for BBQ, but it was close.
Their lunch specials are pretty reasonable. For $7, I was able to get the beef brisket, a baked potato, mac & cheese and cornbread. Overall, it was ok. I thought the brisket was a little salty, but add some BBQ sauce and all’s well. The mac & cheese wasn’t very creamy, but at least it wasn’t as dry as the last time I ate at Sonny’s. I think the earlier in the day, the better.
30503 US Hwy 19 N
Palm Harbor, FL
After seeing “Red” at the movie theater in Oldsmar, we headed over to Ruby Tuesday’s to grab a quick bite. Neither of us was really hungry, so we just settled on some appetizers.
The waiter brought out some garlic cheese biscuits to start off with and those were yummy.
Loren didn’t think much of them, but I really liked the flavors in them. Honestly, this was the best thing I ate here tonight.
We ordered the queso dip with chips.
We both took one bite and didn’t eat any more of it. The chips were really stale. Our waiter didn’t stop back by until we were ready for our check and that’s when we told him the chips were stale. He got the manager who said the chips were made fresh throughout the day, but perhaps these had been sitting for a while. He took it off the bill and also gave us fresh chips to take it home with us.
We also got the 4-Way Sampler which included chicken strips, fire wings, southwest spring rolls, and fried mozzarella.
There’s a reason I avoid these types of chain restaurants. The food just isn’t anything special. The southwest spring rolls were really spicy. Way more spicy than the wings. The chicken and mozzarella were just like what you’d get at every other chain restaurant or out of your grocer’s freezer.
Total bill was $15 including a drink.
3138 Tampa Rd
This lunch is brought to you by the good folks at Food Network. I admit, I enjoy watching shows on Food Network, but doing so before bedtime is just a really bad thing to do because all those yummy dishes they show just build up cravings inside of you that you must satisfy.
On last night’s “Throwdown with Bobby Flay”, they did the chicken fried stek throwdown and to me, that means a trip to Cracker Barrel.
Loren got the chicken fried steak, I got the chicken fried chicken. It’s got to be my favorite dish here. Smothered in white gravy with macaroni and cheese and some cole slaw on the side. This is my comfort food and it didn’t disappoint. Loren wasn’t as happy with his chicken fried steak, he knows the chicken is better.
$25 and two very full stomachs later, we were ready for the next round of Food Network programming.
13833 West Hillsborough Avenue
Since the line at Yoder’s was out the door, we drove over to Troyer’s Dutch Heritage for dinner instead. This place is huge! Besides the restaurant, there’s also a bakery and gift shop. From the moment we walked in, it had a very corporate, commercialized feel to it.
We were able to get a table without a wait. Our waitress was very prompt about taking our drink orders and then returning quickly to get our dinner order. They had a buffet, but we both decided to order off the menu.
Loren chose the roast beef dinner and for his two sides he got mashed potatoes and gravy and the salad bar. As soon as he sat down from filling his plate at the salad bar, our entrees arrived. This place is all about moving quantities of people through quickly.
The fresh rolls were probably the best part of the meal.
They had a pretty big salad bar. Loren said he just had to try a mustard egg. He didn’t think much of it. Said it was pretty dry.
As for the roast beef and mashed potatoes, he said they were ok, but nothing special. They touted their mashed potatoes as “real” mashed potatoes, but I swear they had something other than just potatoes, milk and butter in them. That’s my definition of real mashed potatoes. If you add dried potato flakes or anything else to them, the consistency, taste, and texture is altered past the point of them tasting like real mashed potatoes.
I ordered the 3 piece dark meat broasted chicken with creamed corn and sweet potato casserole.
I didn’t really like either of the side dishes. The corn was very bland and tasteless. The sweet potato casserole had a flavor in it that I couldn’t quite identify. It just didn’t satisfy. The chicken was ok, but I didn’t like the taste of the coating on it. Healthier that way, since I didn’t feel compelled to eat the skin, but I would have liked more overall flavor. Honestly, I think the chicken from the deli at Publix tastes better.
We got a slice of apple pie and vanilla ice cream for dessert. The waitress split it into two plates.
The pie was ok, but definitely not sweet enough. The top crust was pretty good because it was sprinkled with sugar, but the filling was bland and the ice cream was soft serve.
Total dinner ran us $31. While we were eating, Loren said the food tasted like what you’d get at the old Morrison’s Cafeteria restaurants. It was all just very bland and tasted like it was just being churned out in large batches to feed the masses. I didn’t feel like I was eating at a down home restaurant, but rather at a corporate franchise.
Troyer’s Dutch Heritage
3713 Bahia Vista St
We had planned to eat dinner at Yoder’s in Sarasota on the drive back home from Naples; however, the line was out the door when we got there. Knowing we still had another hour or so to drive home, there was just no way we were going to be able to wait in that line for dinner.
Instead, I ordered a couple of pieces of pie from the carryout window. They aren’t joking when they say get there early if you want pie because I finally had to ask the lady which pies they actually still had after running through a few that I wanted and being told they were sold out.
I ended up with a slice of chocolate cream pie and a slice of black raspberry pie.
I didn’t find the chocolate cream pie to be anything special, though the crust was very good. The pudding and cream were just very generic and didn’t have any outstanding flavors.
The black raspberry, on the other hand, was quite amazing. The crust was light and flaky and the filling was perfectly sweetened. I took one bite and scarfed the rest of it in short order.
I’d love to go back down and try the food. The baked pies are definitely the way to go. Two slices was almost $10, so a little pricey, but the black raspberry was definitely worth it.
3434 Bahia Vista St
We were in Naples today to pick up a couple of scooters and ate lunch at Sweet Mama’s Island Cuisine. It’s a small, cozy restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are definitely more island dishes on the dinner menu, but we weren’t going to be in town that late. Sweet Mama came over to our table and talked to us for a while. She’s very friendly and obviously very interested in her customers. She asked where we were from, how we found the restaurant and what we were ordering.
Loren ordered the goat curry which came with a side of rice and plantains.
The goat was very tender and the sauce was very spicy. A bit too spicy for me actually. There were a lot of interesting flavors in it though. It was another one of those dishes that I would describe as having “dark” flavors similar to some of the Indian dishes we’ve eaten. I don’t know how else to describe it.
I decided to just order some appetizers, so I got the cornbread pudding, macaroni pie, and sweet potato wedges.
The cornbread pudding was definitely the best of the three. It was moist and had a good texture and flavor.
The macaroni pie was disappointing. It was completely dry and kind of chewy. It definitely needed more liquid.
The sweet potato wedges were nice and tender and the mango sauce that came with them was very tasty. It had a little bit of spice, but blended well with the sweetness of the sweet potato.
The total bill was $28. A little expensive for lunch, but the food was definitely home made and for the most part, pretty good.
Sweet Mama’s Island Cuisine
3560 Tamiami Tr E
I really do like the sushi at YoYo Sushi in Oldsmar, but every time we eat there, I feel blinded by the lights above the tables. They either need to have some sort of diffused bulb in them or placed at a different height. It makes an otherwise enjoyable meal, just a bit less relaxing.
As for the food though, it doesn’t disappoint.
We ordered the Rainbow roll, the Jessica Roll, the Washington roll, spicy tuna tempura roll, and some salmon nigiri. The Rainbow roll is definitely my favorite. I find the salmon here to be some of the best around.
We also got the calamari tempura.
It was very tasty, though there wasn’t much of it for the price. The tempura batter was very good.
Total bill was $57. I do find the prices here to be higher than a lot of the other sushi places around, but both the salmon and tuna have always been wonderful.
300 State St E, #110
We ate lunch at Pita’s Republic in Oldsmar today. We’ve eaten here a few times and the food is usually pretty good. They were busy today, so the service was a bit slow.
Loren and I both ordered gyros. He got a supreme which has hummus, tabouli, feta and olives on it.
It was a big sandwich. The flavors are strong and definitely stay with you throughout the day. I just got a regular gyro pita with no onions and a side of potato salad. I also got a pina colada smoothie which was really tasty.
Both the tzatiki and potato salad have quite a bit of garlic in them. I really like their pita bread. Total lunch including another drink ran us $19.
3970A Tampa Road
I thought this was Cathy’s blog? Well, I went out to dinner with some of the guys this evening. We opted to go to Cheddar’s on East Bay. Hadn’t been there in a while, and couldn’t remember if I’d ever eaten inside. I know I’ve been outside there. The experience is slightly more formal inside, didn’t seem like the same restaurant. I think they’ve changed their menu, as well. They certainly have a lot of variety on the menu.
We started with a spinach dip appetizer, which I forgot to take a photo of before we scarfed half of it. Spinach dips can be hit or miss, this one was a definite hit. Very flavorful. The chips were freshly made and crispy, too.
Shortly thereafter, salads showed up. It was then that I decided to break out the camera. It was a pretty salad with the croissant on the side. Ask anybody, I’m not much of a bread person, and I’m particularly not crazy about croissants normally. This one was to die for. Crispy on the outside, melt-in-your-mouth on the inside, and drizzled with honey. I could have eaten a few more of them! The salad was pretty good. The plum tomatoes were a little under-ripe and didn’t do it for me, but the ranch dressing was pretty tasty and the lettuce was fresh.
All the food around the table looked good and I heard no complaints. I don’t remember what everyone else ordered. I think there was another burger and I know there was some sort of glazed salmon that looked perfectly grilled. I had a bacon cheeseburger. It looked a little lonely on the plate, but that’s because I ordered a side salad instead of fries. Not the best burger I’ve ever had, but it was well-cooked (a nice medium-well), super-juicy (a kind way of saying “really greasy”), and pretty tasty. I sliced it in half and took half of it home. That was my plan when I ordered it, as I really don’t need to eat a half-pound burger!
I thought the prices were very reasonable. I was looking at getting a salad at first, and most of their salads were $7-8. Then I looked at the other side of the menu, where most of the entrees were $8-10. But, then I saw burgers as cheap as $4.99 and settled on a $5.69 half-pound bacon cheeseburger. My total bill for the burger, salad and iced tea was $10.62. Probably one of the cheapest dinners I’ve had in a while, and I took half a burger home!
Cheddar’s Casual Cafe
2655 Roosevelt Blvd
Clearwater, FL 33760
We had a department lunch over at Stone Chase today. There were ten of us and they were able to seat and serve us pretty timely.
We started off with some appetizers.
The fried calamari was my favorite. It had a nice crunch and the calamari was tender. I would definitely order this one again.
I actually didn’t try the lettuce wraps, but I heard other people say it was good.
The balsamic vinegar on the tomato and mozzarella appetizer was a bit too strong in my opinion. I think you lose a lot of the delicate flavors in the cheese and the tomato.
Several of us had the lobster bisque. It was very thick and creamy and had a nice overal flavor and consistency.
I didn’t get photos of all the entrees, but several people had flat breads and one had the salmon.
I found my meatball flatbread to be a little too dry. The meatballs were also cut into chunks and not spread out on the flatbread very well. I ended up taking most of it home.
A few of us ordered milkshakes to go and that had to be the most disappointing thing of the whole meal. I don’t know what they put in the milkshakes, but they had a very gritty texture. It was like having sand in your mouth. The flavors weren’t very strong either. Otherwise, the rest of the meal seemed to go fairly well.
12227 W Linebaugh Ave
Had lunch at the Cop Shop today. My son, Alex, has applied for work there a couple times, but I’d never been there before. It didn’t take long to realize why he didn’t have a shot in hell at getting hired as a server there. He just doesn’t have the right equipment! The place has the appearance of a classic dive bar. Big wide-open room with cheap paneling on the walls, a big bar and lots of TVs. But, it tries to be a lot like Hooters or Wing House with the hot waitresses and big focus on chicken wings. Their “uniforms” work. Leather, handcuffs and cleavage all go well together, and it sort of supports the “cop” theme of the restaurant.
The menu is a little goofy. It plays the “cop” theme way too hard. It’s difficult to find what you’re after with all of the cutesy names. Themes are good, but they shouldn’t get in the way. On this menu, that’s what they do.
Eventually, we figured out what we wanted. Between the three of us, we ordered 15 wings (breaded and tossed in medium sauce), a club sandwich (that would be the “Billy Club” found under “Probations” on the menu) on a hoagie roll with provalone cheese, and a side Caesar salad (called “The Cooler”, found under “Misdemeanors”… yeah). Hot young waitress with leather vest and black leopard-print push-up (hey, I didn’t even HAVE to be looking to notice this!) took our order, and we waited. Then we waited some more.
Finally, after we waited a little more, our food came out. I’m very happy to report that it WAS worth the wait! The wings were great! Good sized wings, just like they claim they are, and the medium sauce was very tangy and just hot enough. I’m not a big wing fan, but I could have eaten more of these!
Alex and I split the club sandwich with curly fries. The curly fries were fresh, hot and crispy. Good enough to not require catsup, I was pleased. The portion of fries was a little light, however. The sandwich was toothpicked and quartered, like a good club should be. For some reason, I thought it looked kind of small at first glance, but it turned out to be just fine. Fresh turkey and ham, really good and well-cooked bacon, lettuce and tomato… some kind of condiment? (I didn’t give it much thought at the time, it just tasted good!) I ate half of the sandwich, two wings and some fries and didn’t leave hungry.
Our friend, Ed, had 10 wings and the Caesar salad. Looked like a fresh, tasty salad and Ed had no complaints.
Overall, I’d say that this is (surprising to me) one of those places where somebody “gets it”. They understand the importance of the food, from the ingredients used to the preparation and presentation. What could have been better? Not a lot. Even the celery and ranch dressing was great! Okay, maybe a pickle with my sandwich and a couple more fries. The tea was a little on the strong/bitter side for those of us who drink it without sweetener, but it was drinkable.
Sorry I didn’t take any pictures. I know you all wanted to see our waitress!
The Cop Shop
3780 Tampa Road
The last time we ate at Bawarchi Indian Cuisine, they had a buffet. Tonight we went back to try some of the entrees. Several groups came in at the same time and the one waiter was completely overwhelmed. It took a long time just to get our drink orders placed and brought to the table.
We started off with the Onion Bhaji.
The menu said it was dipped in a spicy batter and it wasn’t kidding. There was quite a bit of heat going on in this dish. The dipping sauces were sweet, but nothing could overcome the spice.
Loren ordered the Chicken Bhuna, medium spicy.
He thinks he should have gone mild on this dish. He said it was delicious though. Lots of interesting melded flavors. He also said between this and the appetizer, his taste buds got all out of whack. For some reason, anything with a hint of sweetness tasted much sweeter to him.
I ordered the Lobster Makhani, but they were out of lobster, so I ended up with shrimp instead.
This was awesome. I ordered it mild, but it still had such a complex array of flavors. That’s the thing we’ve noticed most about Indian cuisine, the flavors just continue to build on one another. And of course we had to have some garlic Naan to dip in the sauce.
Yummy Naan bread. It was buttery and garlicy and just scrumptious dipped in the rest of my Makhani sauce.
Our waiter never returned to our table to ask how we were doing or to refill drinks. The food was awesome, but expect to be there for a while and don’t expect too much in the way of service. Total bill was $40.
Bawarchi Indian Cuisine
34832 US Hwy 19
Palm Harbor, FL
A friend at work recommended Thai Nana in Palm Harbor, so off we went to try yet another Thai place. When we first sat down, the waiter handed us some to-go menus to look at until the regular menus were available. It just seemed odd to me that a restaurant wouldn’t have enough menus for all of the tables.
I started out with some Tom Kha Gai soup.
I love the flavors in this chicken coconut milk soup. The aroma is so welcoming. Lemongrass and lime bring such a freshness to the dish.
We looked at the appetizers and decided to get the Thai Combo platter which had spring rolls, fried wonton, curry puff, winter shrimp, and mee krob plus several dipping sauces.
Everything on the plate was pretty good. We both really enjoyed the Mee Krob. It’s addictive. The crispy Thai noodles had an almost buttery carmelized flavor. It’s hard to describe. It made me think of caramel popcorn. Everytime I thought I was done eating, I kept finding my fork back in the noodles. The Curry Puff and Winter Shrimp were also very interesting. They both had a unique set of flavors and textures.
For our entrees, Loren ordered the chicken with ginger, onions, mushrooms, bell pepper and snow peas. What I like to call, “the usual”.
He enjoyed it. It had good flavors. I ordered the shrimp Pad Thai minus the peanuts and bean sprouts.
This was a really good Pad Thai dish. I’ll never understand why shrimp is ever served with the tails on though. It was way more than I could eat, especially after the soup and appetizers, so I had some leftovers.
Total bill was $37. This is another one of those restaurants where multiple people were taking care of all the tables. In some respects it was good, in that our drinks never went unfilled, but it felt like there were a lot more interruptions throughout the meal.
1462 Alt 19
Palm Harbor, FL
Loren and I headed over to Consciousness Blossoms in Palm Harbor for lunch today. It’s a small vegetarian restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch, so we figured we’d try something healthy for a change.
I ordered a scrambled egg croissant with mozzarella cheese and it also came with potatoes.
Both the croissant and the eggs were incredibly soft and fluffy. These have to be some of the tastiest eggs I’ve had in a while. The potatoes were lightly seasoned and also very good.
Loren ordered a half sandwich and soup combo. He got the black bean soup and a grilled cheese.
The black bean soup had a wonderful flavor and was very fresh. He would have preferred that both items came out at the same time though. Gotta love dipping a grilled cheese into some warm soup. He’s not a fan of cole slaw in general, but I thought it was good. It had a very unique flavor to it.
Total lunch was $15. It’s a peaceful little restaurant with sayings from Indian philosopher Sri Chinmoy on the walls and on the tables.
3390 Tampa Road
Palm Harbor, FL
One of my co-workers doesn’t get to eat Thai food often because his wife doesn’t like it, so when he suggested lunch at Amarit Thai, I just couldn’t resist. I know, I eat here a lot, but it’s just so good.
Today’s soup was chicken and rice which is the one I like. I’m not too keen on the egg drop soup that gets served every so often.
I ordered the shrimp fried rice.
There aren’t a lot of shrimp, but there’s plenty of rice. I’m always surprised by how filling rice can be.
My friend Randy ordered the Chicken Pad Thai and he ordered it Thai spicy.
I thought he was nuts and that his mouth would be on fire after the first bite, but he said it wasn’t overwhelming. About half way through he began to sweat a little, but overall he said there was some good flavors and a heat factor that was just right.
Our lunches were both $10 and he even had some leftovers.
328 East Lake Road
Palm Harbor, FL