Looks like we ate out 24 times in January and spent $611. Starting off the year with a bang. A lot of the meals in January were just run of the mill, but a few stood out both good and bad.
Best Appetizer: Avacado Egg Rolls at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse
Best Sushi Roll: Lobster Roll at Ban Thai
Best Dessert: Palermitana at Portofino Mediteranean Grill
Most Disappointing: Bascom’s Chop House
Worst Breakfast Item: Stuffed Crab Benedict at Lenny’s
We went over to BJ’s at Citrus Park Mall for lunch today. A few of Loren’s friends said the food was good there, so we just had to check it out. We started off with the avacado egg rolls.
From the description on the menu, I wasn’t really sure if I was going to like them or not. Besides the avocado, it had cream cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, red onions, cilantro, pine nuts, and chipotle peppers. It was all blended together to create a wonderful smoky, creamy filled egg roll. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything quite like it. And the tamarind dipping sauce was tasty too.
Timing wasn’t so good on the food though, we hadn’t quite finished the appetizer and our entrees came out. Loren ordered the grilled chicken club. He was still craving that bacon he didn’t get yesterday.
It was a nice sized sandwich with fresh avacado and bacon along with the chicken. He liked it, but was full from the egg rolls, so ended up taking half of it home. The crispy fries were good too. I ordered the knife and fork meatloaf sandwich.
See the veggies on the side of the plate? They were raw. They were supposed to be steamed and a couple of them were, but the rest were completely raw. The mashed potatoes and gravy were very good and the meatloaf was ok. It was made with a lot of veggies and was a loose, rather than dense meatloaf. I don’t think I’d order it again, but I ate half and took the rest home.
The service was pretty good right up to the point where the waitress spilled one of our drinks onto my purse. Luckily, it wasn’t open at the time. Total lunch ran us $34. For a chain restaurant, the food was surprisingly good.
BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse
8002 Citrus Park Town Center
After our trip to the Morean Arts Center, HotShop, and the Chihuly Collection, we still weren’t ready to eat dinner, but decided to get some take out from the Nola Cafe for later.
We got the combination platter which had red beans and rice, gumbo and jambalaya, some beignets, and a bowl of crawfish etouffee.
Out of the combo, the gumbo was definitely the best. It had a very smooth, velvety texture to it, plus some really nice flavors. The red beans and rice was ok, and the jambalaya was smoky and kind of plain. There was some spices in all three, but they weren’t overly spicy. The crawfish etouffee, however, was really spicy.
The spice doesn’t hit you when you first put it in your mouth, but once it hits the back of your throat, you feel some heat. Unfortunately, it had more heat than flavor going on.
As for the beignets, I don’t know if it was the drive home or if they’re always this way, but they were kind of doughy.
They weren’t great. Overall, nothing really stood out about the food. It was ok, but I still prefer the Cajun Cafe. The food here just didn’t seem as fresh and homemade as I was hoping for. Total bill was $32.
300 Beach Dr NE
St Petersburg, FL
Ate lunch at Cafe Ten-O-One in St Pete before we headed over to the Morean Arts Center. Downtown St Pete was pretty quiet today since Gasparilla was going on in Tampa.
We both ordered burgers. I got the cheeseburger with sweet potato fries and potato salad and Loren got the Bistro burger with tots and cole slaw.
The kitchen seemed to be having a few issues today. I had ordered my burger with just mayo, lettuce, and tomato, but there was everything on the bun on my plate. Luckily, they had just put the wrong top bun on our plates and Loren had mine. The other issue is that Loren’s Bistro burger should have had bacon on it and it didn’t. Our waitress reduced the price of his burger and said they had a new cook that didn’t know what went on each burger yet.
As for the burgers, though, they were pretty good. They had some nice flavors going on. Good diner burger. The sweet potato fries and tater tots were also crunchy and tasty. I thought the potato salad had too much onion in it and the cole slaw was kind of dry. Overall, for $17 it was a pretty good lunch.
1001 First Ave. N.
St Petersburg, FL
We went to Dunedin tonight to take photos of the sunset and ate dinner at Casa Tina. I really wish they would do something about the acoustics in the restaurant. It’s so loud in there that you can barely have a conversation across the table. And being Friday night, they were busy, so it was even louder.
Loren likes their salsa. It’s fresh and tasty. I think the chips should be warmed though.
And since I wanted warmed chips, we ordered the Monterey Nachos minus the jalapenos.
I really liked this dish. Layers of black beans, queso fresco, Monterey Jack cheese and sour cream. It had an almost buttery flavor to it. In fact, I liked it so much that I ate way more than I should have and ended up not eating most of my dinner.
They were out of Loren’s first choice for his entree and the waitress suggested things that were similar, so he ended up with the Arroz Cabezon.
Neither one of us could really describe the flavor. It was sort of familiar, but not quite. He didn’t really like it all that much. He also thought it was supposed to come with guacamole, yet all that was on the plate was a small slice of avacado.
I ordered the chicken and cheese flutes. This is probably my favorite thing on their menu.
Loren got my guacamole since I found it a bit spicier than usual. The flutes were nice and crispy on the inside and have a wonderful chicken cheese filling. Unfortunately, because I ate so many nachos, I ended up taking half of it home. Total bill with a drink was $44.
365 Main Street
I realize I eat at Amarit Thai a lot. The last few times I’ve been there though, there didn’t seem to be a lot of people in the restaurant. I was beginning to worry that the economy was going to hurt them, but today, the Friday lunch crowd was back. Granted, that’s great for them, but it does mean the service slows down a bit.
I do like the chicken and rice soup and spring rolls they serve first.
My friend Cathy got the curry with peanut sauce and I got the Pad Thai with shrimp.
I know, it’s looks plain, but when normal people order it, it has sprouts and scallions and peanuts on it, I’m just not normal when it comes to Pad Thai. I just want eggs and noodles. I don’t know if the portions were bigger today or we weren’t that hungry, but we both had leftovers. For less than $11, it’s a tasty lunch.
328 East Lake Road
Palm Harbor, FL
Not too many people in Cuban Breezes tonight. I figured it’d be crowded since the football playoffs were tonight, but since they close at 8pm on Sunday, it makes sense that people wouldn’t want to have to leave halfway through the game.
Loren got the masitas with some ultimate black beans and a salad.
He said the pork was very tender and flavorful. He even had a little left over for tomorrow. I ordered the fricase de pollo with beans.
This is one of my favorite dishes here. It’s got some wonderful flavors and textures with just a little bit of spice. I kept telling myself to save some for tomorrow, but I ended up eating the entire thing.
And yet, I still managed to save room for the chocolate lava cake.
Thick, rich, chocolately oozing warmth with some vanilla ice cream. It was yummy. We had a $10 Restaurant.com coupon, so the total bill after the coupon was $18.
13980 W Hillsborough Ave
I actually left the house today because I just couldn’t miss Chocolate Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall. My friend Cathy and I ate at Grind House before heading over there. It was empty at noon, but I’m guessing it probably filled up as the football games started later in the afternoon.
She got a burger and I got the grilled ham and cheese with fries.
A little overly grilled in places, but still rather tasty. The bread was thick and crunchy and the ham had a nice saltiness to it. The fries were nice and crisp too. Less than $20 for the two of us.
As for Chocolate Sunday, it was really crowded. There were some interesting things to try and a few that I definitely wouldn’t want seconds of. The chocolate avacado mousse didn’t do it for me, neither did the sauerkraut chocolate cake. The chocolate dipped shrimp had so much cayenne pepper on it that I thought my mouth was on fire. I can’t remember which restaurant had it.
Grind House Bar & Grill
1500 McMullen Booth Rd
It’s cold season, and I’ve managed to catch a doozy of one. All I want to do is curl up under a blanket, eat soup, and sleep.
I actually went to work on Friday, thinking I could pretend I wasn’t sick. That never works by the way.
I grabbed some take-out from Cuban Breeze for lunch, a Pan con queso tomato and a chicken empanada.
The empanada didn’t fare so well as take out. It got a bit soggy on the ride back to the office. Still tasted good, just lacked crunch. The tomato and cheese sandwich was yummy though. It has a garlic spread on it that’s pretty tasty. For $6, it managed to fill me up for the afternoon.
When I got home, I went straight to bed. The cold had begun to take over. Loren went and got us some take out from Amarit Thai. I needed soup and something spicy to open up my sinuses. Soup and curry did the trick. He got the ginger chicken and I wasn’t really conscious enough to take photos. With a couple of egg rolls, the total was $35.
Saturday was all about leftovers and then take out from Cracker Barrel. When I’m sick, I want comfort food and that’s mac & cheese, meatloaf and cole slaw. Loren and Alex got some roast beef and chicken fried steak. They didn’t take photos either. Total for the three of us was $39.
Tzatziki sauce is a wonderful thing as long as you’re not planning on being in close quarters with anyone later in the day. It’s so garlicy, yet so good and my gyro from Little Greek had plenty on it today.
The gyros here are packed full of meat, lettuce and tomato and rather messy to eat. Half of it inevitably ends up on my plate. They make a really good pita here as well and it just wouldn’t be the same without a side of potato salad.
Loren got a Greek salad with chicken.
He said he should have ordered a half salad, and yet, he still managed to eat the entire thing. With a drink, the total for lunch was $19. It’s fast, tasty food with a lingering taste of garlic.
320 East Lake Road
Palm Harbor, FL
When we walked into Bascom’s Chophouse tonight, we noticed several waiters and waitresses standing near the entryway into the dining room. It reminded me of a store where the employees are paid on commission; they just seemed to be hovering like vultures. Loren thought this was a sign that the service would be exceptional, boy, was he wrong.
We were seated in a corner of the dining room and the temperature was not regulated very well. The restaurant was really warm. There was also a shelf next to our table where they stocked the steak knives and pepper grinder. It was rather annoying every time they banged the pepper grinder back on the shelf.
Loren ordered a coke and after one sip, exchanged it for iced tea because it was flat. Needless to say, we weren’t too impressed so far and we hadn’t even gotten any food yet. Perhaps we should have taken a hint from the group of men that were seated behind us. They sat down, took one look at the prices on the menu and then promptly left.
Probably the best thing about the meal were the rolls.
They were warm and the butter was soft, so it made for a good combination. There were several different kinds of rolls in the basket and they were all pretty good.
Loren ordered a garden salad with his meal, since his steak didn’t come with any sides.
He said the lettuce wasn’t very fresh. He ate half of it and set it aside. Our waiter never cleared the plate from the table. For his entree, he ordered the Delmonico steak.
He said it was ok, but really didn’t have a lot of flavor. I didn’t think it was very tender at all. It also boggled my mind that for $24.50, all you got were some onion straws on top. I ordered the veal marsala and a side dish of the au gratin potatoes.
Mine actually came with rice and a big hunk of broccoli. The veal was dry and the marsala sauce was weak. If I didn’t know it was supposed to be marsala sauce, I would have said it was just a mushroom gravy. There was no flavor whatsoever. The au gratin potatoes were ok, but had a sharp flavor in them. I thought maybe it was sour cream or some sharp cheese. I think we came to realize why they offered fresh ground black pepper on everything, lack of flavor in all of the dishes.
Our waiter never refilled our drinks (my water glass was empty) and when he went to package our leftovers, he was very awkward. He crowded in between us and nearly knocked the containers over. Overall, it wasn’t a good experience, especially for the prices. Luckily, we had a $25 Restaurant.com coupon, so the total bill before tip was $31. We’ve definitely gotten better food and service for less money at other places in town.
3665 Ulmerton Rd
After going to see “The Green Hornet” this morning at the movies, we went over to MecaFresh in Oldsmar for lunch. It’s hard to beat the Restaurant.com coupons for a good value. We must have just missed the lunch crowd because they weren’t very busy.
Loren ordered a combination of the ahi tuna salad and the “other soup”, Manhattan clam chowder.
The combos here are really a good deal, $8 for any combo of soup, salad or panini. He had some beautiful pieces of ahi tuna on his salad. He thought the chowder was watery and that there were too many potatoes in it, but I liked it. Yes, believe it or not, I even went for the other soup today instead of the lobster bisque.
I like a lot of potatoes and veggies in my soup. It didn’t have a lot of clam flavor and could have used a little more salt, but I still thought it was pretty tasty. It had a deep herb flavor. I also ordered one of their specials today, the broccoli, bacon and cheese fritatta.
The first couple of bites were good, but then I realized just how cold the rest of it was. It was very disappointing. The waitress took it back in the kitchen and warmed it up for me, but seriously, isn’t food temperature part of cooking 101? Once it was warmed up, though, it did have a nice consistency, texture and flavor. Lots of broccoli, a bit of herbs on top, and the bacon wasn’t overwhelming, but added a hint of smokiness.
After the $10 coupon and with a drink, the total bill was $13.
3235 Tampa Road
Palm Harbor, FL
We just wanted something quick and inexpensive for dinner, so we headed over to Poblanos. For a Saturday night, they weren’t very busy at all. The last few times we’ve been here, they’ve sat us in the same booth. We’re beginning to think of it as our booth.
Loren dug right into the chips and salsa.
Even though the salsa here isn’t chunky, he says it’s very flavorful. They have a nice blend of ingredients that keeps him dipping until the entrees show up.
They are definitely fast moving food out of the kitchen. This is probably one of the shortest waits we’ve had for food in a while. Loren got a combo with a tostata and taco and I got the burrito deluxe.
The food is just buried on the plate. Mine had a shredded chicken burrito and a beef burrito under a mound of lettuce and sour cream. It was ok. You don’t really get any distinct flavors in a dish like this here. It just all blends together. Like I said, we came for quick and inexpensive. Service wasn’t great tonight. After dropping off our food, we never saw the waiter again. Total bill with a drink was $21.
Poblanos Mexican Grill
245 McMullen Booth Road
It’s been a while since we had Chinese food, so we made our way over to Big Bok Choy in Oldsmar. It was around 6:30pm when we got there and they weren’t very busy, but by 7pm, the entire restaurant was full. Unfortunately, it seemed the kitchen got overwhelmed and the owner was trying very hard to keep up with the dining room. We watched one table just get up and leave after getting their menus and another party came in, saw the crowd and left.
In this economy, being busy is definitely a problem you want to have and for the most part, it did seem as though the customers were willing to wait the extra time for their food. I’ve always found that our patience has been rewarded.
I say this every time we eat here, the family that owns the restaurant is just very friendly. She recognizes us and remembers things about us as well. She started us off with some spring rolls.
Light and crunchy with a really nice flavor. Loren was trying to save room for his dinner, so I ate most of it with the sweet dipping sauce. I finally remembered to ask what the other veggie besides carrots were on the side of the plate. It’s daikon radish. I know it’s just a garnish, but it’s one of those simple little things that has such a fresh flavor to it.
We both got the wonton soup.
This is Loren’s bowl, because they remember here that I don’t like scallions. Loren got the hunan beef with evil hot peppers in it.
He said the beef was very tender. He likes this dish because of all the veggies. It’s funny if you look at his plate halfway through since there’s a line of peppers all around the edge of the plate. Surprisingly, he even had some leftovers. I tried something different this time, the Lemon Chicken.
It was a very attractive presentation with all the thinly sliced lemon sections on top and it had a wonderful lemon aroma as well. The sauce was fairly thin and very tart. With just the rice, it was a little too tart, but with the chicken it blended very well.
Total dinner with a drink was $37. As I said at the beginning, they were very busy, so we were there for quite a while. Regardless though, the owner always had a smile on her face and stopped to chat for a minute with the regular customers.
Big Bok Choy Bistro
3730 Tampa Road #6
Ate lunch at Tijuana Flats in Oldsmar today. Decided to try something besides the chimichanga and ended up ordering a steak and cheesy burrito.
Gotta say, I found it a bit on the dry side and the grilled onions inside it needed to be cooked longer. I ended up getting some sour cream to smother over it, but overall, probably not something I’d order again. With the rice and beans to make it a combo, it ended up being just under $10.
The staff at Tijuana Flats is really friendly and they take refilling drinks very seriously. I think three different people stopped by our table to see if everything was ok and if we needed refills. They’re also quick to clear away your plates too.
3687 Tampa Road
We ventured over to Jack Willies for lunch today. They weren’t very busy, but you wouldn’t have guessed that by the service. We split a mushroom swiss burger with some fries and onion rings.
It took a long time for the burger to come out. Our medium burger was more like well done and both the fries and onion rings had been in the fryer too long or the oil was too hot. Overall, just not a very satisfying meal.
Then, their credit card machine went on the fritz so our waitress disappeared to go deal with that. I really used to love going to Jack Willies, but the last few times we’ve been there, it’s been disappointing. Total bill was $14 with a drink.
Jack Willie’s Tiki Bar and Grill
1013 St Petersburg Dr
We were in the mood for sushi tonight, so we headed over to Ban Thai on McMullen Booth. Even on a Sunday night, the restaurant was pretty busy, but we were able to get a booth without a wait.
Since it was pretty darn cold out, we both got some soup; Loren got the chicken and rice, I got the wonton.
Both of them were tasty. Mine had a lot of sprouts in it that I ate around, but the wontons were very flavorful.
Did we order too much sushi? Of course we did.
This behemoth is the lobster roll. In the rolls, there’s tempura lobster, avocado, lettuce, and cucumber. There’s also half a lobster tail on top. I love this roll. It’s enough for a meal in itself. It also has some mayo and eel sauce on it, so Loren doesn’t like it all that much, but that just means more for me.
We also got a Mexican roll, a California roll, and a Rainbow roll, plus some salmon. The spicy mayo on the Mexican roll was just a bit too spicy for me this time. The California roll was very fresh and flavorful. Loren even commented on how we get that roll at most sushi places and that it’s so refreshing when it really stands out. The Rainbow roll was also very good. The salmon and tuna were very fresh.
Total bill was $56. I do think the sushi is a bit more expensive here, but it’s usually well worth it.
Ban Thai Restaurant
2519 McMullen Booth Road
I was craving some brisket, so we headed over to Brady’s Backyard BBQ in Safety Harbor for dinner, only to find out that they were out of brisket and out of riblets, which Loren had planned to order. It’s just not the same when you go somewhere with something specific in mind for dinner and they don’t have it.
I ended up ordering the pulled pork dinner with corn bread pudding and potato salad.
It was pretty good. It’s what I usually order anyway. There were plenty of leftovers. I really like their cornbread pudding. Loren ordered the spare ribs with collard greens and potato salad.
The spare ribs were really tender and had a wonderful smoky flavor to them. They offered us a free dessert since we couldn’t get the entrees we wanted, so we got the coca-cola cake.
It was ok, but it’s not something I’d normally order. It’s served warm and really just doesn’t have a lot of flavor to it. It’s not really chocolatey and it’s not really sweet either. The frosting is sort of caramel flavored, I guess. Total bill was $29 and though we left full, I just wasn’t satisfied.
Brady’s Backyard BBQ
340 Main Street
Safety Harbor, FL
The plan was to go to the Yummy Cafe on Drew Street, but when we drove by, it didn’t look open so we headed over to Lenny’s. I thought maybe it wouldn’t be crowded at lunchtime, but I guess breakfast or lunch, it’s always mobbed in there. Luckily, we only had to wait a few minutes for a table.
Surprisingly, though, once the large crowd at the table behind us left, it really wasn’t that noisy in there. I started off with some hot chocolate since it was a little chilly in the restaurant and since I ordered breakfast, we also got the complimentary pastry basket.
The pastries are a mixed bag. I had a raspberry cheese tart that was good, Loren had a piece of blueberry cake that was tasty, the others were just ok. The danishes were a bit dry.
Loren got the turkey sandwich with a potato cake on the side.
The sandwich was huge! They really pile on the meat. The potato cake was pretty good too. He ended up bringing half the sandwich home since it was so big.
I ordered the stuffed crab benedict with pancakes.
It sounded better than it was. The crab cakes were small and the flavor did not mesh well with the eggs and hollandaise sauce. They weren’t very crispy either, which would have definitely helped with the texture. The poached eggs were cooked perfectly, but the english muffin needed to be toasted longer. I didn’t like their hollandaise sauce either. It had a tangy flavor to it, that just wasn’t quite right to my taste buds. The pancakes were also a bit too dense. They weren’t light and fluffy at all. This is definitely a dish I won’t order again.
The service wasn’t great today either. When I ordered my hot chocolate, I also asked for a glass of water that never came until I asked again. After bringing out Loren’s sandwich, the waitress asked if he wanted some mayo, he said yes, and she never brought it. Plus when she brought my plate, she tipped it and one of the eggs slid off the english muffin onto the plate. Luckily, I didn’t end up wearing it. Total bill was $22.
21220 US Hwy 19 N
We started out tonight with plans to eat at Carmel Cafe in Safety Harbor. We walked in the door and the noise level was deafening. Even if there hadn’t been a 20 minute wait, I don’t think we’d have stayed. Have to try them on a less busy night.
Next stop was Cheddars in Clearwater, but they also had a very long wait. Guess everyone decided to go out to eat tonight around 6:30pm. We ended up at Deeya Indian Cuisine. It was serenely quiet in there which is a wonderful thing after a long day at work.
We started out with the Keema Samosa.
Deep fried pastry with lamb and peas inside. It had a little bit of spice, but nothing overwhelming. It was pretty tasty.
Loren got the chicken Tikka Masala.
He got it medium spiced and after a few bites, thought perhaps he should have gotten it mild. He ended up stealing some of the mild sauce from my Butter Shrimp and mixing it in with his.
The last time we ate here, I got the same dish, but I thought it had more flavor. Tonight, I found it to be fairly bland and the shrimp were a little overcooked. We also had to get some garlic Naan bread to sop up any remaining sauce.
Fresh, hot, buttery, and garlicly. Good stuff. Service during our meal was pretty good, they filled my water glass regularly. However, once we were finished, we waited for a while before anyone came back to clear the plates and get our check. Total bill was $42.
Deeya Indian Cuisine
5166 East Bay Drive