Looks like we ate out 20 times in February and spent $600. Gotta say, we had some really bad service this month, from forgotten orders to just being ignored.
So, here are the highs and lows from February:
Best Dessert: Citrus Crepe at Crepe-ology
Best Flavors: 5th Element Indian Cuisine
Best Sushi Roll: Tao Roll at Zen Bistro
Best Overall Experience: Zante Cafe Neo
Overpriced for the Experience: Walt’s Seasonal Cuisine
Worst Sandwich: Eggplant Parmesean at Niko’s Pizza & Seafood
We ate lunch at the Olde Schoolhouse in Palm Harbor today. Specials are written on a blackboard at the front of the restaurant and the menus come in 3-ring binders with little kid drawings on them.
The menu is huge. There are way too many items plus today they also had Sunday brunch. We finally narrowed down our selections and decided to start off with some calamari.
Unfortunately, though, we didn’t start off with calamari. The waitress came by our table to say it would be just a few more minutes, and I said, “For the calamari?” and she got this deer in the headlights look on her face that said she’d forgotten to put the order in. However, she did go back to the kitchen and they quickly fried up some calamari and she also offered us a free dessert for her mistake.
I’m really glad we got it because it was actually pretty good. It had a lemon/lime drizzle on it that complemented the calamari well. I guess because they cooked it so quickly, they didn’t have time to overcook it, so it was crisp and light and not chewy at all.
At the same time, our entrees came out. Loren got the open faced roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes.
He said it was ok, but nothing to really write home about. Not a lot of seasoning, but it was tender. I ordered the foxy pasta.
It had chicken, squash, zucchini and sundried tomatoes in a creamy alfredo sauce. It was ok. The sundried tomatoes gave it that burst of flavor that it was otherwise lacking.
For dessert, we chose the chocolate cake.
The cake was pretty yummy. It was thick and rich and chocolatey. A little on the dense side, but the whipped cream and mousse layers helped even it out. Total bill was $32.
3419 Alt 19 N
Palm Harbor, FL
We were looking for something relatively light for dinner, so we drove into Safety Harbor to Crepe-ology. It’s located on 5th Avenue, right off of Main Street. There was a large party in the restaurant, but the waitress told us up front that there would be a wait for our crepes. Loren ordered a salad to tide him over.
The balsalmic dressing was tasty. Everything served here is in disposable containers, paper plates, plastic cups and silverware. It’s a very casual restaurant.
We decided on two crepes and shared them, the seafood crepe and the chicken supreme.
I liked the chicken supreme crepe the best. It has goat cheese in it and the roasted red pepper sauce on top adds a nice flavor. The seafood one was ok, but I thought the shrimp in it were a little overcooked.
But, let’s face it, we’re here for dessert. They had a citrus cheesecake crepe tonight that I just couldn’t resist and we also ordered a carmelized banana crepe.
Trust me, if you like orange, order the citrus crepe. It was divine. The cheesecake filling was still a little cold, but it had such a burst of flavors in it. I asked them to put some chocolate sauce on it because I love chocolate and orange together, but honestly, it didn’t even need it. The carmelized banana one was pretty good, but I found the bananas to be a little too mushy. The homemade caramel sauce was very good though.
With an iced tea, the total bill was $36.
155 5th Ave N
Safety Harbor, FL
I like the empanadas here. The chicken filling has some nice flavors and the whole thing is even better dipped in some Havana sauce.
Loren got the lechon with ultimate beans and rice.
This is one of his usual dishes here. I went for the mahi cuban.
I gotta say, this was some of the best mahi I’ve had in a while. It was cooked perfectly. I really enjoyed the sandwich, plus the whole meal with a drink was $20. This is why we come here so often. Even though it’s not the most authentic Cuban food you’ll ever eat, it is inexpensive and consistently good food.
13980 W Hillsborough Ave
We ate dinner at Currents in Tarpon Springs tonight. It’s a little restaurant on the corner of Tarpon Ave and Safford. We had made reservations for 6:30pm, but the restaurant wasn’t very busy when we arrived.
They have a very small menu and had a few specials tonight as well. The waitress started us off with some bread.
I liked it, but as always, I would have preferred that it had been served warm. It was a very dense bread, but soft. Our entrees came with salads with a very tasty balsamic vinaigrette on it.
We ordered a cup of the crab/lobster bisque and a cup of the soup of the day, a mushroom soup. There’s no photo because we never got the soup. I’m pretty sure the waitress wrote it down when we ordered, but it never made it to the table and I really find that inexcusable. The restaurant was not very busy, and as far as I could tell, our waitress only had one other table. She apologized, but didn’t bother to mention it to the owner, who stopped by our table as we were paying the check and was surprised when we mentioned it.
For our entrees, Loren ordered one of the specials tonight, which was wahoo with rice and asparagus and a mustard sauce.
He said the fish was slightly overcooked and overall, the entire dish was very bland. He said he forgot he was eating a mustard based sauce since it had very little mustard flavor. I ordered the salmon with mashed potatoes, roasted corn, mushrooms, and spinach.
Though my fish was cooked fine, overall, my dish lacked seasoning as well. Whenever we go to a restaurant with a small menu, we hope for wonderful, flavorful things out of those few dishes. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case here. It was ok, but for the $44 we spent, we would have been much happier with the flavorful dishes at Cafe Zante across the street and we would have received everything we ordered.
200 E Tarpon Ave
Tarpon Springs, FL
Looking for some great food and service, we went to Bonefish for dinner tonight. This is another one of those restaurants where our expectations are high, so it’s even more disappointing when they don’t live up to them.
It started out well. Our waitress promptly came to our table, took our drink order, brought our drinks and some bread and took our appetizer order, then she disappeared.
The bread was warm and crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, just the way I like it.
I was really looking forward to the calamari. The last time we were here it was excellent. This time, not so much. It was tough and I hate chewy calamari. When our waitress came back to take our entree orders, she asked how the calamari was. I told her and thankfully, they took it off the bill.
Loren started off with a salad and I got the corn chowder.
He really enjoyed the salad. The chowder was spicier than I remember it, but it was still pretty good. For our entrees, Loren ordered the mahi mahi with mashed potatoes.
Mahi mahi is one of his favorites and this one did not disappoint. He really enjoyed it. I ordered one of the specials, the huge wild shrimp pad thai.
Here’s the thing about huge shrimp, they’re not easy to cook correctly and these were not good at all. Four shrimp, overcooked, tough, and had an odd flavor. My first thought was that they had the lingering taste of having been frozen. I prefer my pad thai to have some sweetness as well as spice and this just had the spice. I didn’t eat much of it and didn’t even bother taking it home.
Total bill was $45 after they removed the calamari. Our waitress seemed to disappear for long periods of time, but when she was around, she was very attentive. The dining room was very loud tonight and at one point, they turned down the lights so low that you could barely see your food. Overall, this was not our best experience here.
2519 McMullen Booth Rd
We decided to try the Island Outpost in Dunedin for lunch today. It was pretty busy for 1pm on a Monday and the waitstaff was completely overwhelmed.
When the hostess seated us, she mentioned they were out of the pulled pork and one other item. After we’d been seated, we waited for a very long time before our waitress came to take our drink order and then she mentioned that they were also out of several other items on the menu including most of the appetizers. They did however have the ahi tuna.
It was pretty good. A little spicy around the edges, but otherwise a nice piece a rare tuna. Unfortunately, the plate remained on our table through the entire meal.
Loren ordered the baby back ribs with a side salad and I got the haddock special that came with a salad and onion rings.
When the waitress brought our entrees, I noticed neither one of us had salad dressing and she said she’d bring some. Sadly, that never happened. In fact, she didn’t stop by our table again until it was time to bring us the check.
The haddock and onion rings were pretty good. The batter was crispy and it was a nice piece of fish. Loren’s ribs, however, were not good at all. We had false hope as we walked into the restaurant because we could smell the BBQ, but his ribs had no flavor. It was very disappointing, especially since neither of us could eat our salads either.
Total bill was $30 and I don’t expect that we’ll be back again.
466 Causeway Blvd
We were going to eat at Bonefish tonight, thinking we could get there before the crowd, but even at 5:30pm, they already had a 30 minute wait. So, instead we drove into Dunedin to see if Walt’s Seasonal Cuisine was busy. At it turned out, we were the first customers there for the evening.
Let me preface this review by saying the food tonight was absolutely better than we get at most places; however, my expectations when I end up paying $73 for dinner are a lot higher than if I’ve spent $30. I didn’t feel that the experience tonight was worth the price. Granted, it’s a lot of little things that added up to that feeling, but because my expectations were so high and we’ve had wonderful experiences here before, I just left somewhat disappointed.
We sat down, ordered our water and iced tea and were served some bread and oil.
I know this is silly, but this was the first thing I thought was off tonight. The bread was just served in this little bowl. No napkin or cloth under or around it to help keep the warmth in. It just came across as tacky to me. Don’t get me wrong, the bread was warm and tasty, it was just the presentation that turned me off.
Another couple came in at this point and sat at the bar. I overheard their conversation with the waitress to discover that Walt had the night off. Later in the evening, I heard the couple ask the chef if he was calling for help when he had his phone out and he said no, he was just looking up a recipe. So, maybe the key to dining at Walt’s is knowing that Walt is in the kitchen.
Loren started out with a house salad and I got the soup which was butternut squash with blue crab.
Loren liked the ginger dressing on his salad. He said the nuts on the salad were both sweet and spicy. My soup had very subtle flavors, in fact, too subtle for my tastes. It was very thin and the crab was overcooked. It was a little rubbery.
At this point, we heard the waitress telling the other customers what the special was tonight. Don’t you hate it when you’re not told the specials and you get to overhear them at another table after you’ve ordered?
For his entree, Loren chose the surf and turf which is steak and scallops and he ordered asparagus as his side.
The steak is where the chef shined tonight. It was perfect. A nice sear on the outside, cooked a perfect medium and was incredibly tender. Loren loved it. The scallops were sliced thin and had a mango vinaigrette on them that completely overpowered the flavor of the scallop.
I ordered the crab crusted grouper with garlic mashed potatoes.
It had a sherry butter sauce on it that I couldn’t taste at all. It was a thick grouper filet that basically had a crab cake on top of it. Individually, each piece was pretty good, but the crab cake had very strong flavors that overwhelmed the grouper.
For dessert, we tried the chocolate cake.
Let’s face it, first bites are everything and this one just didn’t wow. The cake was very dense, but not overly moist. It was good, but I’ve had better. And since I’ve been picky all night, I just felt like some homemade whipped cream would have been much better than stuff out of a can.
Service tonight was also lacking. My water glass was completely empty for quite a while and Loren’s iced tea also got down to the bottom. Plates weren’t cleared as quickly as they should have either. Again, it’s all about expectations. If I’m spending $73, I want the entire experience to feel worth the money.
Walts Seasonal Cuisine
1140 Main St
Every time we go out for Indian food, we’re both amazed at how many flavors can be packed into what look like rather simple dishes. The sauces are so rich and have such a warmth as you’re eating it that we both can’t seem to find the right words to describe it. The same held true for our trip back to 5th Element Indian Cuisine in Oldsmar tonight.
We were there for their opening a couple of weeks ago and decided to try it again tonight to order off the menu. I was happy to see at least half of the restaurant full with customers. New restaurants come and go so quickly nowadays.
Loren munched while we looked at the menu. He loves the green sauce.
We wanted to try the lamb samosa for an appetizer, but they didn’t have any, so we ended up trying the veg samosa instead.
It had some spice to it. I used the sweet sauce with it, but it still made my tongue tingle. For a potato and peas deep fried pastry, it packed a lot of punch.
Loren ordered the chicken tikka masala with medium heat.
The heat level on this dish was very deceptive. I tasted it and it didn’t taste overly spicy to me, but Loren said he really didn’t feel it until later in the evening. The chicken was very tender and the sauce creamy and flavorful. He really enjoyed it and even had a little left for lunch tomorrow.
I ordered the chicken makhani, mild, and some garlic naan.
The chicken was julienned, so the pieces were thin, but really tender. The sauce was amazing. Again, I just can’t find the words to describe it. It’s smooth and silky with an overall warmth and a spice combination that just works. The naan bread was good, but I couldn’t really taste a lot of the garlic. Mind you, by this point, my tongue was probably numb anyway. I had some leftovers as well. For $31, we left full and our taste buds were really happy.
5th Element Taste of India
3780 Tampa Road
We had tickets to Young Frankenstein at Ruth Eckerd Hall tonight (great show), so wanted to eat dinner somewhere close. We tried Johnny’s, but they were mobbed, so we ended up at Grind House.
Service was a bit lacking tonight, but the food was good. We started out with the shrimp and lobster bisque.
This is one of those soups that left a lasting impression since the first time I had. It’s rich and creamy with a wonderful flavor. Definitely a must order if you eat here. Loren decided on a burger with mushrooms and provolone.
It also came with home made chips. He said it was cooked just right and tasty. The chips were crunchy and not like anything you get out of a bag.
I ordered some bangers and mash.
The sausages had a nice flavor. You could definitely taste the fennel. Homemade mashed potatoes with an onion mushroom gravy went great with it, though more gravy would have been better. And for dessert, I got a slice of chocolate cheesecake to go.
It wasn’t a very big slice, but it was rich with chocolately goodness. I’d definitely order it again. Total bill was $28.
Grind House Bar & Grill
1500 McMullen Booth Rd
We ate lunch at Siam Thai in Westchase today. The restaurant was completely empty at noon on a Sunday. We weren’t sure if that was an omen or not.
We both started off with some soup. Loren ordered the chicken and rice and I got the Tom Kha.
They were both fairly big bowls of tasty soup. The Tom Kha had a wonderful lime flavor, but there were way too many chopped onions in it. We also ordered some egg rolls.
Crisp and crunchy with a slightly spicy dipping sauce. Between these and the soup, I didn’t even need an entree. Loren ordered the ginger chicken and I got the masaman curry with shrimp.
Both were tasty. My only concern with my dish, though, was that I tried to order it without certain items and was told that couldn’t be done. I was able to pick around the things I didn’t like, but if you’ve got peanut allergies, stay away from this dish because they weren’t willing to make it without them.
We both ended up with some leftovers. Total bill was $36. There wasn’t anything that really distiguished this place from any of the other Thai restaurants that we’ve eaten at.
Siam Thai Restaurant
9546 W Linebaugh Ave
I was driving through Tarpon Springs around lunchtime and stopped at Mama Maria’s Greek Cuisine for some take out. I was craving my favorite Greek dish, pastitsio.
The dish is served with a choice of soup or salad, so I chose the avgolemono soup. It was pretty good. The lemon wasn’t overwhelmingly tart, which is a good thing. I’ve had the soup at other places and it just makes your mouth pucker. It also came with a side and I chose the Greek potatoes. They were tender, but didn’t have a lot of flavor at all.
Unfortunately, the pastitsio fell into the same category as the potatoes. It tasted ok, but really didn’t have any strong flavors. I expect a hint of nutmeg and didn’t taste any and the bechamel sauce was a little rubbery. I guess I just wanted a burst of fresh flavors when I took that first bite. That unique flavor combination that says, “this is Greek food”. The staff seemed friendly and the restaurant was pretty full, so maybe I just didn’t choose the best item on the menu. Total bill was $12.
Mama Maria’s Greek Cuisine
503 N Pinellas Ave
Tarpon Springs, FL
We headed out to Tarpon tonight to go back to the Zante Cafe. We needed some awesome food and they didn’t disappoint. The owner seemed a bit frazzled as the restaurant filled up, but they still managed to bring out one delicious course after the next. Their kids tend to the dining room and the youngest was more interested in playing than helping out. But, our drinks stayed filled and they were pretty good at clearing away plates. It’s a very laid back place, so expect to spend about 2 hours here for dinner. Everything is made fresh and well worth the wait.
First out were their homemade rolls.
Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside with a slight hint of garlic, served fresh out of the oven. It’s a good thing they just serve these one at a time, otherwise, I’d fill up on bread without thinking twice about it. Next up was the gumbo.
The flavors are delicate in this gumbo, but you can taste the freshness of all the ingredients. Chicken and sausage in a light, flavorful broth. Again, I could eat so much more of this and be incredibly happy.
We ordered the Crawfish Vol Au Vent for an appetizer.
Crawfish, mushrooms, and onions in a creamy sauce served over heart shaped puffed pastry. I’m guessing the heart shape was because it’s Valentine’s weekend, but regardless it was yummy. There were lots of crawfish and mushrooms and the sauce was lightly spiced.
Loren ordered the seafood fra diablo with a spice level of 2 out of 5.
Crawfish, shrimp, mussels, scallops and veggies in a creamy, spicy sauce over spaghetti. It had a lot of flavor and it all blended well together. Loren would have preferred rice to spaghetti and he’s not a fan of cauliflower, but he still enjoyed the dish.
I ordered the Paneed Tilapia w/ Crawfish and Tasso in Brandy Cream.
The tilapia filet was thick and cooked perfectly. It was flaky and tender with a crisp breading. The crawfish and mushroom brandy cream sauce really complemented the fish well.
At this point, we really were quite full, but I wanted to try the bananas foster.
The owner/chef comes out and flambes it right at the table. It was delicious served over vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. It had a nice carmelization and was a perfect ending to a wonderful meal.
And even better, we had a $25 Restaurant.com coupon, so the bill before tip ended up being $42. Absolutely the best $42 we’ve spent on food so far this year.
Zante Cafe Neo
13 N Safford Ave
Tarpon Springs, FL
Our last experience at Niko’s wasn’t great, but we decided to give them another try for lunch today. Unfortunately, it just confirmed that we should stop eating here.
Loren got a hamburger.
It was ok, nothing to write home about. My dish however, was mostly inedible. I ordered the eggplant parmesean sub with fries.
I don’t know if you can tell from the photo or not, but a good part of the eggplant is completely black and burnt. You can put as much cheese and sauce as you want on a dish, but you can’t fix burnt. And yes, they took it off the bill.
They did redeem themselves with dessert though. The tuxedo bomb was decadently delicious.
Granted, it’s the exact same thing I got at another restaurant in town ( I believe it’s a Sysco product), but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. It’s got layers of cake, chocolate and vanilla mousse inside. Mmmm… Total bill ended up being $12. I don’t expect we’ll be back here again anytime soon.
Niko’s Pizza & Seafood
3705 Tampa Rd
Loren said he wanted a salad for dinner so I suggested Olive Garden. We haven’t eaten there in a long time. Being Superbowl Sunday it wasn’t very crowded, yet the service was a bit slow.
We started off with salad and breadsticks.
Normally, I scarf an entire basket of breadsticks, but these weren’t all that fresh. The salad was good though. I really like the dressing they use.
Loren got the stuffed chicken marsala.
The chicken was tender and the sauce was tasty, especially over mashed potatoes. He managed to stop himself from eating the whole thing and took some home for leftovers. (he knew I was planning on ordering dessert).
I got the same thing I always get at Olive Garden, the fettucine alfredo.
They make a nice alfredo sauce here, but they need to put more on the plate. The dish gets dry after a while, but it’s still my favorite thing on the menu.
And for dessert, I just couldn’t pass up the dolcini.
Three little dessert cups of yummy goodness. We got the chocolate mousse, the dark chocolate with caramel, and the strawberry & white chocolate. They were all really delicious. The chocolate mousse was my favorite, but the strawberry one ran a close second. The nice thing about them is that they were all fairly light, which was perfect after such a heavy meal. Plus the different flavors were wonderful. Total bill with a drink was $39.
29461 Us-19 N
We ate lunch at Burger 21 in Westchase today. This is definitely not your average burger joint and we neither of us ordered an average burger either.
Loren went for the Ahi Tuna burger and fries.
It was lightly fried, but still rare enough in the middle. It had avocado, pickled cucumbers, lettuce and tomato on it. I might have to get one for myself next time, it was pretty tasty. The fries were crispy and yummy too.
I opted for the special this month which was the gyro burger and I’m never one to pass up sweet potato fries.
The lamb burger was very juicy and flavorful. It had a tzatziki sauce, plus lettuce and tomato on it. The sweet potato fries were cut very thin and were wonderful dipped in the apple cider sauce. They had a bunch of different sauces on their sauce bar; the Thai ketchup and honeycomb mustard were good too.
And on the way out, I couldn’t help but get a chocolate cherry bomb milkshake to go.
It was a little thin for a milkshake, but the chocolate cherry flavors were tasty. The only downside of the restaurant was the price, $29 for the two of us. The food was good, no doubt about it, but we could absolutely do better than burgers and fries for $30.
9664 W. Linebaugh Ave
5th Element Taste of India opened up in Oldsmar today, so we figured we’d check them out on opening night. To our surprise, they were offering a complimentary buffet all day today to celebrate their opening.
The restaurant looks a lot different from when it was the Latin American Grill. Bright colors on the walls make the room look bigger now. The owners were very friendly, walking around and talking to everyone in the restaurant.
As for the food, I think we tried just about everything on the buffet and it was all very good.
We both went back for seconds. I wish I could remember the names of all of the dishes. There was some tandoori chicken, goat curry, biryani, rice, naan bread and a bunch of other tasty treats. I was feeling the heat more than Loren was and thankfully, they kept refilling my water glass. They also had some yummy desserts including a mango dish that Loren got and some mango soft serve ice cream.
They’ll be offering the lunch buffet during the week and I’m sure we’ll be back soon to try out the dinner menu which is posted online.
5th Element Taste of India
3780 Tampa Road
Friday night around 8pm and we still hadn’t eaten dinner. Decided to just grab a couple of subs from Jersey Mike’s. They had a pretty busy day since all they had left was wheat bread and not that much of it. They had their fingers crossed that it’d be slow in there for the next hour.
Loren got an Italian sub, Mike’s way.
He really liked it. They slice the meats to order and he really likes the oil and vinegar mixture they have. I got a cheesesteak with onions and mushrooms.
It was pretty good as well. They cook it up fresh on the flattop, unlike Subway that just tosses it in the microwave. I was afraid the wheat bread was going to be tough, but it wasn’t. It was fresh and fluffy. They make some good subs here. For $14, we were satisfied.
And yet, I still wanted dessert, so we drove over to TGI Fridays and got a slice of vanilla bean cheesecake. It didn’t last long enough to get a photo taken. Well worth the $6.
Jersey Mike’s Subs
3860 Tampa Rd Unit A
Went to Fratelli’s for lunch today, well sort of. We sat down, we ordered, we waited, we waited, and we waited. We finally flagged down our waitress to find out where our food was and she said it takes a while for the lasagne. Yeah, not 50 minutes. She decided to check the kitchen only to find out that she never put our order in. Given that we only had an hour for lunch, we were pretty frustrated and hungry at this point.
She said they could get it out quickly and we decided to just take it back to work with us. The owner took one of the meals off our bill, but we still ended up waiting another 15 minutes before the food came out. And even though the waitress kept saying it’d be worth the wait, it wasn’t. My friend Cathy got the lasagne and I had the stuffed shells and there was nothing that was going to make it worth an hour wait.
I’m usually very happy with this restaurant, but the service today was inexcusable.
Fratelli Italian Restaurant and Bar
120 Commerce Blvd, Ste 1
In our ongoing quest to try all sushi restaurants around, we headed over to Zen Bistro in Westchase for dinner. Parking was a bit of a nightmare. There are a bunch of restaurants in the same plaza and not nearly enough parking. Note to self, don’t even try to go here on the weekend.
I had some very mixed feelings on the atmosphere in the restaurant. The lights were dim, they had a neat looking bamboo wall and some glass enclosed Zen sand gardens in the floor that gave you vertigo to walk over them. The temperature in the restaurant was too cold. I was shivering through most of the meal. What turned us off the most though was the pounding techno music playing in the background. For a place called Zen Bistro, I would have expected something a little more soothing.
Our food took quite a while to come out, but overall the sushi was very good. We got some salmon nigiri and a Tao roll.
I think the Tao roll was both our favorite. It was baked scallop over snow crab with avocado, cucumber and masago. It was a little bit spicy, but had a wonderful texture and flavor. The salmon was very fresh and tasty too.
We also got a Rainbow Roll, a Mexican Roll, a California Roll, and a Zen Crunch Roll.
We liked them all except for the Zen Crunch roll. That one didn’t do much for either of us. It had yellowtail, sesame aioli, and tempura onion and was served with garlic ponzu sauce. The tempura onion was the part that really didn’t work. The shrimp in the Mexican roll was cooked perfectly. You know it’s good when Loren eats some of it. And for dessert, we had to try the Ying Yang.
It was a chocolate and vanilla mousse shooter. The waitress said it was enough for two, but I could have eaten another one without any hesitation at all. The chocolate was dark and rich and the vanilla and whipped cream added a nice balance to it. Total bill including an iced tea was $52.
9620 W Linebaugh