The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

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Blue Waves

When we first walked in to the Portofino Mediterranean Grill in Clearwater, we were mesmerized by the walls in the dining room.  They had a textured wave pattern and then sea blue lights shining on the waves.  It was a very pleasant and peaceful decor surrounding you.

We chose the Portofino tonight because we had a $25 coupon.  It was fairly early, around 5:30pm on a Sunday when we got there and there weren’t that many people in the restaurant. 

You can see a reflection of the walls in the bread photo:

The bread was warm and crispy and served with an herbed olive oil.  We ordered some calamari as an appetizer.

You can get it with a mild or spicy marinara sauce and I chose the mild.  The calamari was cooked well.  It had a nice crunchy coating and was tender inside. 

Our salads arrived before we were finished with our appetizer.  Since we were at a small table, it made things a bit crowded.

Loren liked the salad, but it didn’t do much for me.  It had a balsamic dressing on it that was rather tangy.  For his entree, Loren got the grouper d’capri. 

It had capers, shallots, and tomatoes in a white wine lemon butter sauce.  You could really taste the lemon in the sauce.  It was served with potato and veggies.  Our waiter didn’t mention that he could have had it with linguine (I just looked at the menu online)  when he placed the order, but that’s one of the first things Loren said when he got it is that it would have been better over pasta.

We had to laugh because both the butter and sour cream were solid as a rock. They must be stored in the back of the cooler.  I ordered the chicken marsala.

I found the marsala sauce to be really weak.   When it comes to marsala, I don’t want subtle.  Loren liked it and half of it came home as leftovers since there were two chicken breasts and I only ate one.

As more people came into the restaurant, we found the service at our table begin to dwindle.  We sat for quite a while after finishing our entrees before our waiter came back to the table to check on us. 

We decided to try the Palermitana for dessert.

It was strawberry gelato with tangerines, bananas, strawberries, a raspberry sauce and whipped cream plus some sprinkled nuts not mentioned in the description.  It was tasty.  The gelato had a wonderful rich strawberry flavor.   I liked the strawberries and bananas, but I didn’t think the tangerines went with the dish.  Loren seemed to like them though.

After our $25 coupon, the total bill was $28.  Overall, it was a pretty enjoyable meal.

Portofino Mediterranean Grill
18825 US 19 North
Clearwater, FL

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After trying three different places for lunch today only to find none of them were open on New Year’s day, we decided to just drive up US 19 and stop wherever there were cars in the parking lot.  We ended up at Longhorn in Palm Harbor.

Our last experience here was very good, today’s experience was lacking something.  Sometimes, it is just the little things.  Loren opened up his silverware to find a rather nasty looking fork.  He laid it to the side of the table, but our waitress didn’t notice it when she took our drink order.  When she returned, he showed it to her and she apologized, but never brought him back another salad fork.  Like I said, sometimes it’s just the little things.

Loren ordered a salad and there was some yummy bread brought to the table.

It was a fairly big salad.  The bread was warm and fresh, just the way I like it.  He ordered an 8oz sirloin with a baked potato.

He said the steak was good, but the potato didn’t seem very fresh.  They definitely know how to cook steaks correctly here.  Order it medium and you actually get a medium cooked steak.

I was making an attempt at eating healthy for the new year (like that’s gonna last), so I ordered the grilled trout with a sweet potato.

It was pretty good.  Tender and flaky, with a fairly mellow flavor.  It had some big chunks of garlic on it.  The sweet potato came with cinnamon butter, which was actually butter with cinnamon and sugar just sprinkled on top.  I was expecting it to have already been whipped in with the butter.  Most of the potato was good, but one end was not.  Personally, I wouldn’t have put that potato on a plate. 

Overall, it was just an ok experience.  Total bill was $29 with a drink. 

Longhorn Steakhouse
35645 US Highway 19
Palm Harbor, FL
(727) 781-9300

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Went to Boston Cooker for dinner tonight.  Hmmm… guess what I was in the mood for?   Sure, the yeast rolls are awesome, but it’s the Ipswich clams that keep me coming back for more.

They’re just so yummy.  Crunchy on the outside, soft and flavorful on the inside.  The batter doesn’t detract from the taste of the whole belly clams.  It’s a taste of my childhood in New England. 

Loren got the cedar plank salmon special.

It was on a bed of spinach with a lemon sauce on top.  He enjoyed it.  The fish was cooked just right, light and flavorful. 

The only downside to the meal was where we were sitting.  We were in the path to the kitchen and everytime someone passed by Loren’s chair, they ended up hitting it. 

We tried their chocolate  silk pie for dessert.

It was ok.  Not the best I’ve had, but it finished off a yummy meal nicely.  Total bill was $46.

Boston Cooker
3705 Tampa Road Unit 6  
Oldsmar, FL

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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
(727) 536-7770

Cheddar's Casual Cafe on Urbanspoon


The last thing we expected on entering City Fish in Oldsmar tonight was to be accosted by the stench of cigarette smoke.  At first we thought we had just passed by someone who had been smoking, but sitting at our table the smell continued to permeate the air.  When we asked our waitress about it, she asked it we were smelling the oak wood they grill on.  Umm, no.  Then she turned toward the bar and said the door was open to the smoking area on the patio and she’d see if it could be closed.

Well, no such luck.  She returned and said people were going in and out of the door (which we hadn’t seen anyone go through the door), but would we like to move to another table?  If you’ve been to City Fish, you know it’s one big open room, it’s not like moving a few tables over would have resolved the issue.

We should have left at this point, but the food was good the last time we were here, so we decided to stay.  And aside from my entree, the rest of the food was actually pretty good.

The bread was hot, fresh and tasty.  You know it’s good when Loren digs in.

We ordered a bowl of the New England Crab Chowder and a side salad. 

The chowder was delish!  Creamy and thick with lots of crab in it.  Loren enjoyed the salad as well.  We also ordered a California Roll.

I wasn’t too impressed with it.  The rice wasn’t prepared very well.  It was too gooey.  Then came the entrees.  Loren ordered the swordfish with Thai mango salsa, mashed potatoes and house veggies.

He was a happy guy.  The swordfish was cooked perfectly and he ate every bite. 

The house veggies that came with both meals had squash and mushrooms in a tomato based sauce.  It was tasty.

I ordered the Chicken Portobello with mashed potatoes.

The chicken was topped with portobello mushrooms, spinach and fontina cheese.  Unfortunately, when I tried to cut into the chicken, my knife wasn’t making much of a dent.  The chicken was overcooked and tough.  By this point, I’d been breathing second hand smoke for over an hour and my patience was completely gone. 

At this point, the manager stopped by our table and we had the same conversation with him as we did with the waitress, “oh are you smelling the oak grill?”, “No, it’s the smoke from the patio”, “Would you like to move to another table?”.  He told us the door was broken between the restaurant and the patio so they couldn’t close it.  Then he asked about the food and when I told him about the chicken, he offered to replace it with something else, but I was just ready to get out of there.  He did, however, take the chicken off our bill. 

Though our waitress was good about refilling drinks and checking on us, her attitude about our complaints was a bit offputting.  She’d cock her head to the side and stick out her bottom lip and make a pouty face and spoke to me like I was a child while she was apologizing.  I know she was trying to be sincere, but it just didn’t work.

Our bill ended up at $40 after my entree was removed.  We came home and put our clothes in the laundry and took a shower to get the cigarette smoke smell off of us.  Though most of the food was good, we won’t be back again. 

City Fish Seafood Grill and Chop House
4022 Tampa Rd
Oldsmar, FL

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