We drove up Hillsborough Ave tonight and ate dinner at Mi Bandera Restaurant. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve driven right by it and never even noticed it was there. It’s in a small shopping center on the opposite corner of the Ranch House Restaurant. The dominant language for both staff and customers is Spanish and the whole place had a very community type feel to it. You could tell it has a lot of regular customers just by the greetings and smiles.
Our waitress started us off with some bread which was quite awesome.
Let’s face it, bread is one of my favorite things, and when it’s served warm smothered in butter and garlic, I’m one happy gal. We ordered a couple of appetizers, some calamari and an empanada.
The enpanada was very tasty. It had a mixture of potato and beef in it. It was very crispy on the outside and the flavors were excellent. Loren really liked the salsa that came with it. At $1 each, we should have just gotten a few of them.
The calamari, unfortunately, was the downfall of the meal.
Completely overcooked and totally inedible. It was like trying to bite into rubber. Luckily our meals came out pretty quick.
Have you ever watched Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives? Do you remember the episode where the guy was making mofongo? Well, they had mofongo on the menu and how in the world were we supposed to pass that up after Guy Fieri was so enthralled by it?
Loren ordered it with fried pork. It was interesting. Fried green plantains smashed with lots of garlic, plus a whole bunch of other stuff in it. It was very unique and tasty. He said the pork was good too. It came with another sauce on the side, a green chimichurri sauce that he really liked.
I wasn’t feeling very adventurous tonight, so just ordered the chicken breast with mushroom sauce which came with three sides. I got rice, red beans, and boiled red potatoes.
The mushroom sauce was just like a marsala sauce. It was very good. The chicken was pounded very thin which made it a little tough. The red beans had a lot of flavor to them. There was enough food on this plate for 3 meals. We both ended up taking a lot of food home for lunch tomorrow. Our waitress was very friendly and seemed genuinely sincere about us having an enjoyable meal. Overall, the flavors were very good throughout the dishes. Total bill was $31.
Mi Bandera Restaurant
7748 W Hillsborough Ave
We’ve never had Ethiopian food before, so we headed over to Tampa to Queen of Sheba. There was only one waitress working the dining room and she seemed to forget about us quite often during the meal. It took a while to get our drinks and appetizer. We ordered the beef sambussa.
It was very similar to an empanada. The beef filling was flavorful and the pastry was nice and crisp. I’m glad we ordered it since it was still quite a while before our entrees arrived. Loren ordered the Queen’s Eight so he could try several dishes.
It had two chicken items, red lentils, cabbage and carrots, collard greens, potatoes and carrots, lamb and a beef item. His chicken dish was a bit on the spicy side. The rest of it had decent flavors, but nothing that was really remarkable.
I ordered the Doro Alecha which is a mild chicken and hard boiled egg dish. Pretty much the same chicken item that was in the Queen’s Eight platter, just not spicy.
It also came with red lentils and potatoes and carrots. The lentils were on the spicy side, so I didn’t like them very much. The rest had very mellow flavors.
The meal is served with injera which you use instead of forks to scoop up the items.
I didn’t like it at all. From it’s color to its spongy texture to its taste, it just didn’t do it for me. We had a Restaurant.com coupon, so we needed to spend $35. When we asked about dessert, the waitress said they had honey chips.
While we were waiting for them, she brought over our check, which didn’t have the dessert on it. Then we watched her try to serve our dessert to another table. She just wasn’t very attentive. The chips, however, were pretty tasty. The drizzled honey was warm and gooey on top of crisp chips. I have to say, I think I enjoyed it most of all. Total bill after the $25 coupon was $15.
It was definitely a different dining experience, but nothing about it made us feel like we needed to go back anytime soon.
Queen of Sheba
36356 Henderson Blvd
We were walking through downtown Safety Harbor tonight admiring the artwork from the Bloom and Chalk Festival when we saw a sign for LuLu’s Restaurant. It’s only been open for a month and just had its official grand opening this weekend. It’s located just off of Main Street in the space where Brady’s BBQ used to be. They added an additional patio which was perfect for the beautiful weather we’re having right now.
It’s a Portugese/Brazilian restaurant. They have a buffet plus they come to your table with skewers of different kinds of meats for $20/person.
The buffet had salad, soup, potatoes, rice, black beans, chicken and veggies. I didn’t care for the veggies, but the rest of it was pretty good. The chicken was very tender and flavorful.
As for the skewers of meat, they brought around ribeye, two types of sausage, lamb, tri-tip, and pork tenderloin.
All of the meats had good flavors. I thought the ribeye was a little oversalted though. The tri-tip was by far the most tender and tasty. Both sausages were good. The “spicy” one had a lot of flavor but wasn’t overly spicy. Be sure to go hungry when you dine here though because they keep coming back to the table to offer you more food. We were both stuffed and yet when they said they had chocolate mousse cake for dessert, I just couldn’t say no.
It was yummy. Loren kept trying to slide it to his end of the table. The mousse layers inside were a little too cold, so they weren’t fluffy, but rather it gave it an almost ice cream like texture that I really liked. Total bill with a drink was $51.
122 Third Ave N
Safety Harbor, FL
The thing that has impressed us the most about Indian cuisine is the amazing depth of flavors in the dishes. Unfortunately, our trip to the Bollywood Cafe in Westchase didn’t live up to our expectations.
They had a large menu plus a smaller portion lunch menu which we ordered from. Loren got the chicken 65 burger.
He said the bun was stale and though the chicken was spicy, it lacked any deep down flavors. I ordered the butter chicken which came with rice or naan, but I went ahead and ordered both.
The first thing I tasted was the rice and to me, it tasted like Minute Rice with butter on it. Not a good start. Then I tried to break off a piece of naan to find it hard as a rock and completely inedible. The chicken did not have a good texture and the gravy just lacked flavor. It was a complete disappointment. The waitress did bring me another order of softer naan, but given it’s temperature, I would have to guess it was placed in a microwave to soften it up.
The dining area wasn’t very big and they had the music up way too loud for a Sunday afternoon. When the waitress asked how we enjoyed our experience, we told her we won’t be back. If you want authentic Indian food, there are much better places in town to go. Good thing we got the lunch portions. Total bill was $14.
9648 W Linebaugh Ave
We’ve eaten at the Tia’s on Fowler Ave a few times and both times that we’ve sat in the bar area, the service has been terrible. If you go in and the hostess starts to seat you to the right in the bar area, ask to be seated in the main dining room instead.
Once we finally got some menus, drinks, chips and salsa, we ordered some queso supremo, which is really the only reason I ever come here to eat.
Mind you, we waited for a very long time before our waiter brought it out. I don’t know what it is about their queso, but I just love it. It’s the combination of cheese and taco meat that’s just so yummy.
Because it took him to long to bring it, our entrees came out soon after. Loren ordered the beef fajitas.
He said they were pretty good, but it was more than enough food for him. We should have just split them. Instead, I ordered a pick three and got a chicken and beef empanada and a chicken taco.
There really wasn’t anything on this plate that was very good. The rice didn’t taste good and the refried beans were dry. The beef empanda was extremely cheesy inside, but still better than the chicken one. The taco was pretty bland. Next time, we’ll just split something and I’ll stick with the queso. Total bill was $34.
Tia’s Tex Mex
2815 E Fowler Ave