The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

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Great Dip


When we were driving down Gulf to Bay Thursday night, we noticed Pappas Ranchhouse had finally opened, so we headed over there for dinner tonight.  It’s a large restaurant and they were pretty full when we arrived.  We waited about 15 minutes for a table.

The first thing we noticed was how loud it was in the dining area.  This is definitely not a peaceful and quiet restaurant.  Turning down the music would help some, but they also need to find some way to damper the overall noise level in there. 

I had read some other reviews that said if you wanted bread you had to ask for it, but our waiter brought us some without us having to say a word. 

The bread had a nice flavor, texture and crispy crust, but either it needed to be warmer or the butter needed to be softer.   Trying to spread rock hard butter on barely warm bread is not an easy task.

We decided to get the artichoke and spinach dip.

This is definitely an appetizer for more than 2 people.  The crock was huge!  We ran out of chips way before we ran out of dip.  Hands down, this was the best part of the meal.  Loren said the key to a great spinach dip is garlic and this one had plenty.  It was cheesy, creamy, and full of flavor.  We’ll go back just for it.

Loren ordered a 6 oz sirloin with mashed potatoes and a salad.

They didn’t quite get medium right on his steak.  The majority of it was medium well, with just a small bit of the thicker piece of the steak anywhere close to the medium range.  He said it was tender, but just a bit dry from being overcooked. 

I ordered the prime rib sandwich with sweet potato fries. 

The prime rib was very tender and juicy.  The sandwich also had grilled onions and mushrooms on it.  I think they need a thicker bread to put it on though because the bottom slice was extremely soggy.  The au jois was a bit salty to me, but overall, the sandwich was really good.

We also got a piece of chocolate cake to take home.

It was a very moist cake and the mousse layers had chocolate chips in it.  I could have done without the chocolate chips though as they ruined the smooth texture for me.  Total bill was $41 which was pretty good for the amount of food we got. 

Pappas Ranch Steakhouse
2630 Gulf to Bay Blvd
Clearwater, FL
(727) 797-9800

Pappas Ranch Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Food4/5
Service3/5
Atmosphere2/5
Value3/5
3.3/5

Craving Pizza


I wanted pizza tonight, so we decided to try the ones at Panos Kouzina.  Since Loren and I don’t agree on pizza toppings, we ended up getting two personal pizzas.

Loren got a thin crust deluxe and I got a hand tossed Hawaiian with mushrooms.

As far as I could tell, there was absolutely no difference in the crust between the two.  They were both as thin as could be, which for me, is not how I like my pizza crust.  Loren liked it better than I did.  I get that this is a small pizza, but the ham and mushrooms on mine were cut into very tiny pieces, yet the pineapple was left in fairly big chunks.  It just didn’t do it for me.

I did need some chocolaty goodnees though, so I ordered a piece of the chocolate lovin’ spoonful cake.

This is an extremely fudgey cake.  It has a nice texture and more filling than cake.  Good stuff.  Total bill with a drink and a side salad was $25.

Panos Kouzina
3101 SR 580
Safety Harbor, FL
(727) 797–2667

Panos Kouzina on Urbanspoon

Food3/5
Service3/5
Atmosphere3/5
Value3/5
3.0/5

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. 

Olde Schoolhouse
3419 Alt 19 N
Palm Harbor, FL
727-784-2585

Olde Schoolhouse on Urbanspoon

Food3/5
Service2/5
Atmosphere3/5
Value3/5
2.7/5

Expectations


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
Dunedin, FL
727-733-1909

Walt's Seasonal Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Food3/5
Service2/5
Atmosphere3/5
Value2/5
2.6/5

Cake!


After dinner, we walked over to the Tilted Kilt for some dessert and to play some pool.  Chocolate cake and whipped cream, what could be better?

Yum, yum, yum!  Very moist, fudgy cake with lots of whipped cream.  For $6, a tasty end to a nice evening.  As for the pool playing, we were both really, really bad, but it was still fun.

Tilted Kilt
2571 Drew St
Clearwater, FL
(727) 724-6177

Tilted Kilt on Urbanspoon

Food4/5
Service4/5
Atmosphere3/5
Value3/5
3.7/5