The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.


Search Site



Blog Archives

After a day of hiking, we stopped in Franklin, NC for dinner at the Cajun Connection Cafe.  This was the tastiest meal we had on our entire vacation.   We started off with some calamari and Loren got a side salad.

The calamari was a little chewy, but had a nice crunch to it.  It had a little bit of spice and the dipping sauce was tasty.  Loren decided to get a mini sampler which included jambalaya, gumbo, and creole.

Though he enjoyed the other two, the jambalaya was definitely his favorite.  It had all the right flavor components with just the right amount of spice.  If we’re ever back this way again, he’d be getting a big ol’ bowl of the jambalaya.  I ordered the crawfish etouffee.

Though it could have used a few more crawfish, the dish was delicious.  Not too spicy, but with an amazing flavor and texture.  After a long day hiking, it really hit the spot.  We couldn’t pass up the bread pudding and I wanted some chocolate cake for later.

The bread pudding was yummy.  We needed more sauce because it was very tasty too.  The chocolate cake was moist and made a great late night snack.  Overall, this was the most flavorful meal we had in North Carolina.  Definitely a place to check out if you’re in the area.  Total bill with a drink was $41.

Cajun Connection Cafe
549 Highlands Rd
Franklin, NC

Cajun Connection Cafe on Urbanspoon

  • Filed under: Cajun, Dessert, NC
  • We were in Lakeland today test driving a Miata and on the recommendation from the guy at the car dealership, we ate lunch at Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grill.

    It’s a pretty big restaurant and was fairly crowded, but we were able to get a table without a wait.  One waitress came and took our drink order and then another came to the table to take our order.  What was impressive about this was that the original waitress came back to our table and apologized for having to give our table to another waitress because she had three other tables that just got seated and felt that she wouldn’t be able to give us the service we deserved.  I really appreciated that, especially since we’ve been to several other restaurants lately where the server was obviously overwhelmed but unwilling or unable to ask for additional help.  Kudos for Harry’s for being staffed appropriately and allowing the servers to judge their own workload.

    As for the food, I ordered the shrimp etouffee and Loren got the Taste of Orleans platter which had jambalaya, etouffee, and gumbo, plus they started us off with some nice warm bread.

    The herbed butter had a lot of garlic in it and melted wonderfully on the toasty bread. 

    The shrimp etouffee had good flavor, but didn’t have that simmered for hours taste about it.  It was fairly generic.  The rice had a few too many pieces in it that were crunchy, like the rice had too much time to dry out from when it was cooked. 

    The gumbo was the best thing on the Taste of Orleans platter.  It had a deep, rich flavor to it.  The jambalya was ok, but a little dry.  Total bill with a drink was $28.

    Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grill
    101 N Kentucky Ave
    Lakeland, FL
    (863) 686-2228

    Harry's Seafood, Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon


    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.

    Nola Cafe
    300 Beach Dr NE
    St Petersburg, FL
    (813) 258-8778

    Nola Cafe on Urbanspoon


    We drove into Tarpon Springs tonight to have dinner at Zante Cafe Neo.  We walked right by it thinking it was a thrift shop.   This has to be the most unusual decor I’ve ever seen in a restaurant and there was lots of it.  It was like someone emptied out grandma’s attic, hit a few garage sales, and then dug in the back of everyone’s closet.  The photo below is the view from the entryway.

    We were seated by the owner’s 13 year old daughter who was also the waitress.  There were other kids doing homework at a nearby table and another young lad brought us some dinner rolls. 

    These were some mighty fine rolls.  Buttery and slightly crunchy on the outside, soft and delicious inside.  They also came right out of the oven. 

    Everything here is freshly made, so takes a while to come out.  Trust me, this is a place where the phrase “Your patience will be rewarded” is so true.  Luckily, while you wait, you have quite a bit to look at.  Every time I turned my head, I found something else odd and unusual around me.  From the full sized cut out of Johnny Depp dressed as the Mad Hatter to funky lamps to a drawing of Sean Connery. 

    Our dinners both came with a choice of soup or salad and we both went for the gumbo.

    Delicate flavors in a thin broth with chicken, okra, and other veggies.  It was so warm and cozy on a chilly night.  There wasn’t a drop left in either of our bowls.  

    We ordered the Louisiana crab cakes as an appetizer.

    All crab, no fillers and quite delicious.  The Creole Remoulade wasn’t spicy, but added a nice flavor to the crab cakes.  Everything we’d eaten so far left us craving more. 

    Did I mention the rolls?  Yeah, we needed another batch of those.

    Fresh out of the oven a second time around.  Normally, I don’t like such a long wait for food, but it was well worth it.

    And then came the entrees.  Loren ordered the jambalaya and I ordered the crawfish etouffee.  Our waitress asked what spice level we wanted on a scale of 1 to 10.  I picked a 1 and Loren picked a 6 for his dish.  I also asked to have the scallions left off of mine.

    This is my etouffee with scallions on it.  There weren’t that many, I just assumed she didn’t hear me when I asked that they be left off.  She saw me picking them off the dish and said the chef must have mixed up the dish because Loren’s didn’t have any scallions on his and normally the jambalaya has scallions. (I’d already transferred a few of mine on to his plate before I took the photo)

    So, as I’m picking off the remaining scallions, Loren starts to eat his and says it’s really not all that spicy for a spice level 6.  Just as I’m about to take my first bite, it dawns on me that if the scallions ended up on my dish, there’s a good chance the spice level did too.  Oh yeah, wimpy me ended up with a spice level 6 etouffee.  If it hadn’t been so tasty, I probably wouldn’t have eaten it.  It definitely had some spice, but it wasn’t a killer.  They had to refill my water glass a couple of times though. 

    Both dishes had wonderful flavors to them.  The jambalaya had a smoky flavor and had chicken, shrimp, and sausage in it.  Mine had tender crawfish, onions and mushrooms in a dark roux etouffee sauce. 

    They also brought us a slice of pumpkin pie and pecan pie to make up for the mistake with the spice levels. 

    They were both pretty good.   The table next to us had bananas foster and when the chef came out and flambed it at the table, I was thinking that’s what we’re having next time.  And yes, there will definitely be a next time. 

    Total bill was $51.  Absolutely worth every penny for the made from scratch, authentic food we were served.  Though I’m not a fan of having children as waitstaff, I have to say, she was very polite and took care of us just fine.  And when we got the bill, she had absolutely written down our order correctly and the kitchen mixed them up.

    Zante Cafe Neo
    13 N Safford Ave
    Tarpon Springs, FL

    Zante Cafe Neo on Urbanspoon



    When I went to Zerillo’s earlier in the week, I noticed another restaurant in the same shopping center call “A Taste of Heaven New Orleans Cuisine”.   Since they’re only open for dinner, figured we’d head out there tonight.  It’s not like there are a lot of New Orleans/Cajun places to eat around here.  The closest one that we like is the Cajun Cafe down in Pinellas Park. 

    The restaurant was empty when we got there a little before 6pm.  The owner/chef, Jocelyn, came out to greet us.  She’s really personable and made us feel very welcome.

    We ordered our drinks and she recommended the tea so Loren got a glass.

    I’m not a tea drinker, but trust me, this is not what I would consider tea.  It was a sweet fruit drink made with fresh pineapple, mango, and raspberry.  Almost like a lemonade.  I ended up ordering a glass of my own.  It was actually too sweet for Loren, but just right for me.  Jocelyn said she makes different fruit blends depending on what fruit is in season.  Definitely order the tea when you visit.

    We ordered our meals and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Patience was definitely the order of the evening.  Granted everything was made fresh to order, and we were warned that the homemade corn bread would take 15-20 minutes, but it took at least an hour to get our food. 

    Finally our entrees arrived.  Loren ordered the Jammin’ Jambalaya. 

    The jambalaya was good.  It had some spice but not too much.  She actually asked what level of spice we wanted in the food.  He said it was dryer than what he wanted, but had plenty of chicken, sausage and shrimp in it.  He’d probably order it as a side dish next time, not a meal.

    I ordered the shrimp etoufee and a side of mac and cheese, sweet potato casserole, and corn bread.

    The menu said the etoufee came with fried okra slices, but it didn’t.  I ordered it non-spicy and though it had a good flavor, it was actually a little bland.  I think it needed some of the spice afterall.  The sauce was smooth and the shrimp and rice were both cooked well.  The menu also said warm cornbread upon request, which I assumed meant it came with it, but we were charged separately for it. 

    The thing about the cornbread is that it was supposedly the reason our meal took so long to come out and unfortunately, it wasn’t worth the wait.  It was ok for cornbread, but nothing to write home about.

    I like mac and cheese and this one was a tasty version.  Homemade, very cheesy with a hint of garlic.  Even Loren liked it and he’s not that into mac and cheese.

    The sweet potato souffle had a strong clove flavor.  Loren liked it more than I did.  I like a sweeter version of the dish, more cinnamon, less clove.   It had a nice consistency and the ramekin it was in kept it steaming hot. 

    Our waitress was Jocelyn’s 13 year old daughter.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the necessary experience, nor would you expect her to at her age.  A few more customers came into the restaurant while we were eating so it took a while for her to get back to our table.  They didn’t have any desserts on the menu, only for special occasions we were told.  I was really hoping for some beignets, but no such luck. 

    We finally got our $43 check, but then they had to fight with their credit card machine.  So we waited.  And waited.  Luckily, we had enough cash on us because they didn’t get the machine working.  This was about a 2 hour outing for dinner and we were the only customers when we got there.  I really wanted to love this place.  I definitely recommend going for the food; it was fresh and made to order.   Jocelyn is a great host and has a wonderful personality, but since she’s also the chef, once she went into the kitchen, the dining room lacked the service and attention to detail it needed. 

    A Taste of Heaven
    11665 Countryway Blvd
    Tampa, FL

    A Taste of Heaven New Orleans Cuisine on Urbanspoon