The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

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We decided to try out Soul Food Sunday at Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe today.  It has a big, wide open dining area.  We were seated on the 2nd floor and I can imagine it gets very loud in there when they have a band.  The artwork was pretty funky, from a mirror frame made out of old aluminum cans to a painted refrigerator door high up on the wall.

Loren was having a hard time deciding what to order so he asked the waitress what was good (she listed just about everything on the menu), but he decided on the homemade veggie burger with a side of collard greens.

The veggie burger had a lot of interesting flavors in it plus a little bit of spice.  It was not your ordinary veggie burger, that’s for sure.  He wasn’t impressed with the collard greens though.  He said there was a sweetness to them that he didn’t like.

I went for the pick 2 bbq and got some brisket and ribs with a side of sweet potato fries.

Tender bbq with a sweet and smokey sauce.  The brisket was sliced thin and had a bit of fat on it, but also a wonderful flavor.  I was full after eating the ribs, so most of the brisket came home.  The sweet potato fries were sliced thin and they were crunchy with just the right amount of salt on them. 

And just to be able to say we did, we got an order of chocolate covered bacon to go.

It was kinda weird. It’s not a very thick slice of bacon. That first bite you get has the salty, bacon, chocolatey taste, then the chocolate melts in your mouth and you’re just left with cold bacon.  The nuts on top sort of distracted from the bacon as well. 

Total bill was $32.  Everything was definitely homemade and there were a lot of good flavors going on.  Definitely a place I’d like to try again to taste some of the other dishes.

Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe
5119 N Nebraska Ave
Tampa, FL
(813) 234-1000

Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe on Urbanspoon

Food4/5
Service3/5
Atmosphere4/5
Value3/5
3.6/5
  • 0 Comments
  • Filed under: American, BBQ, Soul, Tampa
  • I admit, I watch Food Network a lot and inevitably it fuels my food cravings.  Last night, we were watching “Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives” and the BBQ they were showing made both our mouths water.  So, for dinner tonight, we searched other reviews to find some awesome BBQ and ended up at Cally’s Sticky Bones Barbecue in Tampa.

    Cally’s is a small BBQ place off of Linebaugh.  As soon as you walk in the door, you can smell the smokey goodness.  Since we wanted to try a little bit of everything, we got the Ultimate Sampler Platter which had ribs, chicken, chopped pork, and brisket.

    It came with one side, but we ordered a couple more, just because I can’t resist mac & cheese and cornbread pudding.  I probably should have resisted.  They were ok, but nothing special.  I had to send the mac & cheese back to the kitchen because it was cold.  The cornbread pudding was a little gritty and the beans were just ok.  But let’s face it, you don’t go to a BBQ joint for the side dishes.

    I’ve never been a big fan of brisket, but I gotta say, that was the best thing on the plate.  It was awesome.  It was so tender and juicy and had great smoke flavor.  I think I may have been missing out all these years just ordering pulled pork.  The ribs, chicken, and chopped pork were all really good too, but the brisket definitely stood out.   I can understand why they’ve won some Florida BBQ awards. 

    We thought we were going to have leftovers, but no such luck.  Once you started eating, there was just no way to stop.   I’m glad we got the sampler platter so we could try it all, but next time, I’m just getting a big ol’ platter of brisket.  Total meal with all the sides and a drink was $27.

    Cally’s Sticky Bones Barbecue
    2313 W Linebaugh Ave
    Tampa, FL
    (813) 935-6600

    Cally's Sticky Bones BBQ on Urbanspoon

    Food4/5
    Service3/5
    Atmosphere3/5
    Value3/5
    3.4/5
  • 0 Comments
  • Filed under: BBQ, Tampa
  • Tasty BBQ


    The first time we tried to go to Georgia Boy’s BBQ in Oldsmar, they were closed, but we finally made it out there today for lunch.  This is definitely one of those hole-in-the-wall BBQ joints.  There’s no seating inside and one picnic table out front, so plan to get your BBQ to go. 

    The owner offered us a taste of the pulled pork when we walked in.  It had a nice BBQ flavor and I ended up getting the pulled pork sandwich and some potato salad.

    He definitely piled on the pork, but I should have told him to go lightly on the sauce.  He drenched the sandwich.  I ended up having to eat it with a fork because there was no way to pick it up without wearing the sauce.  I really liked the potato salad too. 

    Loren got a half rack of ribs and a side of collard greens.  He went for the spicy sauce, which wasn’t really spicy, but more tangy.

    The ribs were really tender and flavorful.  I would definitely order those again.  He said the collards weren’t anything special, but let’s face it, it’s not about the sides, it’s about the meat.  For $20, this is probably one of the best BBQ meals we’ve had in a while.

    Georgia Boy’s BBQ
    205 E St Petersburg Dr
    Oldsmar, FL
    (813) 854-4498

    Georgia Boy's Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

    Food4/5
    Service4/5
    Atmosphere2/5
    Value4/5
    3.7/5
  • 1 Comment
  • Filed under: BBQ, Oldsmar
  • We ate dinner at Flamestone in Oldsmar tonight.  I’ve been here a few times, thinking it’s going to get better, but I always seem to leave rather disappointed.

    They weren’t very busy for a Sunday evening.  We started off with some bread, a wedge salad and some sweet potato fries.

    The bread was warm and tasty and came with a garlic herbed butter. 

    The wedge salad had avacado, blue cheese, tomatoes, onions and bacon bits on it.  The ranch dressing was tasty.

    As for the sweet potato fries, I’ve had better elsewhere.  They just didn’t have a lot of flavor or sweetness to them.  I think part of the problem is that they weren’t cooked long enough.  They were a little too soft and needed to be a bit crispier. 

    For my entree, I got their chicken special, which was a grilled chicken breast in a sherry wine sauce, with mashed potatoes, and veggies.

    I didn’t like it.  It was charred too much for me and I found the chicken to be tough and dry.  The only flavor I tasted was burnt flavor.  The sauce was ok and I liked the potatoes.  I brought most of it home and Loren ate it as leftovers.

    Loren ordered the half rack of ribs.

    These had to be some of the worst ribs I’ve ever tasted.  They were tender, but had been boiled to the point of complete blandness.  They were almost watery and completely flavorless.  This is definitely a dish I recommend you avoid. 

    Total bill was $40 and neither of us left there delighted with the food.  As for the service, our waiter was ok, but he came off with a smarmy kind of vibe.  I don’t know how to describe it.  He just didn’t seem genuine.

    Flamestone American Grill
    4009 Tampa Rd
    Oldsmar, FL
    (813) 814-7778

    Flamestone American Grill on Urbanspoon

    Food2/5
    Service2/5
    Atmosphere4/5
    Value3/5
    2.5/5
  • 0 Comments
  • Filed under: American, Oldsmar
  • Day 8 of our vacation we had reservations for lunch at the Hawaiian Vanilla Company.  On the way there, we stopped at the World Botanical Gardens to check out Umauma Falls.

    What a beautiful 3 tiered waterfall.  We’ve seen numerous waterfalls on our trip, but this one was simply gorgeous.  The actual gardens aren’t as nice or plentiful as the Hawaii Botanical Gardens, but the waterfall is definitely worth the admission price.

    The Hawaiian Vanilla Experience Lunch was pretty interesting.

    Their vanilla in infused in all of the lunch items.  The vanilla lemonade was really tasty.  Lunch was a chicken sandwich with salad and roasted potatoes and a vanilla bread pudding with vanilla ice cream for dessert.  You also get to hear the story of the vanilla farm and get to visit the shade house where they grow the vanilla plants.  Trust me, after this visit you’ll completely understand why vanilla is so expensive.  Lunch and tour for two was $70, plus we ended up buying a few vanilla souvenirs as well. 

    After lunch, we went hiking through another cave and then walked around Kalopa State Park.  The park was beautiful and very serene.  We headed back to Hilo and stopped at the Hilo Bay Cafe for dinner. 

    Unfortunately, we hadn’t made reservations, but luckily there was plenty of room at the bar, so we ordered dinner there.  I think this was our best meal of the trip.

    I started out with a Thai curry coconut soup that was amazing.

    Loads of interesing flavors that were amazingly warm, but not too spicy.  Loren had a salad and really liked the dressing.

    I ordered the hamakua mushroom pot pie with chicken which came with a side salad.  This is the way pot pies should always be.

    The pastry crust was flaky and perfectly baked.  Chicken and fresh veggies in a creamy sauce inside.  This is comfort food at its best.

    Loren ordered their fish special of the night which was ono over a bed of mashed potatoes, spinach and tomatoes in a beurre blanc sauce.

    Perfectly cooked, with wonderful flavors.  There was nothing left on his plate when he was finished.  And since our entrees had been so good, I certainly couldn’t pass up their version of chocolate lava cake.

    Finally!  A restaurant that understands that lava cake should have a liquid center.  Loren was chatting with another customer at the bar and I had half of this eaten before he even turned around.  Wonderful deep chocolate flavors and the vanilla ice cream was a perfect complement.

    The entire experience was great.  This is definitely a restaurant that “gets it”.  The bartender was our waiter and he kept our drinks filled and plates cleared.  It was interesting watching him make bloody mary’s all night.  He must have made 8 of them while we were there.  Total bill was $61 and worth every penny.  If you’re in Hilo, make a reservation and eat here at least once on your trip.

    Hilo Bay Cafe on Urbanspoon

    Thursday was our last full day on the island.  We ate breakfast at the B&B and then headed down to the Volcano Park again to see the Jagger Museum and the end of the Chain of Craters road.  We also saw the Holei Sea Arch.

    We stopped at Thai Thai Restaurant for dinner in Volcano.  For an appetizer, we ordered the summer roll.

    I didn’t like it, but Loren did.  It had mint and cilantro in it that just completely ruined it for me.  Those just aren’t flavors I enjoy. 

    I ordered the chicken coconut yellow curry at the mildest setting available.

    I admit, I’m wimpy when it comes to spicy, but if this is mild, I’d hate to see what hot is like.  My mouth was on fire.  It had an interesting flavor, chicken and potatoes in the curry sauce, but my lips were tingling after just a few bites.

    Loren ordered the ginger chicken.

    His was even spicer than mine.  He enjoyed it, but still ordered some coconut ice cream for dessert just to cool off his tongue.

    The ice cream had bits of coconut in it.  Total bill was $50 and it took a while for both of us to regain sensation in our tongues and lips.  This is not a restaurant for the meek when it comes to spicy.

    Thai Thai on Urbanspoon

    Last day on the island and we got up at 3:00am in order to go on the sunrise Lava Ocean Boat Tour.  It was just so amazing during the sunset tour that we had to do it again before we left the island. 

    After the tour, we headed back to our B&B for breakfast then over to the Liliuokalani Gardens for awhile.

    We ate lunch at the Kuhio Grille in Hilo.  We actually ate breakfast here on our first day on the island.  Pancakes and a Belgium waffle that were huge and way more than one person could eat.

    Lunch on our last day also consisted of way too much food.  I ordered the chicken katsu with some corn chowder.  The chowder was really, really thick.  It had the consistency of mashed potatoes. 

    The chicken was a little overcooked.  Not the best I’d had on the island.  Loren ordered one of their specials, a Philipino combo which had spare ribs, adobo & pumpkin, long beans, wing beans and pork.

    He was a happy guy.  The meat just fell off the bones of the spare ribs.  Wonderful flavors all around.  He had no idea that he was eating pumpkin until he asked the waitress what it was.  Our final meal on the island ran us $28.

    Kuhio Grille on Urbanspoon

    All in all, we had an amazing vacation in Hawaii.  At every turn we were fascinated by the scenery.  From beautiful waterfalls, to lush green rainforests, to endless lava fields, to flowing glowing lava.  We kept saying “Wow”, only to have a bigger “Wow” uttered at the next stop.  The food was also wonderful.  So many of the restaurants used fresh, local ingredients and it was so apparent in the final dishes. 

    If you’re interested in seeing the rest of our photos, you can check them out on my Flickr page.  We’re slowly getting them edited and posted.  Aloha!

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