Friday, November 20, 2009

The Independent - St Petersburg, FL

There are beer places and then "there are beer places" and The Independent in downtown St Petersburg is IT. If I would have to pick my favorite place to go have a beer in the whole Tampa Bay area, it would be this place. It is very low key, and it just has a good vibe to it. What makes it that way? For one, the phenomenal choice of beers from around the world, and on tap. Not sure what to try, ask one of the knowledgeable bartenders who get extra points for extreme friendliness. The owner, John, makes a point of greeting all his customers and he gives some great suggestions, also. Another fun thing is that a lot of the beers have the glass that is made for it, not just one uniform beer mug. It is a diverse crowd that comes to the independent, but one thing everyone has in common is a love of quality beer. Cheers!

The Independent

29 3rd Street North
St Petersburg, FL 33701

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe - Tampa, FL

Wow! Stepping into Ella's is like stepping into another world. Ella's has lots of lovely, open space with an upstairs seating area overlooking the dining area below. And there is lots of cool art on the walls. Take a closer look at the art and you will see it is made up of a lot of old stuff, such as the painted refrigerator door or bedstead. The front grill of a car overlooks the small stage, where one can enjoy the music of whatever band happens to be playing. Check out Ella's website for a music schedule. The tables are neat, too. They look like they are made up of part old tables, with a metal top. Besides the upstairs and downstairs dining area, you can grab a seat at the bar or there is a large patio to enjoy your meal. However, in our case, we were there to enjoy the wonderful music of local singer/songwriter Rebekah Pulley, so my family and I grabbed a table near the stage.

This was our first time dining at Ella's, and we happened to be there on a Sunday afternoon. Sunday afternoon means Sunday BBQ at Ella's. The Sunday BBQ gives you a choice of ribs, beef brisket, pork-sammy, beef bun, or a combination. Along with that you can choose one side: macaroni and cheese, zucchini fritters, sweet potato fries, etc. I opted for the beef bun and the sweet potato fries. The beef is served with barbecue sauce and a pickles and the sweet potato fries were served with a spicy ketchup that went perfectly with the crispy sweet potato fries, which I loved. The beef bun was very good, not the best I've had, but still very good, and I was very satisfied. Along with my meal, my husband and I enjoyed a bottle of the Malbec Rose that turned out to be very nice.

There was only one disappointment about the meal and that is that being a Sunday BBQ, they didn't really have any vegetarian options. There was a choice of one salad, which didn't really sound too much like a let's make a meal out of it salad. The only choice left was the sweet potato fries or zucchini fritters, which were delicious, but not really a meal. I looked over the menu for the rest of the week and there are a lot of lovely options for vegetarians that you don't find at other places, but Sunday evenings don't really offer a lot in that direction. Perhaps a vegetarian chili to go with the theme of BBQ, or some other option??? Other than that, I think Ella's is excellent and I look forward to visiting there again.

Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe
5119 N. Nebraska Avenue
Tampa, FL 33603

Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Queenshead Restaurant and Bar - St Petersburg, FL

I went to the queenshead with my family on a weeknight and we had a marvelous experience. For those of you with kids, bring them along, but note that children are not allowed after 9:00 p.m.. Queenshead is located in the Grand Central District in St Petersburg. From what I have read previously about the restaurant, the building was formerly a 1950's gas station. I have to say that a gas station is the last thing I had on my mind when I saw the premises and it was an absolutely stunning restaurant. If you like to dine outside they have a comfortable and relaxing area in front. However, if you like to dine inside you will find a trendy, yet comfortable dining area. A long bar dominates the room, with plenty of room for those who enjoy to have their drink or meal at the bar. To the left of the bar, one can find tables or to the right of the bar is an attractive sitting area for a more intimate experience.

There is a small, but nice selection of draft beers and wines to choose from around the world. After choosing a nice malbec wine to enjoy with my meal, I tried to decide what to order. This was no easy feat because there were a number of things that I wanted to try, however, I couldn't order everything. For starters, I decided to try the roasted pumpkin soup. The soup was excellent and it was sweet, yet it had the slightest hint of heat. Words cannot describe how wonderful the soup was, and I would go back there for that alone. For my main course, I tried the beet risotto with feta cheese. The risotto was very good and it was a nice change from typical risotto that one finds elsewhere. My family also tried the fish and chips. The fries were very good with a nice crust and perfect for dipping. The fish was very good and fresh tasting. Again, this is a nice change from fish and chips I have tried elsewhere. Finally, as if that all wasn't enough, we decided to try the rice pudding for dessert. Again this was a modern twist on a classic and we loved with they did with it. They served the rice pudding warm and it was filled with cranberries and pistachios on top and you could taste a lovely hint of vanilla. MMmmmmmm, delicious. I would definitely recommend Queenshead to everyone. Oh, lest I forget, the service there was great!

The Queenshead Restaurant and Bar

2501 Central Avenue
St Petersburg, FL 33713

The Queen's Head Eurobar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Courigan's Irish Pub - St Petersburg, FL

My family and I tried Courigan's one afternoon and we enjoyed the simple and relaxing atmosphere to be found there. It is located at One Beach Drive in downtown St Pete, and you would almost miss it if you didn't know it was there. If you are into sports, a couple of tv's are on the walls to catch the game. There are several drafts with the usual Guinness, Smithwick's, Boddingtons, etc. The day we were there, there was just one guy working there and he was doing a great job of taking care of both the bar and the floor.

For lunch, we tried the Reuben sandwiches and the burgers. The Reuben went perfectly with my Smithwick's and I also tried a bite of the burger, which was good. They have a few menu items offering Irish fare, and next time I go I need to try the Shepard's Pie. This is a good place for family or friends to get together and is a nice neighborhood type of establishment.

Courigan's Irish Pub
One Beach Drive
St Petersburg, FL 33701

Courigan's on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gatsby's Restaurant - St Petersburg, FL

Gatsby's is located in Grayl's Hotel right on Beach Drive and offers a nice and relaxing place to enjoy a drink and perhaps to have a bite to eat. My family and I recently dined there and enjoyed a nice spot on the elevated patio, which was perfect to watch people passing by on the sidewalk or to enjoy the view of the trees that were strung with lights across the road. The service there was very good and the staff was extremely friendly and they aimed to please. We ordered drinks and cheese pizza, which turned out to be very good. Next time, I look forward to going back for the great service and for a chance to try out more of their menu items.

Gatsby's Restaurant

340 Beach Drive
St Petersburg, FL 33701

Gatsby's Restaurant on Urbanspoon