Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jo-Jo's Citta - downtown St Petersburg, FL

After dinner at The Garden, my husband and I wanted to have another glass of wine and to try some dessert, so we headed across the street to Jo-Jo's Citta. Jo-Jo's is not fancy, but casual Italian, and a good, solid place to have comfort food and not break the wallet. It had just rained, and was rather nice outside, being June in Florida, so we grabbed a table outside on the sidewalk. The waiter was quick to bring us the menu, and didn't bat an eye when we said we were just there for wine and dessert, I am happy to say.

We ordered a glass of chianti and the chocolate mousse cake and one canolli. I do not think you can ever go wrong when ordering chocolate cake and canolli for dessert, and Jo-Jo's was no exception. The desserts were decadent and a perfect end to our evening!

Jo-Jo's Citta
1 Progress Plaza
St Petersburg, FL 33701

Jo-Jo's Citta on Urbanspoon

The Garden - downtown St Petersburg, FL

I had a very pleasant dining experience there the other night. I went there on a Monday night with my family, and we grabbed a booth, just inside the main door next to the bar. It was a very relaxing room to sit in and was nice with oldies music playing softly in the background. Our server was quick to take our drink order. I went with the house white zinfandel, while my husband went with the house cabernet. While relaxing with our drinks, we looked over the menu.

It was a very easy choice for us to make our menu picks. My husband went for the pesto pasta, which he loves. For myself, the mushroom lover, I went with the penne that was served with a brandy, onion, and porcini cream sauce. My son was easy to predict, he went for the burger and fries. Both of the pastas were vegetarian, so my husband and I were able to enjoy each other's pasta, but I enjoyed my mushroom penne the best. I tried a bite of my son's cheeseburger, which I loved, and we all agreed that the fries were real good. Again, it was a nice atmosphere and a good place to unwind. The only thing I maybe would have liked is some more wine choices. Next time, I need to try it on a Friday or Saturday night when they are playing live Jazz music. Per the Gardens website, trombonist Buster Cooper has been playing there since 1995 and he is someone not to be missed!

The Garden and The Lobby

217 Central Avenue
St Petersburg, FL 33701

Garden on Urbanspoon

Il Panificio - Sarasota, FL

This is a great place to stop in and have a slice of pizza, or a whole pie is even better! After an interesting morning at the Ringling museum, my son and I were ready for lunch. We wanted to do something easy, so we opted for easy dining at Il Panificio. This is a market/bakery/deli, and it makes you hungry the minute you walk in the door. I headed straight for the display cases that housed the pizza and bakery items. I decided to go for a slice of the mushroom and cheese, while my son went for a slice of the cheese pizza. While waiting for our slices, we went over to the coolers full of soda and made our drink selection. It was nice to see that they offered a number of sodas that you don't usually see in the grocery stores.

After a short wait, we got our slices and grabbed a stool at one of the bar tables that are situated inside. There is outside seating, but the end of June in Florida is not my favorite time of year to sit outside. The pizza was delicious with a thin crust and just the right amount of tomato sauce. One slice is more than filling, but it is so good that you just might want to have a second. I don't make it over to Sarasota often enough, but this is a good place to stop when you want good pizza, without the fuss. Also, it is a cool place with the brick walls, old photos, and a hodge podge of market items for sale throughout the market.

Il Panificio
1703 Main Street
Sarasota, FL 34236

Panificio on Urbanspoon

Ringling Museum on a Budget - Sarasota, FL

One of my favorite places to go to in Sarasota is the Ringling museum. Even if you know the bare minimum about art, like me, one is awed as you travel from room to room throughout the art museum. I always feel it is an excellent learning opportunity for my son and me as we notice how art evolves and changes through the centuries. The museum also offers special exhibitions, so check online frequently to make sure that you don't miss out on something special. If you have time, explore the Ca d'Zan, the mansion built for John and Mable Ringling. It is fun to step back in time and see how they lived. If weather is permitting, the grounds are beautiful to explore. There are a couple of dining options for casual or fine dining, if you want to break up you visit and relax between exploring.

Another nice tidbit to know, if you are on a budget, the Ringling art museum is free on Monday's. The Ca d'Zan is not free, so you will have to pay for that, but it is worth every penny to see it. If you can't make it on a Monday, tickets are $25 for adults, and $10 for children 6-17. So, as you can see, in this tight economy and summer vacation upon us, this is a great opportunity to get out and see some art.

Ringling Museum

5401 Bayshore Road
Sarasota, FL 34243

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Agave Restaurant - St Pete Beach, FL

Wow! My family and I recently tried this restaurant after hearing a friend mention it and we were really impressed. Agave is this little hole in the wall restaurant on Gulf Blvd., that one might pass by, unless you were really looking for it. It is very small inside, but a friendly atmosphere. We were greeted warmly at the door, and as it was the middle of the afternoon, we were told chose to pick a table of our choice.

I ordered a margarita on the rocks, which was one of the best margaritas I have had lately. We were served some tortilla chips that came with several hot sauces and salsa for dipping. Some of them were quite hot, but delicious. I decided to go with the chicken enchiladas, as I seem to be on a enchilada kick lately. They were served with salsa verde, and were awesome. Along with them, I had beans and rice. My son went with the shredded beef tacos, and my husband had a quesadilla and they were both good. This place is a real gem not to be missed in St Pete Beach. Just make sure you look up the address before going so you don't miss it.

Agave Restaurant
6400 Gulf Blvd
St Pete Beach, FL 33706

Agave on Urbanspoon

Casa Tina - Dunedin, FL

My family and I were in the area on a weekday (getting the car fixed) and being hungry, we headed over to Dunedin to have a late lunch. We decided to try Casa Tina. I have always wanted to try it, but usually when we are in Dunedin, we are there to listen to live music and we always find ourselves pressed for time and Casa Tina is usually packed, so we always have to pass it by. Luckily, this was the middle of the afternoon, so there were just a few people inside, and we were able to pick a table of our choice along the wall. The restaurant itself is a colorful feast for the eyes and just seems like a fun place to hang out. After placing our orders, my son and I got up and walked around to look at all the pictures and all the skeletal figurines, which was fun and interesting for both of us.

I ordered a margarita on the rocks and my husband went with a beer. Along with those, we were served some good tortilla chips and salsa. While looking at the menu, we were impressed to see a good number of the dishes could be made with vegetables, rather than meat, so it is very vegetarian friendly. I decided have a beef enchilada with salsa roja, my husband went with a vegetarian quesadilla, while my son went for a beef quesadilla. I was very happy with my enchiladas, and I got to try my husband's and son's food, which was also very delicious. The service was very attentive here and we look forward to coming back.

Casa Tina's

369 Main Street
Dunedin, FL

Casa Tina on Urbanspoon

Red Mesa - 4th Street St Petersburg, FL

I went with my son on a busy Friday night to try the Red Mesa on Fourth Street. We had about a twenty minute wait, but like I always say, that is a good sign when people are waiting to eat the food. I don't want to walk into an empty restaurant, unless it is outside of the normal lunch or dinner hour. After our short wait, we were seated at one of the tables in the middle of the restaurant, which gave me a good view all around. The appearance of the restaurant is rather low-key, and nothing too out of the box. However, the appearance of the restaurant was the only thing that was low-key, because the food was absolutely great.

I ordered one of the margaritas on the rocks, which was nice. Along with our drinks, we had a basket of tortilla chips and salsa that was also good. I decided to order the chicken enchiladas, which turned out to be a good choice. I loved the fact that one of the enchiladas is covered in salsa roja and one in salsa verde, so that I had a lovely flavor combination. Beans and rice were served along with the enchiladas. My son had the shrimp tacos, which were very tasty. Overall, we had a lovely experience and I have a reason to venture up 4th Street more often.

Red Mesa

4912 4th Street North
St Petersburg, FL 33703

Red Mesa Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Enchiladas and Margaritas....

Lately, in the mood for enchiladas, I tried enchiladas at three different restaurants in the Tampa Bay area. Also, I tried the margaritas in all three places. I tried them all in the span of about a week. I had to say I had a great experience at all three places I dined. The three places I ate at were the Red Mesa on 4th Street in St Pete, Casa Tina in Dunedin, and the Agave Restaurant in St Pete beach. I look forward to talking about these restaurants in my next three posts.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Daily Eats - Tampa, FL

I think I have finally found my new, favorite breakfast place in Tampa's Soho District - Daily Eats. My family and I went to try it out on Memorial day and it was packed. We put our name on the list and had about a twenty minute wait to get a table. During our time there, there was constantly a line of people waiting for a table. Although it is no fun waiting for a table, I always figure it is a good sign that I will be eating good food. While waiting, I also noticed the drink specials on the board featured a blueberry mimosa, which I had never tried before, but knew I would be trying today.

After our short wait, we were seated at one of the booths and our drink orders were taken. The blueberry mimosas were delicious and a nice change from traditional OJ mimosas that are also on the menu here. I decided to order the Tijuana breakfast bowl and a short stack of pancakes. The Tijuana breakfast bowl is nicely spiced vegetarian chili and eggs served over home fries. I also had sour cream and jalapeno peppers added. This was very good and satisfied my need for something spicy to start the day. I loved the pancakes and they were nice and fluffy with a hint of cinnamon. My husband opted to go with the greek omelette, which I also thought was very nice and substantial. Along with that he had grits that were tasty and not watered down like some places. My son went for a burger and fries. He enjoyed his burger, but I didn't try a bite of his burger because as kids will sometime do, it was rather smothered in ketchup, so I didn't really think I would be able to taste the burger underneath all the ketchup.

All in all, I really loved the vibe of the place, and the food was delicious. Daily Eats has an extensive menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so I will definitely be back there. Like I said previously, it is busy, so be prepared to wait for a table, especially on weekend mornings. However, the food is well worth the wait.

Daily Eats
901 South Howard Avenue
Tampa, FL 33606
(813) 868-3335

Daily Eats on Urbanspoon