Saturday, September 28, 2013

Nicko's Fine Foods - Seminole Heights, FL

This place is pure fun with good, old fashioned diner food.  First, I love eating in boxcar diners.  We have one of the most famous ones, Mickey's Diner in St. Paul, and I miss that.  So, you can imagine how happy I was when I found out we had one here in the Tampa Bay area.  The place was bustling when we went inside, but we were able to snag three stools at the counter.  We were rather amused at the owner who went around performing magic tricks at our spot and all around the diner.  He was very skilled at performing his slights of hand, and there were a lot of laughs.

We tried the eggs and hash browns with toast, a burger and fries, and the chicken souvlaki platter.  All of the food was very good, but the chicken souvlaki was a favorite for all.  This is definitely one place I definitely don't mind driving across the bridge for a weekend morning breakfast.

Nicko's Fine Foods
4603 North Florida Avenue
Tampa, FL  33603

Nicko's Fine Foods on Urbanspoon

The Burg Bar and Grill - Saint Petersburg, FL

This is one of your friendly neighborhood burger joints.  I swear that every time I drive past this place, that it is packed with people.  Granted, the place is small, but inside and out on the sidewalk tables are always full.  The place is comfortable and a good place to relax and stay for a while.  The menu has a few specialties along with some greek menu options and some healthy options, but I just love to have a good, basic cheeseburger.  They are tasty and juicy here and they are served simply with fries in a basket. It doesn't get any better than this.

The Burg Bar and Grill
1752 Central Avenue South
Saint Petersburg, FL  33712

The Burg Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Engine No. 9 - Downtown Saint Petersburg, FL

I am going to come right out and say I really like this place.  I have already been here a few times with my family and what's not to love?  Each of the comfy booths has its own tv, if you need to catch the game or whatever.  There is a bar out front for the big kids who don't want to sit in back.  Did I say you can see red everywhere?  The service is friendly, and the burger choices are awesome.  My favorite burger so far is the Tex Mex melt which is a burger served on Texas Toast with cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce, and crispy onion rings on top.  I like the fries here, but the tator tots are my favorite and they take me back to my childhood.  Does anyone remember tator tot casserole? (or hotdish as we say in Minnesota)  Burgers not your thing?  I have tried the exotic mushroom risotto served with grilled chicken.  I could take or leave the chicken in the risotto, but the risotto itself was pretty darn good.  This is a good choice when you are downtown and in the mood for a good burger.

Engine No. 9
56 Doctor Martin Luther King Jr St N
Saint Petersburg, FL

Engine No. 9 on Urbanspoon

Tap Room at the Hollander Hotel - downtown Saint Petersburg, FL

I have mixed feelings about the Tap Room. I went there on a busy Saturday evening and a few things may have clouded my judgement.  First, we were seated at a booth which shook every single time the booth behind us moved.  They needed to bolt that in better or something.  Second, they had a performer playing awful covers. There is nothing worse I hate than somebody else slaughtering a great song, one after the other.  I know the Tap Room also has some great local singers on certain nights who sing their own music, but no such luck the night I was there.  Third, we had a really lackluster server.  This is the one person who can make or break a dining experience and ours was right on the edge.  This person did what they had to do, and nothing more and no personality.

We all ordered burgers and they were about average on my burger meter.  We had to wait a little longer than we would have preferred to for drinks, which can be a pain when you are sitting with food in hand and nothing to drink.  Overall, the evening was a let down.  I would like to go back and give them another try as I have heard from other people who swear by the place.  Maybe a weekday when they are not so crowded?  Any thoughts out there?

Tap Room at the Hollander
421 4th Avenue North
Saint Petersburg, FL  33701

Tap Room at the Hollander on Urbanspoon

Trip's Diner - Saint Petersburg, FL

Always on the lookout for a weekend breakfast place, I tried Trip's Diner one morning.  Arriving there, I found out this place is popular.  The small parking lot was filled, but there was plenty of street parking and space available in the parking lot across the street.  There was a bunch of people inside and outside the door waiting to be seated, so I put my name on the list and awaited my turn.  Luckily, things seemed to move along pretty smoothly and my family and I were seated in a roomy booth.  I would have loved to sit at one of the old fashioned stools at the counter, but they were in high demand.  There are tables outside if you prefer, because with a crowded house, it can get pretty noisy.

Our friendly but no nonsense server was quick to take our order and pour our coffee.  We decided to order a pancake, a burger and fries, a mushroom, cheese, and scallion omelette with home fries, grits, and a biscuit on the side.  I am gonna go with what I didn't like first.  The pancake tasted good the first couple of bites, but then quickly turned rubbery.  This is usually a sign of a boxed mix or pancake batter that has been over mixed.  Either way, I didn't like it.  The burger was just okay and I didn't like the spicy fries that came with it, but spicy fries are a matter of preference.  Now, let me get to the good stuff.  First, our coffee cup was never empty.  I loved my omelette, and the home fries and grits were out of this world.  I had heard a lot of good things about the those three things and I am happy to say they lived up to my expectations.  I will definitely be back to explore some more items on the menu and I need to try a repeat performance of the menu items I loved.

Trip's Diner
2339 9th Street North
Saint Petersburg, FL  33704

Trip's Diner on Urbanspoon

La Creperia Cafe - St Petersburg, FL

Feeling a wee bit hungry for crepes, and too lazy to make them myself, I headed over to La Creperia in the Grand Central neighborhood of St Petersburg.  There is parking in the street or a parking lot available.  Orders for crepes are taken at the Airstream window.  After placing your order, you can grab a table outside or there is a little building next to the the Airstream that has air conditioned seating.  I tried a nutella crepe, which is always a winner.  Also, I tried the Madame Suzette, which was not to my taste, as it was too sour.  Finally, to balance out all that sugar, I tried a savory crepe.  I decided on the La Paris with chicken, feta cheese, spinach, and red peppers for filling.  This crepe was my favorite of all.  I love sweet crepes, but I would gladly give them up for La Paris.  How fitting, as Paris is one of my favorite places in the world.  All in all, I had a great experience and I was inspired to get my crepe pan out more often.

La Creperia Cafe
2901 Central Avenue
Saint Petersburg, FL  33713
La Creperia Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Boca Kitchen Bar Market - Hyde Park (Tampa), FL

A long Labour day weekend on our hands, the family and I made a trip over to Boca in Tampa for Saturday brunch.  We had long heard great things about Boca, but we just had to make the trip when we heard Andrew "Wilko" Wilkins has joined them as general manager.  For those of you who don't know Wilko, he brought us the awesome dining experience that is the St Pete Brasserie and others.  We knew he would be part of something awesome, so with that in mind, we went to check Boca out.

We were met at the door by the parking valet as Boca offers complimentary parking.  Boca is a very rustic looking place that is casual and relaxing.  We were shown to a table and I loved the cute little potted basil that was on our table.  We ordered a beer for the gentleman and I ordered a Huckleberry Hound from the craft cocktail menu.  The drink was a mixture of blueberries, ginger, lime, and vodka.  I thought the addition of ginger to the cocktail was very refreshing.  On our server's suggestion, we started off with an order of the Apricot Mega muffins served with caramelized apple butter.  Each order comes with three muffins and they are HUGE.  They were very yummy, and we had leftovers to take home as it was way more than we could eat for a starter.  On to the main course....

We tried the OMG Prime House Burger which is served with their own special sauce, lettuce, tomato, pickled onions, white cheddar, and a side of fries.  No wonder why it is called an OMG burger because it was absolutely delicious.  It was tender, smoky, and my idea of a perfect burger.  It seemed hard to top the burger, but my smoked corned beef hash served with my choice of scrambled eggs, and fried potatoes and peppers was a winner.  If you haven't ever had the pleasure of smoked corned beef, this is the place to try it.  I have to say the servings are large, so unless you have a real hearty appetite, these are leftovers you will be happy to take home.  By the end, I couldn't eat another bite, but I had to try the Honey Badger drink, which was a great end to my meal. I definitely have Boca in mind for many future brunches.

Boca Kitchen-Bar-Market
901 West Platt St
Tampa, FL  33606

Boca Kitchen Bar Market on Urbanspoon