The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

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    The Restaurants at My End of the Universe Tampa Bay restaurants

Tin Drum Asian Cafe


Tin Drum AsianCafe just opened up Friday in Oldsmar.  It’s a chain restaurant serving up a variety of Asian dishes from street tacos, to noodle dishes to a few Indian offerings.  The atmosphere is supposed to make you feel like you’re in a street cafe.  There were some long communal tables, music rocking in the background, and a noise level that made us decide to get our food to go.

They had already run out of several appetizers, so we settled on one of the crab & cheese spring rolls, a teriyaki stirfry for me and a spinach ginger salad for Loren.

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The spring roll was basically a crab rangoon in a wonton wrapper.  It was crispy and tasty.  Loren was a little disappointed in his salad.  Although the ingredients were fresh, he expected much more of a ginger flavor since “ginger” was in the title of the dish.  There wasn’t any fresh ginger in the salad and the only ginger flavor came from the dressing.  He also said the chicken was underseasoned.

The teriyaki chicken had a tasty sauce on it, but the veggies were few & far between.  It was supposed to have cabbage, mushrooms, carrots & onions but there just wasn’t much of it in the container.  Overall, it felt like a small portion compared to what you get at other restaurants in the area.  Don’t get me wrong, it was flavorful and fresh, and the chicken was tender, but there was nothing about the experience that completely wow’d us.  They have a different special going on every day this week since it’s their opening week and one our entrees was half price, so total bill with a drink was $18.

Tin Drum Asian Cafe
3689 Tampa Rd
Oldsmar, FL
813-855-8819

Tin Drum on Urbanspoon

Food3/5
Service3/5
Atmosphere2/5
Value3/5
2.9/5

Open for Dinner


We were happy to discover that Johnny Grits now opens for dinner Wednesday-Saturday until 8pm. We got there around 7pm and they weren’t very busy which made for a nice, quiet dinner experience.  We started off with the pasta purses and the andouille sausage, onion and provolone grit skillet.

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These little bundles of goodness are stuffed with three cheeses and a pear puree that added a hint of unexpected sweetness to every bite.  They were served in a bacon and tomato brown butter sauce.  I would have liked more sauce on the dish, but otherwise they were pretty tasty.

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The grits had just a little bit of cheese on them. :-)  Nice flavors, but the onions weren’t cooked quite enough and it definitely needed more salt.   Our entrees came with soup or salad and I couldn’t pass up the mushroom soup.

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After tasting the soup, I think Loren will think twice next time about ordering a salad.  It was delicious.  Creamy with chunks of mushroom and an amazing flavor.  Yum!  For his entree, Loren tried tonight’s steak special.

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The steak was cooked perfectly, but overall the dish was under seasoned.  The wine sauce just didn’t have the depth of flavor he was hoping for, but with a little salt & pepper added, he ate every last bit that was on the plate. I went for the southern chicken hash and was a little surprised at what actually came out of the kitchen.

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The menu described it as a pan seared chicken breast with diced potatoes, sausage, mushrooms, caramelized onions, in a sherry wine cream sauce.  That’s not quite what showed up, though I didn’t complain because what was on the plate was quite good.  The mashed potatoes were homemade and quite happy to be dunked in the cream sauce which was delicious.  Besides a few missteps on seasoning, the food was quite tasty.  Total bill with a drink was $43.

Johnny Grits
857 E. Klosterman Rd
Tarpon Springs, FL
727-942-4748

Johnny Grits on Urbanspoon

Food4/5
Service4/5
Atmosphere4/5
Value4/5
4.0/5

Pizza


There are a lot of little restaurants tucked away on the side streets in downtown Safety Harbor and tonight we made our way over to Pizzeria Gregario. They must have had a line waiting when they opened because we were there pretty early and all of the inside tables were already occupied. Luckily, it was a beautiful evening and the outside tables were in the shade.

Their menu is on the wall as you walk in and then you order at the counter & they bring the food out to you.  Loren started off with a salad.

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Honestly, I’ve never heard him rave about a salad as much as he did about this one.  It had a little bit of this & that and seasoned perfectly as far as he was concerned.  I think he would go back just for the salad.  Loren made the mistake of getting a GuS soda which is supposed to be a not too sweet “grown-up soda”.  It was quite awful tasting.  We also ordered a side of meatballs.

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He liked them more than I did.  They were well seasoned, but I didn’t find them moist enough for my taste.  The sauce was a bit on the loose side as well.  It had the flavors, just not quite the texture I was after.  That little gator in the background was our table designation.  He looked like he was ready to eat everything brought to the table.  For our pizza, we went with the mushroom.

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It was ok, but neither of us would be tempted to order it again.  The crust was good, but it has a gremolata on top and with every bite the lemon zest overpowered all of the other flavors.  Lemon and pizza just isn’t a combination that worked for us.   Overall, the food was fresh, and we may go back & try a different pizza at some point.  If nothing else, Loren would be happy just to have more salad.  Total bill with a drink was $33.

Pizzeria Gregario
400 2nd Street North
Safety Harbor, FL
727-386-4107

Pizzeria Gregario on Urbanspoon

Food3/5
Service3/5
Atmosphere3/5
Value3/5
3.0/5

Where’s the Panini?


Panini’s Grill recently opened up in Westchase.  Silly me, I thought a restaurant named Panini’s Grill was actually going to serve paninis.  Instead, we perused the big menu and ended up ordering a chicken club and a cheese steak.

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As it turns out, this is just another generic chain restaurant.  Their claim to fame is some monstrosity of an overstuffed sandwich that has french fries and slaw on the sandwich itself.  Our sandwiches were ok, but nothing that would make us feel the need to return.  Total bill with a drink was $23.

Panini’s Bar & Grill
12227 West Linebaugh Ave
Tampa, FL
813-855-4600

Paninis Grill on Urbanspoon

Food3/5
Service3/5
Atmosphere3/5
Value3/5
3.0/5

Sunday Morning


We finally figured out the right time to visit the Brick House Tavern, 11:30am on a Sunday morning.  No crowds, no noise and the service was a lot better than the last time we were here.  Loren got the Blue Water Mahi sandwich while I ordered the crispy duck hash off of the brunch menu.

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He said the mahi was perfectly cooked and the marinated cucumbers added an interesting flavor.   I kept stealing tots of his plate.  I wanted to like the crispy duck hash much more than I did.  Unfortunately, someone in the kitchen went a bit heavy on both the salt and pepper so it became increasingly more difficult to eat with every bite.  There was nothing actually crispy about the duck, but had the seasoning not been overwhelming, it would have made for a tasty dish.  Total bill with a drink was $31.

Brick House Tavern and Tap
28795 US 19 N
Clearwater, FL
(727) 726-6352

Brickhouse Tap And Tavern on Urbanspoon

Food3/5
Service3/5
Atmosphere3/5
Value3/5
3.0/5