Saturday, September 29, 2007

VICTORIOUS USF BULLS; Hyde Park Art Fest, and Lunch in Hyde Park

What a night, What a game! The euphoric feeling was everywhere in Tampa last night. Being an Alumni, and going to most games since day one, this is what we look forward to, these victorious happenings..coach Jim Leavitt is amazing, the City of Tampa is so proud, and there are lots of new Bulls fans all over the Bay area! Makes me want to go back to USF just for the student rush that's happening on campus.
After the game, we headed over to the Green Iguana Westshore, by 1am, the place was packed, Bulls fans everywhere, and those that were new to the Bulls rage congratulating everyone. It's amazing what a football game can do to people, uplifting spirits, strangers hugging strangers, high fives all around.

Today we got out to the Annual Hyde Park Art Festival, it was a nice crowd, and good breeze on this late September warm day. It was nice to walk around, see some interesting and creative pieces of art, amongst the interesting people. We then walked around Hyde Park area, looking at the historic homes, one of my favorite neighborhoods. With stomachs grumbling after a few hours at the Art Fest, we headed to Howard Ave for lunch, Strings and Rings was only serving a Breakfast Brunch all day, so we went to Evo's for some healthy eats. All their food is fresh, and healthy, very low in fat, no grease of fryers. The Buffalo Chicken Wrap and Thai Chicken Wrap were very filling and flavorful, they have different types of fresh brewed iced teas, and a variety of ketchup flavors for the "AirFries" which are cooked with very hot air, rather than fried...yummy! On the way home we stopped by Pondscapes on the corner of Manhattan Ave and Wallcraft Ave, around the corner from my house, to view the variety of Ponds and Fountains they have on display, actually kicked back for a while in the back area by one of the ponds, very relaxing. They have alot of backyard and outdoor items you normally dont see around.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Finally Got my First Tattoo!

After nearly seven years of procrastinating, I finally got my tattoo, and mostly cause of the bet I made to get one after USF beat Auburn a few weeks back. Check it out!. Went to Ybor City, lots of Tattoo Parlor's there, and just went to a couple of places and finally decided upon Phat Katz Tattoo's on 7th Avenue, mostly cause they could do it at that time, and they were relatively around what I wanted to spend. The girl at the counter was very friendly and explained about the procedure, shrank my design to fit my leg, and the artist "Ozzy" was able to quickly draw it up. I proceeded upstairs, where i thought there would have been separate rooms, but it was one large room, i'm just glad there was only one other person getting a tat, but it also made for good conversation with the other artist and patron. There are windows all around looking out on 7th avenue in Ybor which made some interesting people watching, or they are watching you. Ozzy was very friendly, explained the procedure again and the tools used, the whole process took about 30 minutes, and basically just felt like someone was pulling the hairs from your skin, a little discomfort, but not painful. I was very pleased with the outcome, Ozzy assured me to come back if it needs any attention, but he is moving to New Zealand in November. Ozzy explained the care for my tattoo, but I wish they could have handed me a one-pager that went over the instructions. All in all, a great experience. John and I walked over to Lounge 7-14 to throw some darts and celebrate afterwards. Ybor was a little busy for a Wednesday night, with most stores and bars open.

I'm looking forward to Friday nights game...18 USF vs 5 West Virginia, sold out crowd of nearly 65,000(largest for a Big East Conference game), the Sun trust building downtown will be glowing Green and Gold. We all had a feeling when attending these games 10 years ago something good was going to happen with the Bulls football program, I am proud that I was a there from the start in 1987 when I first moved to Tampa and attended USF, and when the discussions started to turn into actions.
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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tampa on a Tuesday Evening! Hyde Park Cafe is off the List!

Friends flew in from Chicago for work, and wanted to partake on Tampa after a great meeting, so they called upon me to help them with some places to go. One of them used to live here, and loves the Crab Shack on Gandy Blvd in St.Pete, just over the bridge, so we headed there for eats. Typical Florida shack, serving some great crab, a few orders of Dungenous, and King crab were ordered, along with Blue Crab claws, drenched in butter, Maryland Crab Cakes, loaded with crab, very little breading, and raw oysters, huge in in season. All dinners include Salad or Slaw, and choice of potato. Just a very casual, Florida, seafood shack. After a two hour dinner(we took our time, and relaxed, very laid back), it was time to head out on the town...on a Tuesday night. We started at Hyde Park area and the Howard Avenue strip(SOHO)...at nearly 10:30pm, there was nearly no one out and about. MacDintons had an ok crowd, mostly outside, or inside a few were there to listen to Karaoke. Dubliner had a few people, but they only serve beer and wine. Walked by CHEAP, not one person in there, the Corner Bar on Howard and Platt was closed, Mangroves had less than a dozen at the bar. Walking down Platt Ave a little further there were lots of people milling around by midnight, Hyde Park Cafe had a small line, what confuses me is how can a place in Tampa dare to have a Velvet Rope, and select people to go in. I know this is a busy night for Hyde Park Cafe, but it just turns me off to see something like this in of all places Tampa, we are Not LA or Miami. There were less than a dozen people outside, there were several lines, one for women, one for guest lists, one for if you were to drop $300 for a table, and one for the visitors and locals. We were told we could not go in because one of us had sandals(be it nice sandals), but saw a group of other guys walk right in with sandals, only to be told by Manager Mario that they reserved a $300 table, so they can wear what they want. Well, I can tell you that as much as I used to like this place, it isn't worth all this trouble to stand behind a velvet rope(just silly in Tampa), be told when I can go in(with hardley a crowd inside yet), and that I cant go in because of sandals, and I didn't purchase a $300 table, yet I see all the ladies walking in with Flip Flops..this is Florida, right? So we walked over to the Rack, where there was a very lively crowd, billiards, and sushi, and enjoyed spending over $250 for all of us. Hyde Park Cafe is officially off my list of places to patronize. Leaving the guys on their own, they ventured off to Tampa's finest - Mons Venus, and a few other strip clubs via Taxi. I had to work in the morning!

Monday, September 17, 2007

South Tampa Sandwichs - Pane Rusitca!

Had some YUMMY sandwich's at Pane Rustica in South Tampa on MacDill Ave, just north of El Prado Blvd. Boy what a treat, such a great place as far as atmosphere, cool tunes playing, a lively well appointed dining area, you get on line and pick from numerous sandwich's and salads, fresh baked breads, and take a seat number and grab a seat. They bring out Mile High sandwiches, the Roast Beef and Turkey sandwiches we ordered were colossal, and very fresh, and come with a few herb roasted potatoes and a marinated olive(wish we could get more olives with the sandwich). For the same price as going to Panera, you are getting non-corporate Mom and Pop type attitude, service, and freshness within a great atmosphere. The pizza's are good, but kind of pricey for such thin crust slices. They also do a sit down style dinner, and the food is just as good as lunch.
Work takes me to NYC this week, then some play time in Manhatten for the weekend, be back Sunday!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Wedding Shower and a Real Fight!

I was invited to a wedding shower up in Lakeland Saturday, it was interesting to drive about 35 minutes out of Tampa and be immersed in what I felt was like a very rural, Southern Georgia gathering, with very Christian southern folks, celebrating their engagement amongst family and friends of their Church. They were all so kind, with alot of Southern Hospitality.
Afterwards, we went to the RFC(Real Fighting Championships) at the USF SunDome. Thanks to TampaGold.com, we were able to get Complimentary tickets. There were about 10 fights, the Main Event went all 5 rounds, just a couple of guys beating the crap out of each other, punching, kicking, wrestling in a caged round. Nice!
Its' been a while since I was up in the USF area of Tampa, and we were hungry after the fights and found Gator's Dockside on Fowler Ave just East of 56th Street. What a great find, open sports bar/restaurant with outdoor seating, and lots of big screen tv's. The menu was huge, we started with Gator Tail, and ordered Gyros, a Mulfaletta Sandwich and Wrap which were each very good. A great find for sure.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Tampa Dinner, St. Pete Live Music

Took Lisa out for her Birthday last night, we decided on a favorite in Hyde Park, Bella's for Italian. Arrived at around 7pm, complimentary valet parking. The bar area was packed, we were seated immediately, and of course given the complimentary Bruschetta as always for a start. We shared the 1/2 chop salad, chopped crisp greens, small pasta, diced chicken in a delicious Italian dressing. The Meza Luna pasta, stuffed with Asparagus, Prosciutto and cheese that I ordered was delicious, although I saked for a Vodka Sauce instead of the plain tomato cream sauce, and they tacked on $5(my Laughing Cat fav in Ybor always lets you vary the menu to your liking without an charge), but it was delicious. Lisa enjoyed her Chicken Marsala, two breasts of chicken, lots of mushrooms, and a side of Broccoli.
We wanted to hear some live music, and Lisa has been raving about Matt Winter, he was playing at Dan Marino's Martini Bar at Bay Walk in downtown St. Petersburg. It was a quick 25 min ride to Bay Walk, a great crowd was hanging out in the Martini Bar, with the Matt Winter band playing above the bar. Plays alot of covers(Dave Matthews, Oasis, Sublime), also has many great originals..I now have another local band to follow that were very entertaining, Lisa got to chat with Matt afterwards for a bit, and we had lots of laughs with the drummers wife who was hanging out with us at the bar.
They only played until 10pm, so we headed back to Tampa, and hit up our local favorite, Green Iguana Westshore, walking distance to my house. The very friendly John and Theresa were manning the bar outside in the Tiki area, there was a lively crowd, and of course a great entertaining band inside. We kicked back and enjoyed the people watching, and chatted with several people(it seems you can never go to the Green Iguana without ending up talking to someone for the first time).
We got a call from some friends to meet up at City Side for a late cocktail, so we cabbed it there, and spent the last few hours of the night socializing with the ever so Happy alternative crowd at City Side...I really like the VJ there, he plays some great tunes.

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Sunday, September 9, 2007

We Are the BULLS, We Are the BULLS; We Are, We Are, We Are the BULLS!

Just to make a note.....Big East SOUTH FLORIDA BEATS SEC AUBURN 26-23 in OT. My brother went to Auburn, and always said USF was just a rinky dink little commuter school, that would never amount to anything, and doesn't know why I never went to a great Football College like Auburn. Well, in only 11 years, USF has done alot with it's football program, and watching the game last night, although frustrating at times(5 Auburn turnovers, with no points made, and three USF missed field goals) gave USF alumni, students and the Tampa community something else to cheer about. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season. GO BULLS!
Now I need to find a place to get my tatoo I promised myself if USF won(the 'U' insignia on my lower leg).

Saturday, September 8, 2007

St. Pete's First Friday

Decided after a rough work week to head across the bay to St. Petersburg's monthly First Friday event which is held downtown on Central Ave between 2nd and 3rd streets. The downtown was hopping with lots of people walking around the many great dining, drinking, art, and entertainment options the St. Petersburg's downtown has to offer. We went for Sushi first and came upon Bangkok, on Central Ave and 6th Street. Great atmosphere in this small Thai restaurant, at 8pm , there were a few open tables, but it quickly filled up as the night progressed. We started with some Spring Rolls, that although very small in size, were delicious. Edamame was as expected, and the rolls were some of the freshest, Spider, Dragon and Spicy Tuna. I also tried Ped Panang, crispy duck in a curry/coconut sauce with veges. Very good! Tender duck, the sauce with best over the rice and veges as well.
We then walked down to the First Friday area, and I showed my friend John the area(his first time), Mastry's for strong cheap drinks, then The Garden, The Lobby had a DJ playing Lounge type music. Outside, there was a great Jazz band, and it made for an excellent social scene, with lots of people watching. One thing about St. Pete is how laid back and casual everything is, shorts and flip flops all the way, and there are plenty of places to visit. We stopped by Bishop Tavern where the band was starting to set up, and played air hockey in the Tamiami Bar, which is connected to the oldest outdoor concert venue on Florida, Jannus Landing. There was a free concert in Jannus Landing, and excellent Reggae band called Elevate, jamming to about a few hundred people in the courtyard. For some reason it was particualry dry this evening, with a nice breeze, seems fall is just around the corner. We took a walk a few blocks to the waterfront, with great views of the Marina and Pier.
On the way back to Tampa, I was craving a Club Sandwich, and since we dont have many 24 hour diners, we stopped at Village Inn, where the club sandwich was ok.

Looks like College and Pro-Football are getting into gear this weekend, so after some yard work, will be watching the USF Bulls(my Alma Mater) at Auburn this evening, and then of course the Bucs at Seattle Sunday.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Lenny's Sub Shop in Tampa.

Im a huge sandwich fan, and coming from Long Island, I long for great Hero type sandwiches(or subs, hoagies, etc.). There have been a few I have been to that make a good sandwich here in South Tampa, but I tried Lenny's on Kennedy Blvd, just east of Lois Ave. HUGE colossal size subs, fresh baked bread daily, and meats/cheeses sliced fresh when you order(not pre-sliced), and piled high. I got the Club(Provolone, Roast Beef, Turkey, Ham and Bacon---lots of bacon.....Toppings include all the regular fixins, and a unique hot pepper sauce that is a MUST. If its deli fresh subs(hoagies, heros, etc.), with tons of fresh meat and cheeses, then Lenny's is the place. There are lots of seating available, I can only guess they do a huge Lunch crowd. They have another shop in North Tampa also.

Monday, September 3, 2007

A Tampa Labor Day Weekend!

While many of my friends went out of town this long weekend, I decided to make the most of Tampa this weekend. From a limo ride to Columbia Restaurant, Breakfast at Mama's Kitchen, to Off-Road Biking in Flatwoods, to a Beach Party in Ybor, it was a great long weekend.

Saturday night, my friend Chrissie was coming into town to visit her sister and their friends as the ladies were all turning 40 this year. They got a Limo for the evening fun, and invited me to go along. We were picked up and headed to Ybor City, and the Columbia Restaurant, a Tampa icon, it is the oldest Spanish restaurant in Florida, since 1905. Lots of history and many famous have passed through this very ornate and architecturally grand structure on 7th Ave in Ybor. Our reservation for dinner included the Flamenco show. It has been a few years since I had enjoyed dinner here, and it seems it has gotten a bit pricey over those years, with most dinners ranging from 17 to 30 dollars, not including a salad. The portions are very generous, we shared plates ranging from the perfectly marinated roast pork with plantains, Canneloni stuffed with lobster, crab and shrimp, many Tapas plates, Calamari, and of course the famous 1905 salad. The food was very good, and service professional. The show was very entertaining, old time Spanish Flamenco dancers during dinner. One thing I thought about was how unique Ybor City is, and the history this National Landmark has, that Tampa needs to look at bringing in more entertainment type venues in this area to show off the culture and rich immigrant history that is so unusual around most parts of Florida, and special to Tampa.
The ladies then wanted some lounge type atmosphere, and there is nothing much to offer in Ybor, unfortunately, for the well dressed, almost 40 year old women, so it was off to Hyde Park, and Mangrove's on Howard Ave. A DJ was set up in the upstairs, and we found a quiet spot downstairs near the bar where they had separate booths. After a cocktail there, it was off to a more lively, laid back place, the Dubliner. A live band was crankin great 90's tunes to a hip crowd, very casual with the outdoor and indoor area for relaxing and socializing. Only problem here was it is strictly beer and wine, some of them wanted to continue drinking liquor drinks. Getting close to 1am, our last stop was Green Iguana Westshore. they have expanded this place a bit inside, there was a very lively crowd, and great bar staff. The band was very entertaining, and having an opportunity to relax outside under the Tiki bar, and inside watching the band was a great choice, the ladies thought this was the best place we went all night. You can't go too wrong with a local favorite like Green Iguana, especially the original one on Westshore Blvd.

Sunday, thinking about some breakfast we made a run for Mama's Kitchen on South Dale Mabry near MacDill AFB. I had seen this place, but never been and wanted to try it out, since I try to find some great diner type places in the area. And Mama's Kitchen lived up to what I love about the small type diners. Breakfast served all day, and the typical diner type items on the menu, I onloy wish they were open 24 hours. The Biscuits and Gravy came out on a large plate with two fresh buttermilk biscuits with I'd say enough thick Sausage gravy for at least 4 people. The omelets were light and stuffed with toppings of choice. Fast, friendly and good. I found another diner type in the South Tampa area and I will be goign back.
After a hearty breakfast, we got the bikes on the back of my truck and headed for the Flatwoods/Wilderness Park to do some Off-Road biking. Ive wrote about these areas before, we parked at the Trout Creek Park area where the most trails are located. Some of the trails were closed due to the heavy rains we had been having, but it is so quiet, and serene biking through all the various types of topography found in Florida(wetlands, srubs, pine barrens, palmettos, sand, etc.). Various wildlife we saw today was some snakes, turtles, and the tracks made from the wild boar.
A quick nap, and it was out to Ybor City again, the go to Chruchills Nightclub on 7th Ave for a special Labor Day Beach Party. Prior to starting the night, we stopped at Samurai Blue for some Sushi. The place was very busy, as was Ybor City in general for this holiday Sunday evening. A couple of seats at the sushi bar were open. The rolls were not as I had expected from the numerous times I had been there before. The prices here seemed to have gone up as well, and for Sushi, I wasn't pleased with the texture and flavor, the ambiance though is first rate, but it left me disappointed food wise. Churchill's is a 3 Level club, the 2nd floor is more loungy with the outdoor balcony overlooking 7th Ave, and with the 3rd level being a rooftop over looking all of Tampa and Ybor and the open sky. There were lots of people that showed up late in the evening, the music was very clubby. All in all it was a fun Sunday night.

We wrapped up the weekend going to see the new Jason Statham/Jet Li movie "War" at Muvico's Centro Ybor Theaters(wow, I was in Ybor much of the weekend)..the movie was just ok, I was expecting bigger and better fight scenes with more martial arts. After the movie, we went for a quick bite in Ybor, only to find out on this Labor Day, that almost all the restaurants were closed---Mema's Tacos, Carmines, Gaspar's, Elmer's, Silver Ring Cafe, all CLOSED! Not good, as I saw MANY tourists, and locals alike wandering around Ybor, with most stores and shoppes closed on this Labor Day. I found that to be pretty disappointing that the district would decide not to make open for business when most people want to get out and explore on their day off. We did go to Hawk's Sports Cafe on Bay to Bay Blvd in South Tampa, a great sports bar, very neighborhood friendly type place, great wings, burgers and sandwiches.

This busy short work week brings me to Virginia Beach, haven't been there since I was a kid.

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