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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