Took madre out for her birthday with the Aunt and Uncle Saturday evening to Malio's Prime restaurant located in downtown Tampa's "beer can building" or 400 North Tower. We wanted an early eat to be able to walk over to the Plant Museum and check out the annual Christmas Stroll. Reservations were set for 5pm, parked with ease under the remnants of Kiley Park, just off Ashley Drive downtown, they also have valet. There were only a few occupied tables at this time, they sat us in a HUGE oval booth, perfect for the four of us(very large booths and tables throughout the restaurant, intimate tables for two along the upper tier with window views of the Hillsborough River and University of Tampa minarets..reminded me of a NYC type of place, where the famous and infamous would dine....there is also a large outdoor patio with excellent views of the river, and large bar area). Larry came promptly and greeted us, told us about the place, specials for the day and recommended some wines. Very professional. We started with madre and I splitting the Chop Salad..delicious flavor and presentation, came in a cylinder form, chopped veges with salami and cheese, but not enough for two. Aunt and Uncle split the Beefsteak Tomato and Onion salad, tangy dressing, a whole huge tomato sliced thick, on a bed of field greens, plenty to split. The orders came out very timely, enough time to chat, and savor the salads, and very fresh, steaming hot bread brought to each table. Finally to the steaks, which this place is to be known for...the 20 oz bone in NY Strip covered in Blue cheese was my choice, perfectly cooked, juicy and full of flavor. Uncle chowed down on one of the BEST 16 oz Ribeyes...like eating steak flavored butter..amazing, he exclaimed he found a new steak place(Ruth Chris' was his favorite)..Aunt and Madre both got the 8ox filet, perfectly cooked as well. Sides are all a la carte, huge portion of fresh Asparagus with Hollndaise sauce on the side, Large tower of Onion Rings, lightly battered, crispy and thin, great flavor, a collosal baked potato, and the Macaroni and Cheese, which came in a bowl and plenty for four people. Mr. Ivarone, one of the owners, came by to chat with us, Malio's is just one of a few great places owned by his family. The GM also came by to chat with us as well. Mr. Ivarone insisted that desert be on the house, we split the chocolate decadence, ooozing with chocolate of all kinds. We ate everything, as it was too tasty to leave ANYTHING behind or take home with us. With cocktails, salads, meals and coffee's it came to about $60 per person...not bad considering the professionalism, service, ambiance, and most of all the FOOD! Next time i'm going to grab a table outside if the weather cooperates.
We walked over to the University of Tampa's Plant Museum after dinner, a nice stroll across the Hillsborough River, beautiful views the minarets were all lit up, and the skyscrapers from downtown lit up nicely in the river. They were having their 26th annual Victorian Christmas Stroll, the museum and all the rooms are decorated for the holidays, with vintage holiday decorations(funny seeing things that I remembered as a kid growing up at home in NY), there were Christmas carolers, they gave out free cookies and hot apple cider. It was my first time in the museum, if you ever wanted to see stuff about the history of the area, this is yet another great place. Tampa really has a very rich and unique history for a Florida city, many are not aware of, dating back to the mid 1800's. Lots of old pictures, maps, videos detailing the culture and history, and some insteresting rooms featuring items from that era. One area that moved me was reading the actual letters from soldiers stationed at the Tampa during the Spanish American War, and artifacts on how Tampa was once one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country for the very wealthy in the winters. A MUST if you want to know more about the history and culture of this area.
After leaving the family, I had some friends over the house, we hung out on the patio for a bit, the weather was perfect, and then we walked over to the Green Iguana Westshore for some live music and socializing on the outdoor tiki deck.