Monday, March 30, 2009

CRAZY-BUSY-FUN Tampa Weekend

One of my blogger buddies indicated to me that is was a CRAZY-busy weekend...and indeed it was, as are many....

With the perfect 'spring' weather, on Friday after work, headed out to Tampa's Hyde Park neighborhood and Cork on Howard Avenue across from MacDinton's. With a new large outdoor patio both in the front and side of Cork, there was plenty of room to enjoy some great wine or beers al fresco...and do some great people watching at the HUGE crowds of pretty people all lined up to get into MacDinton's for their Friday Happy Hour...its like a circus on Friday's in MacDinton's, a great time when i was a bit younger..not too much into the crowded, beer fests that occur there on Friday's(by the way, you can ourchase a beer at Cork, and get a wristband to get into MacDintons - no waiting and no paying $10 for a wristband..great deal). Cork has a small menu of mostly Appetizers like cheeses, meats, Bruschetta's, and olive trays that all go great with the large variety of wines by the glass and bottles(very reasonably priced too), and also Salads, and Flat Bread pizza's. They also have a large selection of beers from around the globe. Service was great and friendly, always on top of things. We had several others join us from the mass across the street, and easily they accommodated us all outside. The Crostini's with dips were very tasty to snack on, buttery toasted sliced cuban bread, with Hummus, a Tomato/Garlic and Spinach/Artichoke dip. We ran out of Crostini's for the dips, and immediately our server brought us more, no questions asked. The Portuguese Sausage pizza was also delicious, thin crust, perfect amounts of cheese and delicious sausage.
After a few hours here, we wondered over to the SOHO Tavern on the corner of Howard Ave and Platt Street where we ran into yet more friends...and casual place, full liquor bar, and outside patio along Howard Avenue...with plenty of flat screen tv's throughout to keep up with College Basketball Finals....then it was a quick walk to Mangrove's, only to be rudely told by the door guy that men are not allowed in with Sandals...even though we were dressed with nice Jeans and collared shirts, a pair of nice sandals could not make it in the door. I would figure in these days with the economy, people that were willing to spend some cash on expensive drinks would not be 'shunned' off, but my guess is that Mangrove's feels they can pick and choose who they let in, so things must be going very very well for them...and I say good for them, I understand dress codes, but in Florida, especially Tampa, FL...and the fact that a nicely dressed guy with Sandals can be refused, but scantily dressed woman with barely any shoes on are more than be more Mangrove's for me(EDIT---I talked to Sam the owner, he was VERY VERY VERY apologetic and insists it is NOT their policy to not let anyone with sandals, they want to maintain an 'upscale' atmosphere, but underestand that sandals are a Florida norm with a nice pair of jeans and collared shirt). It was then a ride over to South Tampa Green Iguana to end the night with a great live band, and plenty of fun my sandals.

Saturday, weather couldn't have been better, but wow was it BREEZY with constant 15-20 mile an hour winds. The skies were all clear, and no place better to be than on the Bay to enjoy the annual Air Show that MacDill AFB puts on. Since it is always so crowded down on the base, we went to Hula Bay, off Westshore Blvd, just south of Gandy Blvd. Even better, we caught the 19 Bus just three houses down from my house off Westshore responsible of us. Hula Bay was busy, not too crowded, lots of pretty people along the pool side and cabanas, even though the Bay was very rough, there were boaters out there that had docked along the many slips and docks along Hula Bay. We had a perfect seat to watch the Thunderbirds put on an amazing show, flying over head the restaurant and bar numerous times, lasted over an hour. After the show, some more friends stopped by and we proceeded down to the lower level of Hula Bay to Duke's...another waterfront bar with about a dozen tables, you dont need a reservation for to be seated. We found a nice table, great waterfront view, and an even nicer server, Jessica, who took great care of us this Saturday afternoon. Food was great...HUGE blackened grouper with Blue Cheese, on a very soft potato like roll, thick thick Steak Fries and homeade Claw Slaw was my order...others enjoyed the Lobster Rolls(sushi tempura style), Garlic Shrimp, Grouper Bites, Mahi Mahi, and Chicken Sandwich...all very very good....lots of great fun to be had at Duke's or Hula Bay, professional friendly service...all from the Green Iguana people...getting there by boat, car, foot, bike, or even bathing suits and t-shirts, or nice shorts and a polo shirt..its a come as you are and enjoy....a DJ played pool side at Hula Bay, an excellent guitarist was in Duke's entertaining everyone.

Sunday it was time for Family Fun Day to return, and I met my family at Channelside to take in an early movie since the clouds were still around from a very early Sunday morning thunderstorm, which was clearing up around noon. before my family arrived to Channelside, I went to an Art Show called "Duets", it was in one of the galleries at the Channelside complex and featured art and lyrics from John Lennon and the Beatles and Jerry Garcia....great way to see what exactly alot of the songs they wrote were really all about, and there works were being sold to benefit the Children's Cancer Society....Yoko had many of Lennon's art pieces colored in for the event...there were friendly people there to explain many of the over 150 pieces on display.....Channelside was very busy, two cruise ships were in, so people were milling about everywhere......I don't do many move reviews(I go at least once a week)...but I will say that "I Love You, Man" is a funny, roll in the aisles, laugh out loud kind of movie...we all had a good time with this movie. After the movie, we decided to play tourist and take the StreetCar to Ybor City, about a mile up the road from Channelside, for the annual Italian Festival. The Streetcar was very busy, $5 for all day rides($2.50 all day for Seniors). We made it to Ybor in about 10 minutes, not bad on this authentic vintage streetcar system, which is definitely more for show and tourism than actually transportation.(My uncle mentioned it would have been alot less expensive and easier to maintain if it was just and electric bus line with a dedicated lane like the streetcar), but it was definitely different. Ybor Ciy was VERY busy, the skies had all cleared up, it was dry and breezy, perfect for yet another festival....trying out the Italian Sausage and Peppers, meatballs, Eggplant Fries, Canoli's...and great Italian entertainment. Al Martino was the headliner, seemed most everyone at the festival made sure they got a glimpse at this guy, who was in the Godfather movies, and a huge star in the 60' family new all the songs, you could see many dancing in the streets....and it was interesting to see the authentic Italians from Tampa who were descendants of the immigrants that came over in the late 1800's to work the cigar factories, and there families all together for this annual festival. Before heading back on the streetcar back to channelside, we had some delicious Argentinian dinner at El Puerto on 5th Aveue and 17th Street in Ybor.

Another perfect weekend to a close....hoping that work this week flies by...St. Pete's Festival of States, Grand Prix, First Friday are just some of the happenings coming up this upcoming weekend.

Friday, March 27, 2009


As I work on the back patio today, enjoying this great 'Spring' weather, I am reminded of a few things:
This is the BEST time of Year to be in Tampa - weather, activities, festivals, concerts...
And the AirForce Thunderbirds are LOUD and FAST!!! as they fly over head practicing for this weekend...decisions, decisions for the weekend---

MacDill AirFest
Univ of Tampa GreenFest
Polished Palate Rum Fest in Ybor
Sensory Overload 4.0 in Ybor
Paula Poundstone at the Tampa Performing Arts Center
Italian Festival of the Moving Image - Italian Club in Ybor
Festa Italiana - Ybor City
St. Petersburg Intl Folk Fair - Vinoy Park
Festival of Speed - North Straub Park - St. Pete

On Thursday the St. Pete Grand Prix kicks off with the St. Pete Festival of States Illuminated Night Parade in downtown St. Pete.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Downtown Tampa, Hockey and Ybor

Buddy came back to town from LA this weekend, and finally purchased a condo in Downtown Tampa at Skypoint...beautiful building with plenty of first class amenities, he'll be enjoying one of the bigger one bedroom units on the Western end, overlooking the new Curtis Hixon Park, Museum of Art, Hillsborough River and UT Minarets with incredible sunsets..I look forward to visiting lots! After the big purchase, we all ventured over to Hyde Park Village, and since the weather was perfect, had a nice table outside at Restaurant BT. Lunch here is very good, service prompt and friendly.....mostly salads and a few sandwich's, but it was the Noodle Bowls and Pho that we each tried. Grilled Pork, and Ginger Chicken were both very good, and very large helpings of the noodles and vegetables, but I felt they could have spared a little more was very tasty though. The last day of 'Chalk Walk' was happening, so afterwards we walked around the village, taking a look at some of the very creative designs themed "Tampa's Future", we also stopped by the 'Sweet Treats' shop, took in some homemade fudge and all kinds of great candy, the owner did some remodeling, and added a small lounge type area with couches....very nice.
Saturday night we were invited to the Lightning game, another friend of mine has a Suite, the game went into a shootout, and Atlanta was able to pull this one off tonight. Afterwards, we attempted to take the trolley to Ybor, but the whole Channelside are and streeetcar stops outside the Forum after the game were a quick cab ride up to Ybor, and we ventured out to spots like Spurs, Reservoir Bar - where we met lots of others, and also was busy due to the SkateBoard championships in Tampa this weekend, over to the Ybor Social, and concluding with GBar, and NY NY Pizza....

Monday, March 16, 2009

Another Parade and Sunday Funday!!

After taking the kayak out on the Bay on Thursday, on Friday a large group of us went over to CDB's Southside for some outdoor eats and drinks to end the week on Friday always we get the Chef Rolls(sliced Turkey, Ham and Roast Beef rolled up in Mozzarella Cheese)...and the dinners were actually tastier than usual this time around, (see my past reviews)...seems the tomato sauce was not as sweet, and with chunks of tomato and garlic, no complaints, good food, good service, good company.... and enjoyed the great weather overlooking Westshore Blvd. Afterwards it was a walk next door to the Wooden Door Irish Pub, busier than usual, but a funky crowd, not from the neighborhood.
Saturday was the St. Patricks Night Parade in Ybor City, an annual event for 14 years now. Similar to the Gasparilla Night Parade, but a wee bit more Irish, with some Bag Pipe players,a nd a few Irish floats, but most were the same Krewes out for anther parade through 7th Avenue of Ybor City. We started at the Double Decker, then onto Gaspars Grotto, made it over to Reservoir Bar just as the parade was starting(tried to go to James Joyce Pub, but they had a 49 persons limit in the bar), found a nice table outside of NY NY Pizza as the parade came down 7th Avenue, not crowded at all this year, so we enjoyed some slices, and the parade....during the parade we headed to meet some more friends at the old Adobe Gilas(now called Centro Cantina), the area round Centro Ybor was a little busier...then onto Coyote Ugly, and lastly the Green Iguana. Another successful parade night in Tampa, there were also alot of people in town for the SEC Championships taking place at the Forum in downtown.
Sunday started out with Dim Sum for Sunday Brunch...TC Choys on Howard Avenue in Hyde Park area of South Tampa, does a GREAT job with this Asian treat...chicken feet, tripe, jelly I didn't try any of those...we went for some of the Dumplings, stuffed with all kinds of seafood, pork, and also an Eggplant with Shrimp specialty and Asian Broccoli...very very good, and you know its good when your in an Asian restaurant and most of the clientele are all Asian as well. The carts just keep circling around the tables, servers are VERY friendly to explain all the Dim Sum being served on the cart.
Sunday afternoon led to Sunday Funday went a buddy of mine sent out the following text message: "I just checked the weather report and guess what, it's perfect BEER DRINKING AFTERNOON...where we goin?" so we all headed out to Four Green Fields, kind of empty at 3pm, but by 530pm it was getting very busy..we sat out on the front porch of this very authentic Irish Pub, with views fo downtown (the thatched roof was actually imported from Ireland), and there was live Irish music buddies wanted me to take them some place they never been, and I thought, where is the seediest joint in town...the Ki Ki Ki III on Kennedy Blvd, an alternative bar, very dark(no windows, the only light from because the door was propped open), one pool table, a juke box, smokey, and some not so distinguished people, good enough for a very cheap pitcher of beer and some laughs, an interesting spot. From there it was over to macDinton's on Howard Ave, large outdoor patio greeted quite a few people, we lasted about one beer, and then headed over to The Lodge a block away. A new place that just opened in January, with an outdoor patio along Howard Avenue. Friendly Jeff was able to accommodate our group outside..we started with some buckets of beer, and an appetizer tray that consisted of four tiny corn dogs, some calamari, beef and cheese spring rolls...a very small platter, it was a good thing it was on special. The place has a very different type of menu, lots of sliders, and Americanized version of Sushi, and "Always Eggs" dishes....we tried, sliders, Macaroni and Cheese with Beef, Omelet, Sushi with chicken, Chicken nachos...some of the meals came with three sides(they state TV dinner style) BBQ Beans, Cucumber slices that had no flavor, and my favorite of all, crispy Tator Tots. All in all it was an ok ...we were happy with the awesome service, and just good company as well. In the middle of the meal, we were able to also view the Space Shuttle taking off from Cape Canaveral, seeing the bright glow and the plume of smoke up into space...and awesome sight.

St. Patty's is around the corner...and the weather is STILL beautiful!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

LA Visitor in Tampa

A buddy of mine made a last minute excursion to Tampa this weekend, he is looking to buy a condo so he can spend a few months of the year in Tampa, where he once lived.(I guess he misses this place)....Friday evening, had a few friends over before heading up to a Wine-A-Palooza get together at a friends place in the Stoney Point neighborhood in South Tampa, about a mile up the road from my house. Great time, lots of people showed up, they have a very entertaining home on a canal that leads out to Tampa Bay...and the Wine was definitely flowing. After a few hours there, a few of us went off to check out a new Club in downtown Tampa's Channelside called Aja. Upscale, beautiful club, very large outdoor patio area with the skyscrapers of downtown in the background all lit up in the night sky provided a real nice back drop. Not overly pretentious, and a very friendly, happy crowd. Many levels inside lead you to lots of seating areas, quiet areas upstairs with an interesting bar that overlooks the dance floors through all glass partition, and there is even somewhat of a "basement" type of lounge on the lower level. Clean, excellent service, friendly people. Be nice to have this place stick around for a while.
Saturday was the Annual Florida Brewers Guild Beer Fest in Ybor City. About 25 microbreweries showed off their unique beers. This annual fest gets bigger and bigger, and afterwards we wandered around Ybor City, stopping by Streetcar Charlies, Reservior Bar, Czar and G Bar, ending the evening at Demi's Market for Pizza and a live band.
Sunday started with a nice Caribbean Brunch at Cafe Dufrain on Harbour Island downtown. Although the brunch was ok, and there was good live Caribbean type music playing, I thought it to be kind of awkward that Cafe Dufrain has a beautiful waterfront view of downtown Tampa, yet the buffet and live music was playing out in the street, instead of along the waterfront. The brunch consisted of Eggs Benedict, Filet of Beef, PB&J French Toast(which was interesting, but I would have rather settled for regular French Toast), Grouper, BBQ Ribs(good but very messy for a Brunch of this caliber), salads, fruits, and cheeses. I may try it again when company is in town, there are better Sunday Brunches in my opinion. Take the food and live music to the waterfront and keep it shaded and out of the sunlit parking area/street, just a thought. After Brunch, went over and met some friends at the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, this is the last event on what seems to now be about 2 months worth of events for Tampa's Gasparilla Season. A very nice, mellow ending to the season, 300 some artists display their crafts along downtown Tampa streets, an excellent opportunity to see unique creations from all over the world, and socialize with many friends, new and old, on beautiful days that come to the area for March and April...skies always seem to be bluer than blue, and temps hover close to 80 in the day, little or no Humidity.

Another perfect weekend wrapped up...and looking forward to the Annual St. Patricks Day parade this Saturday night in Ybor City.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Upscale Tampa?

What is happening in Tampa? And in this Economy?

As I look out at new places to dine and be entertained, it doesn't stop here in Tampa. Over the past few months, numerous openings, and mostly catering to the higher end clientele.

Bin 27 - Kennedy Blvd
Aja - Channelside
Teatro - Ybor
The NEST - Ybor
Aquaknox - Rocky Point
OceanPrime - Intl Plaza
Posh27 - Intl Plaza
Hula Bay Club - South Westshore

Whats happening in Tampa?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Crawl, and Fiesta Day!

Nothing better than walking in the neighborhood to meet some friends for good wine after a busy work week. We all met up this time at CDB's Southside on Westshore Blvd, and grabbed a great spot on the upper outdoor balcony, overlooking Westshore Blvd...even the food here is just OK, it was nice to see such good friends, and enjoy some fine Kim Crawford fav is the 'Chef Rolls", select meats wrapped in Mozzarella and Provolone Cheese..perfect with some warm fresh bread, and a little olive oil. A few hours later, we made it down to the Green Iguana, last stop on the neighborhood crawl for this Friday night.

Saturday was another beautiful day in Paradise....after a slow start, a few of us went to Ybor to partake in the annual Fiesta Days celebrates the immigrants that came to Tampa back in the late 1800's to work in the Cigar Factories, and make a better life for themselves...Cubans, Spanish, Italians, Germans and Jews...7th avenue was closed down to traffic, so the thousands of people could sample many of the foods and listen in to the worldly entertainment along the avenue. After strolling around a bit, we stopped at New York New York Pizza, for an extra large 18" pie with Meatballs, Pepperoni and Green Peppers...its a very friendly place, lots of pictures throughout of NYC...the pizza is close to NY, but definitely not a real NY pizza...good stuff!! We then walked over to the Southern Exposure Carnival that was happening next to Club Czar...I felt like it was something out of a very scary movie....not many people around, some very weird drag shows taking place(not like Key West), and some out of the ordinary type people(kinda backwoods like rough people)......there were some rides, and it was nice to run into quite a few friends I havn't seen in a while.....we made the most out of it for the time we were there, hopping into Club Czar now and then...we also checked out StreetCar Charlies, always a good time here, very clean and comfortable place, they have now installed a toy trolley and tracks above the bar that runs throughout...nice touch....Ybor was getting busier as the night went on....checked out Spurs, and lastly ended the evening at La Creperia as some of my friends were craving a great dessert...and La Creperia didn't disappoint at all.

Finally getting a downpour of Rain(feels like its been just weeks of blue skies), so the Gasparilla Intl Film Festival looks like a good bet for the day today....