Tampa Bay Food Monster

…eating food since 1985.

Posts Tagged ‘chain’

Firehouse Subs

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on October 26, 2012

DID YOU KNOW?? the submarine sandwich, originally known as the “filled zeppelin roll”, traces its origins back to the widely publicized and oft-lampooned hindenburg disaster. on the day of the disaster, the dining staff had run out of bread for sandwiches, and instead substituted long dinner rolls. after the hindenburg was destroyed, a plucky team of firefighters were called to the scene, and, once the fires were put out, the firefighters noticed a hauntingly delicious aroma – some of the uneaten sandwiches had been toasted during the accident, and the meat within steamed to perfection. the firefighters took the sandwiches back to the station and enjoyed them amongst themselves; thus, the intrinsic tie between firefighters and subs was made.

inside the house

i was recently invited to come out to the most respectable firehouse subs and meet their co-founder robin sorensen (inventor of the occasionally useful sorensen squeeze), while sampling some of their finest sandwiches. firehouse subs is a national chain, originating in jacksonville, florida, known for their meat and cheese steaming technology. this was not my first visit to firehouse subs, nor would it be the last.

this particular location was in largo (a part of the giant largo mall plaza/village, on ulmerton), and only just opened recently. it is set up as most locations are, with a counter from which to order (and behind which your food is prepared), a large dining section, and this:

soda maker

this monstrosity, “coke freestyle”, looking like a refrigerator capable of surviving a nuclear blast, is actually just a soda dispenser. (i’m probably a little late on this one, but let’s all imagine that no one has ever seen such a thing, and just humor me here.) “SODA? OUT OF THAT THING?? BUT HOW??!” yes, i hear you, desperately struggling to figure this out. so it’s a one-at-a-time, select-a-soda soda distribution system, through which you can select one of about 20 or so soda bases, and then are prompted to add a flavored syrup if you so desire. why, you could try raspberry coke zero! vanilla sprite! even standard orange soda! wakkie nu-nu.

it results in over 120 different options, including firehouse subs’ cherry limeade, which actually just kind of dispenses a super-sweet cherry syrup type liquid that you’re supposed to squeeze limes into. i can’t really recommend that, unless you cut it with a bunch of sprite or something.

the spicy

firehouse subs restaurants also feature a nice wall of hot sauces, from which you are free to select whatever looks good to you, douse your sandwich in it, and promptly toss it in the garbage because you ruined it with waaay too much hot sauce. use in moderation. OR don’t use it at all, because your other option is this:

datil pepper hot sauce

firehouse subs also has their very own sauce, a datil hot pepper sauce named for the founders’ father. this stuff is pretty remarkable, with a brown sugar sweetness perfectly balancing a light warm burn born from the datil pepper (similar to the habanero but much more playful, largely produced in st. augustine). the sauce is a must for pretty much any sandwich they serve, and blows all the other hot sauces they have out of the water.

fireman robin sorensen

the fireman himself, robin sorensen, spoke with us at length as we ate, about he and his brother founding their own restaurant rather than picking up a franchise (in order to “kick the butt” of said franchise), their focus on the customers and full flavored sandwiches (rather than pansy-ass health food), and their public safety foundation, providing funding and equipment to fire departments, disaster relief, and educational opportunities. he’s very involved with the restaurant on a lot of levels, and his passion comes through quite clearly.

we were subjected to sandwich after sandwich, in almost a rapid-fire succession. honestly, i barely survived the night, largely because i felt obligated to eat each sandwich in its entirety, because they were so damn good.

hook & ladder

Smoked turkey breast, Virginia honey ham, and melted Monterey Jack, served Fully Involved.

(for those not in the know, “fully involved” means with lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard, mayonnaise, and a pickle served on the side)

this is the standard, their best seller, with its delicious steamed meats playing perfectly against the crispy toasted bread. the quality of the meat is great, the combo is classic, and adding the datil hot pepper sauce makes it perfect.


Genoa salami, pepperoni, ham, melted provolone, Italian dressing, and seasonings, served Fully Involved.

the italian, another classic. though it’s always a great combination of meats, i feel like the italian kind of pales in comparison to the other sandwiches here. it’s solid, but it’s not something special. perhaps these meats were never meant to be steamed? it is unclear.

new york steamer

Corned beef brisket, pastrami, melted provolone, mustard, mayo, and Italian dressing.

this is my order at firehouse subs. i love corned beef. i love pastrami. the combination is divine. and these meats feel like they were made to be steamed. throw in mild melted provolone that melds perfectly with the mayo and mustard, add a light seasoning from the italian dressing, and you have something quiet and beautiful that will just melt in your mouth. slather it with cap’n datil’s patented spicy sauce, and you have yourself the sandwich god would eat if it could understand our “pathetic human reliance on food”.

smokehouse beef & cheddar brisket

USDA Choice beef brisket smoked for 10+ hours, melted cheddar, and special sauces.

and i would have been happy with my standard order of the new york steamer every time i came to firehouse subs, if they hadn’t forced me to eat this thing. this… this sandwich. awesome, smoked, beautiful brisket. it’s hickory smoked for 16 to 18 hours, made to order for firehouse, and tastes like the most incredible barbecue you’ll ever taste. something in the steaming process really brings this meat to life, and it combines with the messy union of sweet baby ray’s barbecue sauce, the cheddar cheese, and the mayonnaise, to give you one of the best sandwiches i’ve ever had at a chain in my entire life. it seriously blew the others out of the water, and will likely be the only thing i ever order from firehouse again.

do yourself a favor, and try the beef and cheddar brisket.


each other their sandwiches was served with a quartered dill pickle, perfectly seasoned crisp pickles shipped from the bronx in little pickle buckets that they sell to raise money for their foundation. the pickles are fantastic, made by the same people who supply carnegie deli with theirs. so i mean it’s ferrealz. ferrealz, guys.

we were also treated to some delicious cookies, as a nice little dessert and send off. as i said before, i was a fool and stuffed myself full to the point of bursting with those sandwiches, so it was all i could do to waddle out appreciatively, shake the founder’s hand, don a children’s plastic firefighter hat, and drive off into the the night. i have since returned for more of their delicious beef and cheddar brisket, and purchased some of their sauce for my own personal use.

firehouse subs would never have to have invited me to the restaurant for me to recommend them, and now that i’ve had the beef brisket, i have even more reason to do so. so visit, eat, enjoy. i now leave you with this mural, as displayed in one of the many firehouse subs locations across the country. may it haunt your dreams as it does mine.


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Seasons 52 Fall Menu 2012

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on October 18, 2012

as the summer ends and we bury those loved ones we’ve lost to the intense florida heat, the leaves turn slightly less green, the temperature drops to a brisk 82 degrees, and stars enter their ominous autumnal positions. thus begins fall, and along with the seasonal change comes the change of menus at seasons 52. finally, we can embrace the cozy food stylings of pumpkins and apples, cinnamon and cinna mon.

once again, i was invited out to the special “num num super tasting ‘012” event, to sample all the delicious foods and drinks, as imagineered by our favorite wacky duo, chef clifford pleau and wineman george miliotes. they were in good spirits, as ever, ending their pre-food presentation with pleau treating us to a special rendition of the major-general’s song, with particular phrases replaced by rhyming food references, and miliotes drinking heavily, slumped in a corner just off camera for the majority of the performance. sadly, sexy crowd favorite enrique iglesias was not available for his endorsement.

portobello mushroom flatbread

we began the evening, as always, with a bunch of flatbread and wine to get us ready for… lots more wine and food. the flatbread this time around was the portobello mushroom flatbread, flavor-blasted with all the cheese (specifically, gorgonzola, mozzarella, and blue cheese). there was also garlic and truffle cream. the mushrooms were nice and tender, and the garlic was pretty great (a clear and strong player), but the flatbread was a bit overwhelmed by the cheese, specifically the blue cheese. i just can’t take too much blue cheese! it just ruins my day. not their best flatbread; that title still belongs to the barbecue chicken flatbread.

the wine we began with was the vista hills orange pinot gris, an interesting, full flavor wine which i cannot seem to find anywhere outside of seasons 52 (internet, thou hast failed me). this guy was an intense, tart, acidic beast almost reminiscent of my father’s homemade wines. it also had the magic touch; that is, the more you drink it, the more the intensity drops, and the more you enjoy it! always a good sign.


we were also treated to a delightful pair of hummusi, the “double hummus special” as i’m pretty sure they called it. there was a roasted red pepper, and a green edamame mint. i had the clear foresight to note the edamame mint was “fatty, wet” and the red pepper was “spiced, good, simple clean”. so, rather than getting bogged down in flavors and taste, let’s say the clear winner here was the edamame mint for being green.

cider-glazed grilled chicken skewers

our meal began with the cider-glazed grilled chicken skewers, which instantly appealed to me. what we have here, if you’re not able to see or infer from the name of the dish, is meat on a stick. meat on a stick, as we all know, was the ORIGINAL meal, as invented by keyrock selmon, cave man and master chef. it is simple and effective. this variant featured a lightly applied savory sweet mustard/cider glaze on moist, tender chicken, grilled, and set atop a tart bed of apple/cranberry/pumpkin slaw. it was an excellent combination, and really worked for me. the slaw was a great contrast to the chicken, both in consistency and flavor. the only thing i could ask of it is more glaze on the chicken.

the skewers were paired with the farrier andiron semillon, which was a nice tart and fruity wine, and a bit sweet. it seemed to be on the brink sparkling, and played well against the chicken (though not an intensely special pairing by any means).

maple leaf farms sesame duck salad

next was the maple leaf farms sesame duck salad. now, i love duck. lord love a duck. duck is the bird king. so i basically, by default, had to love this salad. and they did not make that hard for me. the dressing was amazing, a spicy/sweet ginger sesame, providing a mild slow, lasting burn. the duck – delicious, tender and juicy, practically a beef steak, and not oily (as some duck can be). there were pecans, giving it a nice nuttiness. overall impression: this is a great, spicy salad, all parts in a perfect balance.

the salad was accompanied by avanthia godello, a light, crisp, sparkling white wine. the wine was alright, but did not really blow me away at all, and again the pairing with the salad was pleasant but nothing illuminating.

piedmontese steak

and then they brought out this – the piedmontese steak! a fine addition to the autumn menu. it is a great piece of meat, as i explained last time i reviewed seasons 52. long and short of it – it’s a good steak and it’s healthy. and that’s the reason they kept it for this season’s menu from last season. BUT. i wish they had just stuck it on their regular menu and put something else on their seasonal menu. because that’s the whole point of having a constantly changing menu! not that steak doesn’t work any time of the year, any time of the day, but it’s just a missed opportunity. and unless the species of cattle responsible for this steak is quickly going extinct, it doesn’t really need to be stuck on any sort of limited-time list.

the wine was tilia bonarda, velvety smooth, nicely dry red. almost too dry on the finish, but not so much to ruin it. just lovely.

baby broccoli and mashed sweet potatoes

however, there was one difference between the steak this time and last – the sides. before, and as pictured with the steak, the sides consisted of asparagus and fingerling potatoes. but when brought out in group portions, the sides change to what’s shown above: mashed sweet potatoes and “broccolini”, which is a corporate name (it is generically referred to as “baby broccoli”, despite the fact that it is not baby anything). it is a hybrid between what we know as standard broccoli, and the chinese kai-lan, some leafy thing. i had never seen or heard of this monstrosity before, so this is all news to me. the result of the melding? nothing special. the flavor is broccoli meets asparagus in a boring explosion of meh. the sweet potatoes, however, were delightful, fluffy and deliciously sweet (but nothing over the top). it was a really solid side, and a good choice to bring this dish somewhat in line with my autumnal expectations.

manchester farms all-natural grilled quail

and our final contender for the evening was the exciting manchester farms all-natural grilled quail (seasons 52 apparently prides itself on name dropping). it’s quail! grilled quail. little bird. similar to pigeon. i like the idea. it’s beautiful. a fancy bird, for sure. but… they went a bit crazy on the seasoning here. the bird is a tiny thing, so much so that just eating it and maintaining some semblance of dignity is a difficult task for anyone who might call themselves a “food monster”, and it seems to really take on the flavor of anything that touches it. it was salted and given a balsamic glaze, but all i got was salt. the meat was tender, and i’m sure nice, but it was so salty that i was reminded of KFC’s fried chicken. and that is not a good thing.

however, it was accompanied by an awesome risotto, soft savory and warm, with a wonderful mushroom and garlic flavor. sweet chef pleau was totally flipping out over this risotto, punctuating its introduction in the webcast by jumping into a kiddie pool full of the dish, and crying as he rubbed it into his face. and he was right to – it was amazing. as i’ve said before, risotto just has a feel good, home-cooked aura about it, like a comfort food. always good. there was also sauteed spinach, which is another kind of homey-type food, which was nice and light, though the onions wee a bit mushy, which truly enraged me.

and instead of one wine, we were treated to two distinctly different reds, the michael david petite petit, and the glenelly cabernet sauvignon. each provided and example of a style, the former new world, and the latter old world (possibly spelled ‘worlde’). both were good wines. surprisingly, they each started up rather similarly, with a deep, dark fruitiness, but they finished on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. the petite petit was a bit smoother and sweeter, with only a slightly dry finish, and a bit of an astringent edge. the cabernet sauvignon was much a more serious, dry and intense finish, which i definitely preferred. neither had a significant interaction with the quail.

pumpkin pie mini-indulgence

and, as always, we finish with the mini indulgence desserts. the new addition for fall was something just short of the food of the gods: pumpkin pie. accompanied by two gingersnap cookies (one on top, and one plopped in the center to ensure cookie throughout), the pumpkin pie was spot on, a bit smoother than a real pie, but the precise flavor. the ginger snaps, not too hard but not too soft, played against the sweet pie and whipped topping extremely well, and brought out the spices in the pumpkin. i also had the german chocolate cake, which was super rich and had beautiful toasted coconut. the indulgences are always extraordinary.

coming away from the evening, i felt a bit let down. of course, all the food was enjoyable, and the duck salad and chicken skewers were particularly good, but i can’t help but feel the season was not nearly as well articulated through the food as it ordinarily is. which is disappointing, as fall is my favorite season. pumpkin pie, hot apple cider, butternut squash soup… turkey?? the holy grail of food holidays right at the end of fall! and i was disappointed by the reappearance of the steak, despite the fact that it’s delicious. and the wine pairing, for me at least, never seemed as impressive as my first visit in spring, when each wine shed new light on every dish. nevertheless, a good evening, always a good time, at a good restaurant.

Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon

Posted in Chain Restaurants, Food, Humor, Tampa Restaurants | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Smoothie King Gladiator

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on July 18, 2012

in spite of anything you might know about me gleaned from these reviews, my one and only dream in life is to become SUPER BUFF. i want to get ripped. there’s nothing more impressive than a burly meat-sack full of rippling muscles. i know it, you know it, macho man randy savage knows it:

this message has been pounded into me by every cool dude i interacted with in middle school. back then i was a little fatty, without the first idea of what it is to be a man. but things are different now. now i’m constantly working on my physique to become the ultimate adonis, in any way i can. so after a super-intense session of DDR last night, i decided to take advantage of the smoothie king card i was recently sent in order to sample some of their fine goods.


i perused their menu, looking for something that would beef me up. i had already tried their lean1 smoothie, and that trimmed me the hell down, but now i gotta bulk up. i gotsta get me all the ladies. the menu was divided into many different sections, with different words describing different effects the drinks would have on you. so much reading… i just want to be a hunk! i don’t have time for this bullshit!! but there, in the middle of everything, flanked by a photograph of pure, delicious muscles – THE GLADIATOR.

now we’re talking.

gladiator head

the gladiator. the name alone is enough to intimidate you. when i order a drink, i want it to either turn me into a god, or tear my still beating heart from my body… this smoothie sounded like it was ready to do both. the gladiator® is a low carb meal replacement fruit smoothie providing you with 45 grams of protein and just two measly carbs. i’m no dianetician, but i’m pretty sure that’s the nutritional equivalent of slaughtering and eating a whole lion with your bare hands. one sip and your testicles will drop again. if you’re female, your ovaries will drop.

you’re given the choice of two fruits, or fruit juices. i went with strawberry and blueberry – MAN FRUITS. aminogen, from TRIARCO INDUSTRIES, provides the protein from a whey and egg white base. mmm… my strength buds are watering already! as a bonus, according to triarco.com, the enhanced protein absorption from aminogen’s secret blend of herbs and spices “may also help to reduce or eliminate the gas, bloating and constipation many people experience from incomplete protein digestion.” OH THANK GOD BECAUSE MY HUGE MUSCLE BUILDING HAS TAKEN A TOLL ON MY BOWELS LIKE YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE.

gladiator wall

the gladiator is drinkable. i was able to use a straw to create a suction, the action of which caused the smoothie-drink to rise up through the straw and into my mouth. i then swallowed that liquid. it tastes like a combination of blueberry, strawberry, and wheaty, chalky, floury whey. it had a good consistency, though it was a bit slimy. the thing was quite filling, and i was able to split it into two meals. the fruits were great, but the odd flavor of the protein powder made this into a drink i would not casually sip, or ever buy. if you’re actually into health stuff, it is definitely an option, but be warned: the smoothies don’t come in a giant glass stein; they come in styofoam cups with smoothie king logos on them. to be cool in the gym, you’ll have to purchase the stein yourself.

also not included, apparently, is the muscle. even after ONE WHOLE SMOOTHIE, i’m still just as out of shape as before! it looks like it’s back to the dance mat for me.

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Bahama Breeze’s Legendary Island Cocktails

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on July 3, 2012

Setting: The “Internet” – a futuristic wonderland of glowing circuits and pure information flowing, through a series of tubes, from computer to computer. Thousands of people are all around, transporting themselves on computer keyboards functioning much like flying surfboards, wearing backwards baseball caps. Love flows freely.

BAHAMA BREEZE, a giant beast of man with a tiny palm tree apparently growing from his head, approaches FOOD MONSTER, a slovenly, unbathed man. There appears to be food in Food Monster’s beard.

Bahama Breeze: Are you the Food Monster?

Food Monster: (suspicious) …I am the one known as Food Monster.

Bahama Breeze: Do you like food?

Food Monster: Yes.

Bahama Breeze: Do you like to drink?

Food Monster: I enjoy a snifter of brandy now and then.

Bahama Breeze: Would you like to come to my place and eat and drink and invite as many people as you want?

Food Monster: (enraged) I AM NOT MADE OF MONEY!

Bahama Breeze: Free of charge.

Food Monster:

Bahama Breeze:

Food Monster: I reluctantly accept your proposal.

AND SO IT CAME TO PASS that the food monster and four of his most loving friends went to bahama breeze to sample their legendary island cocktails. and what, pray tell, makes these cocktails so “legendary”? they were all birthed from “world-famous island bars”, and allegedly each have their own unique legend. we… we were not told the legends, so i will have to make them up as i go along. not an easy feat! but a job i shall take up for you, the reader. SO PAY ATTENTION!

bahama breeze

bahama breeze is a chill place. i reviewed it in the early days of my blog, almost two years ago (here). i still regret not getting that grouper. they must not have seen that blog, because they still invited me to this rather large blogger event.


we were situated outside, which is normally a “florida no-no”, as outlined in my first book, AH AH AH! THE ULTIMATE FLORIDA NO-NOS GUIDEBOOK, but they had so many fans set up, it was like a constant, wonderful beach breeze on a hot summer day – an ideal situation for enjoying island drinks, i’d say. there were about a billion other people there; the place was packed, and it wasn’t even due to the event. i guess this is just the favorite local spot to go to and get trashed after work. lots of… lots of “cool dudes” there.

steel drummer

“cool dudes”, like the “live band”, consisting of one dude playing the steel drum who looked suspiciously like he wasn’t playing the steel drum. i dunno i guess there’s a lot of subtlety and finesse to playing that thing that i don’t understand. regardless, the sounds coming out of the speakers standing near this gentleman was a lot of island music, all of which sounded exactly like this:

[i recommend you play that song while reading this review, to get the full effect.]

so they sat us all down, and we were each given three tickets to exchange for delicious island beverages. not tiny thimble-full samples, mind you; they were giving us full drinks. they also brought out a bunch of food items, mostly appetizers. the food was not billed as being legendary.


food items such as salsa! a nice, fresh salsa that doesn’t necessarily blend itself together into a cohesive salsa, but makes use of fresh ingredients, and has a kick.

corn pancakes

and these corn pancake… things! they were strange, like potato pancakes, but with corn. they actually taste like corn fritters, or corn casserole, sweet and a bit chewy. they were served with a mango salsa chutney deal, which was nice and had a little spice to it. and the other thing you see there is butter, which is kind of weird. but whatever. they were decent, but not something i’d likely order.

pulled pork

and there was this! this one was special. pulled pork, served atop fried plantains, with a nice warm molassessy barbecue sauce. the pork was decent by itself, nothing really special, but when paired with the plantains and sauce, it somehow worked really well! definitely a good combination.

so these were the foods we began with. we had put in our drink orders, and soon they arrived.

parrot passion

THE PARROT PASSION from puerto rico

“Premiere drink from the renowned Parrot Club in Old San Juan. A knockout blend of passion fruit juice, orange juice, Cointreau and Bacardi Limon… this drink will get you out of your cage and singing.”

AS LEGEND HAS IT, the parrot passion was the only drink actor jack nicholson would drink when staying in puerto rico for the filming of the famous island scene in easy rider. one night he decided that even the drinks being served to him were impure, and so he resorted to drinking his own urine. he died the day before the film saw its release, as a result of complete liver failure.

the drink is excellent! one of the best offered as part of the legendary island cocktail set. light and heavily fruity, with lots of passion fruit, orange, and lime flavor. it was delicious, with no trace of alcohol whatsoever. a good start!

the original daiquiri


“The glamour of 1950’s Havana… Bacardi Superior Rum, lime juice and fresh squeezed sugar cane pressed daily in-house. Hand-shaken with crushed and cubed ice for a special kind of cold.”

LEGEND STATES that the original daiquiri, the one that this recipe is based on, actually consisted not of lime juice, but of the juice of cuba’s infamous panchlora nivea, the cuban cockroach. the large green bug was considered a delicacy, but once they were hunted to extinction in 1915, the recipe substituted the similar-in-appearance-but-not-really-in-taste lime.

oh god okay well this one wasn’t great. it was not served to me, as they described, “a special kind of cold”, unless that ‘special kind’ is actually just warm. it was lime-tastic, very limey and VERY tart, but it totally suffered from being warm, bringing out the taste of alcohol, and letting the sugary sweetness fade a bit away. i assume it was warm due to having trouble keeping up with the huge crowd, but it was disappointing nonetheless.


THE PAINKILLER from the british virgin islands

“Pusser’s Dark Rum, Cream of Coconut, pineapple and orange juice, finished tableside with freshly ground nutmeg. Originated at the Soggy Dollar Bar where patrons swim to the bar to pay for this tasty beverage with wet Washingtons.”

LEGEND TELLS of a pair of young lovers vacationing in the british virgin islands. one evening, they decided to have a drinking contest; first to pass out would be responsible for the bar tab that night. they drank extensively, passing the point of simple drunkenness early on, and even going beyond simple belligerence to the point of simple embarrassment and public shame. the others at the bar around them soon became concerned for the couple’s safety, but they insisted no one touch them, or stop them from drinking. one of them pulled out a gun, and threatened to kill the first person to come too near them. the drinking continued well after the bar had closed, and the couple laughed, cried, argued, wrestled, danced, performed various sexual acts, and yelled insults at passersby. eventually, one of them finally submitted to alcohol poisoning. the other went to sleep, and the next morning invented the painkiller to cure their mild hangover.

this one… this one i didn’t really care for either. the alcohol is definitely present here, which i guess isn’t a terrible thing. i mean, rum is an islandy drink, and it’s a good one. but i mean… it’s coconut cream and pineapple, with some orange juice. we’re basically looking at a piña colada here, with some orange juice spilled in it. so that was what i expected. it’s just not as good as the real deal. the nutmeg did not factor in for me.

coconut shrimp

amid the heavy drinking we were blessed with the sweet stylings of bahama breeze’s famous coconut shrimp. i discussed them in my actual bahama breeze review, wherein i mention “delicious, stringy cat”. so go read that if you’re interested. but you can keep looking at them here, if you want. i’m cool with that. go for it.

havana hotel special


“Synonymous with the historic and star-studded Hotel Nacional in Havana… a tantalizing trio of Bacardi Superior Rum, pineapple and fresh lime juice, rounded out with a splash of DeKuyper apricot brandy.”

THE LEGEND GOES THUSLY: many years ago, rumors started circulating among the staff at the hotel nacional that there were “angry spirits” roaming the 13th floor. guests staying on the floor frequently went missing for days, only to finally wander back into the hotel with no recollection of their time there, indeed without realizing any time had passed at all. one plucky young elevator operator decided to see for herself what went on up there, and decided to spend an evening in one of the rooms on the floor. that evening, as she got ready for bed, she heard a strange noise out in the hallway. she went to see what it was, and found one of the guests from another room on 13 standing ion the doorway, staring into her with deep, blank eyes. the two stood, quietly looking at one another, until the strange man beckoned for her to follow him. she felt compelled to follow, not knowing why. the two went down the very elevator she ran daily, down to the fifth, fourth, third, second floor. down to the first. and then, somehow, down below that. BUT THERE WERE NO FLOORS BELOW THE FIRST! the doors opened up to a bar, at which they served the havana hotel special. and they proceeded to get shitfaced for days and later forgot all about it.

yeah. true story. the drink is good! a good balance of sweet and sour, yet still light. a refreshing cocktail.

goombay smash

GOOMBAY SMASH from the bahamas

“Made famous by the Grandmotherly Miss Emily at her Blue Bee Bar… Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum and Meyer’s Original Dark Rum mixed with fresh orange and pineapple juice.”

I AM LEGEND. the goombay smash was created when the grandmotherly miss emily got shitfaced playing mario brothers, and she thought “goomba” ended with a “y”. later her sexier, cooler friends made fun of her for the simple mistake. she had been drinking what became known as the goombay smash.

ohhh yes. the dark rum plays strongly here, which is a great balance for the light fruitiness of the drink. the spiced rum also plays into it pretty well. basically, if you enjoy rum, you are going to enjoy this drink. warm, spicy, sweet, and refreshing.

dark n stormy

DARK ‘N STORMY from bermuda

“Bermuda’s infamous waters have terrified many a strong sailor. Beware, the combination of Gosling Black Seal Rum and ginger beer brews a storm cloud no fool would sail under. Warning: if served in a triangular glass, do NOT drink.”

LEGENDARY POKEMON – the dark ‘n stormy was actually conceived as a drink to be served during performances of a highly offensive minstrel act of the same name.

allow me to quote my notes directly: “gingery… bitter. earthy. like earth. not very pleasant. not sweet at all. ): it’s like eating dirty dirt.” now, i may have been tipsy at this point, i cannot quite recall, but the takeaway is that the ginger beer is a big part of this drink, so if that’s not what you’re looking for in a summer cocktail, stay away from it.


and there were quesadillas! the chicken filling was a bit over seasoned, and their pepper taste (giant slices of pepper inside) really only worked when combined with some of the salsa it was served with (perhaps the sour cream worked similarly… i don’t know because i hate that stuff). it was alright, but nothing special.

batida de coco

BATIDA DE COCO from the islands of brazil

“Brazil’s quintessential coconut cocktail made with Leblon Cachaca Rum, Cream of Coconut and pineapple juice. Batida, pronounced ba-chi-da in Portuguese, means shaken… and this rhythmic concoction will make you want to shake your tail feather.”

THE LEGEND: brazilian barman alvaro thais took a trip to puerto rico, had a piña colada, then stole the drink for his own bar renaming it the batida de coco.

yeaaaahhhh so a batida can use whatever kinda juice it wants, or coconut cream. or both. this batida uses coconut cream and pineapple juice, making it… just a piña colada. which is fine by me! i love them. it was well prepared, creamy sweet and perfect. the perfect cocktail. and it did, in fact, make me want to shake my tail feather, so extra points for that.

barbados rum punch

BARBADOS RUM PUNCH… from barbados

“You’re officially welcome in Barbados when you’re handed one of these… Mount Gay Eclipse Rum, passion fruit juice, fresh lime juice with Grenadine and Angostura bitters. Finished tableside with freshly ground nutmeg.”

THE FINAL LEGEND GOES: there is a hidden temple located somewhere in barbados, inside which young children are brutally forced to perform meaningless tricks and run obstacle courses for the amusement of others. if they do not cooperate, the temple guards will whisk them away to a secret location within the temple, and do god knows what with them. the temple guards are known for drinking liberal amounts of barbados rum punch.

the final drink in the legendary island cocktail set is one of the good ones. there is a strong passion fruit flavor carrying the drink, playing sweet and just a bit tart. the nutmeg also surprisingly has a noticeable impact here, which is a nice little touch. it’s a solid drink.

and finally, after all was said and done, we got a taste of what we had really come for in the first place:


allow steve martin to field this review for me:

yes, it was a pleasant time for all involved. i would like to thank bahama breeze for giving me this opportunity, and making me think it would be a good idea to make up a bunch of stupid stories about drinks. now let’s all go there and get drunk together.

Bahama Breeze on Urbanspoon

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Philly Phlava

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on July 2, 2012


THE OTHER DAY, i was in the mood for something disgusting. you know how, every now and then, the mood will strike you to just devastate yourself, to abuse your body and show it who’s boss? that was what this was. to shake off all instinct for self preservation and do myself palpable harm, to rebel against this prison that is my body; to strike a victory for the monster against my very self. and that victory was to come in the form of a philly cheesesteak. mmmmm.

philly phlava

philly phlava is just the kind of place i am attracted to, a little hole in the wall serving a giant menu of greasy, delicious food. i’ve been past it so many times, and for some reason i’ve never stopped by. it’s located in carrollwood, at fletcher and dale mabry (by sam ash and the fresh market), situated next to a five guys. as you may have guessed by the name, they are attempting to bring the “phlava” of “philly” to “tampa”. which, you know, hurts your eyes to look at. then again, i have done my fair share of disrespecting the english language.

inside the phlava

so if you weren’t convinced by their name alone that these people are clinically obsessed with philadelphia, the inside of the place is covered in sports paraphernalia that i can only assume is philadelphia related (like the philadelphia lightning bolts, touted in flag form above the door in the photo). these guys are really into it. they serve crazy philly-type things, like HERR’S potato chips (first discovered on an episode of the office, and later reviewed by me), tastykakes, hank’s gourmet sodas, wawa coffee, and panzarotti (some kind of ungodly pizza crumpet). and, of course, they brought the power of philly cheesesteaks to tampa.

the place is not fancy, it is not especially nice. the people are friendly. but the food will perform sexual intercourse on your mouth hole.

philly cheesesteak

awww yeah. like i said, there’s a huge menu, including burgers, hot dogs, salads, wraps, and other assorted sandwiches, but let’s be for real – you’re here for the cheesesteak. i ordred mine with onions mushrooms and peppers, and that’s it. straight up. you have your choice of cheese (white american, provolone, mozzerella, or ye olde whiz), which i didn’t realize, and just ended up with white american. which is good, and probably would have been my choice, though i’ve always wanted to venture down the whiz path. next time.

the thing is a giant delicious meat bazooka (sexual subtext). it’s just… well i mean look at it! that’s what you’re getting. it’s greasy piles of savory beef bathed in a mild cheesy slime, polka dotted with onions peppers and some mushrooms, shoved into a warm pillowy bun straight from philadelphia. have you been to philadelphia? have you had a philly cheesesteak? that is exactly what this is. it’s like i stepped into philadelphia and pulled out a cheesesteak. i have had better in philly, but this is definitely on par with them.

bay fries

i got a side of bay fries, which are fries covered in old bay seasoning (apparently not unusual). they were solid french fries, nice and spicy, definitely worth the order, and they’re served in a delightful baggie, which made me feel like i was buying from a street vendor! terrific.


and, of course, i couldn’t pass up the wings. WINGS. wings. ahh. they come in medium, hot, and garlic variety, and were pretty much your standard wings. fried and crispy, i got the medium, which was an adequate sauce. get it if you’re in the mood, but don’t go out of your way to get them from here. they shouldn’t be your main course.

so yeah. it’s great. awesome sloppy cheesesteaks served exactly how you want them. other menu options if you’re a fool. i will be going back, and i will be dying of a heart attack at 36. these are things i’ve accepted. you should accept them, too.

Philly Phlava on Urbanspoon

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