Tampa Bay Food Monster

…eating food since 1985.

Posts Tagged ‘prime rib’

Smokey Bones’ Smoked Prime Rib

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on December 6, 2012

steak is the best. it’s pretty much the best dinner ever. you get a steak dinner, and you feel like you’re tearing into an animal. there’s something primal about it. empowering. a steak dinner makes you feel like a king.

…but a prime rib dinner makes you feel like a god.

them smokey bones

i was given a so-very-kind invitation to come check out the new smoked prime rib dinner (¡¡¡LIMITED TIME ONLY!!!) at smokey bones. i have been to smokey bones before, long ago, and i recall it being a positive experience. “smokey” means smoked, and “bones” means meat, so one may infer that this is perhaps a barbecue type place. and, back when i visited the bones in my past, that would be a mostly accurate description. now, though…

inside the bone

oh. well according to this photograph, smokey bones is a rather low-key meeting place for the elderly, made entirely out of wood. but that’s not true! perhaps my photo skills are lacking. really, smokey bones has been completely remade in the image of the “kinda cool hip place”. it’s hard to describe exactly what it has become, partially because the restaurant now teeters between restaurant worlds. it’s kind of like a smokehouse meets an outback steakhouse. meets a late night club. there’s a huge bar. the lighting is low. lots of sexy cocktails. and some interesting placards, with information running the gamut between “servers are people too” and “hey boobs are pretty cool, right?” so yeah, a bit all over the place.

i do not dislike the makeover, but it is not the most comfortable. it can be summed up thusly: they played “we will rock you” by queen, and rather than play naturally through to the second part of the song, “we are the champions”, they played some sort of hard rock remix of “we will rock you”. the same song they had just played.

smoked wings

we began our meal with a nice appetizer, as recommended by the extremely kind and accommodating contact i had with smokey bones. i love wings. have i mentioned that before? big fan. i will start by saying that these wings are not traditional wings. they aren’t what you think of when you think of wings. instead, they are some of the most impressive non-traditional wings i have ever had. these bad boys are coated in rib rub and smoked, then fried, then coated in a DIFFERENT rub, then given a light sweet glaze. and they are incredible. super crisp outside, like fried chicken, with a delicious, steamy, tender smoked interior. perfect counterpoints to each other. salty and savory, and the glaze was spicy and sweet all at once. it was like eating ribs. tremendously good, and a must-buy for any visit to the bones.

smoked prime rib

and, of course, the smoked prime rib. prime rib – tender, juicy, melt-in-your mouth perfect beef. it is the most wonderful food i can imagine. dip it in au jus… what more could you ask for?

smokey bones’ smoked prime rib is a bit different, though. the rib is smoked in-restaurant for hours. the au jus is served on top, rather than on the side for dipping. and, to be quite honest, the whole thing is a disappointment. you would think that the ultimate in tender preparation would mix perfectly with the ultimate in tender meats. instead, you are left with a smokey monstrosity. one bite and you are overwhelmed with smokey flavor, masking the quiet, intrinsic beauty of the cut. the salt and pepper seasoning makes the edges just a bit too salty to enjoy properly. the au jus was a bit thick, almost more of a gravy than a juice. and, in spite of all conventional knowledge, the prime rib was not tender. it was not tough, but it was far more chewy than it should have been. the most enjoyable bites were those not dominated by the smokey flavor, found near the fatty portions of the rib. otherwise, this dish was sadly not worth ordering.

and i did not feel like a god. i just felt like a slightly disappointed man.

apple pecan crisp

the meal ended on an up note, however, with the apple pecan crumble. this delightful little dish was, again, recommended by my contact, and was superb. it’s basically what you get when you cross an apple cobbler with a pecan pie… which is just as amazing as it sounds. served super hot, with a lump of vanilla ice cream on top. the crisp crust played well against its hot sticky insides, melting the ice cream into a river of cool relief. a perfect dessert. the only thing i could ask for is more pecan goodness in a largely apple dominated dessert.

it was a good visit. the place has changed a lot, but it’s a kind of cool, hip change. the prime rib was a disappointment, but the dessert was great, and the wings warrant another visit all on their own. they also have a build-a-burger thing going on, with more options than you’ll ever need, which is probably worth checking out. and my friend got baby back ribs, which looked amazing. i’ll just have to realize my godhood elsewhere.

Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill on Urbanspoon


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The Metro Restaurant and Lounge

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on February 6, 2012

to celebrate groundhog day this year, a group of us went to the tampa theatre to watch the holiday classic. after the movie, we were stuck in dreaded downtown tampa to find food, and fend off the angry drunken homeless. after being turned down by the brand new taco bus location (closed, pfft), and learning that square one burgers also closes at ten, we were locked in what seemed like a hopeless discussion about where to go eat. why do places close so early? why are restaurants such old people? come on!

so as we pondered out fate, we were suddenly accosted by a dude from the building we were standing outside of.

“i hear the lady is hungry! by gum, have we got food to feed her!”

we were all terrified. silence fell. the guy busted out a menu from god knows where and delicately prodded us with it. “eh? …eh?”

“i… i guess we could eat here-”


we watched as the man disappeared into the establishment. there was still time to run. but when the universe presents opportunities like this, you can’t just turn it down. obviously our destiny lay within those walls, and if that destiny was wacky restaurant rape, so be it.

the metro

we walked into the place and were shocked to find ourselves in what may have been an alternate universe, some sort of lounge/restaurant/club hybrid. none of us knew what we were doing, where we were, or what was going to happen to us. we were the groundhog. and this was gobbler’s knob.

inside the lounge restaurant

the lighting was cozy and sexy. the furniture was a bit fancy. there were televisions on the walls playing music videos. and a piano sat in the corner by the bar, quiet and alone. the server rearranged the tables for our gigantic group. once again we found ourselves the only table in the restaurant. i wasn’t sure if that was a good sign.

we were asked if we wanted anything to drink. drink drink. nobody was especially drinky, but i felt like i needed to experience this place for what it was supposed to be. the server/bartender man told me they specialized in martinis. i ordered a gin martini. dirty? as dirty as possible.

gin martini

it was dirty indeed. if you don’t know what that means, it is when they pour the juices olives float around in directly into your drink, and make you drink that. it’s kinda gross, but it also counteracts the alcoholicy taste of alcohol. i don’t really care for martinis, and i rarely have them, but i do like gin. this drink was “all right” in my book. i’m sure they did a good job by martini standards.

while getting trashed, i looked over the menu. the prices were pretty damn good for a place that looked like this. between ten and fifteen bucks for most things. and a good variety of dishes. lots of sandwiches, salads, pastas, a few “ferrealzies” entrees, a couple stews. indeed.

while i was decided, one of my friends ordered a special martini invented by the bartender, the “gummi bear martini”. ooh interesting. the bartender/server dude was nice enough to give us all shots. well, all the ladies. i took one anyway.

gummy bear martini

you can’t really tell from the photo, but it was clear with a beautiful shock of red floating at the bottom. and they were goooood. it actually tasted like a gummi bear! a red one, too. sweet, without any trace of liquor taste. terrifying and dangerous. well done, señor bartender/server dude.

i settled on my meal, which was recommend by our server, and after a bit of waiting and some awesome club jams (why was this happening??) including a hit by seal, our food had arrived.

prime rib sub

i got the prime rib sub, which featured a horseradish sauce. now, usually i’m not into crap like that. and by crap like that, i mean horseradish. but this was not so strong as to make me want to punch myself in the face, actually just accenting the tender prime rib meat. now, i’ve had better prime rib, but for a sandwich it was pretty good. tender and tasty. there could have been more of it. but satisfying overall.

my side was the “metro potato casserole”, which included potato, cheese, and bacon. sounds like a winner, right? well it was actually kinda lame. it was like hash browns, with decent cheese and soggy, boring bacon. and the fact that i was disappointed in something with bacon on it was disappointing in itself, causing an endless feedback loop of disappointment. luckily for me, my girlfriend found a cure for that:

carolina minced pork barbecue

she got the carolina minced pork barbecue sandwich. but forget that it was dumb it tasted like sloppy joes. no, her side dish was the good part. see that stuff? that stuff that looks like baby food? chipotle mashed sweet potatoes. they were awesome. it basically was like baby food as far as consistency is concerned, but the flavor was delicious sweet, followed by a light chipotle burn at the very end. like a little surprise ending. a little m. night shyamalan in every bite. wonderful.

so what? how was it? it was pretty decent. the prices were awesome. they included gratuity, and our bill came out to like thirty bucks or so. the food was pretty good, though not incredible. the service was great; our server was a lot of fun, even though he was really a bartender and they just threw him at this table. the music was fun, and though the atmosphere was confusing, it was a classy place. it was and nice to be open late. apparently they have live music there too, occasionally, so that’s kinda neat.

i’d go back if i found myself in a similar situation again. which i probably will, because today seems to be groundhog day again.

The Metro Restaurant and Lounge on Urbanspoon

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Guest Review: Pappas Ranch Steakhouse & Bar Opening

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on May 31, 2011

pappas ranch steakhouse & bar

Hello! Sleep here! Welcome to the second guest article for the Tampa Bay Food Monster blog. A few weeks ago, the Food Monster was asked to attend the opening of the new Pappas Ranch restaurant in beautiful Clearwater. Due to an obligation he couldn’t miss, the Food Monster asked me to cover this event for him. Now, I do not claim to be as much of an expert on delicious delicacies as the Food Monster, nor do I claim to be able to write an interesting article that is both funny and informative on the subject of food. Hell, I think it’s still up in the air whether or not I’ve ever really enjoyed anything I’ve ever eaten. I usually blog about gaming and philosophy. This… this is not my forte. You have been warned reader! YOU ARE ENTERING THE NO TASTE ZONE.


Being that this was sort of a press event for the opening of the restaurant, the set-up wasn’t quite what you would expect. Upon first impression, Pappas feels a little bit like Chili’s and Longhorn Steakhouse had a baby who then proceeded to throw up on itself. The mixture of large mounted animal heads, aged wood furniture, woven rugs hung from the ceiling, chandeliers, and a color palette of teal and purple set against the aged wood left us very… confused. It seems like the restaurant was trying to be hip, elegant, and homely all at once. It wasn’t necessarily uncomfortable and never too gaudy, but it just had the air of “trying too hard”. Sometimes simplicity is best! Due to the nature of the event, all of the meals were served “buffet style” and thus had been sitting out for a little while.


When we first entered, we were immediately offered some house sangria which was very delicious (sangria almost always is), and then we were directed towards their appetizer area. First we picked up their chicken wings, bread, salsa and some spinach and artichoke dip. The wings had a very unique flavor, very peppery with just a little smokey. These wings were very tough though, and took quite a bit of work to get to their delicious white meat innards. The bread was… bready. Breadish even. The chips and spinach and artichoke dip were also rather run-of-the mill. A little better than what you would expect from your neighborhood Applebees, but not enough to warrant the trip. A little disappointed by the rest, I dipped a delicate little chip into their salsa, and what a pleasant surprise! The salsa had a very small spicy bite to it, but more than anything else it was actually very sweet. This took me by surprise and at first I didn’t know what to think. I had never had a sweet salsa before, and it felt about as out of place as I imagine jalapeno ice cream would taste. After the sweet surprise passed though I was just left with a grin on my face and a happy tummy. I was already starting to appreciate Pappas Ranch’s unique style.

caesar salad

Next up we got plates of salad (of both Caesar and Potato variety) as well as a delicious plate of seafood appetizers. The Caesar salad was par-for-the-course and nothing to write home about, but the potato salad was a real gem! Hearty and flavorful, the small chunks of potato really stood out making this the most tasty potato salad I believe I’ve ever had. Seriously. I HATE potato salad. It’s usually cold and tasteless, with the mayo based slime seemingly added as an afterthought to the potatoes. Not at Pappas Ranch though! Damn this stuff was good. The consistency was a little bit chunkier than mashed potatoes, nicely blended with the “sauce” to make it mayo-potato perfection!


The plate of seafood was also very good across the board. We had cooked shrimp with a thick delicious glaze, crab cakes, lightly fried catfish, and Mahi Tacos. The shrimp was just what I expected. Fucking delicious, every time. The “glaze” was some sort of mayo based sauce that was smooth and creamy going in, then had a good spicy aftertaste. The crab cakes were kind of flavorless, but I cheated and dipped mine in what was left of the shrimp sauce and it made it much better! The mahi tacos were simple and subtle. They tasted crisp and fresh, and with just a dab of Pappas Ranch’s tartar sauce the flavor really popped. But the real winner was the catfish. It was sooo good. Flavorful, tender, and just a little salty. These little guys were lightly breaded and just melted in your mouth, going down smooth with just a little of the tartar sauce. If you ever go and order these though, go easy on the tartar sauce. It’s only needed for texture and to smooth their transition from tasty table morsels into savory stomach dwellers. You don’t want to mask any of their flavor.

After the delicious salsa, potato salad, and mind blowing catfish appetizers, I have to admit I was flying high. I was ready and rearing for the main course…


So I get up and make my way over to the different stations where the real food was kept. THE MEAT. They had three main offerings: Pulled pork, served with rolls for sandwich making; Prime Rib, with plenty of Au Jus to accompany it on my plate; and lastly a quarter-rack of ribs. In order, these were bland, pedestrian, and tough. I was so disappointed by all three of the available entrees! The pulled pork was dry, and it required some sort of sauce to make it tolerable. The ribs had a similar smokey sauce to the wings, so the flavor was good, but after being spoiled by fall-off-the-bone tender ribs, I couldn’t help but be disappointed here. There was still a lot of meat left on the bones of these ribs after I was done, and it wasn’t by my choice. The prime rib was marbled nicely and tender, going well (as prime rib always does) with au jus, and was just about the only meat that I wasn’t immediately disappointed in. Still though, I feel like I could get better prime rib at nearly any other dedicated steakhouse, this meat was just mediocre and left me wanting.


Stewing in my disappointment in the main dishes, I decided to try some of their dessert. It was good but nothing special (highlight being bread pudding, which just surprised me more than anything else) and we were soon out the door. The overall experience for Pappas Ranch was very mixed for me. I felt like they were pulling me in several different directions at once. They did a lot right, and I would love to go back again for lunch one day to get some more of their delicious appetizers and potato salad. But I was not impressed by any of the main course offerings and would be hard pressed to take a date across the bay to dine here. As a disclaimer, it is entirely possible that the meat was so dried out and flavorless due to sitting out buffet-style for the event, and your mileage may vary if you go on a night where it is cooked up specifically for you. Still though, the only food that we had any real problem with was the meat, with everything else being tasty and uniquely flavored, so I really do recommend trying out Pappas Ranch even if only for their appetizers.

Pappas Ranch Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

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