Tampa Bay Food Monster

…eating food since 1985.

Posts Tagged ‘sandwiches’

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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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

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

Daily Eats

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on June 4, 2012

daily eats

go down that classy-ass douche bag littered strip known as south howard avenue, and you will stumble upon a little diner called daily eats. it’s easy to spot thanks to the cooling misters set up along the outside dining area, akin to something you’d see in a long line at six flags. you may go to this place. i will allow it.

daily eats interior

it’s a cool little place. all it needs is a counter to sit at and a bunch of old hairy waitresses, and it would be like something out of a roadtrip movie! but i mean it’s still pretty cool anyway. i went with my girlfriend oh, about a year ago and took these pictures. but i’ve been back since. [and busy! so very busy.]

they sell all that stuff people like. diner stuff. you know, like burgers, sandwiches, salads, mac and cheese, “shredder bowls” (assorted toppings on a bunch of rice and lettuce), breakfast foods, and ice cream. oh yes they have it all. they even have an evening version of the breakfast menu, to prevent customers from getting confused about what time of day it is. magnifique!

fried pickles

you will start your meal off with an order of fried pickles. it doesn’t matter what time of day it is, or if they say they are not serving them at that time, or even if they’ve run out. demand them. if you’ve had fried pickles before, you’ll understand why. daily eats serves them a bit differently than i’m used to, frying up the quartered form rather than the chips, so that it’s more like eating fries than chips. i prefer the chipped method, but these are excellent, and i appreciate the difference. perfect, crispy bastards served with ranch dressing. watch out for their innards dropping out.

double angus burger

i went with a double angus burger, because come on. burgers. you are given the option to add grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, or bacon for an extra 75¢ each. last time i did all of the above, which i recommend, but on this particular visit i may have just gotten the bacon and onions. regardless, the burger is pretty great, and surprisingly filling. pictured is the double, but even the single is enough to leave you fully satisfied, with little room left to eat.

inside the burger

the toppings are all quality, and they give you a wide assortment of cheeses to choose from for another 75¢. pepper jack, of course, is the only logical conclusion to come to here. they don’t serve the burger with condiments, but there is ketchup and mustard available to you on the table (you have to specifically request mayonnaise, which is the way life ought to be). the burger does come with a side of… some sort of burger sauce, which is kind of like a thousand island, but thicker and a bit spicy. use it. the beef is juicy and good, and the bun is solid.

oh, you may want to order down a step in rareness. i keep making the mistake of ordering medium rare, as pictured above, which turns out more like medium, or even medium well.

tater haters

i always order the “tater haters” as my side, also known as “satan’s coleslaw” by the regulars. it’s a pile of tater tots, covered in a cheese of some sort, with green onions, tomatoes, bacon, and jalapeños. it’s a medley of sexual pleasure. they’re great as a drunken snack, which works out well given the location. alcoholics. hilarious.

sweet potato fries

but there is stiff competition for the haters in the sweet potato fries. these bad boys come out crisp and light, more like regular fries than those of the sweet potato variety. and they are covered in some kinda sweet slime, which pushes them to the proverbial max. if you want sweet, this is for you.

it’s a good little place. the food is always satisfying, their breakfast is awesome (crunchy french toast, anyone?), and they aren’t assholes! which is nice, again, considering the area. if you’re nearby, stop in and have a pickle. or a hater.

Daily Eats on Urbanspoon

Posted in Food, Humor, Tampa Restaurants | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Tampa Cuban Sandwich Festival

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on May 28, 2012

reporter chad winters checks out the tampa cuban sandwich festival in historic ybor city.

Posted in Events, Food, Humor | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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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