Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Village Inn - Tampa, FL

This morning we had a late breakfast at the Village Inn.  It’s been here in Tampa since 1961 and I’ve eaten there plenty of times.  Until today I actually didn’t realize they had locations outside of Florida.  It turns out that the first Village Inn opened in 1958 in Denver, Colorado. 

It has the traditional diner atmosphere with plenty of booth seating.  They have old photos of Tampa hanging on the walls – and even have one of their 1960’s menus framed showing $0.50 buttermilk pancakes and $0.90 waffles.  The prices are still very reasonable, but our breakfasts were $7.59 each.  We both picked from the “Inn-credible V.I.B.” breakfast, which lets you pick any 4 breakfast items from a list of 30. 

I ordered the Cinnamon Toast pancakes, country potatoes, grits, and sausage links.  And Lance had the Buttermilk pancakes, Cinnamon Sugar Donut Poppers, Sausage Links, and Bacon. 

I realized it was one of the least colorful meals we’ve had in a long time…all in various shades of beige.  But it was pretty tasty.  We really enjoyed both the cinnamon pancakes and donuts.  The grits were kind of mediocre, but I guess I shouldn’t expect anything too fancy (I really should have gotten fruit to add something healthy to my plate instead). 

Today was “Pie Rush Wednesday” which means with every meal, you get a free slice of pie!  Of course we were way too full after our meal, so we took the pies home and they’re still in our fridge. We got slices of Strawberry Rhubard and Triple Berry.  They are both topped with large granules of sugar with a crispy crust. 

So for about $15 we got 2 large breakfasts and 2 slices of pie!  Even without the pies, our meals were so filling that we skipped lunch entirely. 

Village Inn is located at 215 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL 33609 and is open 6am – 2am Sunday through Thursday, and 24 hours on Friday & Saturdays.   

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Avenue – St. Petersburg, FL

Tonight we planned to eat at a new restaurant called Bucket’s Grill & Comfort Food.  It’s nothing fancy, but it’s gotten pretty good reviews.  However, I got home from work and noticed crowds of people, police cars, and closed streets around Dale Mabry.  It turns out that our dinner time coincided with the President of the United States landing at MacDill Air Force Base, which meant that getting to Buckets would be almost impossible. 

So instead we decided to avoid the traffic and head to St. Pete.  We heard that The Avenue (the first restaurant featured on my blog) had an updated menu, and the Burger of the Month for September is called “the DUDE”. 
Lance is a big fan of the The Big Lebowski – he even named our (female) cat Dude after the main character from the movie.  And our spare bedroom has Lebowski art mixed in with the Steelers d├ęcor. 
This video outlining the making of the burger is really what convinced us to head there: 
Click here to see the video.

We aren’t really sure how the ingredients are inspired from the movie, but regardless it sounded amazing!  It consists of an 8 ounce Angus beef patty, house-made duck pastrami, Swiss cheese, and house-made mustard on rye swirl bread served with bleu cheese balsamic drizzled kettle chips. 
We both ended up getting the same meal and we weren’t disappointed.  The burger itself was unlike any I’ve ever had – I loved the duck pastrami and the homemade mustard complimented the flavor very well.  The bread was nice and crispy, and the kettle chips were generously covered in large chunks of bleu cheese. We enjoyed the burgers with Yuengling beer (although if we were really trying to go with the Lebowski-themed night, we would have ordered White Russians…)
The atmosphere of The Avenue was completely different at night than during the day.  Last time when we dined there for lunch, there were only a few other restaurant patrons and it was very relaxed.  Tonight it was packed with a trivia night crowd on the patio and people watching the Ray’s game inside.   
If you have the chance to make it there by the end of the month, I’d strongly recommend this burger.  Hopefully they’ll put it on the regular menu!

The Avenue is located at 330 1st Ave South, Saint Petersburg, FL 33701 and open 11:30am - 3:00am Monday through Sunday. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Thai Temple – Tampa, FL

A few weeks ago, our neighbor, Vimmi, told us about a Sunday morning market at the “Thai Temple”.  I had somehow never heard of it, yet when I looked up more info online, it was rated as the #10 best attraction in Tampa on Tripadvisor and everyone on Yelp raved about it!  Growing up in Tampa (and loving Asian food), I’m not sure how I could have possibly missed the memo. 

It takes place at grounds of the Wat Mongkolrata Buddhist Temple, which is just between Brandon and Tampa overlooking the Palm River.  You can tell the food is worthwhile because there were people directing the traffic for parking!  The location is beautiful.  The first thing we noticed was the ornate temple and golden Buddha statue.  There are picnic benches shaded by oak trees overlooking the river – a nice peaceful site to enjoy a Sunday morning. 

Dozens of tables were set up with volunteers serving a variety of meats, curry dishes, noodle soups, kabobs, salads, egg and spring rolls, drinks, and desserts.  They also had stands set up selling fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers.  Some of the foods were ones I had never even heard of before.  We sampled a small sweet fruit called a longan (which translates to “Dragon Eye” – the texture actually was a bit like an eyeball).

Vimmi got a vegetarian noodle soup and some amazing fried bananas.  
I had Thai tea, and Lance and I split pork egg rolls, shrimp spring rolls, and a coconut dessert made with sticky rice.  Everything tasted so fresh and authentic.  I really loved the peanut dipping sauce for the spring rolls.  Lance also bought some chicken wings and sausage to bring to work for lunch.  
Be prepared with cash since there are no credit cards accepted.  Although you really don’t need much because it’s all very reasonably priced!  Lance and I together barely spent around $15, and that included the extra food he bought to go. 

I’m only regretting that I didn’t find out about this market sooner!  I’m sure I’ll be a regular now – especially once the weather cools off a bit.  If anyone is free on a Sunday, let me know because I’m already ready to go back again! 

The Wat Mongkolrata Sunday Market is located at 5306 Palm River Rd, Tampa, FL 33619 and is open 10:30am – 2pm (but get there early!). 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Pesto Ranch Chicken & Pear Gorgonzola Salad

Tonight we had Grandma Anne and my cousin, Jenn, over for dinner.  Since Lance & I both worked today, I wanted to make something quick and easy. 

I found this recipe for Pesto Ranch Chicken – it literally took 3 minutes to prepare this morning.  And then the salad was pretty simple to throw together once I got home.  The chicken was so incredibly moist – and would be impossible to mess up even for someone with no cooking skills whatsoever.

Pesto Ranch Chicken: (adapted from Picky Palate)
  • 10 skinless chicken thighs
  • 1-8 ounce jar pesto
  • 1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dip Mix (1-ounce)
  • ½ cup chicken stock

1. Cut excess fat off chicken thighs.

2. Place chicken in crock pot, pour in pesto, ranch seasoning, and chicken stock.

3. Stir to combine seasonings, close lid, and cook on low for 6-8 hours (mine was closer to 10 hours since I was at work all day today…but I actually preferred it cooked more).

Pear Gorgonzola Salad:
  • 4 cups spinach
  • 1 cup matchstick carrots
  • 2 pears, sliced (there are 3 in the photo but I ended up just using 2)
  • ¼ red onion, sliced
  • Seeds of 1 pomegranate (If you need to learn how to seed a pomegranate, see this post)
  • 2 ounces gorgonzola crumbles
  • 1 cup praline pecans
  • 1 T Trader Joe’s Champagne Pear Vinaigrette
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar 

1. Toss together & enjoy!