Thursday, July 31, 2014

tbt Rolls n’ Bowls – Gainesville, FL

I could eat sushi for 3 meals a day, so for this “throwback Thursday” I’m writing about Rolls n’ Bowls in Gainesville, Florida (R.I.P).  When I was in college at UF, it was my go-to restaurant any time I went out to eat.  The concept was genius – a casual sushi spot where diners could customize their rolls (or bowls) with their preferred ingredients – like a Subway for sushi.  They were owned by a more formal sushi restaurant downtown called Dragonfly. 
My favorite dish was the Spicy Tuna bowl – with generous chunks of tuna, avocado, roe, and sesame seeds served over rice.  I would get it with a mix of the spicy mayo & eel sauce.  It was such a simple meal but it had quality ingredients that were so fresh it didn’t need anything else added.  They also served specialty dessert wontons coated with powdered sugar that changed with the seasons – pumpkin, key lime, and chocolate raspberry. 

The design was clean and modern to reflect the Japanese style, and they were all about sustainability.  Back in 2010 when I graduated college, they were 1 of only 4 restaurants in Florida that were Certified Green by the Green Restaurant Association - helping reduce environmental impact by water efficiency, waste reduction, and using sustainable building materials.  They even used biodegradable cups made of corn instead of Styrofoam or plastic.   

One of the most exciting things about visiting Gainesville after graduating was my trip to Rolls n' Bowls.  Sadly, they closed their doors back in 2012, temporarily changing to a “new and improved” restaurant called Yume Ume that just wasn’t the same.  They certainly had the fan base…not sure what caused them to go under, but it’s unfortunate. 

Crossing my fingers that one day they’ll be back!  And maybe this time in Tampa…

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Malio’s Prime Steakhouse – Tampa, FL

Yesterday we had a fancy date night at Malio’s Prime Steakhouse.  I bought a LivingSocial deal so we got $100 worth of food for $50.   We’ve been to Malio’s a few times before – we always had some sort of deal when we’ve gone since it is a lot pricier than most places we normally dine. 
It is located downtown in the lower level of the Rivergate Tower right next to Curtis Hixon Park.  We had a reservation but it definitely wasn’t needed for a Tuesday night. 

We were seated at a small table with a window view overlooking the Kennedy Bridge crossing over the Hillsborough River.  While deciding what to order, we were served a loaf of bread – it was warm and soft inside, and the crunchy outside was rubbed generously with garlic salt.  We could have filled up on just the bread. 
We ordered a bottle of the Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa which we loved – next time I go to Total Wine I may buy myself another bottle. 
For our meals, I ordered the 8oz filet and Lance ordered the 12oz prime rib.  They were both served with house salads, mixed vegetables, and grilled potatoes.  The salad was served with a bit too much bleu cheese dressing – but I still enjoyed it. 

My steak was perfectly seasoned.  I ordered it medium – it didn’t really have much pink left in the center so it was probably closer to medium-well.  But it was so flavorful and incredibly moist – I could cut it with just a fork. Lance ordered his prime rib rare, so it was a center cut.  When brought to the table, the server poured au jus over the meat so it was very juicy. 

The vegetables were good – but the potatoes were some of the best I’ve ever had.  The skins of the potatoes were extra crispy.  Glad we didn’t order any appetizers because we had no room left after cleaning our plates. 
After the meal we took a walk around Curtis Hixon Park – we just missed the sunset but the sky was still gorgeous.  Perfect end to our date night!

Malio’s Prime Steakhouse is located at 400 N Ashley Dr #310, Tampa, FL 33602 and is open 11:30am – 9:30pm Monday – Tuesday, 11:30am – 10pm Wednesday – Thursday, 11:30am – 10:30pm on Friday, and 5pm – 10:30pm on Saturdays.  It is closed on Sundays.   

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

First Watch – Tampa, FL

My friend, Katie, who I’ve worked with the past 3½ years, is moving to Louisville, Kentucky.  Since this is her last week in Tampa, we met up with her for breakfast this morning at First Watch
I’ve been there several times before and always had a great experience.  It has a laid-back atmosphere and the servers are very friendly. 
I’ve ordered the multigrain pancakes a few times in the past.  They always ask how many you’d like – but they are huge so I can’t imagine having more than one.  There are a bunch of unique variations – banana granola, cranberry nut, carrot cake, and more.  This time I tried the bacon cheddar pancake.  When topped with syrup, it was the perfect sweet & savory breakfast.  The bacon was a little sparse, but I’d still order it again. 
Katie had the Healthy Turkey omelet and topped it with hollandaise sauce – it is filled with turkey, feta and a variety of veggies.  And Lance had the Tri-fecta with a Belgian waffle, eggs, and sausage. 

It’s 5pm now and we’re still full from our breakfast! 

First Watch has several locations – we went to the one at 3712 Henderson Blvd
Tampa, FL 33609 and is open from 7am – 2:30pm every day. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Green Mint Asian Grill & Rita's Ice - Clearwater, FL

My friend Thu and I spent the afternoon in Clearwater today.  We read great reviews (and saw mouthwatering photo) for Green Mint Asian Grill, so we went there for lunch. 

It is a casual restaurant located in a shopping plaza off US Highway 19.  They serve a variety of Vietnamese cuisine, including banh mi sandwiches, pho, lettuce wraps, and boba teas.  They have a large chalkboard menu – along with a gallery of photos of the menu items. 
While ordering we noticed a little box at the cashier’s counter.  We asked what it was for, and we were told to put a coin on it and press the button.  A cat peeked out of the box and grabbed our coin – very funny! 
Thu is Vietnamese, and she said one of her favorite things is bún noodle salad.  We both ordered the Green Mint Bún – which is made of grilled shrimp, pork, and spring rolls served over vermicelli rice noodles, fresh mint leaves, bean sprouts, lettuce, cucumbers, pickled carrots & daikons, crushed peanuts, and sweet chili sauce.  It was incredibly fresh and had the perfect mix of ingredients – I think that bún is now my favorite Vietnamese dish as well. 

We also each ordered boba tea – ice blended fruit smoothies with sweet tapioca pearls.  Mine was coconut and Thu’s was Thai Tea flavored.  We took them to go with us and headed to the beach. 
It was a hot afternoon, so after a few hours of tubing and laying out at the beach, we were ready for something else to cool us down.  We stopped by Rita’s Ice on the drive home and got some kid-sized Gelatis – a blend of Italian ice and frozen custard.  Thu had mango and I had lemonade.  The creamy custard mixed with the slush tasted a bit like a creamsicle. 

Green Mint Asian Grill is located at 25821 U.S. 19, Clearwater, FL 33763 and is open 10am – 9pm Monday through Saturday and 11 – 4pm on Sunday.

Rita’s Ice has various locations – we visited the drive-thru at 1010 Court Street
Clearwater, FL 33756 which is open from 12pm – 10pm every day.