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A Taste of Davis Islands

Posted Oct 03 2012 7:00am

On Monday night, my friend Courtney told me about a free local event that would happen Tuesday night, the Taste of Davis Islands. She had work so she wouldn’t be able to make it but she wanted to pass along the info because she thought it would be something I would like to do. She knows me well :-)

my “date” when we went to Westshore Pizza with the XP gang

It totally slipped my mind until some point yesterday afternoon.  Work was really busy, so when I did remember, I wasn’t sure I would even be able to make it. I figured that if I made it out of the office early enough, I would head over there. Luckily I was able to leave the office a little before 6:30, and head over to Davis Island.

Davis Islands is a “Tampa neighborhood and archipelago on two islands in Hillsborough County, Florida.” (Wikipedia) Note: I have always said Davis Island (singular) but the sign pictured says “Islands”. Wikipedia used both…

I had no idea Davis Island existed before moving here. It is now one of my favorite running and biking spots :-) Oh, and even though I’m not a Yankees fan (in fact, I despise them), I always hope to catch a glimpse of Derek Jeter. So far, no such luck.

Anywho, East Davis Boulevard is the main drag on the island, which is home to a lot of the local businesses. A Taste of Davis Islands was a way for the neighborhood to highlight the local businesses to try to drum up some business.

The night was planned in conjunction with National Night Out , to make for a fun-filled, family friendly evening. The local firefighters and police were out showing off their snazzy vehicles and gear, but I wasn’t all that interested; I came for the food! I’ve only been to a few places on the Island (TeBella and Coastal Grille) so I was excited to try some more.

I stopped outside of Slice to pick up my passport.

The object was to get stamps from all of the businesses on the inside, and you could win a gift certificate from some of the sponsors.

I walked in to Slice, which I thought looked like a pretty cool bar. Unfortunately, there was a really long line, so I went next store to Te Bella.

Scone samples and tea. Mmm.

There were two kinds of hot and two kinds of iced. The two very fall-themed flavors, apple cinnamon and pumpkin spice were out when I went, so I tried both of the iced, the Strawberry Mango and Blueberry Pomegranite. Both were quite tasty, and I would certainly order them again!

I popped next door to Farrell’s, but when I saw they were serving ice cream, I figured it would be best to come back after I got “real food.”

I went across the street to Rick’s Italian Cafe , where I parked myself in line for some Chicken Franςiase. This was a small, one room, casual restaurant, with a menu full of your basic Italian dishes.

However, in large letters on their window, they advertised their Cuban sandwich. Cuban Italians maybe?

The chicken was fresh out of the kitchen, and full of flavor. It’s not something I would typically order, but it was good.

Next up, Soobak a sushi, teriyaki and fro yo place. I’ve seen flyers for this place, so I was interested to see what they had to offer. They were giving out small samples of fro yo, so I grabbed a Taro sample and headed out. I was happy to see they offered Taro (my favorite) but the place was really tiny, didn’t have a ton of toppings, and only offered three flavors. Boo.

I moved on to 22o East , which I was guessing was a place that thought it was “too cool” to have a real name.

I walked in and it did feel a little pretentious, but I shouldn’t really say that, since I only popped in and out. They were sampling a pasta dish as well.

Not quite sure what it was called, but it had shrimp and shrooms in a light cream sauce, which I think was a cajun spiced? It was good, and had a nick kick at the end.

I headed next door to Yeoman’s Road Pub and my first thought was this was a place with regulars. There were a few people sitting outside having a beer, and there was a musician playing some live music inside. The bar had a clean but cozy feel to it. I don’t know what the real definition is, but it had more of a “pub” feel than a “bar” feel. It seemed like a place to come watch some soccer or rugby.

They were sampling their wings, BBQ or Buffalo.

Looks like the buffalo was pretty popular. I grabbed a bbq one, and headed out the door. I made a mental note to come back at some point to hang out.

I walked to the big restaurant on the corner, Fountain Square . I have driven or biked past this corner a number of times, and I’ve always noticed the beautiful fountain. I think that it would be a great date place. According to the website, the restaurant is new as of the fall of 2012, but I think it just changed names or owners.

I was in line for food, but apparently it was taking awhile to come out, so people were getting their passports signed and then leaving. I did the same, but I was really curious about the food they offered in case I wanted to come back.  So I asked about a menu and the guy signing the passports seemed really flustered and scrambled to find me one. There happened to be one on the bar that he grabbed and gave to me. Um, isn’t increasing business one of the reasons why the restaurant participated in the first place? Shouldn’t they have something readily available to give away so that people will remember them and come back?

I walked down the street a little farther and stopped at Anchor Bar and Subway, both of which had run out of the food they were serving. I could have waited for the food to come out at Anchor Bar, but I didn’t feel like waiting for typical bar food.

My next stop was the Coastal Grille . I ate lunch here a few weeks ago and thought the food was pretty good. After that meal, the owner came up to the table and thanked us for dining. He explained that he had recently bought the restaurant (formerly the Pink Flamingo) and they had just reopened a few months ago. He was trying to spread the word out his place.

So when I walked in last night, I was interested to see what they would offer.

This was hands down the most unique food I got all night. On the left was a mini potato latke topped with lump crab and on the left was fried clam. I loved the crab latke, and could have downed a few more of those babies!

I would give the Coastal Grille got an A+ for participation in the “Taste of” event. They had a system for keeping the flow of people moving- one person greeted you, marked your passport, and provided you with a take out menu, explaining that you’d get 20% off your bill next time you come if you bring it back. You walked away with something that would remind you of the name of the place you went, and a money saving reason to come back!

A second person plated your food, and when she gave it to you, she explained what everything was. The creativity of the latke was really smart in my book. It gave me another reason to come back: I want to see what other cool specials the chef whips up!

I walked across the street to the 7-11, where I grabbed a free small Icee! Makin up for missing July 11th :-)

Finally I was back to where I started. I waited in line (again) and actually got a slice of Pizza from Slice. Honestly, the pizza was only okay. Then, I went back to Farrell’s for ice cream. They were sampling mint pistachio and cotton candy. Interesting flavor choices I must say. I had some of the pistachio, and it was good, but I think I would come back for this flavor:

Bananas + Peanut Butter + Chocolate = my fave combo ever!

I also hit up a few of the non-food places: the Vet clinic, Wag , and two salons. One of the salons gave me a few samples, a menu of their services, and a coupon for a $60 facial. The other gave me a travel shampoo bottle.

Overall, I think the event was highly successful. In fact, I think the crowds surprised many of the owners, and they had to make more food than expected. I actually hope the event didn’t hurt these businesses more than help them :-/

In general, the food wasn’t really all that impressive, but these were all small, locally owned places, and I’m always down for supporting local business. However, I think some places didn’t capitalize on this event like they should have. Maybe they were so overwhelmed by just trying to make it through the night, but if I didn’t walk away with something that said your store’s name on it, or if what you showed me/let me taste wasn’t outstanding, I am far less likely to return to your place than someone’s who did.

The pet store, Wag? I was about to walk out with nothing other than the stamp signed by what appeared to be the owner’s elementary/middle school aged daughter. But, another patron asked if they had any cat food samples, and the owner (not sure if this was planned) grabbed a bucket from a table and proceeded to hand out some cat food. I jumped in on that, and y’know what, if my cats like the food, I’ll be back. Had that not happened, I wouldn’t have anything to remind me the store exists.

As I mentioned before, I think Coastal Grille got it right. The event was almost like speed dating; Coastal Grille made a good first impression and now I want to know more. Their breakfast menu looks pretty enticing actually…

I’m glad I was able to get out there and check out what Davis Island has to offer. I can’t wait to go back and check out my favorites!

Question of the Day: Have you ever been to a “Taste of” event? What did the vendors/restaurants do to make themselves memorable?


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