All in Tampa Bay Restaurants

Feel Free to call me Miss Piggy because when a friend’s birthday is approaching I instantly think of one thing. It’s not the present I’ll give or the friends I’ll see. It’s not even the party that’s sure to transpire. It’s the celebration dinner. A lot has changed over the years. Not too long ago I’d be dreaming up birthday pub-crawls and late night debauchery. I guess I’m growing up (it’s about time). Present day, I offer my restaurant recommendations when they’re not requested. I also go as far as reading the menu a solid three days in advance. Yes, I am indeed a crazed food lover…but we knew that already, didn’t we?

I so badly wish I could say that new eateries in Tampa are a dime a dozen. Although my hometown is certainly showing progress in the name of cuisine, there’s still tons of room for culinary growth. We’re blessed with random spurts of new restaurant openings and then….nothing. The scene is stagnant. Foodies frequent favorite spots and begin to feel a bit bored with the menus we’ve memorized and the dishes we’ve repeatedly devoured. Then it happens…a new and highly anticipated joint opens its doors to our salivating mouths and growling guts.

0 false 18 pt 18 pt 0 0 false false false    I must admit, I was feeling like quite the mature adult this past Sunday come noon.  My grown-up behavior was a bit puzzling on this particular day of the year too. Although I am completely aware of my rapidly escalating age; Cinco De Mayo is one holiday where I’ve always refused to act like it.  After all, if you don’t look it or feel it, then age truly is only a number, right? But wait, I don’t mean to give you the wrong impression. Going to a boisterous bar full of fresh college grads, tequila shots galore, and drunken sombrero face planting is not what I consider fun (anymore). Yet, a lady blogger brunch at a tame restaurant wasn’t exactly what I had in mind either…until I arrived…and began drinking and eating a scrumptious smorgasbord of fare. Yes, it was then, that sitting with five other fantastic foodie friends became the best beginning to a Cinco De Mayo I could’ve asked for.

0 false 18 pt 18 pt 0 0 false false false   I can still remember my very first stinky bun.  No, this is not some sort of sick joke.  Stinky Bunz are all too real and for that, I am so thankful.  This unforgettable food memory was created last April, when I was ravenous as ever and dreadfully hot from Florida’s springtime sun.  Prancing around a Tampa Bay Food Truck Rally set in the cobblestone streets of historic Ybor City, I couldn’t for the life of me, choose my midday chow. Standard Leslie style, I desperately walked from truck to truck reading off each sandwich, taco, and burger description.  My stomach was growling, my brow was filled with sweat and my beau was losing it with my inability to make a simple lunchtime decision.  With mere seconds left before I threw a self-induced hissy fit, I spotted it.  Stinky Bunz food truck…there it stood, parked and waiting for a visit that would forever change a little lady’s life.  Lover of nearly all ethnic fare, I had no worries.  For these Korean sandwich-like bundles of goodies would pleasure my palate-I was certain.

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     Sushi, how I worship thee.  Delicate, rich, spicy and smooth- oh the many ways a rolled-up concoction of goodies can so easily delight me.  There are very few cuisines I can take pleasure in devouring at any given moment of the day.  Specialty sushi rolls; why, I can never resist the warm, gooey cream cheese, crisp asparagus, velvety avocado and fresh Ahi, salmon, shrimp, and scallops galore.  Sushi is an edible art form that I have become so very fond of in my educated eating years. 

0 false 18 pt 18 pt 0 0 false false false    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I am no food snob.  Hand me a cheeseburger from a greasy dive and I’ll eat it.  Pass me a taco from a street side stand and I’ll devour it.  On the rare occasions when I’m undisturbed with calories, I will consume, well, pretty much anything.  Yet, I can’t bear to think about where some of these questionable ingredients are coming from.  With the unfortunate truth of genetically modified foods, there is nothing I love more than putting fresh, sustainable and local ingredients on my palate.  The Farm to Table movement has become increasingly popular throughout the country but most notably in big cuisine culture cities like San Francisco and Asheville.  Thankfully, Tampa Bay has heard, noted and responded to the movement.  Farm to table eateries have gradually been sprouting up around town and I couldn’t be happier and hungrier for it.

0 false 18 pt 18 pt 0 0 false false false      Good luck is upon me…oh, how I can feel it in my intuitive bones.  A much loved holiday is rapidly approaching and I couldn’t be more ecstatic for the fun-filled festivities of delicious food and…ahem, fluid.  Time to dig up a dress of clover and some jewels of jade.  A day of Corned Beef and Cabbage and Sheppard’s Pie galore is excitedly awaiting my hungry chops.  An evening with my finest friends: Jameson, Bailey(s) and Guinness will likely be a stellar time for all.  St. Patrick’s Day, you ole, good time, Irish rascal you…I’ve missed you so.  Where shall we reunite?   My town is no Dublin, but will have to make do.  I’ve got a few solid bars up my green sleeve.  Let the Leprechauns lead the way- for we only have today.

0 false 18 pt 18 pt 0 0 false false falseReaders: Consider this your official warning/disclaimer.  You will likely find yourself dreaming of runny yolks, crispy home fries and scrumptious pancake stacks as you follow Dash of Les over the next few months.  For an official Tampa Bay brunch tour is underway and I couldn’t be more stoked to share my morning time feasting experiences with all of you.  6 restaurants. 6 mornings of bliss.

0 false 18 pt 18 pt 0 0 false false falseI am a total food geek.  This little fact is hardly newsworthy given my publicly known hobby of food blogging.  What you may not know, however, is that I take pictures of…well, pretty much everything I consume. It has often frustrated my dining partners, as I allow no one to touch their plate until I’ve achieved an acceptable shot. Half of these pictures will never make a blog post. So, why, you might ask, I “waste” my precious time insisting on the perfect photo of every breakfast, lunch and dinner I eat?  Simply put, I “foodspot.”  Foodspotting is an international foodie community created and controlled by a company in the culinary heavens of San Francisco. The primary goal is simple: Sharing pictures of excellent food with other foodies who live near…and very, very far.   It is best used as an app on a smart phone but can be accessed from the website as well.  Posting pictures and exchanging compliments with your “foodie friends” can be quite addicting.  The coolest part of it all…I get to see shots of cuisine taken by people who live in India, Greece, Taiwan, Italy and more.

   Ahh brunch, you gluttonous, irresistible devil, you!  Eggs- scrambled, poached, fried over-medium?  Yes please.  I’ll take them all…with some buttered toast for yolk sopping, of course. Crispy, delightfully greasy, thick-cut bacon?  Heck yes.  I’m your biggest fan. Cheesy jalapeno grits, chocolate chip infused pancakes, flaky buttery biscuits covered in creamy sausage gravy…my, oh my.  Bring it on. Oh, how I so adore the occasional Saturday or Sunday feast often topped off with Mimosas and Bloody Marys.  Brunch is without question, my favorite kind of food party.  I say “party” because I don’t typically stuff myself silly and drink alcohol at the 11-o-clock hour unless there’s good reason for the lavish indulging. 

0 false 18 pt 18 pt 0 0 false false false    Food blogging certainly has its perks.   I get to flex my creative muscles with my #1 love of writing for thousands of readers near and far.  I also get to justify devouring in ridiculously delicious and often decadent cuisine.  Even when I am “dieting” or attempting a healthy life-style of Paleo, I can make an excuse or two a week with “Well, I have to eat this cream sauced, meat and cheese filled, carbohydrate loaded plate of scrumptiousness…it’s for the sake of my blog!” But, the biggest perk of all is when I am invited to an awesome restaurant and treated like royalty from the second I walk in…to the instant I push in my chair and prance out. 

0 false 18 pt 18 pt 0 0 false false falseVery seldom does a restaurant allow me to leave feeling refreshed and ready to seize the day.  Too often, I sluggishly walk out the door while holding my stomach in despair and wanting nothing more than a food induced comatose kind of nap.  Vietnamese cuisine is quite the contrary for my mind, body and spirit.  It picks me up when I am feeling blue and cures me when I am feeling ill.  The fragrant herbs, spicy sauces and steamy broths must have Southeast Asian healing powers. I have traveled Tampa near and far, tasting many rolls, numerous pho’s, several Banh Mi’s and countless rice noodle bowls.  I feel that, as a Vietnamese fare fanatic, I must set the record straight.  There is one Vietnamese joint that ranks supreme.  For their unique spin on the delectable and insanely fresh goods, downtown Tampa’s Bambooze Café dominates all.  

      I rarely get excited about the frankfurter.  I’ve been to NYC once and only have a blurry recollection of devouring the age-old meat in bun concept.   Hotdogs are just not one of those simple life pleasures I tend to crave.  Yet, there is one place…and one place only, that truly promotes a certain childhood nostalgia which in turn, forces me to excitedly chow down on 100% pure Vienna beef dogs snuggled in perfectly steamed poppy seed buns.  If you grew up in Tampa, you already know what joint I’m referring to.  If you have lived here for even 5 years and have yet to experience the famous, the legendary, the ever-so righteous Mel’s Hotdogs, then you, my friend should be ashamed…brutally ashamed.