Author Archives: Christopher Nank

Road Report: The Rob at The Independent in Tampa, Florida

TheRob_Weck

This entry represents the convergence, in a way, of several separate narratives. Continue reading

Gulf Coasting: Pulled Pork at Snootie’s

Snootie's BBQ

“If you have a picky eater, they haven’t tried our pork yet.”

The folks behind Snootie’s BBQ are living the dream. From a brief conversation with the man who served me a delicious pulled pork sandwich, I gathered the following about their annual calendar: Halloween is their food truck’s final day of business in Sandusky, Ohio. Following that, the crew pulls up stakes and heads south to Tampa, where they set up shop through April at Bearss Groves near Lake Magdalene. I’ve had made many fruit and vegetable purchases at the Groves, a fairly extensive covered farmer’s market. I’ve also eaten many barbecue sandwiches at Snootie’s, and I further knew that they were native Ohioans, like me, from the hip, industrialized, Lake Erie side of the state. But I’d never really heard their “story,” so to speak, preferring for the last few years to grumble to myself how much I’d like to be living in Ohio during those months when Florida becomes a tropical inferno where the air itself exudes sweat, and to be here in Tampa when Ohio enters its annual ice age. Continue reading

Gulf Coasting: The Hawaiian Grouper at Hula Bay

The Hawaiian grouper sandwich at Hula Bay, Tampa.

The Hawaiian grouper sandwich at Hula Bay, Tampa.

Is it a good thing when a side order and dipping sauces overshadow the sandwich you’ve ordered at a restaurant you’re eating at for the first time? The glass-half-full answer is of course, that experiencing any sort of gustatory joy is a worthy achievement, even if it’s the consumption of a pile of petal-cut fries and some spicy sweet and sour sauce. Another point of view (roughly) parallels the old saw that one will often return to an eatery with poor service if the food is outstanding, but superb service will not attract return visits if the food is unremarkable. I can’t imagine saying to myself: “Gee, the fries at that place are really good — let’s go there!”

Because the fries at Hula Bay, located deep in South Tampa off Westshore Boulevard near MacDill Air Force Base, are really superb. As you can tell, the analogy with “service” is imperfect, but I hope you get my point. The place has much besides the fries to recommend it for a return visit (not the least of which is a great rum-runner, that staple of waterfront Florida dining and drinking). And the fried grouper nuggets are dipped in beer and crushed cornflakes before their swim in the oil. Outstanding, and accompanied by more of that delicious deep-red sweet and sour sauce. In hindsight, I probably should’ve used that sauce on my sandwich instead of the lime tartar sauce (house-made, according to our server, for what that’s worth; the cole slaw is also “made to order”). Continue reading

Gulf Coasting: The Grouper Sandwich at The Hurricane

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A trip to the beach generally means a grouper sandwich — at least, for me, and when I’m in Florida. May 17 marked my daughter Julia’s first-ever beach trip, which, being a native Floridian, puts her a little behind the curve at 5 months of age. I myself never saw a body of salt water until I was eight. Growing up in Ohio also limited my exposure to seafood in a really tangible way; I thrived on Red Lobster and whatever my mom could cook up at home (which actually was usually pretty tasty, featuring perch, cod, halibut, and the like at various points). Nevertheless… Continue reading

Chain Reactions: The McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish

FiletOFish

40 days of fish filets.

Lent is upon us, and to my heathen mind, that means one thing: Shamrock Shake season at McDonald’s. What’s better, these annual few trips to McDonald’s bring relief from the lower-quality fish sandwiches I generally muddle through the rest of the year (snark). My earliest memories of the fish sandwich came with the Filet-O-Fish, and, in many ways, it’s still the gold standard. I’m not being entirely sarcastic either; who’s to say that, in the right context, a Filet-O-Fish washed down with a green mint shake isn’t the equal of a Grouper Reuben with a Florida Avenue Ale? Continue reading