Jun 11 2024

Mio’s Grill and Cafe – Turkish

119 2nd St N
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Downtown St. Pete

… more pix on Google Maps, Yelp & TA

Will return.

A cute little Turkish restaurant, 0.4 miles south of the opera house – Palladium.
A young couple is manning the dining room, with efficient service.


  1. Haydari, Turkish labne, with warm pita bread: wonderfully tasty
  2. Falafels: wonderfully delicious
  3. Mio’s yogurt kebap: won’t order again. The meat is tender but tastes too processed.

Baklava is wonderful, sweet but not killing your throat sweet. The coffee is served in a pretty cup, bitter sweet. It almost knocked me out – so I can write about it truthfully it probably would taste better without the sugar – but it probably the taste of Turkish

May 31 2024

La Faraona Cigars

1517 E Seventh Ave., Unit A
Tampa, FL 33605

… more pix on Google Maps, Yelp & TA.

One of many cigar bars on 7th Avenue in Ybor City.

The owner, I think, is a lady: her photo is on the wall. There was only one staff at 7pm on this Friday, who’s very friendly and courteous. The rollers are off, or too early for them to return. The entire 7th Avenue is dead at this hour – will come to live in a couple of hours.

We got our cigars and headed to Sterling next door.


May 31 2024

Sterling Cigar Lounge & living music

1531 E 7th Ave,
Tampa, FL 33605

Sterling Cigar Lounge & Bar

… more pix & videos on Google Maps, Yelp

We stopped by this bar @ Ybor after dinner at Casa Santo Stefano: a nice roof top cigar bar, with live music.

The bar has two outdoor sections: one on 7th Ave and one on the back. Good service. Lockers for patrons who pays about $1,000 a year.

The band: pretty good. It takes them about 27 minutes to set up. Mom takes pix and videos, daughter Corrine Oliviia sings, who has good voice. I thought she’s pretty and just over 20; but she said she’s isn’t 25 any more. She sings so hard, broke one of her shoes. Oh well.

When we leave at 9:45, there are two guards by the entrance.

I took couple of pix of our pleasant server but probably won’t post it here.

As I watched the jazz band to set up their station, I learnt a good lesson: it TAKES a bit time and it’s a hard work.

The mother daughter team arrived at 7:32, didn’t finish set up till 7:58, this doesn’t include the time packing and loading, drive and unloading …

The daughter has a pretty good voice.

May 31 2024

Casa Santo Stefano

1607 N 22nd St,
Tampa, FL 33605

… more pix on Google Maps, Yelp & TA

Will return.

Across street from Columbia in Ybor I love their tiles: colorful and beautiful. High ceiling, brick walls, really good ambiance, service and food.

Lovely stems. Warm bread. The mussels and grouper with pesto is delicious.

The tiramisu is to die for.

The roof top is nice but the view is so so.

The water in the bathroom is painfully slow. What do they have in the hand soup bottle?

After dinner, we stopped at two cigar bars: La Faraona Cigars and Sterling.

May 29 2024

Finn’s Dockside Bar & Grill

1112 Apollo Beach Blvd.
Apollo Beach, FL 33572

… more pix & videos on Google Maps, Yelp & TA

Will return.

On the water and pretty big. Great view. The wrapped around outdoor section on two sides are pretty big. Decent food, good service – there are 20 of us and one young lady served us adequately.

My crab cake is ok, so are many others.

I did ask for French Open tennis to be up on one screen but they didn’t – either she forgot or they don’t have the channel.

It’s a 90+ degree day. When I went out to their desk – the outdoor section, although hot but relatively comfortable out. My group chose to stay inside. Oh the flies.

May 10 2024

The Vineyards Trattoria and Pizzeria

250 Apollo Beach Blvd.
Apollo Beach, FL 33572

… more pix on Google Maps, Yelp & TA

Will return

For Italian restaurants, this one is better than Joia.

We came for lunch. It’s empty and we chose the last booth.

At first there was only one young lady serving, who’s very pleasant and efficient, and very pretty – hope this last adjective isn’t going to get me in trouble with Yelp and anyone else.

Looking at the booth in front of us, we decided no appetizers. We’ve 3 main courses

Chicken piccata
Eggplant Parmesan
Veal Parmesan

The spaghetti is al dent and all are pretty delicious.

.., and huge portion: the reason is bec they’re off the dinner menu when we thought we ordered off the lunch menu (so many menus …) Maybe the staff should confirm it at time of ordering, to avoid any confusion. We were going to pay but they re-ran the bill. I think they put dinner menu out during the lunch time, is just to give dinners more choice.

We ended up with a few doggie bags – I took their bread too – they are warm and delicious, and probably will be threw away.

Btw, I’ve been talking about spoons (dessert mostly) – their pasta spoon is HUGE, has to be the biggest I’ve seen in a restaurant so far. Oh well, what do I know 😜

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend and a happy Mother’s Day 2024 to moms.

Apr 9 2024

Steelbach, steak house

1910 N Ola Ave
Tampa, FL 33602 @ Armature Works

… more pix n videos on Google Maps, Yelp, TA

Will return for the window alcove that looks out to the outdoor section.

High ceiling, exposed pipes; love the ambiance and decor, especially the brick walls and unique lighting features. Very good service, decent food, great wine. What not to love?

Out booth has a handsome door that sets against the brick wall. It’s pretty poetic -:). But it’s also next to the bar. When we first sat down, shortly before 6pm, the restaurant isn’t too busy. The this little area is the commingle place for the staff, who chat, and are affable toward each other, like back slapping. Pls just be mindful, that we’re inches away and seated, which means short distance with our eyes meeting their lower back …

The wine is awesome. They’ve two wine menus: Captain’s List with hard leather binding runs to 4 digit; and soft leather binding, which is for people like us, from the other side of track -:) We ended up with La Jassine, Côtes-du-Phône Village, 2021: it’s yummy.

Foods, we’ve

  1. buffalo cauliflower: good but wish they cut down the size (the Chinese way ha ha ha) so the sauce covers more. It’s not mushy or soft, which is good.
  2. crispy potato: good, the bacon bits are excellent, of high grade.
  3. NY sirloin: good, very lean, hard to cut (bad arms/shoulders from pickleball …)
  4. flat iron steak: pre-cut, good, very lean
  5. scallop: good. I also enjoyed the bed of veggies, even they’re bit too sweet for my taste, but it’s veggie sweet, so I ate a lot – be healthy for once.
  6. brown mutter mushrooms: my fave. I was too slow to scope up some before it was mixing with the sauce – starch (?) or mashed potato (?) I’m a believer that fresh ingredients shouldn’t need much of sauce, especially creamy ones: let them shine on their own. Cooked mushroom produces juice, maybe put them on a bed of shredded lettuce (?) … Stop here Irene, you’re NOT the chef!

Their beef is grass fed, which is leaner than usual. Both steaks came with butter in the ramekins. It’s definitely a personal choice. For me and my two companions, we prefer the fatty marbled steaks, even they claim theirs are marble too:

We partner with local producers to raise Steelbach’s grass-fed, pasture plus-nished beef. Our steaks have excellent marbling and premium flavor and are cooked over 1000-degree oak and mesquite open fire grills.

WebMd wrote .. 
: “No studies have proven that grass-fed beef is better for your health.”

I googled grass fed cow government, got the following

~ USDA grass fed: This program requires that ruminant animals be fed only grass and forage, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning. Animals certified under this program cannot be fed grain or grain by-products and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season.
~ NIH: Grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef systems: Although many consumers perceive grass-fed beef as more environmentally friendly than grain-fed beef, there is a dearth of research available to address these consumer claims. … Consider environmental footprint (water, land, greenhouse gasses, and energy)

  • conventional beef finished on grain for 128 d: produced the lowest greenhouse gas footprint but required the highest energy input
  • steers grass-fed for 20 mo: used the least amount of water but produced the greatest greenhouse gas.
  • steers grass-fed for 20-mo with a 45-d grain finish
  • steers grass-fed for 25 mo.


~ American Grassfed.org
~ Penn State.edu
~food insight

… afterward, we walked to the Straz center, for A SUPER thrilling concert!

Apr 6 2024

LongHorn Steakhouse

12974 S US Hwy 301
Riverview, FL 33578

… more pix on Google Maps, Yelp

Will return.

Dark decor, decent service and great steak for that price range.

I don’t think they take reservations. When we walked in at 4:30 this Saturday, there are many people waiting. We were told: 25 minutes. I really doubt with the among of people waiting. But true to her word, our table for three was ready within 25 minutes.

I ordered namesake T-Bone steak, turned out to be excellent. It comes with two sides, salad and yam.
“Sugar and butter?”
“Butter only.”
The warm wheat bread is delicious but the butter tastes bit sweet.
Lava cake looks delicious but I was too full after the tbone.

The extras: one of diners in our group asked for an extra iced tea, bread and butter to take home. The staff said yes without missing a beat. What’s your opinion on this? Do share.

As we were leaving, I heard the hosts repeating the 25 minutes again – perhaps this is the result of their cooperate office’s research? Amusing.

Mar 20 2024

Coolinary & the Parched Pig

4580 Donald Ross Rd., Ste 100
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418

… more pix on Google Maps, Yelp, TA

A decent restaurant in a shopping strip that worths 4 but I’ve two strikes against them: seating us at the table right by the busy door for their outdoor service. And the table needs napkin at the foot to stabilize it. By the time we leave, the restaurant is still empty. #2, when ordering Pinot Noir, the server offers two choices. Since I don’t know any of the brands, I chose Oregon over California, as Pinot Noir is their thing. In my little experience with this kind of caliber, they’d offer me a taste, and they do, just not to me. The server returned and said, the CA one is drier. I ended up with CA, which is decent.

Modern decor with high ceiling, in dark hue. We get there a few minutes before 4, which is their opening time. Thinking we can ask if any openings for us. The staff inside remain inside. Finally when the host comes out, she said yes we’ve openings and will seat you once we’re open.
It was 3:56. Her demeanor made me think they’re fully booked …

There are few men in casual cloth inside the restaurant – who are they?

We’ve four small plates – in fact, they’re not small -:)
Corn – innovative
Tuscany fish bites – crunchy
Baked oysters – really good
Ceviche with taro chips – very good

All are delicious, and take the chip home – too much food.

Why do they serve the small plates all at the once? Our small table hardly can accommodate four plates. Is this an industry new norm – it has been this way for a long while.

Mar 19 2024

Helen Huang’s Mandarin House

2031 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, FL 33020

… more pix on Google Maps, Yelp, TA

Are the bell pepper mold or from cooking?

We planned to have dinner at Miami tennis Open but I didn’t realize (so me…) that I purchased qualifying round which means they close shop early.

We’re hungry. And found this Chinese, on the way to home with 4+ star rating. So Chinese it is.

Meter parking. Upon entering, the fish tank perks me up. At 7pm on a Tuesday, it’s empty. There is only one couple. The decor is dated and dark.

I see two women, one serves us and one is working around the dining hall, like
restoring or the like.

I asked if they’ve Chinese menu, she said no.

We’ve ma po tofu 麻婆豆腐and shredded pork Sichuan style. We’ve been sweating under the sun at the matches and wanted salt. The hot tea is soothing. (at bill time did I know it’s free, so is the rice.)

They’ve wine by the glass but I didn’t order which is rare. Something isn’t right.

Both dishes are sweet. Ha … And as we’re winding down and I’m picking on the last few strains of bell pepper, I see the mold. Horrified, I told the woman who comes to ask if we’ve done.

She is defensive and asks me if I know how to cook and the ‘molds’ are the birthmark of the wok.

“But they’re so tiny and concise, how could a wok make such marks?”

The woman goes away and returns with a container full of sliced bell pepper, raising her voice, “this is what we use. We don’t use moulded bell pepper…”

To be fair to them, I showed the photo to a few Chinese friends who cook, mold or cooking marks. Their answers, without knowing the above story, mold.

Oh well. What do you think?