MenuDirections 2013 Dine-Around Preview

Signature event gives attendees a chance to sample dishes from three Tampa restaurants.

Lindsey Ramsey, Contributing Editor

This year’s Dine-Around will showcase Ybor City, Tampa’s Latin Quarter. We talked to staff from each of the Dine-Around restaurants on this year’s agenda to get the inside scoop on what kind of culinary delights attendees can expect March 3.

Columbia Restaurant
2117 East 7th Avenue
Preview provided by: Caroline O’Connor, banquet and catering manager

What should a first-timer to Columbia Restaurant know?
We are the oldest and largest Spanish restaurant in Florida. We have Flamenco shows six nights of the week.

History: We opened in 1905. We started as a corner café for the cigar rollers to visit during their breaks. Gradually we grew into a restaurant that is a block long. The same family, The Hernandez Gonzmart family, has been with the restaurant since the beginning.

Atmosphere: It almost has an “I Love Lucy” atmosphere. We have a lot of people who have been coming here their entire lives. Most of everything in the restaurant has been brought over from Spain—most of the hand-painted tiles inside and outside, furniture, etc.

Signature dishes: Definitely paella. We basically do Spanish and Cuban food. We do a lot of tapas with seafood,but you’ll also see Cuban dishes like roast pork and a Cuban sandwich.

Bernini of Ybor
1702 East 7th Avenue  
Preview provided by: Thomas Leechin, general manager

What should a first-timer to Bernini of Ybor know?
We are an eclectic eatery where the cuisine complements your surroundings without compromising your wallet. The restaurant is named after the famous sculptor, architect and painter, Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini.

History: We have been here for 17 years. We are located in a refurbished bank.

Atmosphere: We’re classified as a pretty romantic restaurant. There is low lighting and everything is in some shade of red. We have prints of Bernini artwork all over the restaurant.

Signature dishes: We have a crispy duck made with goat cheese mashed potatoes and broccolini, finished with a dried cherry and vanilla Chianti demi-glace that is very popular—as is our pistachio-crusted grouper served with herb-roasted mashed potatoes and broccolini, finished with marsala brown butter sauce. We change the menu often so there is always something new.

Carne Chophouse
1536 E. 7th Avenue
Preview provided by: Michael Ingrassia, general manager

What should a first-timer to Carne Chophouse know?
We are an affordable chophouse with an emphasis on Latin flavors.

History: The building is 125 years old. It was originally The Spanish Club, which is where immigrants came in the early 1900s to get help with immigration law and medical needs.

Atmosphere: It feels like a Spanish castle. It has very low lighting and 30-foot ceilings. We use a lot of red velour on the drapes so it’s very warm and inviting. There are beautiful chandeliers hanging from the ceilings.

Signature dishes: We’re known for our steaks, and each of those comes with a sofrito potato, which is basically a twice-baked potato that is pan-seared and served with oil, garlic, peppers and onions. The overall menu has a Latin feel to it, with kind of a New Orleans feel as well.

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