Rand Packer grew up in Southern California, but his love of food and surfing frequently drew him to Oaxaca, Mexico, where he explored the region’s culinary landscape by stopping at street vendors and tucked-away restaurants. The uniqueness of Oaxacan ingredients, combined with a decade of experience cooking in Hawaii under famed chef Roy Yamaguchi, eventually inspired him to open Mekenita Mexican Grille. There, Rand surprises diners with unexpected creations that fuse Mexican and Hawaiian influences, such as pineapple-plantain nachos with passion-fruit sour cream or wood-smoked pork burritos with pineapple-papaya salsa. Patrons can also customize their meals by taking a lap around the fresh-salsa bar or monogramming their plates.
At Splash! An Ocean Grill, sounds of satisfaction emanate from guests nibbling on seared lobster, fish, or steak just like the sounds of the sea lapping the shore. A bar, located in the middle of the dining room, glows blue as soft lights evoke an under-the-waves mood and guests sip on a sweet cocktail or full-bodied wine while checking out the wall-mounted photographs. It's these details that inspired the Tampa Tribune to exclaim, "…Seafood done so well," Tampa Bay Illustrated to say, "Splash! shines like a spinning lure," and a mermaid off the bay to lament, "Why can't I grow legs?"
Serving 100% fresh ground beef and hand-spun milkshakes, Jake's Wayback Burgers keeps the light of classic American diner fare fully electrified. The menu reads like Moby Dick had Moby Dick been written about the transformation of never-frozen, all-beef patties into 3.3-, 6.6-, and 9.9-ounce burgers ($2.99–$7.09). Sides including the french fries ($2.09) and house-made chips ($1.99), while hand-dipped ice cream and milkshakes ($2.49 kids, $4.09 regular) in flavors including chocolate banana, coffee, and mint provide tasty post-meal temptation. Meat eschewers can also get in the game with the original gardenburger ($4.59) and grilled cheese sandwich ($2.69). Jake's Wayback Burgers stirs the menu pot with the Burger of the Month and Shake of the Month, giving completist burger collectors another prize to display on their shelves.
While House of Brews prides itself on its beer selection, it also features a hearty, upscale food menu. Find yourself appetized after polishing off a plate of drunken cheesy bread topped with tomatoes, onions, garlic, black olives, and blue-cheese crumbles ($8.99). Move on to a fresh salad ($3.99–$7.99, add chicken for $2) or one of the friendly sandwiches ($4.99–$9.99), such as mom’s homemade chicken salad on multi-grain bread with melty provolone ($8.99). On tap, the House of Brews collection includes familiar domestics such as Miller Lite ($3) and Blue Moon ($5), as well as some more adventurous varieties, such as Sea Dog Blueberry Wheat Ale ($5) and heavier brews including Bell’s Two Hearted Ale ($7). The bottled beer assortment features 50 different domestics, microbrews, and imports, including the mighty 9.5% ABV Victory Golden Monkey ($6.50).
Ever since Chicago farmers first discovered that their cornfields only seemed to yield corn that tasted like yellow cheddar and caramel, adventurous agriculturists have cross-bred corn to create a rainbow of fanciful flavors. Taste the corny fruits of their labors with today's deal: for $15, you get $30 worth of gourmet popcorn and treats at Poplicious Gourmet Popcorn. Your Groupon is good at its physical location in Lutz or at its online store.
Christopher Fuller found his calling at age 14. As a child, he split his time between the United States and the Dominican Republic, where he was drawn to Caribbean restaurants like a robot into a pit of hungry magnets. Calling upon these experiences, Fuller worked with chef Mike Webster to create a menu that fused elements of the Caribbean, Europe, and the United States, and The Gathering Place Wood-Fired Oven was born.
Three concepts sum up The Gathering Place's modus operandi: local ingredients, eco-friendly practices, and dishes prepared entirely in-house. Within the kitchen, chefs smoke pork, roast turkeys, and cure bacon with ingredients from businesses such as Providence Cattle Company. Their efforts gives rise to a mix of sandwiches and inventive appetizers, such as tender gator tails coated in house-made chipotle sauce. Locally sourced oak stokes the flames of a brick oven, which cooks pizzas and doubles as a sauna for retired spatulas.
Outside the kitchen, Fuller creates a dining atmosphere as eclectic as the menu. Live musicians perform on weekends, sending groovy sounds across a casual dining room and into more intimate alcoves. Seating options range from standard tables, to a patio, to dining surfaces made from barrels.