Originally built in 1919, the building that houses The Bungalow Restaurant and Bar has seen its fair share of history in the making. But today it's a haven for spirited revelry that even earned a spot on CBS Tampa Bay's 2014 Best Sports Bars In Tampa Bay. To start with, The Bungalow's private skybox—a 1,200-square-foot luxury suite with its own bar, poker room, and vault of vintage Sports Illustrated issues—provides an uber-premium game-day experience. But the rest of the restaurant is more than prepared to accommodate fans. Twelve flat-screen TVs adorn the walls, providing plenty of viewing opportunities throughout the dining areas and around the fully stocked bar. On some days, celebrations are known to spill out onto the outdoor patio section, which features shaded seating and its own views of the surrounding foliage.
The Bungalow's menu also shares the vibrant, eclectic spirit of its environment. Beginning with traditional comfort foods, the chefs incorporate Latin, Cajun, and international flavors into their dishes, creating distinctive items with familiar roots. Orders of shrimp and jalapeno-spiced grits arrive with roasted salsa, and beer-battered fish and chips are accompanied by remoulade and a key lime tartar sauce. The chefs even inject a bit of Cuban flair into the egg rolls by stuffing them with mojo pork, salami, ham, and swiss cheese. Perhaps most importantly, pints of beer, shaken martinis, and specialty cocktails all help keep spirits high between bites.
The skilled chefs at Hibachi Teppanyaki & Sushi Bar demonstrate the art of preparing Japanese cuisine as they roll sushi at an open counter and sear savory meats on tableside grills. The wide-ranging menu's sushi offerings include signature rolls such as the Caterpillar ($13), a cocoon of freshwater eel, shrimp, octopus, and avocado that later transforms into a graceful butterfly. Meanwhile, the Sky Diver roll ($13)—made of fried soft-shell crab, eel, and spicy mayo—takes a tasty freefall into waiting mouths. Hibachi entrees, prepared tableside, create savory aromas wafting from chicken ($13.99) and mahi mahi ($17.59) or combos such as shrimp and scallops ($21.99) and filet mignon and lobster ($32.99). Don options ($7.99–$14.99) include grilled eel, pork katsu, and a screening of comedian Don Knotts's most hilarious moments.
Pie Place Café & Bakery's made-from-scratch creations tempt discerning taste buds by way of seasonal rotation and ever-inventive recipes. Start stomach engines with a classic greek salad ($7.95), or a toasted-walnut and fruit salad tossed with mandarin oranges, crisp apples, and craisins ($8.95). A variety of soups are offered throughout the week, starting with broccoli and cheese on Monday and concluding with Saturday’s white chicken chili ($3.95 for a cup, $4.95 for a bowl). A bevy of alternating savory pies warm bellies with comforting options, including the chicken enchilada, which layers spicy cream sauce with chicken, cheese, avocado, and sour cream. Likewise, hearty sandwiches such as the chipotle-chicken panini unite bacon and cheese on ciabatta ($7.25), while the black-bean burger boasts its galactic share of sliced-avocado crescents ($7.25).
Like the beloved American diners of yesteryear, Elks Diner retains some classic touches, from the tall pie cooler in the corner to the long counter and casual booths. During mornings that begin at 6:30 a.m., Elks' servers warm mugs with fresh-brewed coffee, as well as plates piled with chicken-fried steak and fluffy three-egg omelets. The vast menu, cooked by a chef with experience in five-star restaurants in Chicago and Beverly Hills, also includes panini, hamburgers, and albacore-tuna melts, rounded out by slabs of a chef's selection of house-made pies.
Smashburger isn't just the name?it's the way chefs, otherwise known as Burger Smashers, cook every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Certified Angus Beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. Each slab is then sandwiched in an artisan bun and is turned into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market.
This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the restaurant does, from blending handspun shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded from one restaurant in 2007 to 220 today, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.
For the majority of the '70s, according to local folklore, bassist Ferocious Ambush toured America with his southern rock band, Country Thunder. In 1978, he hung up his bass in pursuit of a more "honest living." He shied away from the public eye until 1980, when he kicked off a North Texan tour with the Ferocious Ambush Chili Cookers. Instead of music, however, the Chili Cookers served up hearty bowls of red during regional and international cook-offs, winning over the crowds as much for their simmering spices as their singing and dancing.
Twenty-four years later, the Chili Cookers found a permanent home for their two loves—music and good food—when they opened Ambush Grill and Bar. Their chefs marry old-fashioned southern eats with southwestern and Mexican flavors, serving up a hearty menu that keeps the Chili Cooker's legendary recipes alive. The famous chili flows into bowls, over burgers, and beneath corn chips in chili pie. A Li'l Pardner's menu is also available to fill kid-sized stomachs and lonesome thimbles with smaller portions of pub fare.