Underdog and I were not terribly impressed with Tampa Bay Brewing Company when we first tried it a few years ago (right after they moved into Centro Ybor just below the Muvico). Following a matinee this afternoon (The Green Latern - cute movie, although I'm not sure I wouldn't just as thoroughly enjoy spending two hours watching Ryan Reynolds clip his toenails), we decided to give it another whirl for a few apps.
The restaurant interior is decidedly masculine in a frat house sort of way with lots of dark wood, "drinking humor" posters adorning the walls throughout, flat screen TVs at every turn and a vague sense of the place not being terribly clean. Still, we received friendly, low-key service and better-than-average pub grub this afternoon.
None of the house brews sounded light enough for this beer wimp (anything less watery than a Mich Ultra is just too hoppy) so I ordered a glass of Chardonnay. Yes, I did...so sue me. Okay...maybe I'm a little embarrassed.
Dogboy seemed to enjoy his $5.00 pint of True Blonde (as if such a thing exists...boys will believe anything) Ale.
The spousal unit spent some time in Ireland and was very excited to see Homemade Irish Soda Bread with Wild Warthog Weizen Orange Blossom Honey Butter on the menu. He was a bit bummed to learn that this was not available on the afternoon we visited. However, the menu items we were able to order proved to be tastier than I remembered or expected for the most part. The Trio of Kobe Beef Sliders (one with bacon, gouda and barbecue sauce; one with bleu cheese and onion rings; and the third with jalapenos and cheddar) made up in flavor for what they lacked in presentation. The perfectly cooked little beef patties, their toppings and the surpisingly exceptional rolls were all delish.
Black and Tan Battered Onion Rings were charmingly presented and as good as any onion rings I've had in the Tampa Bay area (Parkshore Grille's excluded...they're in a league of their own). The batter was crisp and light and the onion ring interior was tender and easily yielded to the tooth. The horseradish dipping sauce was a little thinner and milder than I prefer so I wound up using ketchup on mine. Very fine rings, nonetheless...and I liked the little swirl of dark ale in the batter.
The Pan Crisped Pierogi with Caramelized Onions, Sauteed Mushrooms and Sour Cream also disappeared in short order. Pierogies are carbo-laden little bites of heaven to begin with, and the onion and mushroom topping brought these even one step closer to God. Very nice.
Underdog lurves him some onion soup, so he could not pass on a cup of the Porter Onion Soup topped with Crouton and Melted Swiss. The cup looked more like a crock (impressive for $3.99) with plenty of golden-brown, molten cheese blanketing the top and oozing down the sides. The Dog enjoyed it, although he remarked that the soup had a stronger (almost beef bouillonesque) flavor than he was accustomed to...and he orders onion soup a LOT.
Being a bread pudding junkie, I was psyched when our server recommended the house specialty dessert...Homemade Jack the Quaffer Porter Chocolate and Cherry Bread Pudding. My heart sank a little when, after we ordered a slab, he returned to tell us that they had sold out of it. There was a consolation prize, however...a Blueberry Bread Pudding was available. Redemption! Well, maybe not. I have eaten 10 times my weight in bread pudding over the course of a lifetime and this one placed in the bottom 5th percentile. The flavor was fine, but it was a pallid offering lacking even a hint of firmness or oven-browned edges. It was far too soggy for a bread pudding even in the top half (which seemed to be little better cooked than the remainder of it) and the bottom portion was the consistency of cooked oatmeal. Everything about it screamed "microwave". Ummm...gross. Have one of your neighbors down the street (either Columbia or Sunday's Fine Dining) show you how to properly prepare bread pudding.
Bread Pudding debacle aside, the food was plentiful, actually quite tasty overall and a good value for the price (around $50 for all this plus one alcoholic beverage apiece). Recommended for better-than-average bar food and microbrews in Ybor.