Sunday, August 12, 2012

Uncle Mike's Smokehouse Grill, Tampa, FL

Pro:  I wasn't really expecting all that much from an open-air patio resto in back of a Brandon Harley dealership to begin with, so disappointment was never a real danger.

Con:  Half-hearted execution keeps better-than-average pub fare from reaching its full potential at Uncle Mike's.

The venue is casually pleasing, with covered and uncovered seating, live music on the patio (decent and not too loud) and a tranquil pond view.  The menu focuses on classic bar food and barbecue, with a few interesting twists.  Service is pretty much what you'd expect...think "inexperienced Hooters Girl wannabes" (sweet and cute...but that's about it).  A patch of shade and a bucket of icy Mich Ultras had UD feeling pretty good about his life.

I love meatloaf almost more than life itself, so how could I pass on something as ethereal-sounding as Meatloaf Sliders?  These little minis were served on soft buns and dolloped with garlic mashed potatoes (or so the menu said...we didn't taste any potatoes on ours).  While conceptually sound, they were bland and failed to inspire.  I probably would've appreciated them more at 3:00 AM on a Sunday morning after knocking back Singapore Slings all night in the Disco Era.  Might've been a nice alternative to Krystal burgers.

The Vidalia Onion Rings had real potential, but didn't quite deliver due to the fact that they were presented cold.  The crispy coating had the right amount of thickness, presentation was pleasing and the onions were tender enough to bite through easily...but again, cold.

Here's where I dial down the bitchiness and get to the part I liked (thank gawd, right?).  My smoky, tender, pulled pork sandwich was a southern girl's dream come true...nothing at all wrong with this. The Vanilla Maple Sweet Potato Fries I ordered on the side (at a $1.99 upcharge) also did not disappoint.  Anytime someone can make a veggie taste like a funnel cake, I'm totally on board with it.  What a fun way to get your minimum weekly requirement of Vitamin A!
Underdog's fried catfish was a typical offering, but disappointing in the fact that no tartar sauce was available (which made it even less exciting than its limited potential allowed).  Orchard Cole Slaw, however, was surprisingly delish and maybe even a little special...the cold and crunchy shredded red cabbage was studded with fruit (apples and raisins, I think) and not overly-dressed.  Nicely done.
I can't really report on Underdog's side of fried okra other than to say that he seemed to like it.  Since my mother threatened to beat me with coat hangers in her quest to get it down me back in the '60s (parents, please...never do this), I just say "no" to okra these days...because I can.  
Uncle Mike's might be a reasonable alternative to, say...Sonny's...if one were looking for a casual bite on East Adamo Drive, but I wouldn't consider it a "destination" restaurant (if only due to the lack of across-the-board quality we experienced on our visit).  I set the bar pretty high, however...and a couple of things we tried were above average, so I'm trying not to be too harsh.  Might be worth a visit for the cold beer, a pulled pork sandwich, the cole slaw and some of the "candied" sweet potato fries.  It's cheap enough to gamble on...all this, plus a bucket of five beers, set us back $50.

Uncle Mike's Smokehouse Grill on Urbanspoon


  1. A fantastic review and photos here Polly. I live in Sarasota. Have you tried any places in Florida from 'Diners Drive-ins and Dives? I've been to two places from that show. Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish in Pasadena (excellent), and Singleton's Seafood Shack in Atlantic Beach (just good. Maybe I needed to order other items for incredible). All the best.

  2. Hi, Charles...

    The only place I've visited that I know has been featured on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" is Keegan's Seafood Grille on Indian Rocks Beach (just south of Clearwater Beach). I've been going there for 20 years for great, hole-in-the-wall seafood. We got a fantastic parmesean crusted grouper cheek sandwich there a couple of weeks ago for $8.

  3. Hello Polly,

    Thanks for getting back. Keegans OK. Very good. I will have to try them. Also I'll be stopping by 'Danny's All American Diner' on Falkenburg Road in Tampa soon. That was also featured on Diners. I'm going to order the 'Guy Fieri's Triple D' there. Burger topped with mojo pork, pastrami, swiss cheese, american cheese, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, french fried onion rings, mustard, on grilled sourdough bread.
    It looks great. I'll give you a report. If you are ever in my area, dont miss the Star Fish Seafood Company in Cortez (Bradenton). My favorite. This whole area is a fishing village. Cash only. They open at 11:30 am daily. Get their early. Fresh food made daily. I recommend the conch, shrimp po boy, and the cheese grits. Dine right on the Sarasota Bay at picnic tables. Rustic and simple. You'll love it. Keep up the great work. You are a lovely lady. All the best.

  4. Star Fish has been on my radar for awhile, now. When the temps become more pleasant in a few months, it'll definitely be a weekend field trip for me. :)

  5. Very good Polly. I only go during the week. The word has been out for awhile and the weekends they are packed. Enjoy and hope to talk soon.