I'm just going to come right out and say it...I have an unapolagetic fondness for this iconic "Grand Dame" on Bayshore Blvd. While there are certainly no new culinary paths being forged at this old-school venue, restaurants don't stick around for almost 80 years unless they're doing something right. To fully appreciate it, you must first accept it for what it is. Comparing it to, say, Edison Food + Drink Lab, would be akin to comparing "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" to "Fifty Shades of Grey". You can't do it and it isn't fair to try.
Good thing they serve crabs here, because we had my in-laws in tow. Just kidding, Dad...you know I love you guys (smooches)!
After being promptly seated (it was only 4:00 PM, after all) at a comfy booth where the ILs could soak in the gorgeous bay view through the expansive picture windows, we settled in and received exceptionally fun, friendly and attentive service from Parker, who was a true professional. We opted to nibble on some onion rings while we perused the menu and The Colonnade's huge serving of feather-lightly battered, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside rendition of said app was quickly presented. These were some mighty fine onion rings that came close to rivaling Parkshore Grill's (which are the best in town, IMO). A zippy, horseradish-riche, Bloomin' Onion-esque dipping sauce came with.
A basket of warm, complimentary mini-muffins also appeared in short order. The little corn muffins were a tad dry but their moist and tangy orange cranberry counterparts compensated for that fact. And, yeah...there were foil wrapped butter pats (as well as little plastic condiment cups) involved over the course of the meal, which I was able to forgive due to the intrinsically historic nature of the venue. Sometimes (but not often), I will not hate on a resto of the 'Nade's price point for that transgression.
Entrees came with a nice selection of two sides (salads, potatoes and veggies). Cole slaw can often be disappointing, but not here. Mine was fresh, crisp and tossed in just the right amount of creamy dressing. The house side salad also appeared to be above average.
The "old folk", who are notorious for always ordering identical dishes, opted for the crab cakes and couldn't stop raving about them. These were not your run-of-the-mill crab cakes and had sort of a Cuban spin on them....almost reminiscent of an Ybor City "devil crab" with the crispy breadcrumb binder exclusively on the exterior as opposed integrated within the crabmeat patty. I'll be the first to admit that the presentation was lacking, but our elders freebased this shiznet like it was crack. Carole deemed it "the best crab cake I've ever eaten"...and she's eaten a lot of 'em.
Perhaps the baked potato is better represented in the photo of my entree..."SOS" (shrimp, oysters and scallops). Being a Tennessee gurl, anything breaded and fried makes me tingly all over and The Colonnade cooks seem to have their Fry Daddy under masterful control. The shellfish morsels all tasted quite fresh and were lightly crusted and fried to perfection (seafood is hand-breaded here...there's nothing frozen/prefab going on, which always elicits kudos from me) . Bacon bits and sour cream were available (along with butter, of course) for the baked potato. It was a ridiculously huge amount of food for under $20.
Dogboy selected the Lobster and Shrimp...freshly steamed whole lobster and broiled shrimp stuffed with crab meat (lobster was cracked tableside by Parker), Simple perfection. The side of beer-battered fries were proclaimed "some of the most wonderful fries I've ever eaten" by said Superhero Dawg.
Dessert offerings, while not cutting edge, were done well nonetheless. This Coconut Cream Pie might not look like Angelina Jolie on the Red Carpet, but it was a perfectly executed delight...resplendent in its flaky, tender crust and cloud-like, creamy coconut filling.
Parker had me at "copious" when he described the Fried Cheesecake (Fried Tortilla Shell Filled with Banana Cheesecake, Rolled in Cinnamon Sugar, Drizzled with "copious" amounts of Caramel Sauce). So good.
Nice retro dining experience. Don't expect a "see and be scene" crowd here...patrons are predominantly baby-boomers (and their parents). Entrees (mostly under $20) are huge and all-inclusive of bread/starch/veggie. The view is almost unsurpassed in Tampa Bay. Loved getting a generous pour of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay for $5.95, as well. Good times!
My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.