Monday, May 2, 2016

Doc B's Fresh Kitchen, Tampa, FL

I’m not ordinarily a chain restaurant proponent which, coupled with the fact that I invariably (and promptly) lose the will the live the moment I pull into a shopping mall parking lot, make Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen and me a bit of an odd match – proving once again that sometimes opposites attract.

I comfort myself with the fact that this is still more of multi-location restaurant than a bona fide national franchise at this point, currently consisting of two original outposts in Chicago, its first out-of-state expansion effort which launched at International Plaza’s Bay Street last November, and a fourth location scheduled to open in Ft. Lauderdale later this year.

The ambiance at Doc B’s is somewhat minimalistic and industrial-chic, with high ceilings, flat screens throughout and loudish piped-in music. Throw in a lengthy open kitchen, a bar, a bustling staff, plus 4,200 square feet packed with convivial diners and the noise level can become more than a tad raucous. You should be aware of this going in and embrace the fun vibe for what it is, remembering that you’re probably not going to want to propose marriage or even initiate a heartfelt conversation here.

What you ARE here for is the food. High quality, creative and fresh (it’s not a misnomer – menu items rotate quarterly to make the most of seasonably available ingredients), most selections pack a nutritional punch that will make you feel good about yourself even if you didn’t go in with the best of intentions. Doc B’s managed to sneakily gavage kale into my body on both visits without ever making me feel bitterly resentful – no small feat. Beef, chicken and fish are carefully sourced to ensure that they are all-natural and hormone and antibiotic-free.

Starters range in price from $7 for Soup of the Day to $15 for Bang Bang Oysters, which is a generous enough appetizer to be a meal for most individuals. In this application, colossal oysters encased in barely-there breading are coated in sweet Thai chili and Sriracha hot sauces, layered in Asian slaw and accented with julienned mango and roasted peanuts. Cool and crunchy lettuce cups are provided for wrapping. I could eat this every day for the rest of my life.

Likewise, the generously portioned $11 Oven Roasted Chicken Wings should not be overlooked. Roasted until falling of the bone and tossed in garlic, Parmesan cheese and chimichurri sauce, they pack a flavorful punch. Atkins dieters rejoice!

Guacamole was sturdy in texture, dreamily creamy and uniquely accented with thick, admirably engineered house-made sweet potato chips as carriers. I found the guac a tad innocuous for my personal taste, feeling it could’ve been elevated by a kick of onion, pico de gallo, or the ultimate “makes everything better” ingredient - BACON. Still, it’s superior to most I’ve tried in Tampa Bay. 

My new salad crush is Doc B’s Lobster Louie Cobb. Bright greens are topped with a veritable mountain of crustacean chunks, bacon crumbles and chopped boiled egg; embellished with bright tomato halves; velvety avocado wedges; and sweet and crunchy cornbread croutons. The made-from-scratch Louie dressing (a somewhat zippier West Coast version of Thousand Island) is applied with a gentle hand, yet still manages to nicely coat all of the elements. Just when you thought “salad” and “decadence” couldn’t be used in the same sentence, here’s your muse. 

The Black Tiger Shrimp Salad is a similarly pulchritudinous specimen containing a generous portion of the large shellfish. Accented with avocado, peppadew, red onion, jicama matchsticks and feta, it’s served dressed in a refreshing avocado vinaigrette

Main courses sampled were equally impressive. My better half constantly rages because his restaurant pork chops are almost always overcooked. Not so in this case. His beautifully seared Berkshire chop was presented at a perfect and juicy medium. The accompanying loaded baked potato was fat and stuffed with all of the usual accoutrements one could ask for. If you’re trying to cut back on the kind of goodies that turn a 150 calorie baked potato a 450 calorie baked potato, let your server know when ordering because it will otherwise be assumed that you want them (a mentality I’m personally a fan of).
If you want to go lighter, the Wok Out Bowl is a more righteous option. Served with market veggies and chopped cashews, you may create your own bountiful bowl from a selection of protein elements, sauces and starch beds (sticky brown rice, lo mein or quinoa).

Dessert selections of the day vary. If you’re fortunate enough to hit Doc B’s on an ice cream sandwich day, do not fail to strike. A chewy, oatmeal raisin cookie variety lavished with a salted caramel gelato center being featured on one of my visits was Just. Crazy. Good. It was so indulgent that it even managed to overshadow the really fine Tres Leches cake with fresh berries we also taste-tested. Barely.

A Westshore crowd-pleaser, Doc B’s eclectic menu offers a wide range of salads, burgers, sandwiches and entrees that easily cater to all tastes and dietary restrictions.

Doc B's Fresh Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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