The Fung brothers have landed in Tampa to enjoy some fresh seafood, Mexican eats, and authentic Greek food.
First stop, Pelican Point Seafood, which is a respected seafood vendor that guarantees the freshest seafood. Manager Amy explains how their stone crabs are fished. The fishermen wake up at the crack of dawn, load up their boats with bait (which is pig feet, because crabs will eat anything). The crabs are caught in nets, then the fishermen remove one of their claws, and throw the entire crab back into the ocean, where their other claw will regenerate (sounds cruel, but this preserves the stone crab population by not killing the crabs and is a form of sustainable fishing). The claws are taken back to Pelican Point Seafood, where they are steamed and devoured.
Stone crab claw meat can also be enjoyed another way. At Rusty Bellies Waterfront Grill, the brothers try the popular Stone Crab Bisque ($4.25). Chef Keaton lets the brothers prepare the bisque themselves in the kitchen. They mix oil into the cream-based roux sauce, then add garlic and stone crab meat. The result is a delicious soup made with local seafood and a local recipe.
Other places to get your seafood fix include the Tarpon Tavern, which has 30+ beers on tap. A must-try dish there is the Dang Dang Shrimp ($9.49). Another noteworthy seafood place is Skipper’s Boat House, where you can find their signature Blackened Crawfish Mac n Cheese for $8.99.
With $91.50 left, the bros head over to the Taco Bus, a Mexican food truck run by Mexican-born Rene Valenzuela, who pioneered the food truck biz back in ’96 and is happy to claim a spot as one of the 10 best food joints in Tampa. The brothers decide to try the Cochinita Pibil ($6.89) and Carne Asada Papos ($8.99). Cochinita Pibil is a dish that originates from the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico and is based off of a 5,000 year old Mayan recipe. Carne Asada Papos is a one-of-a-kind Mexican recipe that was inspired by a customer wanted his food a certain way.
Papos is essentially Mexican rice filled with corn, peas and carrots, served on tostadas and topped with marinated carne asada flanked steak, seasoned queso and pico de gallo. The bros are more than impressed with the value and quality of the food truck dishes. This goes to show that with the Taco Bus, you really can get authentic Mexican food without having to cross the border. The brothers end up with $75.62 and are in search for a place to satisfy their sweet tooths.
Dough is a place where you can get breakfast pastries at any time of the day, and Chef Tina shows Andrew and David how to make their popular Key Lime Donuts. They make the filling out of Key Lime juice, Key Lime zest and eggs. The dry ingredients for the dough are mixed with water, and formed into the donut balls. Then they fry the dough balls, fill them with key lime pudding, glaze them, cover them in a graham cracker crusting, top with a decadent cream cheese frosting and place a hardened sugar piece for the garnish. Each gourmet donut costs $2.49, leaving the bothers at the grand total of $70.64.
Other places to cave in to your sweet tooth include Cupcake Cache, where you can grab their famous Watermelon Cupcakes (made with Tampa watermelon) for $3.50. You can find interesting flavored popsicles like Cilantro and Strawberry-Basil ($3) at Whatever Pops, a popsicle shop that flavors all their popsicles with local ingredients.
The bros head to Tarpon Springs, the largest Greek community in the United States (#FungFact: In 1905, Greek divers were recruited to mine Tampa’s booming sea sponge population). They stop at the renowned Hellas Restaurant, where their server Taki helps them choose what to eat. They decide on the Goat Cheese Saganaki ($7.95). Saganaki is a way of cooking something, whether it be meat, cheese, or seafood. At Hellas, the goat cheese is pan-fried on both sides, and set on fire at the table with cognac. As a matter of fact, the brothers’ dishes are still flaming hot when they are placed in front of them. Taki shows them how to put out the fire, Greek-style. Simply twist some lemon juice over it.
The brothers still have $62.69 to spare, and they head to Gaspar’s Grotto, a pirate-themed pub named after pirate Jose Gaspar, who invaded Tampa in the late 18th century. The bros try the Naked Twister (Naked is the brand of the Tampa-made vanilla rum they use in the cocktail), made from peach schnapps, watermelon juice, and blue curaçao. Don’t let the blue color of the cocktail fool you — it’s heavily flavored with watermelon and berry. David and Andrew decide on the Conch Fritters, made with the curry-flavored meat of the conch shell and served with tequila chile jam on the side. Their total bill is $23.75, leaving them with $38.94.
At the Cigar City Brew Pub, Chefs Ryan and Mike show us how to make the World’s Greatest Cuban ($10). The Cuban sandwich was actually not originally from Cuba; it was invented in Tampa by Cuban and Italian immigrants (pork from the Cubans, salami from the Italians). At Cigar City, all the ingredients for the Cuban are made in house and from scratch. The house-fermented pickles are fermented for two weeks with dill, garlic, a secret spice mix, chile de arbol and a brine mixture. The chefs slather mustard on the bread, add pickle slices, swiss cheese, salami, roasted pork loin, high-marbled fat ham, and placed on the panini press, but not before lathering the sandwich with butter. The brothers enjoy their Cubans with some house-brewed Northdale Pale Ale ($6), which boasts hops, tropical fruit, citrusy-grapefruit flavors, and goes perfectly with the Cuban. Their culinary adventures in Tampa leave them with $6.94, enough for one more beer or two more of those Key Lime Donuts from Dough!
Stay tuned for next time, when the brothers take on San Antonio, TX!