Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pho Quyen in Pinellas Park

Since I was in the area I went to go get some food from Pho Quyen in Pinellas Park today with the family. We were doing some business and got hungry so we headed over there. I've been going to this place for probably over 6 years. I don't remember exactly how long but I know it started when I was in middle school. Nothing has really changed but ever since many other Pho Quyens have opened up I rarely come to this one in Pinellas Park. The food and restaurant doesn't appeal to me as much as the one on Hillsborough. The restaurant still have some of the same employee from awhile back, the design and menu hasn't changed much. Nothing has really improved but if you really need some Vietnamese food and you're in the area this place isn't that bad. Most of the employees and owner speak Chinese, Vietnamese and a little bit of English so that may helpful for many. The popular dishes that I always get would be pho, chao, and broken rice dishes. They do also serve bubble tea and many other drinks that are fun to eat. I honestly don't love the food here but if I am hungry I probably come by to eat some. The chao was okay, it was a bit too thick but it's loaded. I got the one that has everything in it and when I say everything I mean it. They have been putting sausages in my chao for some odd reason but it's a good little treat from all the organs and intestine that are usually in it. 

 The Bun Bo Hue which is my brothers favorite dish wasn't that great either. My brother said it was a bit too spicy and just looking at him eat the bowl I could see all of the oil and coloring sticking everywhere. It didn't make me want to take a slurp of the broth because who knows what's in it. He did manage to finish the whole bowl so I'm sure it wasn't that bad as it seems but he did agree with me that the food on Hillsborough was better. I don't want to hate so much but once you have food from a different place that is better you can't do much to help the situation. I always do try to go back and try the food over to see if anything has changed and right now nothing has really changed. The food back in the days used to be all I knew but now since there are better places to eat at I have trouble going back to this one. Compared to the one on Hillsborough there seems to be a lack in many things. The restaurant is 3 times bigger, there are many younger kids who speak english that works, the food taste better, it's always busy and there's a large menu list.

BUT This is probably my top place to go to get Vietnamese food in the area. There are many places worse that are near by. They serve very good amount of food for a good price. Everyone here are very friendly, sometimes it may be a bit slow but it's a more family owned kind of restaurant.

B.B.Q. Beef on Broken Rice

Pho Quyen 

(Pinellas Park)

4505 Park Blvd # 10
Pinellas Park, FL 33781

(727) 545-5678

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hellas Restaurant and Bakery

Let me just start out that this post may be very long. It's actually my first post that I'm doing as a "food blogger" all my other ones were from either a picture or two, some from my cell phone or just from my memories. Today I went out with my group of friends from school which are mainly from U.N.I.T. an multi-cultural club formed on campus and I so happened to be president at the moment. We decided to go get some Greek food, which many of us haven't had it or maybe had a few dishes and haven't experienced the real sit in and adventure it would take us. 

I picked Hellas Restaurant and Bakery without doing too much research. I was on Yelp.com (you can find me by clicking this link denalovesfood.yelp.com) and I researched the highest ratings "Greek food in Tarpon Springs" and Hellas came up and so that was it. I have never been to the sponge docks so it took me a few times to figure out where to park and where the restaurant was. With a little help from my friend who was already waiting there we all gathered everyone in no time. Driving past this restaurant you can't help but stare, there are blue lights that beam out at you and there seems to be no "real door", you can peer in and see all the tables and people eating. I though this was a pretty cool concept because it's unique and it pulls you in without you even knowing what's going on. Parking could be a bit tricky for newcomers like me, there's plenty of room in the back of the building and there's also a free parking area for Hellas costumers so don't worry about paying for parking. 

The restaurant and bakery is very clean and is a very fun environment to be in. The restaurant is a bit dim and the interior is basically a blue wonderland. There are tons of tables and lots of mirrors so it does give you a little amusement. The bakery is pretty awesome too, the theme is red and it is brightly lit. The restaurant and bakery are opened to each other so you can easily walk over to both places without ever walking outside. 

I had a decent group size so there will be a huge list of food that I've tried. I must say that every dish I've had tonight were amazing. We did have a problem with one dish, the Kalamari, but it was easily fixed. Everyone who works there are amazingly friendly and talkative. I especially liked out waiter, his name was Bryant or Brian? He was pretty handsome, just saying! Anyways at first I wasn't sure if he liked us because he was being sarcastic about everything but after awhile he was bring real with us. Giving us laugh and always being there for us. He was really an amazing waiter and it made the whole experience we had tonight a superb event.

We started off our wonderful night at Hellas with their saganaki, skordalia, hummas spread, broiled octopus and greek salad. 

Saganaki (sounds japanese) is imported cheese that they put on flame in front of you. This is really a fun experience if you haven't seen it before and must I add, it taste great! I like to eat it with bread which are provided free of charge. This dish is very popular because I always see it on the menu everywhere and also when you walk into Hellas you may be walking past waiters putting a dish on fire so don't run away thinking they are crazy but enjoy the sight. 

Skordalia is a potato garlic spread, it's a puree of garlic and potatoes which you can either use it as a dip or eat it with fried/boiled vegetables, fish and so on. I honestly don't find this dish that wonderful but that could because I'm not use to it. It's really strong but it's very good. If you really like garlic then this appetizer might be for you. 

Hummas Spread is really good. It's served with pita bread which is one of my favorite thing to eat. The hummas isn't too strong nor is it too bland. I had fun eating this appetizer and if you want to try something that everyone knows about you should try this. It comes in two scoop/ball with an olive on each one (they still have their pit in so be careful). Warning if you're allergic to chickpeas or anything similar you may want to stay away!

Broiled octopus was amazing! It was a bit chewy but duhhh octopus aren't the most tender thing in the world. I thought this dish was really good especially the squeeze of lemon on it. I'm a crazy fan of octopus so I knew I was going to like this dish from the start. I could probably eat this as a meal (which they do have on the menu). It is a bit pricey but it was worth it. The blacken parts gave it such a charred flavor that got really addicting. I think this appetizer was awesome!

I don't have a picture of the Greek Salad because it came out ugly (the picture) but it was good. I wasn't crazy about the salad because it tasted like any other greek salad but it was a good appetizer to share. If you haven't had a greek salad before I advise you to try it because it's different from just any regular salad. There's a scoop of potato salad under all the lettuce, onion, tomatoes, olives, feta cheese and so on. The dressing is usually an original dressing that is mixed up at the restaurant or you can buy greek salad dressing at your local grocery store. 

For our main meal there was a few people who got the gyro, the combination -spanakopita & tiropita, combination platter, marithes, and mediterranean seafood combo.

The Hellas Gyro was pretty simple. A mixture meat of lamb and beef and your veggies. I absolutely love gyros and it was pretty decent here at Hellas. I had a few pieces and it wasn't my favorite from all the dishes we had but it was something I would tell someone to try. I had a picture but it also came out ugly so I won't be using it. If you want to go to my favorite place to get gyros it would be in Palm Harbor area, a little place called Little Greek. Their gyros are really big and stuffed with lots of ingredients and it's more of a fast food style.

I also don't have a decent picture of the Combination plate of spanakopita and tropita which were amazing. My favorite out of the two would be spanakopita (spinach pie) which has a flaky pastry crust. This is a great dish that has no meat in it for non meat eaters and it comes with rice pilaf, daily vegetable, greek style potato, and fresh fruit of the day. 

I ordered the Combination platter with my friend which runs to almost 20 dollars but I think it was worth it. It has everything someone would want to try on a single plate. There was gyro, mousaka, pastitiso, dolmades and tzatziki sauce. The gyro was talked about above and was probably the only thing that was left on the plate, the mousaka was something i don't remember having at all. It's basically a casserole of beef, eggplant, potatoes and cheese. The pastitso was one of my favorite on the dish! It's kind of like a greek version of lasagna, there's ziti, ground beef, romano cheese baked with a creamy sauce. At first I wasn't sure what it was and had to ask the waiter and bam! It was really delicious, the flavor wasn't too strong but was really mild on the tongue. I kept wanting more and more and the creamy sauce wasn't too rich but it probably wasn't the healthiest thing. The dolmades were good but I wasn't in love with it as much as I was with the pastitso. It's grounded up meat stuffed in grapevine leaves. It has a really unique taste to it and it brings a greek feel to your mouth. There was also rice pilaf and peas served with the meal and must I say that was absolutely amazing. It was moist and flavored perfectly, I could probably eat that as a meal if I could. 

My friend whom sat across from me ordered the Marithes which are pan fried smelts. I didn't get to try one of the smelts but from the looks of what was left over he really cleaned it up. It looked appealing but I'm not a huge fan of eating fish.

Seafood Combo


The birthday girl ordered the Mediterranean Seafood combo which consisted of shrimp, scallop and catch of the day (fish). She also ordered the Kalamari but it was really overcooked and rubbery so we had to return that dish. I had a few bites off her dish and it was pretty good, the shrimp and scallop was really well cooked. Everything was gone by the end of the night so that's a good sign!

For dessert we ordered a few baklava and there was one who ordered a strawberry cheesecake and galactoumbourika (we had fun with this word it's sorta like gala -...- bootie - co). The baklava was amazing! Super sweet and oh so good. It's a flaky pastry filled with nuts, honey and oh sweetness goodies. This is a must try for people who are looking from some greek desserts. The strawberry cheese cake was good but I wasn't like omgah let me eat it all. The galactoumbouika was good it's a greek custard with a flaky pastry covering. The name just made the night fun. Since our waiter was amazing he came out with a birthday baklava for my friend. 

I also went over to the bakery side to snap a few pictures so enjoy! (just click icon to enlarge)

Overall I had a really great experience at Hellas. Their food was amazing and the environment was super fun. Everyone there are friendly and have a humor side so break loose and enjoy your lunch/dinner. 

This was our group and sitting in my seat is our wonderful waiter! I'm actually in the mirror in the background so it actually made it a perfect group picture, missing no one!

Hellas Restaurant & Bakery

785 Dodecanese Blvd
Tarpon Springs, FL 34689

(727) 943-2400

Hellas on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I ♥ Rita's Italian Ice

I can go for Rita's Italian Ice anytime any day! There's one somewhat near me but I only get it when I go or come back from the beach. There's a new Rita's that just opened CLOSER to me and I am in love! Usually I don't go for Italian Ice because of all the sugar and just a kid size is more then enough for me. It's one of those things I consider a "reward". There's always a sugar free flavor that you can opt to and 10 other flavors that you can choose from. You can always find something to enjoy here at Rita's, whether it's some ice, or something creamy or even something blended!

A new Rita's Italian Ice has just opened up near me and today after my Anatomy and Physiology II exam I decided to meet up with a friend to get some ice as a treat! The place was packed and since it is near a high school, there were tons there. I think the location is perfect. It's in a big and busty plaza with many nail salons, Publix, lots of restaurants and many more. They just opened today and for 7 days (as their Grand Opening) they will be giving out regular size cups of ice for FREE! I hope you guys go out and check out this location and go get some free ice. 

I just so happen to be in this picture that was posted up on Rita's Facebook. I look a little pissed but I wasn't I swear! I really think this business is going to do well here!! I'll be back!

Don't know what Italian Ice is? Well it's also known as "water ice", it is a frozen dessert made of fruit or other flavoring. It is very similar to sorbet. Italian is nothing like shaved ice that is flavored but it is made in the similar process as ice cream, freezing the ingredients while being mixed at the same time. 

Rita's Italian Ice

(Northwood Plaza)

2510-A N. McMullen Booth Road
Clearwater, FL

727-796-RITA x 7482

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Beach Club @ Jimmy Johns

I went to visit my friend today at her work which is located on the beach. We decided to have our dinner at Jimmy Johns, which would be my first time there. Actually we got it delivered to her work (hotel) because she wasn't able to leave. We both ended up getting the Beach Club (Fresh baked turkey breast, provolone cheese, avocado spread, sliced cucumber, sprouts, lettuce, tomato, and mayo). It was mighty tasty! I've never had alfalfa sprouts in my sandwich before and I must say it was pretty good. I would probably add it to my own homemade sandwiches for some extra earthy taste and great texture. Every thing in the sub was really fresh and the bread was also good and not stale. I must say I really enjoyed this sub, the ratio of meat, veggies and bread was perfect. The bread wasn't very powerful or was too much that all you could bite off was bread. The size of the sub was perfect! I was able to finish one sub (normally I can only eat half of a sub from subway) and it wasn't greasy of heavy. After finishing this sub I was able to feel full but not stuffed which is perfect! I'm def going to get myself some Jimmy Johns in the future! Can't wait to try all their other subs! There's their french bread (pictured above), thick sliced 7 grains bread, or even their choice of low carb lettuce wrap! Their price isn't really pricey but they are pricer then other sandwiches or sub places. I would eat this over Subway anyday (I'm not a fan of Subway but I occasionally do grab a sub or two) because it is much fresher and they have some awesome choices of fresh sandwich meats! 

Jimmy Johns 

(Fort Harrison, Clearwater)

553 S Fort Harrison Ave
Clearwater, FL 33756

(727) 210-2364

Jimmy John's on Urbanspoon