By Gary Nager
As this issue arrives in your mailbox, the 20th annual Taste of New TampaTM is only about three weeks away. The New Tampa Chamber of Commerce will host the 2013 Taste on Sunday, March 24, noon-6 p.m., in Primrose Park, across from Freedom High and Liberty Middle School off Commerce Park Blvd. in Tampa Palms.
Not only is this year’s Taste a milestone event that promises to be the biggest and best ever, it also will be the first major public event that will allow residents of Wesley Chapel and all of the New Tampa communities located north of I-75 to access the event without having to go all the way south on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd., as the new Gateway Bridge (see page 6) will provide virtual door-to-door access for Taste attendees.
And, what a Taste it promises to be! In the years that I was either the chairman of the Taste or the president of the organization that put it on, we averaged about 35 restaurants and beverage providers each year, with a high of nearly 45. Last year, only 15 restaurants participated, in part because the event got moved at the last minute from the Shops at Wiregrass mall to Paul R. Wharton High, but also because the economy had made it a lot less cost-effective for local mom-and-pop restaurants.
This year, however, I convinced the Chamber Board to reduce the cost to attend to just $5 per person in advance and $10 per person the day of the event (children 12 and under still get in for free) and to allow participating restaurants to charge from $1-$3 per “taste” (the restaurants will set their own prices).
And, so far, that strategy seems to have helped encourage more first-time restaurants to participate in the Taste.
One of the featured newcomers among the 20+ restaurants that already have committed to participating will be Domani Bistro Lounge, located on N. Florida Ave. in Old Seminole Hights.
Co-owner and executive chef Alex Knezevic says that with many of New Tampa’s favorite upscale eateries (Ciccio’s, Selmon’s, etc.) closing, he hopes the Taste will be a way for him to get New Tampa residents to drive 15 or 20 minutes to try Domani Bistro’s awesome cuisine, including the non-fried crab cake pictured here.
“For me, it was a no-brainer to participate,” Alex says. I hope other restaurants outside of New Tampa will realize what a great way this event is to introduce their restaurant to a large group of people who may never have heard of them before. I hope the Taste will get New Tampa talking about Domani Bistro Lounge!”
More First Time Restaurant Participants
Of course, not all of this year’s first-time participating eateries are outside of the immediate area. Among those that have committed already — and there are at least 20 others who have said they are interested, but simply hadn’t finalized their participation at our press time — is the new Takara Sushi & Sake Lounge in the Oak Ramble Plaza on BBD just south of Tampa. Owners Eugenia and chef Hunter Yu are excited to offer samples of their sushi and other Japanese dishes, as well as, perhaps, some from Hunter’s home country of Korea.
Also serving samples at the Taste for the first time will be co-owner Hector Gonzalez of Toast Fine Wine Bar & Café, which also is located in Oak Ramble Plaza and which recently unveiled an exciting new menu (see page 50). Hector says he will offer wine, coffee, Daily Bread bakery items and some of his bistro-inspired new menu items.
Also in the Taste for the first time are PJ Dolan’s Irish Pub & Grille (see page 35) on E. Bearss Ave., PDQ Fresh Tenders on S.R. 56, World of Beer in Tampa Palms, Oakley’s Grille on BBD in North Palms Village, the not-yet-open (at our press time) Little Greek Restaurant in the New Tampa Center, Winners Grill on S.R. 54 in Wesley Chapel (see page 52), Full Circle Pizza & Grill in the Pebble Creek Collection, Whole Foods Market (which is also a $500 sponsor; see complete list on next page), the USF Embassy Suites Hotel on E. Fowler Ave. and You Say When Yogurt in Highwoods Preserve.
I also have received very positive “maybes” from a number of other restaurants that have never participated before that had not yet confirmed their participation at our press time, including Stonewood Grill & Tavern in Tampa Palms, Burger 21 on BBD in the new Trout Creek area, CherryBerry Yogurt in Highwoods Preserve Acropolis Greek Taverna and Jersey Mike’s Subs in the Oak Ramble Plaza and even, I hope, Lee Roy Selmon’s, which now may or may not be planning to open on S.R. 56. Feel free to stop in to any of these eateries and tell them you want to see them participate in this year’s Taste. Maybe you can turn their “maybes” into “Yeses!”
Among the returning Taste restaurants this year are Café Olé on Cross Creek Blvd., Bruster’s Real Ice Cream on BBD, The Baker’s Gallery in the Pebble Creek Collection, Sam’s Club on S.R. 56, Peabody’s in the Shoppes of Amberly (Tampa Palms) & Tijuana Flats.
Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Chili’s, Boston Market, Burger Monger, the new Petra’s Express Middle Eastern Cuisine Marco’s Pizza, La Cubanita Café, Taste of Boston, Kobe Japanese Steakhouse and several others.
In other words, I fully expect to have 35-40 restaurants and beverage providers participating in this year’s Taste.
Sponsors, Entertainment & Our First Live Taste Video!
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how important the sponsors and business exhibitors are to the success of the Taste. Without these participating businesses, who spend from $275 to $10,000 to help offset the cost of the event, this likely wouldn’t be the 20th anniversary of this great event.
I also hope, if you’re still interested in sponsoring or having a business exhibitor booth at this year’s Taste, that you will call the Chamber’s executive assistant Jayne Baker at 293-2464 or visit TasteofNewTampa.info to get signed up today! But hurry!
Every sponsor of this year’s Taste will be interviewed on camera in our first-ever Taste of New Tampa video!
See page 3 for more details about the video and our planned live video feed, in partnership with Milorian Studios in the Brookside Professional Park!
Current 2013 Taste Sponsors!!
Primrose School of Tampa Palms
Florida Hospital Tampa & Wesley
Chapel (bottled water provider)
The Law Offices of Matthew J.
New Tampa Neighborhood News
Tampa Bay Times
Mini Cooper of Wesley Chapel
New Tampa Family YMCA
Regina Ramalheira, RE/MAX – First In
We Love Logos
Standard Pacific Homes
Whole Foods Market
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