By Gary Nager
When you meet George Illes, the owner of the Taste of Boston restaurant, located in the Shoppes of New Tampa plaza, directly across S.R. 56 from the Shops at Wiregrass mall, you definitely wouldn’t think he was from Boston — or any part of New England, for that matter.
Although he spent about 15 years in Hampton Beach, NH — where he owned everything from a bagel shop to an ice cream-and-gyro place, George still has the heavy accent of his native Hungary, but he also has retained the ability to create authentic New England-style seafood that has transplanted “Yankees” from Massachusetts and Rhode Island coming back again and again.
“When you call yourself ‘Taste of Boston,’ you’d better keep your New Englanders happy,” George says. “If they don’t taste what they remember from before they moved here, they’ll never come back again…and they’ll tell their friends to avoid your place, too.”
That’s not a problem at Taste of Boston, which attracts a sizable crowd for lunch and dinner virtually every day. His customers are a nice mix of former northeasterners and locals who enjoy everything from authentic New England clam chowder to “whole belly” fried clams to a self-proclaimed “Best Outside of Philly” cheesesteak sandwich.
All I can say is that everything I’ve sampled at Taste of Boston, which was actually George’s second Tampa Bay location when he opened here in April 2010 (he sold his South Tampa restaurant last year), has been fresh and delicious.
I love the “chowda,” as well as the delicious grilled or blackened basa (a freshwater fish that is much tastier than tilapia) and even the fried haddock — a guilty pleasure of mine, even though I usually avoid fried seafood.
So, in order to get a take on some of George’s other great tastes, I treated my staff to get the word on their favorites. Graphic artist Porsha Lemos raved about Taste of Boston’s lobster roll sandwich , which is served with a cup of zesty lobster bisque, too. On another visit, Porsha also said that Taste of Boston’s fried “whole belly” clams were among the sweetest and tastiest she ever tried. Photographer Jayne Baker gave thumbs-up to the authentic Maryland crab cake bites appetizer and the whole steamed lobster. Assistant editor Matt Wiley gobbled his huge crab cake sandwich and I was pleasantly surprised by the delicious oven-baked sub roll and zesty sauce on Taste of Boston’s tasty, huge chicken parmesan sandwich basket.
Taste of Boston also offers a variety of great appetizers, from “kickin’” shrimp (served with a spicy Asian-style sauce), boneless Buffalo and BBQ wings, fried plantains, mushrooms and onion rings and even authentic New England “steamers” (steamed clams), burgers and more.
You can even get shrimp scampi over linguine or linguine with clams. fried or blackened sea or bay scallops and for those who aren’t allergic to shrimp (like I am), there’s baskets of fried, coconut and kickin’ shrimp, too. There’s even baked sea scallop and seafood casserole dinners and all-you-can-eat options available.
The baskets are served with fries and cole slaw, or you can upgrade to a “dinner,” with your choice of fresh cole slaw, yellow rice, sweet potato fries, steamed broccoli, yellow rice or BBQ baked beans.
Taste of Boston also recently added several rotating flavors of delicious Bruster’s Real Ice Cream and has a variety of decent wines and draft and bottled beers, including “George’s Boston Brew,” a tasty red. And, although Taste of Boston already can host or cater your holiday party, coming soon is George’s mobile “Chowder Bus,” which he can bring to your location and basically provide most of his menu.
Reservations are not required at Taste of Boston (1944 Bruce B. Downs Blvd.), which opens every day at 11 a.m. for lunch and dinner. You can get $3 off your order of $20 or more with the coupon on page 31, or call 994-9797 or visit TasteofBostonFlorida.com.