I heard a rumor that the economy isn’t very good these days. If that’s true, then how come every time a business in New Tampa or Wesley Chapel closes, new places keep popping up in their place? This appears to be particularly true about local eateries, as you’ll be able to tell when you see all of the new places opening in our distribution areas!


Shops At Wiregrass Update

There’s quite a bit of news to report about the ever-evolving Shops at Wiregrass mall in Wesley Chapel.

For example, a new Charley’s Philly Steaks & Grilled Subs shop is set to open in the space previously occupied by The Teriyaki Experience, which closed a couple of months ago. The owners of 900º Woodfired Pizza and Cafe 365 also are involved in opening the new sub shop, which has hundreds of locations from Hawaii to Alaska and even Japan and beyond.

The company’s website says “Charley” was taking a family vacation when a missed exit brought him to South Philly. His first encounter with a local delicacy, a Philly Cheesesteak, was love at first bite, so he brought his findings back home to Columbus, Ohio and began testing recipes on his college buddies.He opened the first Charleys on the Ohio State University campus and not long thereafter, to keep up with customer demand, Charley began franchising his award-winning taste in 1991. Locations began popping up all over the world, including mall food courts, strip centers, airports and even Army & Air Force Bases.

Also now open on an outparcel on S.R. 56 in front of the mall is a new, freestanding Panera Bread. The new Panera is larger than the New Tampa location and now features the company’s hush-hush new “Hidden Secret Menu” of low-carb items.

For more info, call 406-4853 or visit PaneraBread.com.


FHWC Thanks Volunteers

I also am pretty sure I was the only member of the local media who attended a special thank-you meal for the 85 current volunteers who helped not only get the new Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel (FHWC) open, but have played such a vital role in helping operate Wesley Chapel’s newest and most impressive economic engine.

Connie Bladon, the executive director of the FHWC Foundation, says that in addition to the 85 current volunteers, another 19 are in the process of completing their orientation and needed certifications.

“Our volunteers are a wonderful, diverse group of people,” Bladon says.

For more info, visit FloridaHospital.com/WesleyChapel.

Kwan Ming Bistro Opens, First Thai To Open Soon!

Wesley Chapel now has its first Chinese restaurant that isn’t either primarily a takeout place or a buffet, as Kwan Ming Bistro-Hong Kong Cuisine just opened in the same plaza on S.R. 56 that also is home to the ever-popular Wolf’s Den Restaurant (in front of Sam’s Club).

The Bistro isn’t a big place, but it does have a sizable menu and I did have an opportunity to sample some of my usual Chinese favorites — BBQ spare ribs, beef with broccoli, house special fried rice (photo), etc. — the day the eatery opened. And, so far, so pretty good. Look for a full update soon.

Kwan Ming Bistro (27607 S.R. 56) is open every day at 11 a.m. For more info, call 994-2228 or visit KwanMingRestaurant.com.


Custom Windows & Doors

One way people are still staying in their homes, despite the economy and still-below-par housing market is by upgrading their homes. But, whether you’d like to add to your home’s value, or just make it look better while you’re still living there, you should put in a call to our friends at Custom Windows & Doors of Pasco, Inc., which serves Wesley Chapel from its Port Richey showroom. “Where Custom is the Standard” is the motto at Custom Windows & Doors, which offers impact-resistant windows and doors, which you can design yourself, or customize from an existing design.

The business founded by Robert Leggiere has been at the same location on U.S. 19 for more than 20 years is still run by Robert’s daughter Carol and her stepson Gary. The family-run window and door operation offers everything from hurricane protection products to customized decorative door glass, glass rooms and screened lanais, crown molding & trim and designer door lock sets and hardware, service, repairs and much more.

For more information, visit Custom Windows & Doors at 7940 U.S. 19, call (727) 841-9490 or visit Custom-WindowsandDoors.com.


Full Circle Pizza’s Great New Lunch Special!

Congratulations to owner Ron Chase of Full Circle Pizza & Grill in New Tampa’s Pebble Creek Collection plaza on BBD for being named our readers’ 2012 Favorite Pizza Place, Favorite New Restaurant, Favorite Sub Shop and #2 Favorite Restaurant in New Tampa. Full Circle also did pretty well on my 2012 favorites list (see pages 28-29 for the complete list).

Ron is celebrating with an outstanding lunch special that will continue until at least the end of January. Every weekday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. ONLY, you can get unlimited soup, salad and garlic knots that blow doors on anything you can get at a certain Italian chain that offers free salad and breadsticks — all for just $6.99 per person.

Ron also offers other fast, affordable daily lunch specials and his thin-crust Chicago pizza and Chicago-style Italian beef sandwiches are all given big thumbs up from our local former Windy City residents.

Stop in for lunch or dinner at Full Circle Pizza (19651 BBD Blvd., behind Kobe Steakhouse) or call 994-3700 and please tell Ron & his crew we sent you!


Halftime Sports Lounge Opens Next To Pizza Hut

A little further south on BBD, in the Publix-anchored New Tampa Center plaza across from Hunter’s Green, the new Halftime Sports Lounge (19012 BBD) has opened in the space previously occupied by the Excalibur Lounge in the plaza.

But, while Halftime also is a smoking bar that stocks a nice selection of premium liquors and micro-brewed beers, the similarities between it and Excalibur pretty much end there. Halftime, which was open only a couple of weeks as we went to press with this issue, offers everything from live jazz to karaoke to spoken word nights and also is one of the more elegant hookah lounges I’ve seen in the Bay area.

For more info about the Halftime Sports Lounge, call 910-4102.

Also opening in the same section of the same plaza is The Little Greek Restaurant, which will move into the space previously occupied by Firehouse Subs. We’ll tell you more about The Little Greek (MyLittleGreek.com) in a future issue.


North Pole Ices Closes, La Fuente Opens In CC Center

Meanwhile, there’s been a lot of changes in the Cross Creek Center plaza at the corner of Cross Creek Blvd. and Kinnan St., where North Pole Ices closed at the end of November and La Fuente Real Mexican Restaurant opened a few weeks later.

We’re sad to see North Pole Ices go, but La Fuente has a great menu of authentic Mexican favorites and, on first taste, owner Roger (no relation to Sen. Marco) Rubio’s fajitas are the real deal, so I definitely will go back for more!

For more information, stop in at La Fuente (10032 Cross Creek Blvd.) or call 907-0592.


New Eateries In Highwoods

We’ve recently reported a lot of news about the area we call Highwoods Preserve, especially being the only local media source to report the correct information about Lee Roy Selmon’s closing its doors for good (although we now hear Selmon’s will open a new location in Wesley Chapel; we’ll update you about when and where when we have more details) and about BB&T Bank opening a new branch shortly in the former Krispy Kreme Doughnuts location adjacent to the old Selmon’s.

Well now, we’re happy to report about two new eateries joining the serpentine shopping plazas located on the same (west) side of Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. as Selmon’s and BB&T that wind their way around Highwoods Preserve — from the Verizon/Amscot building, past Linkster’s Tap Room, FedEx Office and Boston Market all the way to Starbucks.

Behind FedEx, right next to You Say When Yogurt (our area’s fifth favorite dessert place in our exclusive 2012 Reader Dining Survey, we’ll tell you more about You Say When, which is under new ownership and management, in a future issue), the Taste of New York Pizzeria has been open for a month. And, I can assure you — as a true, transplanted New Yawka — that the place lives up to its name. I don’t want to give away yet how far up my 2013 Favorite Pizza Place list Taste of New York will debut at in my own annual survey of my 2012 dining favorites (and it did open while I was still compiling that list), but check out the list of my Top 10 favorites pizza joints in New Tampa and Wesley Chapel on page 28.

Tell Sam, the owner, I sent you to Taste of New York (17503-C Preserve Walk Lane) or call 971-7000. And, check out my complete 2012 Dining Favorites List on pg. 28!

Right next to Taste of New York, the Greek Villa Mediterranean Cuisine restaurant also has opened, although it was only open a day or two when I had to finalize this column, so I haven’t gotten to sample it…yet. All I can tell you is that the place looks immaculate and the aroma of both the chicken and regular lamb gyro sandwiches was already off the chain. If Greek Villa also has a killer Greek salad, we’re going to be seeing a few mentions of them in both my survey and our Reader Survey in 2013!

Stop in at Greek Villa Mediterranean Cuisine (also 17503 Preserve Walk Lane) or call 898-8991.


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