By Gary Nager
You know the world has changed when Peabody’s Billiards & Games in Tampa Palms goes smokeless, but not only is the change not evidence of an impending apocalypse, owner Bryan Peabody says the move to a smoke-free environment has allowed him to greatly expand and improve Peabody’s menu.
“We were already selling too much food with our old menu to remain as a smoking bar (according to Florida law),” he says. “So, we figured if we gave the menu an upgrade, maybe more New Tampa families would come in and appreciate that we’re now smoke-free.”
So, even though Peabody’s, located in the same Shoppes of Amberly plaza as our office, still allows smoking for those sitting in its recently expanded outdoor seating area, inside, there are still the New Tampa area’s best and most pool tables, dart boards, video games, tons of TVs for watching sports and now, a much-improved, fresh menu that is catching almost as much attention as Peabody’s eye-candy servers and bartenders.
My long-time friends and neighbors at Peabody’s warned me to focus on the new menu and I promised I would, but rest assured, Peabody’s still has outstanding burgers, New York-style pizza and what I still believe are the best wings in town. The even better news is that now, there are many new menu items that rival those old reliables for quality and, of course, flavor.
For starters, Peabody’s has added delicious and tender fried calamari, which is given a unique kick with the addition of banana peppers by Alex Sigeti, the new chef, and served with a tempting marinara dipping sauce. Another hot new starter is the crab and spinach dip, served with multi-colored, fresh tortilla chips.
“We’re really focused on fresh ingredients, using fresh, local produce,” says Alex.
That freshness shows in Peabody’s new blackened chicken salad. The romaine lettuce is crisper and the fresh, local corn salsa is perfect with the slightly spicy new balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Also new — and amazing — are the hand-cut fries served with most of Peabody’s menu items, although there is an appetizer version tossed in Kosher salt and parmesan cheese that I simply have to try.
I recently took the Wesley Chapel Neighborhood News staff to Peabody’s for lunch to sample as many new items as possible and we all came away pretty impressed. Graphic artist Porsha Lemos said the new fresh caught local fish wrap, which was grouper the day we visited, had an amazing mix of avocado, mango, lime and cilantro and the remoulade-like sauce is as “dynamite” as billed on the menu. The fish wrap is served with a fresh side salad, too.
Office manager Nikki Bennett loved the new West Coast turkey wrap, which also boasts zesty Boar’s Head pastrami, avocado, red onion, crispy local Romaine lettuce, smoked bacon, sharp cheddar and homemade mayo.
Assistant editor/photographer Matt Wiley raved about the new Creole chicken sandwich, which is served with Monterey Jack cheese, chipotle mayo, lettuce and tomato on a toasted ciabatta roll with a cup of those crisp, new hand-cut fries.
New sales rep Taylor Gardner enjoyed the new Athena burger, which is served with red pepper hummus, feta cheese, homemade pickles and red onion on a ciabatta.
And yours truly has already enjoyed Peabody’s yummy new roast beef pressed panini sandwich, which is made with Boar’s Head london broil, caramelized sweet onions, spicy mustard and garlic aioli and provolone on fresh herbed foccacia, as well as the upgraded new “Signature Steak” on the menu, which is a house-cut New York strip, marinated and grilled to perfection and served with char-grilled, local corn on the cob, caramelized onions and a roasted garlic aioli.
Still hooked on Peabody’s pizza and wings? Us, too. But, to keep me from getting in trouble, sample the yummy, spicy new citrus chipotle wings and amazing new “Health Freak” pizza, which has olive oil, fresh garlic, farm fresh tomato slices, basil and mozzarella cheese. Both are must-try items, as are the homemade zeppole and brownie a la mode sundae for dessert.
The fresh, new, smoke-free Peabody’s (1533 Amberly Dr.) is open every day, 11 a.m.-3 a.m. For more information, including the upcoming entertainment schedule in the adjacent Palms Lounge, call 972-1725 or visit PeabodysTampa.com. And, please tell ‘em we sent you!