Eleventwenty Cafe Bistro, Tampa
1120 E Kennedy Blvd. #112, Tampa, FL 33602, (813) 220-2147
Cuisine: American, Lunch/Brunch, Desserts
Price Rating: $10-$15 per entree
Review Date: April 13, 2012 and April 24, 2012
Review Tip: More of a visual person or don’t have much time? Skip to the bottom for a quick video with all the pics!
Why I Chose Eleventwenty Cafe Bistro
On my first visit, I had a meeting in Tampa in the afternoon, and since Tampa is such a hike for me, I thought I’d kill two birds and have lunch with a friend named Jay that I hadn’t seen in a while who lives in Tampa. Since Jay is the local, I let him pick the restaurant, and I was glad he chose this one for our lunch. I waited a while to sit and write the review, and by the time I was going to do it, the memories of the food weren’t fresh enough in my mind to do the review justice so I thought, darnit, I’d better go again, you know, for the whole journalistic integrity aspect. I swear, it wasn’t just for more of the Red Velvet Cake…
Background Info on the Restaurant
The Eleventwenty Cafe Bistro is a small lunch spot so named for its address at 1120 E Kennedy Blvd in the Channelside District of Tampa. There is a convenient parking garage right nearby, so getting there is a cinch.
The Bistro opened recently back in January and the owner and chef Terry Riner gave me a few tidbits about the place. The menu has gone through some iterations over the past few months as they are settling into their groove. Terry has planned things to be a mix of the sorts of meals he likes with his own twist along with completely new creations for this restaurant. I’d say they are hitting their mark. Jay and I met at around 12:30 pm to see what the lunch rush would be like, and it wasn’t extremely busy, but several of the tables were filled. The area didn’t seem too busy as far as lunch traffic goes, so they probably get the appropriate amount of traffic for their location. The second time I went, though, there were more people.
The idea of the bistro is that you go up to the counter and order off the menu on the boards behind the cash register. You pay and then take your number and drinks to a table where the rest of the meal is brought to you. Then it’s pretty much waiter service from that point on. The decor is nice enough that you feel like you’re in a regular restaurant setting, but still casual enough for in-and-out lunchtime traffic. Word on the street is that they might start serving dinner at some point in the near future as well, so that’s something to look forward to!
Jay and I both ordered the Turkey Corn Chowder. I must preface this by saying that Jay considers himself an expert on soup; it is his favorite thing in the world to eat, so when he said that he really liked this soup, I knew it was a hit. It was creamy and rich with substantial, textured bits of turkey and just the right amount of roasted corn that even has grill marks – great texture! It was a great start to our meal. I probably could have had just this soup and been satisfied, but no, I sacrifice for YOU and keep trudging on!
For my main course, I asked the nice guy behind the counter for some suggestions on what was really popular. I was in the mood for something light and lunch-y, and when he suggested the Seared Salmon Salad as one of the customer favorites, I knew I’d be getting that. Jay is deathly allergic to nuts and so has to be very careful about what he ingests. He decided to get the Meatball Sub which was on special that day, but opted out of the French Fries that went along with it because they are cooked in peanut oil.
Jay’s Sub arrived and other than it looking a little lonely on the plate without its French Fry friends (a little garnish would have helped), it did look pretty delicious – though maybe it could have used a bit more meatballs compared to the hoagie it was served on. I was granted a “Reviewer Bite” as well, and deemed that he’d made a good choice. The tomato sauce was the kind I like – not too sweet.
When my Salmon Salad arrived though, I mean, there was no comparison. First of all, it looked beautiful on the plate – piled high with so many bright colors and different textures. And the salmon looked so juicy and tender, I couldn’t wait to dive in.
My visual suspicions were true; it had such an amazing mix of flavors, all the right ones in a salad that I like – some sweet, some cheesy, some good-for-you. It was just the right blend and there was not too much or too little of any one thing. It had mixed greens, red onions, cheese (I think feta), candied pecans (perfect touch), heirloom tomatoes and a perfectly cooked salmon fillet right on top. I was so impressed with the way the salmon was cooked (both times I visited) that I asked Terry how they did it, when he’d stopped by just to ask how we were doing.
He told me the secret was that they cook it two different ways: first they sear it with a mixture of a little blackening and some salt and pepper and olive oil was it? And then they use the oven to finish it off. It had the perfect little crust with an inside that was melt-in-your-mouth good. I was really impressed with the salmon.
The other thing I want to note about this salad is that I didn’t even have to use any dressing. Now, I’m just going to give a little explanation here. I never eat salad without dressing. I’ve NEVER had the inclination to not use dressing, but with this salad, they actually forgot to give me the typical caesar that comes with it and so I didn’t even know that the salad didn’t have dressing on it yet until after I’d gotten through half of it. Then I was like, wait a minute, isn’t there any dressing on this? And I went to go get some, and by the time I got back to the table, I was like, but actually, it was great without it! So I never ended up needing any dressing! This was a pleasant surprise for me – I even justified the calories saved on little snafu for the dessert that was to come next. Okay, not really, but it was a bonus.
If the soups and entrees weren’t enough to prove Eleventwenty’s culinary prowess (they were), I knew dessert would do the trick. I mean, this place has half their counter space taken up by different forms of desserts: a whole gelato bar and an entire refrigerated case full of about 12 different cakes and pies just waiting to be devoured. I had to choose the one that was staring me down from the beginning because otherwise, I was afraid it’d take revenge on me by haunting me in my dreams. So I got a piece of the Red Velvet Cake.
So a disclaimer here, I think that I was given the wrong slice because half of it seemed to be a little dried out. You know, you should always get an inside slice of cake so you get the moist piece. After a few bites in, I found out that Jay had blown my restaurant reviewer cover, because the owner Terry had stopped by to chat again. That was fine at this point, because I knew they were getting a positive review, so I just came out and discussed the review, my overall impression (great) and…the dried out cake. He was more than happy to replace my slice, but offered to switch it up for me, considering I’d really had a tough time choosing between the Red Velvet and a new one they’d just created, a Salted Caramel Cake.
That’s right, Salted Caramel Cake.
I ended up taking the slice home, and treated myself to another piece the next time I’d visited. Tamas had it for breakfast the next morning, and loved it, and I had it on the second visit, and it was absolutely to die for both times. In fact, both pieces of cake I had were marvelous. The Red Velvet was a thick, dense, moist cake with layers of decadent chocolate and cream filling, with a rich frosting on top and these little white sprinkles. I have to say, that while the whole cake was awesome, I most enjoyed the bites of frosting because of the little pops that the sprinkles gave. I just loved the texture!
But the Salted Caramel Cake… It has layers of this light and fluffy angel-food-soft type cake, but not angel food. With thick, just-shy-of-pulled-taffy-like striations of salted caramel frosting that was really…something spectacular. And the frosting that coated the outside – it was some sort of light, basic frosting with real vanilla bean specks throughout. This was my favorite part of the dessert as well, I mean, what can I say, I’m a frosting kind of gal!
But if I had to choose between the two (but only if given a life-or-death ultimatum), I’d choose the Salted Caramel Cake to take as my bride…I mean, favorite. I’m glad I haven’t tried any of their other cakes or gelatos yet, because who needs too many competing, complicated emotions when simply choosing a dessert?
Go to my Flickr account to check out my Eleventwenty Cafe Bistro Review images set to see all of the pics I took of all the delicious food here. Or you can watch the short video I made as well for some audio commentary!
I really like this Cafe. It has a great atmosphere for a lunch-type bistro and even better food. The owner has real attention to detail and some great talent with meal creation and execution! I’d happily come back to Eleventwenty Cafe Bistro in the future!
If you find yourself here, let me know what YOU thought down in the comments section! Or would you like to go here based on my review??