-4 Snaps! Strongly recommended
In the former home of Your Pie, The Nest Neighborhood Kitchen opened it's doors on November 26 to little fanfare. According to co-owner Perry Dube (who was working the front counter) they are keeping the noise down about being open while they work out the kinks (invariably a smart move). I just happened to see the "open" sign when driving by went in. The store has been in the planning since at least May 1, 2018 when the "opening soon" sign appeared. It worth the wait. The Nest offers a creative menu putting their own spin on traditional and unique dishes using some in-vogue ingredients (e.g.pimento cheese, and impossible burger meat) and it's really good.
The interior looks very polished, with branding in store and on packages being simple but very present. The amount of detail looks like a franchised store. Co-owner Perry Dube says he takes that as a compliment as they consider possible franchising the concept in the future. Dube, along with college buddy and George Tsambis opened Blind Goat Food and Drink Company in 2015. They have partnered with Mike Vitelli (managing partner) and Brendon Crampton to complete the management team.
I start with the house version of a BLT called the Disco Pig, a sandwich with maple bacon, grape tomatoes, arugula, and pimento cheese on a brioche bun. Making the extra effort to do things like candy that bacon, combining a sweetness with those smokey crispy strips, embodies the effort it takes to rise above the breakfast frey taking over Tampa's food scene. I accompany my meal with an order of cheese grits and locally sourced Buddy Brew nitro coffee, both above average. They also offer selections from Sea Breeze Coffee and Tea.
On my second visit I try the house version of Impossible Burger, a much-talked-about beef substitute that recently hit the food scene all over the U.S. Reportedly it's a plant based substance the mimics beef when it is cut, cooked and is tasted. I've heard vegans say they can't eat it because it tastes too much like beef.
Alas, it seems to be foodie folklore. The patty looks kind of like an un-browned hamburger, but the similarity ends there. The texture is more of wet cardboard as the patty falls apart when I pick it up. The flavor isn't bad, sort of a salty savory sense, but I don't get a strong beef flavor out of it. The Nests version also includes grape tomatoes, onion, arugula, and a verde sauce, all of which are complementary to the sandwich, but cover any mild beef flavor that might want to peek through.
I select the fruit salad as my side dish an wish I hadn't. The primary fruit in the bowl is citrus with big chunks of grapefruit. Nothing else matters. The bitterness of grapefruit juice covers all of the other fruit and renders it all sour. I'm not a big fan.
My tablemate orders the Fresh Fit bowl, a flavorful combination of breakfast foods and healthy mixers. She comments that it would be better if the ingredients were mixed together, or at least chopped, but it's a worthwhile effort.
Keeping up with the modern world, the point of sale system is on a touchpad (ipad-ish) platform. The jury is still out on the expediency of this process. After customers place their order, an employee still has to come to the register to ring it up (and give the opportunity to leave a tip). Large chains like McDonalds are also taking a stab at in-store digital ordering, but I have not witnessed any true time savings from the customer side. Complications ensue when the person in front of you is unfamiliar with the digital ordering process or have specific dietary needs that cannot be explained to an iPad. I suppose, in the long run, it will save the stores in labor costs if they are able to do away with the human interface. I still very much prefer a person. You can make your own decisions about leaving a tip for a cashier (versus a true restaurant server).
Prices are South Tampa steep, with two breakfasts and two coffees served in fast food wraps and plastic dishes coming in around $30. Parking will be a challenge especially during busier times, but there's more parking in the rear of the building. All in, The Nest is still very much worth a visit.
Chip Weiner is a Tampa food blogger and an award winning freelance photographer specializing in portraiture, food photography and photojournalism . He has been a photography instructor for over 10 years and teaches Tampa photography classes throughout the year. Have a suggestion for a food event or restaurant? Contact him here
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