-4 Snaps! Strongly recommended
Wow! Take a run down property in an up-and-coming neighborhood in Seminole Heights, add in creatives like Ty Rodriguez and Chef Ferrell Alvarez, mix it with a CRA (Community Redevelopment Area) grant, and you get a whole new concept in family-friendly dining. The Nebraska Mini Mart was built as an adult playground mixed with dazzling bar food and opened in mid August. It's a pretty cool concept. Shuffleboard, bocce ball, and ping pong all set up in a huge grassy courtyard with thumpy dance music filling the air make for a unique, albeit retro feeling, experience. It's a throwback to simpler times when families got together in the neighborhood to socialize, eat, and play a little. It's like someones mom yelled, "Put down those damn video games and go outside to play!"
On a warm and humid mid-September Saturday evening college football fans are still hanging out following the afternoon games. As the sun sets folks looking for a cooler dining experience arrive and a second wave of energy takes over the playground. Some folks look like hipsters, some bring their kids and/or dogs, and some folks that I speak with just want to try the new place.
The menu is packed with traditional bar food items that are prepared in unconventional ways. They don't serve cheesesteak. They serve a Korean cheesesteak with kimchi. They don't have a bloomin' onion, they have Tempura Oyster Mushroom Clusters!
I ask the staff for food recommendations and several give me their favorites. It's hard to choose so I just dive in starting with Messy Fries ($10). They are just that... messy. Five to six meatball sized chunks of pork are buried under a heap of fried potatoes, covered in creamy queso fundido, and topped with a charred tomato salsa. A whipped avocado drizzle adds even more creaminess and makes the dish look great. Yowsa!
The Nebraska Mini Mart chicken wings are six black / brown wings covered in a confetti of roasted garlic and cilantro and slathered in a gooey sauce.
The Malaysian chili paste covering these delights is like a barbecue sauce-but not. There's some smokiness, a little bit of heat, and a little bit of creaminess. Then there's a different kind pepperiness to the flavor that brings it all home. It's just all-around good! Be sure to get some extra napkins. There is no neat way to eat these!
Beverages offerings include wine that is served in cans, on draft, and bottled. Beer is also in the bottle and craft beer on tap. Specialty cocktails include frozen drinks along with kegged selections. Shuffleboard and bocce ball along with ping-pong tables complement of fun in the plat area. There is a charge per hour per player to use those courts. Food service at the pick up window is fast and friendly.There is a moderate amount of parking available behind and to the north of the mart.
Another Mexican restaurant just opened in my neighborhood and soon another barbecue joint will follow. I don't fault folks for trying to get on the Tampa-as-food-destination bandwagon, but it's all starting to blur together.
Not here. The Nebraska Mini Mart notion is different. Not only have the owners come up with new concept for good food and fun in a family friendly environment, but there is also some community give-back. It brings people and money to a blighted area and it's a win for everyone. Amped up bar food and some shuffleboard? Sure! I'll be back.
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