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Sep 9, 2009 06:20 AM

Ella's (Tampa)

It seems that changes are finally afoot in Seminole Heights. Last night on our way to Taconazzo, my wife and I trolled once more by Ella's at 5119 N. Nebraska. To our surprise, it was open and we quickly ditched the bus. They have done a beautiful job with the place, which happened to be quite crowded. We decided to sit outside on the patio. They have made sitting on Nebraska as about as pleasant as possible. Nebraska was quieter than you might imagine and the tables are all under an enormous tree which gives a funny effect since you are sitting ten feet from the urban corridor. The scene was really laid-back and comfortable. A contributing factor was the great blues music that was coming through the sound system. For an appetizer we split the unfortunately named "Fat Japs," which are fried jalapenos stuffed with roast pork, cheddar and cream cheese. These were good but I have to admit that, try as I might, I am just not a stuffed jalapeno person. For entrees my wife had a salad with Gorgonzola, green apples, dried cranberries, and walnuts and I had a burger called "The Ugly." The burger consisted of two enormous patties with cheese, bacon, onions, green peppers and mushrooms. It was cooked medium-rare, exactly as I had ordered it, and was quite good. It came with sweet potato fries, which were good although I would prefer regular fries. The salad was also nicely prepared and generously proportioned. For dessert we had the peach fritters. These came out hot and drizzled with just the right amount of sauce. The sauce had grand marnier in it which I would have liked to know upfront but it was not a big deal. All in all, this is a wonderful new addition to Seminole Heights dining. If this is what the Seminole Heights renaissance is going to look like, I think we have a lot to look forward to.

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  1. Thanks for the report! We've been waiting not-so-patiently waiting for their grand opening, so now we just need to make an excuse to go for dinner. Now if only The Independent would hurry up and open, as well as Sangria's.

    3 Replies
    1. re: jfischer27

      I hope that all of these new places are going to play nice together and not cannibalize each other's business. It's going to be an interesting experiment. Any bets?

      1. re: CFishman

        I honestly hope they all turn out to be quality establishments and can make it. Good food and good service should go a long way into maintaining the neighborhood's excitement over all the new choices, although I imagine a lot will depend on each one being able to draw in business from outside Seminole Heights as well as getting the locals in.

        I could see some potential issues with Ella's vs the Bungalow Bistro (since I haven't seen Ella's menu to compare) but the others: sushi, Spanish, a gastro-pub, a bar hopefully each should be unique enough to not cannibalize too much business from one another. But I guess we shall see. Hopefully the crappy economy won't turn out to be too much of a drag on things, as I'd really prefer to see this renaissance of sorts for Seminole Heights keep going.

        1. re: CFishman

          I need these places to work. any of them.

      2. Dropped in for their "soft" opening last night. The food was great. The menu seems to lean toward southern/comfort food. The appetizer selection is fairly large and nicely priced which will make this place great for beers and a light meal. The beer selection is great and the staff is laid back and friendly.

        No long waits or tired, dried out chicken roulade here.

        This is the type of place that will bring people to the neighborhood to check it out. The building itself is beautiful and the atmosphere is warm and welcoming.

        1 Reply
        1. re: digyourself

          Nice menu, nice people, good wines and beer! Great addition to neighborhood.

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. I called yesterday to see if they were open for lunch and was told they were closed but had brunch on Sunday from 9-2 and then starting at 2 they had afternoon barbecue. That sounded good so we went for lunch at Bungalow Bistro (excellent as awlays) yesterday and thought we would try Ella's today for brunch. Drove over at 11:30 and they were closed. No brunch today but they would be open for afternoon bbq. I really wish they had known yesterday they would not offer brunch today. It was pretty much a wasted trip across town.

            2 Replies
            1. re: rhnault

              It's a shame brunch didn't work out on their first weekend, but that BBQ is way worth a trip across town (and I'm not usually much of a BBQ fan). I'm looking forward to trying brunch next Sunday.

              1. re: TPAPenguin

                Dropped by after the Bucs game and had some of that BBQ. Wasn't the very best bbq I've had but I had a solid meal (beef sandwich and big helping of mac and cheese) for $6. Definitely a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Good beers, fun people and good food. The guy playing guitar was a little overpowering though. This was my second visit to Ella's and I am definitely liking the friendly vibe and food.

            2. Everyone in this part of Tampa had been waiting as patiently as possible for the opening of this restaurant - hoping that it would be a solid positive note in the ongoing "renaissance" of Seminole Heights. My husband and I made it by there last night, and I'm here to say THANK GOODNESS, this place was worth the wait.

              Not trying to sound like a snob, but my husband and I have both worked in great restaurants in San Francisco and Chicago, and we KNOW what we want when we're spending money to eat out... Thankfully, Ella's delivered.

              The ambiance of the place is just awesome - very Seminole Heights, but also gorgeous, funky, and (comfortably) sophisticated. The people who designed and built this restaurant knew what they were doing - the space is large but warm and inviting, with colorful, conversation-starting decorative touches everywhere. The outdoor wrap-around deck is lovely, and the indoor tables also have a great view of the bustling bar and the semi-open kitchen.

              We're broke, so we kept it simple by splitting a rosemary-olive-feta pizza ($9, I think?) and the grilled romaine salad with bacon and blue cheese (also $8), along with wine and beer. EXCELLENT on all counts, and it was plenty for two people to enjoy for dinner. The grilled rosemary on the pizza was an unexpected, subtle herbal note, and the crust was the perfect combination of crisp and pillowy. The romaine salad was HUGE, and hit just the right balance of rich savories and clean, crisp greenery.

              The beer and wine list is small, but [I keep using this word] perfect... Well-priced, "adventurous," and well-suited to the food they're serving.

              The menu is ambitious, in that some of the current offerings seem a, over-wrought? I appreciate that they want to come out of the gate with some eye-opening stuff, and I'll be interested to see how they evolve the menu over time.

              Our server was a little bit slammed, and so some things were slower in coming than they should have been.. We can attribute that to the house being completely full (yay!), and the staff being new. We did have a question about one of the wines, and he wasn't able to tell us much about it. (This is a point that they might want to work on... A good server should be able to BS at least a *little* bit about anything on the menu, right?) That said, the service was friendly and attentive from start to finish; one of the owners even stopped by and introduced herself, which is always a cool touch.

              Bottom line - the food was top-notch, the prices were affordable, and the overall "vibe" was completely welcoming and celebratory. We're all watching our pennies pretty closely these days, but this was a treat that was well worth the indulgence. This is a world-class establishment, right here in the 'hood. Let's keep this place alive and flourishing!