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The Refinery (Tampa)

Great meal tonight at The Refinery (previously Bungalow Bistro). Started off with a couple of oysters which The Refinery does really nice things with. These were Apalachicola with lavender, wasabi, mango and cucumber (I am refreshing my memory from their facebook page). Oysters were followed by poutine. The poutine was not the typical gravy and curds but instead the potatoes were topped with pulled pork in a Vermont cheddar sauce. The fries were hand cut and fried perfectly dark and crispy. The poutine was only $5 but it was a huge portion. Following the poutine came pork belly. Pork belly was great- crunchy on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside. It was accompanied with cabbage and irish bacon and mustard potato salad that deserved to be their own items on the menu. Somehow I ordered an entree on top of this, a pork rib chop no less. The pork was extremely flavorful. I don't know if it was the bourbon glaze or what but it had an extremely rich and distinctive flavor. The pork chop came with brussel sprouts cooked with shiitake mushrooms and chorizo. I liked the brussel sprouts quite a bit but my enthusiasm for eating had waned for obvious reasons by the end of the meal. My wife and I were exceedingly sorry to have to skip the banana bread pudding with peanut butter bacon glaze. For only a couple of weeks in to their new business, The Refinery is really off to a good start.

Bungalow Bistro
5137 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33603

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  1. Sounds like they have done some fun things with the menu. I am looking forward to trying them out.

    1. When did it change names? Was it sold? What happened? My buddy's brother was a co-owner of that place, I'll have to send him an email.

      4 Replies
      1. re: askdrtodd

        I think going on 2 months now. They still have the salon next door but were apparently through with running the restaurant.

        1. re: askdrtodd

          I am not sure what happened but ownership changed hands a couple of weeks ago. Greg and Michelle Baker who write for Tampa Bay Online took it over. I am glad to see that Ella's has some competition. I love their chicken and waffles but I think they could refine some of the other items on their menu.

          1. re: CFishman

            I still haven't been to Ella's.
            BB sent out a FB notice about the change a while back. I was a big fan so I am happy to hear the spot is doing well.

            1. re: CFishman

              oh whoops, I'm thinking of the bungalow on kennedy. I've seen that place, it's across from cappys and the independent. Any good?

          2. I've eaten at The Refinery several times now, and have yet to have a bad experience. From bisque to burgers, rare duck breast to roasted beets. Honestly the food here is cutting edge and unpretentious. A hard thing to mix. I really look forward to seeing this place thrive as a neighborhood favorite.

            1. We just had a fantastic lunch there. Started with sweet potato gnocchi with rainbow chard and a wonderful creamy sauce. Then a perfectly medium rare burger with apple, gorgonzola, spinach, and tomato served with perfectly crisp yukin gold fries. The other entree was an open faced skirt steak sandwich. A nice piece of grilled bread topped with sauteed kale, perfectly cooked sliced skirt steak, and gorgonzola served with poblano mac n cheese. Food and service were spot on and the owners are absolutely lovely people.
              We will be back very soon. I love that they are changing the menu according to what is available fresh locally.

              1. Awesome brunch at the Refinery this weekend. The breakfast items lean towards the heavy side (something awesome smothered in something rich and awesome) and that makes for some serious grubbin. The Kerby Lane(?) was amazing. Perfectly scrambled eggs and sausage covered in a spicy queso served over english muffins. This thing was perfect. The sausage biscuits and gravy are amazing here as well. Nice peppery kick in the gravy with awesome homestyle biscuits with just the right amount of crisp to stand up to the gravy.

                I am very stoked on this place. They are doing some really creative stuff and the atmosphere is welcoming and laid back.

                1. My wife and I would have loved to run away for a quick eating trip on the west coast to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Although San Francisco or Portland food would have been great, we got the next best thing right here in Tampa. I tell you what - a restaurant like The Refinery has been a long time coming. Finally, a restaurant serving complex but unpretentious food for reasonable prices!

                  The two of us dined at The Refinery on Thursday, the first evening of a new menu. While I generally like to give the kitchen time to get in the groove of the new dishes, they came out of the gate running. We started with the Tempura apples with Wisconsin bleu fondue ($6), perfectly fried and light textured, which matched interestingly with the bleu cheese sauce. Next was the duck breast ($10), which was amazingly cooked medium rare with a nice crunchy skin. Only I wasn't ecstatic about the blood orange and how it meshed with the duck. The coolest part? Pickled mustard greens. Who would have thunk! We finished up that round with the Poutine - fresh cut Yukon gold fries topped with pulled pork and a green chili cheddar sauce ($5); a huge portion and amazing, but a little filling.

                  At the same time, we also had the mac-n-cheese, a twist on the traditional, with penne pasta, creamy cheese sauce, fresh spinach and sliced skirt steak ($11). It was also a large portion and decided to box up half of it in order to finish the next dish we ordered. The monkfish ($20), while cooked simply, was amazing. The texture and natural flavors shined through and when paired with the fresh hedgehog mushrooms and tomato confit, it was stunning. A lot of flavor in a simple dish. I did end up leaving all of the roasted potatoes on the dish, because they didn't add anything to it and were rather bland. But oh, the monkfish!

                  We finished up with the Banana Split, with Peanut butter-bacon ice cream and strawberry sauce ($6). All I can say is "amazing." Really cool flavor combinations and we're still talking about it. I hope that is one menu item that sticks around.

                  So anyway, our total tab was a little over $100 with tip, for two of us, one large Lagunitas beer and two glasses of wine. We really ordered about half of the menu, but could have left a couple things behind (space wise). We've needed a great restaurant like this for a long time, so I hope the word gets out and you all give it a try. Looking forward to my next meal there!


                  p.s. I don't think their website is up yet, but you can check out the Faceboook page for the menu - http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=w...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: UptownKevin

                    Just went on Saturday and tried a few of the same things as you did. I think my favorite was the poutine- definitely a great value for $5. We shared amongst 3 people, but one person could make a meal out of it.

                  2. We ate lunch there today, had a tasty beer (Lagunitas' Wilco Tango Foxtrot) and the soy-marinated pulled pork sanwich and my friend had an open faced skirt steak sandwich. The pork sandwich was good but wasn't mind blowing, and the ingredients with the skirt steak just didn't compliment it, the blue cheese was overpowering the rest of the ingredients. The kale sounded good on paper but just disappeared once the blue cheese hit your palette, and just became a soft leafy thing that added nothing to the sandwich. the bread on each sandwich was tasty and well grilled/blackened, but I wouldn't order either sandwich again. I'll give it another go sometime, maybe get a burger (they looked dee-lish), but I wouldn't recommend the two aforementioned sandwiches. The service was good, food was slow to come out considering we were one of three tables seated in the place and one of the other two had their food already, but the staff was pleasant and attentive and enjoyable, presentation of our food and our neighbor's was good too. This visit was a B- but it has the potential to be good.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: askdrtodd

                      I thought the skirt steak sandwich was awesome and would definitely recommend it. In fact, I already have ;-)

                        1. re: Mild Bill

                          Well why don't we get a few people together and order a bunch of stuff? That'd let us try everything and give a better idea of what they have to offer.

                          1. re: askdrtodd

                            Folks, we'd ask that if you're going to arrange a chowdown, you follow the guidelines outlined in our etiquette: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/367605

                            Please post an email address or other way for people to contact you offline rather than trading schedules and arranging details here.

                            Thanks, and we hope dinner is great!

                    2. Gosh, I'm really excited about the positive feedback to this place. Tried to go on a saturday afternoon, but just missed the lunch service. Tried to go on a monday afternoon, but they were closed. I've seen the current dinner menu, though, and it looks great.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: austinjh

                        They put out a FB update that they were going to close at lunchtime. I hope that they still have brunch on the weekends though!

                        1. re: rhnault

                          I believe they're still doing Sunday brunch, but pushed opening back an hour to 11 am.

                          1. re: jfischer27

                            Works for me! I am happy they kept brunch and I will definitely support it.

                            1. re: rhnault

                              I was extremely unimpressed with the brunch, but loved the dinner.

                              1. re: Bayareafoodiei

                                Oh no! The brunch menu does seem a bit heavy on the biscuits but I will try it.

                                1. re: Bayareafoodiei

                                  i went for brunch today and had a great meal. The early girl was two perfectly poached eggs on top of fried grits cakes (not as heavy as it sounds) with bacon tomato gravy and spinach. roasted potatoes on the side were well browned, the biscuit was great, especially with the jam on the table.

                                  My girlfriend had the black bean burger, which was pretty good for beans. The fries were very nice, but could have used another minute or two in the oil for my preferred optimum crispness. $21.50 before tip with an iced tea added.

                                  service was good. i will be back soon. the sherpas have done us proud, at least in my experience.

                          2. re: austinjh

                            Our hours are:
                            Tue-Thur 5-10
                            Fri-Sat 5-11
                            Sun Brunch 11-3

                            And our website is http://www.thetamparefinery.com Come visit us!

                          3. I desperately wanted to like this place because the menu looked fantastic, but my husband and I were not terribly impressed with the dinner we had last weekend. The veal sweetbreads were pretty good—the vinaigrette was a nice touch, but I wish the fry would have been a bit crispier. The andouille sausage and chicken liver was ok, but nothing the write home about. The kim chi and bacon burger was lacking flavor—I felt like it needed more kim chi to balance out the size of the beef patty. The fries were limp and not crispy at all which bummed me out. Also ordered the butternut squash and grit cakes. The squash was quite tasty and I was surprised at how well the gorgonzola worked with it, but in combination with the grit cake, it didn’t do much for me.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: jmj1803

                              Had dinner last Friday night. Excellent experiance.

                              First impression- very attentive front of the house. we were greeted and seated quickly. casual decor and staff were relaxed but proffessional.

                              Our waiter had good knoledge of the beer and wine selections. wine list is modest with an eye to good value. Beer list is plesantly diverse with some real gems.

                              First course was sweetbreads which were cooked perfectly and the vinagarette was a perfect touch. We also had the marrow which was presented with a mint chimchurri which was great,
                              Second course- creative use of tapiocca to make coconut caviar with the almaco jack, excellent burger with honey butter cooked onions. The meat quality was excellent but the honey butter onions made the burger. Fries were unremarable.
                              Dessert- pavola was nice, simplistic as it should be. Ice cream was sublime choclater nugat and salted caramel.

                              Food was excellent wine and beer were good. excellent informal service. 3 courses, 2 glasses of wine, 3 beers-$78-WOW!

                              Best night out for your gormet buck in SW Fla.

                              1. re: Lauracooks

                                Both times I have had their fries they were really good. Crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside.
                                I am looking forward to going again soon. I have yet to try the brunch.

                            2. The Refinery is an excellent restaurant. Attend me. I'll get to the food in a minute.

                              The stars were all in alignment: (1) chain restaurant-addicted girlfriend out of town (check!); (2) diner had not eaten all day (check!); (3) somewhat hard-to-find restaurant located, due to previously aborted attempt to dine there (check!); (4) cash and credit cards readily available and sufficiently abundant (check!). I was ready for The Refinery, a Tampa restaurant which I had been reading about on the Chowhound boards for months.

                              If you remember that The Refinery is located a few hundred yards south of the intersection of Hillsborough Avenue and Florida, it is not really that hard to find. It is on the east side of Florida, that is, to the left, if you are headed south. 5137 North Florida Avenue, Tampa 33603. Phone: (813) 237-2000. It is located in a small, beaten-up former home with a miniscule sign outside, announcing its existence.

                              Happily, there is a fairly big parking lot in the rear, so once you do locate the place, parking is not a problem. In fact, when I walked in at 6:00, there was only one other car in the lot. Later in the evening there were about a dozen cars in the lot, not exactly a land office business, but I hope enough to keep them in business, for the chef here is truly talented.

                              I received a warm greeting as I walked in through the side door of what was obviously the house's former living room and shown to a table by the window. There was one other couple dining there. Thoughout my meal, my waiter, a young, enthusiastic man, kept careful watch over me and during the course of the evening, the couple who own the place, introduced themselves to me and discussed the menu. I understand that they write a column for The Tampa Tribune called, "The Culinary Sherpas."

                              The menu rotates each week on Thursday, depending on what is available, fresh, local, sustainable--yada, yada, yada. I don't care about that stuff. Does it taste good? This, my friends, must be the polestar for our search. Does it taste good? HECK, YES! IT CERTAINLY DOES.

                              I decided to march my way through the small plates, small but not miniscule, portions of extremely interesting fare. The price ranged from $5 to $10, with most in the $7 to $8 range. Four plates ought to satisfy the average male diner, maybe three for the average female diner. So, here is what I found (finally!):

                              Corn dog--This was a breaded combination of chicken, foie gras, leek, mushrooms, and a plum sauce. Really tasty. Do you think we could get the Florida State Fair to start serving these? The chicken and leek flavors were quite noticeable, the foie gras less so. As I was to find all evening long, the bed of sauce upon which the entree was placed was very minimal. It could have used more sauce. Otherwise, excellent!

                              Duck breast--When I return, if this is still on the menu, I will order it again. A nice crispy skin, juicy, with a nice spaetzle accompaniment. The chef was aiming at medium rare, I think. However, because the ends of the breast were thinner than the center, what one ended up with was medium-rare for about two-thirds of the duck and extremely rare in the center. The next time, I will ask them to give it a little more time on the grill or in the oven. Still, absolutely delicious.

                              Poached egg--The chef has a real talent for putting together ingredients in an unusual way: asparagus (perfectly cooked), little cubes of ham-like meat ("lardons") which were nicely carmelized, endive, fried croutons and lemon vinaigrette. The thick asparagus was crunchy but cooked, the lardons salty and meaty and the fried croutons added even more crunch to offset the egg, which was perfectly poached and slightly runny on the inside. The best thing in this combination was the lemon vinaigrette, which really knocks you out with the intense lemon flavor. I don't know how the chef got this much lemon flavor into the vinaigrette. Obviously, he used lemon rind, but there was still more intensity there. Lemon extract? Again, more of the sauce--the lemon vinaigrette would have been welcome.

                              Tomato carpaccio--"The last Florida tomatoes of the season," one of the owners told me. No white, woody stuff in the center of the tomatoes? The combination was, again, unusual, the sort of combination that a chef can think of as working, but this amateur cook would never imagine putting together: salty calamata olives, diced; capers, pineapple, chives. The salty, sour combinations really worked against the background of the sweet, ripe, tomatoes.

                              Bone marrow--You can't really improve on bone marrow. You roast it and, by itself, sitting in its bone, it is excellent. There is not as much culinary skill involved here, I think, but the result is great. The real challenge is finding a restaurant that serves bone marrow. Outside of some high-end, super expensive French places, I can't think of any restaurants that serve it. This is certainly the best deal you are ever going to find on bone marrow: $7. Yes, $7 ! The mint chimichurri accompaniment on toast sounded really wierd to me, but, once again, worked. It cut the richness of the bone marrow perfectly, acting as a sort of palate cleanser for the dish.

                              Gazpacho--This was a fairly standard gazpacho, but I liked the fact that the chef served it extremely cold and with healthy doses of chili and garlic. The chilled nature of the dish contrasted nicely with the heat that gradually built up from the hot (i.e., spicy) chili.

                              Was there a loser dish? Yeah, one. The salad sounded great on paper: spinach, watercress, local blueberries, bleu cheese, spiced almonds, and roasted shallot vinaigrette. Unfortunately, I think that it was hot in the kitchen and the salad had perhaps been prepared and then allow to sit while other dishes were worked on. At any rate, the salad was not very cold and the watercress and spinach were limp. The blueberries, cheese and almonds were pretty sparse. There was very little vinaigrette, so I requested more, but the vinaigrette itself lacked punch. I would suggest serving a smaller dish of this salad, made smaller by reducing the amount of watercress and spinach. Add some kind of crunch green, maybe frisee, increase the quantity of blueberries, cheese and almonds, and top the dish with that ambrosial lemon vinaigrette, instead of the roasted shallot vinaigrette. This was the only sour note in what was a symphony of excellence.

                              Wines--Non-jug wines were--get this--$5 a glass! I let the staff suggest the wines, did not catch their names, and loved three out of four. The merlot, sauvignon blanc, and French blended wine of two less famous grapes, were excellent. The cabernet sauvignon was a bit harsh and biting.

                              This is the sort of place that one finds all over San Francisco, casual dress and decor, high quality and unusual food combinations, and well prepared. Unlike San Francisco restaurants, The Refinery is dirt cheap for truly excellent food. I don't know ho they can stay in business at these prices, but i surely hope that they do!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: gfr1111

                                Excellent and enjoyable review Geoff!
                                I don't know how I didnt see it earlier...

                              2. I LOVED this place, can't wait to go back.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Manderley

                                  I can't wait to go back either...
                                  If not just to get another juicy medium rare Burger & Yukon Gold fries!
                                  Of course I'll get three other things too...

                                2. Call me crazy...but I went tonight and was seriously underwhelmed.

                                  12 Replies
                                  1. re: sweet_polly

                                    sweet polly, why don't you tell us what you had and what you felt was wrong? how can the owners correct things that customers are not happy about if you don't say anything other than you were "seriously underwhelmed"?

                                    1. re: Manderley

                                      Polly yeah what didn't you like? I've had some great meals there, sad to hear you didn't dig it.

                                      1. re: askdrtodd

                                        I have to say that I think it is irresponsible to write a negative post without substantive criticism. It may seem like it is just us regular posters participating in this conversation, but a large part of the traffic here is lurkers. Negative comments impact the restaurant owners' livelihood. Feel free to criticize, but you owe it to them to state clearly where you think they went astray. Without brave souls willing to take a serious financial risk on the Tampa dining scene, we would all be eating at chains.

                                        1. re: CFishman

                                          Okay. Sorry for not expounding, but I felt bad even posting. I know the owners post and read here, and we were treated very nicely by them at the restaurant. It's a very cute place, and we were warmly received.

                                          First, I've never met a pate I didn't like...until yesterday. I didn't think any of the Vintage Pate Trio tasted like much (especially not liver...not even the "foie gras" selection) and they were hard and difficult to spread. Only three small pieces of not-very-memorable bread came with...not nearly enough to serve as carriers for all of the pate (not that we wanted to eat it all).

                                          It was my first time to try Poutine, and didn't care for it (maybe it's the nature of the dish). I will say that the fries alone were phenomenal...almost certainly fried twice. There was also nothing wrong with the pork. But the bland gravy and blobs of ricotta turned it all into a mushy, uninspiring mess.

                                          We also had the Sloppy Josiah Sliders...lentils and other veggies in barbecue sauce on dry buns. It just wasn't appetizing. Maybe a vegan would view it differently. The cauliflower tots that came with it were okay...I can imagine trying to fool myself with faux-tater tots such as these when I'm low-carbing and have no choice, but real potatoes would've been much tastier.

                                          I didn't like the Crispy Pork Belly (and this is usually right up there with foie gras pate for me). It wasn't crispy, and the small pile of cabbage next to it was pretty unrecognizable in both taste and appearance. The pork belly pieces were topped with some interesting brittle, though.

                                          The ice cream sounded wonderful (it was vanilla with bacon, blondie and chocolate swirl)...but the texture was icy and granular...not creamy like it should've been, IMO.

                                          Again, sorry for being the Food Biotch...but I was disappointed. I consider myself to be an open-minded, adventerous eater, and I was very excited to try this place based on the menu and the buzz. It simply did not meet my expectations. Maybe I need to try it again.

                                          1. re: sweet_polly

                                            Thank you for a more precise criticism. I must admit that i love The Refinery so much that it's hard to read a review like that! I liked everything we had, LOVED some things more than others; but there was not one single thing I didn't at least LIKE. I am looking forward to trying the pate, and the crispy pork belly. I've never had poutine, and from your description, I'm thinking maybe I wouldn't like it.

                                            I do hope you'll give this phenomenal place another try.

                                            1. re: Manderley

                                              Thanks for respecting a different experience. Maybe I will try it again. Pics from our dinner are in my blog (via my profile). I love all kinds of food, and consider myself to be very open-minded when it comes to food. I know a lot of posters here have had wonderful experiences with The Refinery, so I really didn't want to come across as a difficult-to-please asshat...but I wasn't Wowed.

                                              1. re: sweet_polly

                                                Polly, sorry to hear you didn't enjoy it, I hope that you just caught them on an off night, the first time I had the poutine, a friend of mine that was sitting at the bar with me was noshing on it and offered me a fry (albeit at the time it wasn't gravy/ricotta covered) but I fell in love with it and begged for a half dozen more! The very first time I ate at the refinery I had lunch and both my friend and I's dishes were underwhelming, but so creative that I decided it was well worth another chance. I'm happy to say that I've had over half a dozen meals there and was only unimpressed once.

                                                1. re: sweet_polly

                                                  The menu changes regularly, so my guess is that this menu just didn't thrill you. The first time I went, I was very impressed with almost everything, but the second time I didn't really care for the poutine of the week for the reasons you mentioned. The poutine I had the first time was amazing, but the cheese the second time just didn't work as well.

                                                1. re: rhnault

                                                  must have been an off night. I have had the pate several times and it has always been yummy and plentiful.

                                                  1. re: Lauracooks

                                                    It was plentiful it just had very little flavor and not a good consistency or presentation. I do not think I would order it again. But that is the beauty of an ever changing menu. I certainly don't hold it against them.

                                                    1. re: Lauracooks

                                                      I order pate anytime I see it on a menu. I've had it in France, Spain, California, Argentina, New York, and many places here in Florida (to name just a few). The night I went, it was subpar...as was the bread carrier offering.

                                                      I'm certainly not the ultimate authority on food, but I've done my share of sampling. I realize The Refinery has a following here, so maybe it was an off-night for me, too...but I did not enjoy the pate at all.

                                        2. I've been trying to go to The Refinery weekly...just haven't been able to make it. I don't want to miss anything! A few weeks ago I had a roast beef/peppers/onion poutine. Fabulous flavor, I was diggin' it but Chef Greg came out, apologized that there wasn't enough beef in it for his liking, and he took it off my bill. Wow. I loved it anyway, and didn't even notice a lack of beef. I also had the monkfish liver. It was slightly crisp and sweetish on the outside, from the port wine reduction, but smooth as silk on the inside. vaguely reminiscent of uni (sea urchin) if you're a sushi fan. One dish of this was not enough. I had to go back a few days later and have it again, with 2 glasses of fabulous cabernet savignon. now THAT was perfection.

                                          Last night I stopped in for dinner after reading about those ding dongs on facebook. i had the chilled butternut squash soup, the memory of which still lingers on my tongue. That peppery bite of a finish, caused i think by the masala; it was just too good. I have to return on Tuesday and do it again. For the first time I had a burger...with gruyere, granny smith apples and horseradish. Had to eat it with a napkin in one hand because the juices kept rolling down my chinny chin chin. A burger that doesn't need ketchup? unheard of! but true. and those yukon fries, crisp and firm. for dessert....the ding dong. I am speechless at the ding dong. mere words cannot do it justice. i am begging sous eddie to marry me and make me ding dongs every day for the rest of my life. i don't care if i need to buy my clothes at omar the tentmaker. just make me ding dongs. please? i'm beggin' ya.

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: Manderley

                                            Great Brunch at the Refinery today. I had to have a burger--- the sour apple and horseradish mingled nicely with the gruyere. My brother's strata was like a savory french toast: Cuban bread, egg custard, pesto... it was cohesive but soft (in a good way), gentle pesto flavor, I would have loved a little chipped ham for salt and flavor, but that's me. Then Chef Gregg brought out a few slices of a porcetta he made last night--- pork belly stuffed with herbs, garlic, and was there kale involved? The fatty, herbaceous delight was featured on the breakfast sandwich with hard eggs, and I couldn't pass it up. I ordered one before my burger even arrived. I'm kicking myself now, because as i finished the sandwich, i wondered what it would taste like with the peach and vanilla jam on the table. I suggested Chef Greg try the combo, and his eyes widened. I almost want to return later today to try it, but there isn't much time or room...

                                            1. re: andy huse

                                              Wow! I was only there the one time.... I'm hoping I can get there Tuesday for dinner...

                                              1. re: andy huse

                                                We ended up doing dim sum for brunch today, but almost went to the refinery, would have seen you there! If you can make it tuesday, I'm sure you'll have room by then :)

                                                1. re: askdrtodd

                                                  We finally got a night out and went Saturday night. Split the burger and the poutine (shrimp bisque and gruyere on top). That's a lot of fries, but all was wonderful. Downstairs was full so we sat at the bar, which I tend to like even better. Also, I wasn't about to sit outside. Hotter than Georgia asphalt out there. We had a great time. Walked down to the Independent for more beer afterward. Loved it all.

                                                  1. re: Old E.

                                                    that shrimp poutine was to die for, wasn't it? yeah. :( time for this chubbette to get back on the diet wagon. no more chow downs for me :(

                                                    1. re: Manderley

                                                      Moderation is key, and being mindful of what you are eating helps. Chowdowns are a great way to slow down and enjoy a bunch of samples of some great foods.

                                                        1. re: TampaAurora

                                                          CF- I agree with TampaAurora, if you can exercise restraint, a chowdown is a great place to try a little of everything and not pig out. If you can't exercise restraint then a chowdown is probably not where you want to go. unless you're high or have one of those damn metabolisms that I hate.

                                                          1. re: askdrtodd

                                                            It's not like a law of nature that you can't try a lot of everything, is it? I am just poking fun, but it is true that I am a notoriously bad sharer. I can't get my food coma on with just a taste of this and that.

                                              2. In town for a conference, I dragged a bunch of co-workers (1 other food geek, 6 who would've been fine at Chili's) to the Refinery on the basis of this board's recs. It lived up to the praise y'all give it. Great food, some innovative choices in dish composition, superb attention to detail, and great technical execution. Thanks so much for the idea and the chance to escape from conference hotel food hell!

                                                1. The Refinery nominated for James Beard Best New Restaurant semifinals

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: the_sneeb

                                                    One of the owners told me today there's often a 90 minute wait for tables on weekends. I've never been and now I'll never get a table.

                                                    More details on the nomination here:

                                                    1. re: Tom Scherberger

                                                      Tom: Make a reservation. Never had to wait.

                                                      1. re: Old E.

                                                        Or go on a weeknight, Tuesday/Wednesday is usually pretty accessible and the staff/kitchen is probably much less stressed.

                                                      2. re: Tom Scherberger

                                                        Geez, well even Applebee's probably has a one hour wait on a weekend night. Not sure why you'd even go out on a Friday or Saturday. Do the restaurants a favor and dine out on weekdays.

                                                        Here's a little defensive dining tip - go on a Wednesday night. Since the menu changes on Thursday, they've had a week to fine tune the program and get everything right. Plus, the amateurs are home having pizza, chomping at the bit until the weekend.

                                                        1. re: UptownKevin

                                                          Excellent advice. The only time I go to restaurants on the weekend is usually happy hour, I hate crowded hurried places where I can't hear myself think. (not that the refinery gets like that, I just like to relax)

                                                    2. I went with friends for brunch and was not impressed at all. I don't understand the tomato gravy and didn't think it complimented any of the dishes that we ordered. I also didn't think the homemade sausage was very special. I may give dinner a shot, but wouldn't come back for brunch.

                                                      The Refinery
                                                      5173 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33603

                                                      12 Replies
                                                      1. re: slpreston

                                                        The honeymoon is over. It is a shame that criticism is so muted here, because the place has great potential and might take the feedback to heart. Inconsistent execution, misleading menu text, and patrons have been badgered or ignored for complaining. I find it interesting that many people who are normally very vocal about these matters here have been silent for so long. Probably because they have simply scratched the Refinery from their list of dining options and moved on.

                                                        1. re: andy huse

                                                          i completely agree, andy. while i have never experienced the "misleading menu text", i have noticed inconsistent execution and the flagrant misinformation provided when a very gentle and loving "complaint" was made...not actually a complaint, just wanted to bring the inedibility of a dish to someone's attention so that the problem could be rectified. it was my favorite restaurant and i didn't want other patrons to be dissatisfied with a dish. upon being told that there was nothing wrong with our dish, we noticed other patrons eating it without a problem when ours could not even be cut into with a sharp knife. it was awkward and uncomfortable to be told we were wrong, the dish was supposed to be impossible to cut into, and then we saw others eating it.... not a good experience at all.

                                                          i am aware that all of my "foodie" friends are no longer fans...and this makes me sad. i have had some incredible meals there. i am always very quick to "stick up for" the Refinery when people say their dishes have been "hit or miss", because i feel that with a menu that changes weekly, every single offering is just not going to be perfect. i myself have had a few dishes that are just ok, and many that are just incredible. i must say i've never had a "bad" dish there...even the one that was partially inedible, we were able to take a mouthful of the stuffing and it was delish.

                                                          i hope they manage to return to the way they were before all the awards and raves started pouring in. i loved that place, and want to go back...if only i could find someone willing to go with me!!

                                                          The Refinery
                                                          5173 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33603

                                                          1. re: Manderley

                                                            Manderley, I'm with you on a lot of this, but (and no surprise that I'd bring this place up) Pane Rustica changes their menu DAILY. And the specials are at a minimum "pretty damn good" 95% of the time.

                                                            I figure I'll just perpetuate my reputation as a South Tampa Brat and go with the Vegas odds that PR will be satisfying just about every time.

                                                            1. re: askdrtodd

                                                              Pane Rustica is always good. Never had a bad meal there and they are very consistent. Furthermore, if you were served a bad dish they would remove it and not school you at the table.

                                                              1. re: askdrtodd

                                                                I have had one really badly executed dish at PR, out of many dozens. It was truly inedible, and arrived after a very long wait. (This happened right after the expansion, and I think the kitchen was overwhelmed.) But the waiter replaced it with many apologies, Kevin came over to apologize, and then returned with a bag of baked goods for us as further apology. Mistakes happen; it's how they are handled that sets a great restaurant apart from the rest.

                                                              2. re: Manderley

                                                                After my encounter with the "grunge" (maybe hip) looking server, and the attitude, that was enough for me

                                                                1. re: TampaPete

                                                                  LOL TampaPete, my guess is that would be Michelle, she and her husband Greg (the chef) own the place. Michelle is tall, blonde and tattooed. Greg reminds me of Keith Richards. I think they both look fine, kind of over the top, but that has nothing to do with the quality of the food there, in my humble opinion.

                                                                  1. re: Manderley

                                                                    I remember a certain printed picture that mortified you lol. I am saying nothing more....

                                                                    1. re: rhnault

                                                                      omg you're right, i had completely forgotten about that...ohhhhh nooooo now i can't get it out of my mind!!!! arrrrgghhhhhhh

                                                                2. re: Manderley

                                                                  I think comparisons between restaurants so disparate in size are basically unfair--Pane Rustica is what, 3 or 4 times bigger than the Refinery? That's why they can change their menu daily.----but I certainly understand spending your dining dollars on a sure thing rather than a gamble. And unfortunately, I have to agree that The Refinery constitutes a bit of a gamble. I am constantly impressed by the unusual, even audacious flavor profiles of some of the dishes; and I am constantly disappointed by the way the kitchen kills its proteins and main course vegetables dead. It's the Top Chef, $64,000 question: do you reward ambition or execution? The Refinery needs to marry the two once and for all, perhaps lose of a bit of the romantic, rock-and-roll attitude and devote itself to the pursuit of perfection every time, no excuses.

                                                                  That said, I, too, have had some incredible dishes there, and have even enjoyed those dishes that were partly great, partly lousy because the great prats were that great. Which is why I keep going back and giving The Refinery another chance.

                                                                  As for service, I think the bar staff is exceptional and the dining room staff is fine. I have not experienced their rough side!

                                                                  I give Chef Greg all respect for his commitment to locally sourced ingredients and to building a real food community, farm to table, in Tampa; and again, I salute his palate and his ambitious recipes. Surely this man can find a way to roast a chicken, or some egggplant, that isn't tough as shoe leather! I hope he reads this and understands that the criticism is meant constructively.

                                                                  1. re: Miss E

                                                                    excellent post, miss e, and i agree wholeheartedly. i also give kudos to greg and michelle for supporting local farmers and suppliers.

                                                              3. re: slpreston

                                                                When I was there over a year ago I thought it was one of worst meals I'd ever had in Tampa, and my hub-unit agreed. I might've given it another whirl given all the accolades I kept reading online, but my husband refused to ever go there again.

                                                              4. I can't really say anything negative about the Refinery, and my wife loves the place. We've been up there a quite a few times over the past year, and have had nothing but good meals. .

                                                                On certain days we may have gotten slower service, due to the crowd, and once our brunch reservation was screwed up (which got sorted out pretty quickly), but overall we've been fairly pleased with The Refinery.

                                                                Besides, any negatives I've experienced there tend to be quickly forgotten whenever I get to the bar.

                                                                1. I finally made it over to the Refinery on Tuesday 3/20 with a few friends. Honestly i was not at all impressed. The potstickers were bland, sturgeon was bad and the burger was mediocre. The beers however were outstanding. Must have been a bad week. I'll give them one more try before deciding if they are worth me spending $$ regularly.

                                                                  1. Recently went on a Saturday night for the first time. Had a reservation and we were seated immediately. Had no trouble parking. Service was friendly and professional, no attitude - which we were worried about upon reading some of the reviews. Great beer choices got the evening off to a good start. The tater epidermises was a clever take on potato skins and was excellent, as was the steak frites parmentier. Tanglewood chicken also was very good - the chicken was juicy and flavorful, the okra cooked just right, although the fennel bread pudding was a little dry. We were intrigued by the lavender smoked peppercorn pound cake with bacon honey gastrique - despite being very full already, we gave it a try and it was delicious - moist and just the right amount of sweetness. We give the place lots of credit for using local ingredients, etc - Prices also were quite reasonable, considering the quantity and inventiveness of the food, and portions were generous. We will be back!