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Tampa- Rib Off winner announced!

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And it's Spoto's Steakhouse in Dunedin? Never heard of this place. Have to give it a whirl though. Second place went to Jaymer Que in Brandon, and Third to Kojak's.

Upon inspection of Spoto's website, humorous side note, they've been "Established since 1972", which is good, that's nearly 30 years of establishment haha.

http://www.spotossteakjoint2.com/

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  1. Well.... at least I can say I've heard of Kojak's. Wierd.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Old E.

      Yeah, I was excited about the rib-off and even tried to eat through the 35 or so places that I hadn't been to. I have to say that the competition seems totally baseless. I think the whole town of Dunedin was voting for Spotos. It just doesn't seem like any of this is on the up and up.

      1. re: CFishman

        I agree

        1. re: CFishman

          It's not. As far as I am concerned, ribs are an afterthought at Spoto's. It is a steak restaurant, not a bbq restaurant.

      2. From the menu, it looks like at Spoto's they're babybacks....

        The menu looks good though----- some of my favorite things...
        I might pop in and try a burger first....

        1 Reply
        1. re: Mild Bill

          Yeah, Spotos is (theoretically) my kind of place with all of the game. I don't hold it against them. I do wish that CL would find a way to do these things properly.

        2. these contests are just plain silly. which restaurant can out-vote the other? CL admitted that fraud was employed by contestants (automatic computer voting). It is really unfortunate that food contests are held to attract clicks instead of informed opinions. these contests only serrve to undermine CL's credibility in the food realm. I could see a low-integrity attention-seeking blogger doing something like this, but to see CL stoop so low for so long saddens me.

          and i'm still waiting for someone to have a contest for more traditional florida foods. no paper even bothers with a Cuban sandwich contest anymore. how about the best mojo pork in town? spanish bean soup? or arroz con pollo. perhaps we could have a contest to determine who actually serves grouper.

          10 Replies
          1. re: andy huse

            I was very interested to read Brian Ries's comments when he ate secretly at the eight quarter-finalists for Hillsborough County. Especially the comments on Kojaks. Brian's comments were more objective and this is how the contest should have been held. Maybe they will learn for next time. I'm sure it will not be the same process next time.

            BTW, if you did not read Brian's comments, here is the link to the Hillsborough County ones: http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/dail...

            And here is the link for the Pinellas quarter-finalists: http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/dail...

            John

            1. re: RibDog

              i read and enjoyed his comments. but the participatory contest is lots of heat with no light. I have heard of spoto's. ribdog, i bet you could beat them any day. it would be fun finding out.

              1. re: andy huse

                we didn't know the half of it when this discussion began. Brian Ries's write up of the Pinellas "winners" described even worse entries. If that kind of garbage is rewarded in contests like these, best just to stay in the backyard.

                1. re: andy huse

                  that bad? Andy that just seems mean man! :(

                  1. re: askdrtodd

                    it just seemed strange that those entries represented the best. but yeah, i should have turned down the verbage.

                    1. re: andy huse

                      For the record, there were just as bad entries in Hillsborough. Alex's BBQ is terrible. Every time I have been to Tera Sur, I have wondered how the bbq place next door is. Now I know.

                      1. re: andy huse

                        All good. In Brian/CL's defense, the past three champeen-ships were pretty dead on (tacos, burgers & pizza), this one went a different route and I think it's been duly noted. You can't leave something subjective to a popularity contest, it essentially allows the restaurant to buy free advertising. It's akin to a restaurant on urbanspoon that has 37 great reviews, but oddly enough each of those people has only ever reviewed one restaurant... hmm....

                2. re: RibDog

                  he is spot on about buffy's the worst bbq I have ever tried. ordered a combo platter, ribs and pulled pork, both were so awful I left most of it on the plate. Sonny's would have been a step up from that shoe leather. hell shoe leather would have been a step up.

                3. re: andy huse

                  and as long as we're having contests, why not fried chicken? you can eat it in at least half a dozen languages.

                  1. re: andy huse

                    A list of who actually serves grouper would be amazing. The only time I am sure I am having grouper is when I buy it at Cox and cook it myself.

                  2. Wow. Jaymer Que is about a mile from my house. I accidentally stumbled in one evening for takeout, and almost never ate barbecue again (and I won't even get into the sides). Blech. As if Brandon would have one of the best of ANYTHING.

                    Agree that these voting contests are ridiculous, and do nothing to help promote any kind of "food scene" in Tampa.

                    31 Replies
                    1. re: sweet_polly

                      Sad part is the old contests (Champion Burger - Pane Rustica, Champion Pizza - Cappy's) were spot on! Why'd this one get so bastardized?

                      1. re: askdrtodd

                        Sounds like Brian liked Jimbo's the best. He didn't really have great things to say about the others, and some sounded down right bad.

                        -----
                        Jimbo's Restaurant
                        1604 SE 46th St, Cape Coral, FL 33904

                        1. re: Old E.

                          I have to question his 'buds....

                          1. re: Mild Bill

                            I agree but maybe I need to take a trip back to Jimbo's. I crossed it off my list when I first moved here. I know Ribdog has said that he also "likes" it.

                            -----
                            Jimbo's Restaurant
                            1604 SE 46th St, Cape Coral, FL 33904

                            1. re: CFishman

                              Gonna give Jimbos another go tonight, will get combo platter and report back.

                              1. re: askdrtodd

                                We split the 3 meat combo platter ($13) and had an extra 1/3rd slab of ribs ($6), which we didn't need or eat, they'll be around for lunch tomorrow (I can do another report then haha). Got sliced beef (somewhat dry, mediocre, nothing special) chopped pork (yummy but lacked spice), and ribs of course, which really weren't that great. the meat on a couple was actually somewhat dry (although still quite fatty) and on the others was reasonably tender and juicy but under-seasoned and had just a mild, mild smokiness. The hush puppies and pickles were dee-lish as always, and the peppers are great to snack on while you wait for your food. As sides we had green beans (which were somehow substantially less flavorful than del monte canned green beans) and the BBQ baked beans, which weren't bad, but a pale comparison to Robert's on Westshore. Comparing my last 3 trips to Kojak's with my last three trips to Jimbo's, there is no contest, Kojak's is the clear winner every time.

                                Oh and I've never had BBQ in Tampa that can hold a dim candle to 4 Rivers out in Orlando, but that's another story :)

                                1. re: askdrtodd

                                  If Kojak's work for you, then by all means go there. Personally, I have never had a good meal there myself. But that is part of the BBQ mystique. Everyone has their own idea of what BBQ they like. No different than burgers, pizza, hotdogs, fried chicken, etc.

                                  One note that when I go to Jimbo's, I go for the sliced pork. I try never to order beef anywhere that does not cook brisket and does not have a large calling for their beef. Even with brisket, two minutes after you slice, it starts to dry out. It is just the nature of the beast.

                                  And when it comes to ribs, it is difficult for me to order ribs out since so many of them never come close to what I like when I cook my own.

                                  -----
                                  Jimbo's Restaurant
                                  1604 SE 46th St, Cape Coral, FL 33904

                                  1. re: RibDog

                                    One reason I enjoy Kojak's ribs is because I don't go in thinking it's BBQ...
                                    To me they're just gently seasoned juicy tender pork ribs...
                                    Of course I like them with BBQ sauce added at the table...

                                    If people consider them as being their own thing they 'might' find a bit more happness there..
                                    And with the buttery-garlicky Parsley Potatoes and the Apple Cake a la mode for dessert, it's heaven to me...

                                    And it's always evident that they were JUST cooked....
                                    A few times recently at other places (Big Johns) I received overly salted ribs that tasted like they were held in a fridge and tossed on the pit to reheat...
                                    I left there and went somewhere else for lunch...

                                    And I agree about the beef thing.... My thoughts and habits exactly...
                                    If the menu just says 'beef' they can keep it...

                                    I had delicious brisket the other day at Cally's on Linebaugh, but I went back the next day for their pork and it wasn't as good...
                                    Barely good at all... Tender, but flavorless...

                                    1. re: RibDog

                                      I like Jimbo's, but I like Kojak's too. Ok, I just like pork... there, I said it. I always order the chopped pork (when not ordering ribs) at most bbq places. Exceptions are the smoked corned beef at First Choice- fantastic, and I really love the ham sandwich at Jimbo's. Try it! Oh I like the hot links at Kojak's and the sausage at the new Mrs. Campbells (can't recall the name - maybe BJ's?) on Dale Mabry south of Bay to Bay.

                                      As for sides, I amost always stick with beans and slaw. In my opinion the chopped pork beans and slaw are the basics of bbq, if they cant do that, no need to try the rest.

                                      I agree with Ribdog regading the bbq mystique. Everyone can have their own favorite.

                                      -----
                                      Jimbo's Restaurant
                                      1604 SE 46th St, Cape Coral, FL 33904

                                      1. re: Old E.

                                        if you really love baked beans, run (don't walk) to Robert's for lunch today. You can then thank me later :)

                                        His baked beans have everything from shredded pork to bell pepper to who knows what in them, but they are insanely delicious.

                          2. re: askdrtodd

                            The sad truth of the matter is that it's a massive amount of work to taste through the product of 64 different restaurants, which is why we tried this format this year. Yeah, it had a few problems we will need to work out, but I disagree about it not promoting the Tampa food scene. A lot of restaurants mobilized their fans and I heard from quite a few people who went out of their way to try rib joints they'd never visited before.

                            Also, about Jimbo's: I reviewed them a few years back and came down pretty negative on the place. Still, in this instance, the ribs were damn good.

                            What food do you guys think we should we do in next year's tournament?

                            1. re: Bries

                              I think you should do the Cuban Sandwich.

                              1. re: Bries

                                it is the voting thing that bothers me the most. i know it generates traffic, but it cheapens the whole thing. I'm fine with people nominating competitors, but i don't understand how repeat voting brings us to a helpful conclusion. your insights are always the most helpful aspect of these things. i'd say put together a top-notch panel of people from around the bay to judge the top nominees. Ribdog would be a natural for BBQ.

                                1. re: andy huse

                                  I agree with Andy, and also rhnault that the Cuban Sandwich should be mandatory for the next contest. So many places claim to have the best, let's put this to bed!

                                  P.S. I would happily lend my chompers to aid in judging any food competition you could throw my way :)

                                  1. re: askdrtodd

                                    Yeah, me too...
                                    I don't put faith in any contest result if I'm not da judge! ;-)

                                    1. re: Mild Bill

                                      Couldn't we put together our own "contests?" I don't see how it would be any less credible. Anonymous dining and written results.

                                      1. re: Old E.

                                        Now there's an idea. Sounds like a good time.

                                        1. re: CFishman

                                          The Doctor is IN!

                                2. re: Bries

                                  Brian,

                                  I know hindsight is 20/20 but it seems to me that one problem was having 64 restaurants to begin with. I tried to eat through the list but so many of the places were so bad I gave up. Buffy's, for instance, I drove up to it and I could see it was not a contender. As I had just come from Butler's which was very bad, I just didn't have it in me for another inedible meal. I think Hillsborough's top 8 against the top 8 from Pinellas would have been a better way to go. I am not sure what the solution is here. I appreciate your work and I would like to see you and CL continue the contests but I think some tweeking is in order. Rather than "the cuban," I would like to see "the sandwich." Mine today were at Cacciatore: the muffaletta and the Italian sausage. They were alright. By the way, new BBQ place on Armenia north of Columbus.

                                  1. re: CFishman

                                    CF I'm with you, but I think the cuban is so important to Tampa's food culture that it is worthy of a competition. Also when you make it as broad as any sandwich it's next to impossible to whittle down, I couldn't possibly pick between a Bahn Mi from Saigon Deli, a Cuban from Floridian, a Beef Martini from Wright's, a Oyster Po' Boy from Pane Rustica, a Tomozza from Doormet, a Caprese from Mazzaro's, etc, etc, it's just too broad... Boy do I want a sandwich now though...

                                    -----
                                    Doormet
                                    1155 S Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL 33629

                                    1. re: askdrtodd

                                      I agree and agree ;-)

                                      1. re: rhnault

                                        these are all good points. i agree that 64 is just way too much. these could have easily been narrowed down. i also think a lot ogf the best places were bypassed because they were eliminated in a local primary. far better to drop the chaff rather than have many of the best be eliminated early.

                                        instead of spending weeks with a tournament, why not spend several weeks profiling the 8 or 10 best places, then announce a winner at the end? that way people following your progress will have a much better xchance at having worthwhile meals.

                                        when i moved to Tampa, I didn't find much good BBQ and i was quite poor. so i determined to learn to do it myself. my smoker was like the gateway drug, and soon i was in the kitchen too.

                                        grouper sandwich is another good contest. it is a huge part of our history as a tourist destination, even if it is rather boring.

                                        a cuban contest would tap into a lot of local passions. people are very opinionated on this subject.

                                        1. re: andy huse

                                          As a purveyor of a true grouper sandwich, I second the grouper sandwich contest. Everybody knows about Frenchy's and Dockside Dave's, but everyone also thinks (as you can read from the posts above) any other place must be serving catfish in lieu of the real thing. That' s just not so, and I would be grateful if a reputable food journalist uncovered the "secret" places that truly serve fine fresh grouper.

                                          Andy Sweet Polly's right - we're very low key, and so most likely could not turn out an internet voting block the way Frenchy's can. Does that mean they're better? Not necessarily.

                                          I hope this post does not go against the etiquette rules here; I don't want to talk about my place, (that's why I don't mention the name), I just wanted to put in my two cents about true grouper and the voting issue!

                                      2. re: askdrtodd

                                        I guess what is exciting for me about the contests is the opportunity to learn about new restaurants. I don't really care whether we make a decisive decision that x is better than y. You are surely right Todd that a competition on "the sandwich" would require some difficult comparisons. As challenging as that might be, for me it would be worthwhile in order to survey all the diverse offerings. I completely agree with your comment about 4 Rivers. No one in the area is smoking BBQ with that kind of care.

                                    2. re: Bries

                                      Maybe I didn't phrase my post about the contest not promoting the Tampa food scene as well as I could've...but I don't think it really benefits consumers to simply tout a mass-voting winner as "The Best". If you don't go out to eat much and then pick up the newspaper and see that (for instance) Jaymer Que has some of the best ribs in Hillsborough county, and subsequently decide to drive over for a treat...well, you might leave scratching your head at the fact that THIS was the "best" Hillsborough county had to offer and decide to stay home in the future and make your own barbeque.

                                      Some restaurant owners are more active in church and community than others and know how to leverage their network to gain votes. It has nothing to do with the quality of the food. I'm not saying I know what the answer is...just providing my perspective.

                                      I like Grouper Sandwich for next year. Tapas might also be fun...we're getting more of those places.

                                      1. re: sweet_polly

                                        x2 on tapas. I miss the old ceviche (prior to the ownership change) :(

                                        1. re: sweet_polly

                                          You're right, Polly. This was not a food contest, it was a popularity contest. And with food, that does no one any good!

                                    3. re: sweet_polly

                                      Oh, I really like Jaymer Que, sides and all. Where else can you get beef ribs, let alone ones the size of your forearm?

                                      1. re: CFishman

                                        You can come to my next cooking class and learn how to cook them yourself as that is my main entree next time.

                                        1. re: RibDog

                                          interested in cooking class, when/where?

                                          1. re: askdrtodd

                                            You can go to www.rollingpinonline.com and look for my class on April 24th at 5 PM on the cooking class calender.

                                    4. My husband and I participated in an "Iron Chef" charity event for All Children's Hospital a couple of years ago (and took first prize for Best Tasting, I might add ;) ). Individuals paid to participate, and their tickets allowed them to taste from every station. Every taster got three different colored beads (one designated for "creativity", one for "presentation" and one for "best tasting"). Every chef participant had an opaque bud vase at their table, and people dropped their beads into the bottles to indicate their choices. Only one vote per category, per person...and you must pay to participate. There's an idea.