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Ella's Folk Art Cafe in Tampa

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Finally made it to Ella's. Am I the only one who writes a great review in my head during the meal...and by the time I get home it's all just a blur??

Okay first, loved the cool vibe. Loved the multi colored bowling balls lining the walkway. We arrived around 6:30 pm on a Sunday, there were people sitting at tables outdoors. Sign at the door says Please Wait to be Seated, next to a podium. So we stood there. And stood there. And stood there. Finally we just opened the door and went in.

The place was crowded, the music was loud. Over to a very bored looking young girl sitting by the cash register. Excuse me? Hello? Could we have a table please? She picks up menus and off we go, without asking if we wanted upstairs, outside, whatever. Just lead us to a flight of stairs and went up. I'm disabled and don't really do stairs...but she was already at the top and with the music I figured she'd never hear me anyway. So I slowly dragged my old butt upstairs. Great high-top table overlooking the first floor, great view of the band (who were excellent and vaguely Beatles-esque).

Great big room, visually intriguing, very cool vibe to the place. I ordered a Stella while perusing the menu. Hard to make a choice.

The Dirty South Rap caught my eye: garlic marinated grilled veggies with goat cheese and red pepper chipotle hummus. In hindsight, wish i had ordered that! I also wanted to try The Roots: oven roasted sweet potato, shallot, and pearl onion salad tossed with chopped pecans, mild chilies and herbs, with balsamic reduction and feta.

The waiter (a real cutie with a nice smile) informed us that they were out of so many items....the burger, both kinds of stuffed peppers, BBQ pork, BBQ beef, and a few other items.

My friend is gluten intolerant (the disease du jour, it's so big these days), and she asked the water if there was any kind of wheat in the BBQ sauce. I explained she was gluten intolerant and he went to the kitchen to ask. He returned to say yes, there's a little wheat in the soy sauce that's used in the BBQ sauce.

I think it might have been nice if the chef had sent the water back with some suggestions or recommendations that my friend could safely eat. She decided to just order three sides: cole slaw, collard greens and sweet potato fries. I wanted to try a variety of things so i ordered a half slab of ribs, cole slaw, sweet potato fries and cornbread. The water came back to advise us that they were also out of cole slaw. My friend ordered succotash and i ordered fried green tomatoes.

Not a long wait, food came quickly, looked good. First up, the succotash. Not what either of us was expecting. Corn with zucchini (I expected corn with lima beans), had a very odd taste, some kind of strange aftertaste. I didn't like it, but she HATED it, didn't even want it on the table with us. Cute waiter reluctantly took it away and brought a second bowl of collard greens for my friend.

I tried the fried green tomatoes next. They were delicate and well cooked, nice but just a tad bland. Needed a bit of a bite or a punch. I'm thinking maybe just a crumble of feta or even bleu cheese would have been nice. They were actually served with a bland white creamy sauce, maybe ranch, i'm not sure what it was.

Ribs....kind of disappointing. I was hoping they'd be falling off the bone. They were not, they were actually kind of hard and chewy. My teeth got a workout. The sauce was good, had a nice flavor; but the little cup they gave me on the side for dipping was cold. The ribs sat on two pieces of white bread. I was surprised to see that, never saw ribs served that way. I must admit the bread with the juices and BBQ sauce was delish, one of my favorite things! The sweet potato fries were good, didn't blow my socks off, but they were good. The cornbread had nice flavor but was a tad bit greasy and also not even warmed at all. The waiter noticed I didn't eat it and he took it off the tab for us.

Dessert was the Bread Puddin'. Honestly, I wouldn't have called it Bread Puddin'. It was a big hunk of french toast with raisins, complete with maple syrup. Tasted fine, but it wasn't bread puddin'.

I liked the place, liked the vibe, loved the artwork in the bathroom and the funky faucet on the sink. Great music, cool people, a place I'd like to hang out at, but I must admit I was pretty disappointed in the food.

Not ready to give up yet, there are plenty of interesting looking things on the regular menu that I'd like to try. And maybe they were just having a bad day. I really wanted to be blown away and I wasn't. Hopefully I will be next time.

Manderley, over and out.

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  1. I just want to take a momentto recommend to you the fried green tomatoes at Lee Roy Selmons. They are tasty good and the dipping sauce has a nice sip.\
    I have yet to go to Ella's. I was annoyed right off the bat when I called on a Sat and asked if they were opened for Sunday brunch and was told they were only to get there and be told I could wait a couple of hours for the bbq to be ready. Nevermind.

    1. (forgot to add "this is a review of a specific restaurant")

      it's Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe
      5119 N. Nebraska
      Tampa, FL (Seminole Heights)

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      Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe
      5119 N Nebraska Ave, Tampa, FL 33603

      1. I've been wanting to check out Ella's as well, but I'm a little skeptical of the menu...though I think the atmosphere would be cool to check out and I'd like to get some photos there. Please keep us updated if you decide to get something else and like it more than what you ordered today.

        5 Replies
        1. re: blitzchamp

          I had some completely nasty fried chicken and waffles today. I think I am going to resume my Ella's hiatus until someone comes back here and reports having a decent meal. In all fairness, the ribs did look decent and the person who ordered them claimed to like them. Still, though, I can't forgive that half-fried chicken or that cold waffle.

          1. re: CFishman

            I too love the place - totally funky (in a good way) and hip. Perfect ambiance for Seminole Heights. We have been to Ella's a number of times and must say at best, the food is marginal - edible, but marginal. You think it's going to be great and you really want it to be great, but in my experience, sadly it just doesn't ever seem to get there.

            1. re: food_zilla

              My experiences are typically identical to foodzilla's. The service is usually friendly, the food sounds great on paper, the prices are fair, and the restaurant itself has indie-panache coming out of it's... um... ears, but when it shows up on the plate it's never been better than "pretty good".

              1. re: askdrtodd

                I had a couple good plates of chicken and waffles early on, but that has been a long time. They seem to be doing good business, so good for them. (for a moment Todd I thought you were calling me Food_Zilla and I laughed. Then I realized I am not Food_Zilla and I got sad.)

                1. re: CFishman

                  LOL!!

        2. Like you I tried Ella's a while back and loved the atmosphere! It was so different and funky, and the band was great. However, unlike you, I found my food to be great! My friend and I split one of the appetizers, can't remember what it was but it was delicious. We both had the "badd burger" which, contradicting it's name, was delicious, and I don't even really like goat cheese. I also had a side of sweet potato fries which are my favorite side to go with a burger and they were good. The service was friendly and quick and I have been trying to get back there again but just haven't had a night with enough time to make the drive down there!

          1 Reply
          1. re: melanieee

            I like the place. I'm never blown away, but the food is solid. I like the vibe and its good with the kid. Good beer selection, which is 90% of what matters to me these days.

          2. upon re-reading my original post, i see i kept saying "water" instead of "waiter"...but i'm pretty sure everyone was able to figure that out ;)