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Sep 29, 2012 03:52 PM

Oxford Exchange (Tampa) - Stop What You Are Doing and Go There Now

Wow. I still cannot believe the meal and coffee we had at this brand spankin' new Tampa joint today. It's a mixed retail/dining space all under the same roof,and the closest thing I can compare it to (style/aesthetic-wise more than product offerings) is Eataly in NYC. Only open for breakfast and lunch now with a separate coffee bar and tea bar. We had three sandwiches, all superb. What catapulted me heavenward, though, were the sides: one of roasted vegetables and the other, "slaw". Flavors and preparations were both very rare for the Tampa area: amazingly fresh, different vegetables, nothing overly dressed or oily/greasy. Fennel bulb! Napa cabbage! Jicama! Imagine that! In Tampa! And not as a "This is a Dish on Our Menu for You Strange Vegetarians Out There" that tastes like . . . .well, you know. Yes: As standard sides with their sandwiches! Espresso (from Buddy Brew) is a revelation -- hands down best espresso I've had in Tampa. The tea selection is astounding -- we had two different ones, and both were sublime. And cheap prices!

Whoever is responsible for this entire establishment acutally gives a damn. No detail is overlooked; the interior design is the most remarkable I have seen in my years in Tampa. You could teach a design class on all of the aspects of the experience there.

Congratulations, ladies and gentlemen. You have created an experience that will be the envy of any foodservice establishment in the area.

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  1. Thanks for the rec!
    A few of my foodbuds say the same thing---- I'm really looking forward to visiting a few times to explore and play, and try a few menu items... And dig on Buddy Brew...

    6 Replies
    1. re: Mild Bill

      I share your enthusiasm for Oxford Exchange and your appreciation for the people who have made this major contribution to our cultural life. Still, I think it is important to separate out its many virtues from the food issues that we are concerned with here. I would put it like this, Oxford Exchange is awesome, the food at Oxford Exchange is pretty good. I had a club sandwich for my first meal. I kind of wish it were the multi-layered and quartered classic club version, but it was still good as a single-layered sandwich cut in half. The turkey was definitely high-quality. My main gripe is that it came out somewhat soggy. I thought the fries were kind of generic too. I liked the fried chick peas a lot but I would add that they tasted much better hot when they came out than cold at the end of the meal. I also went for breakfast. I ordered three eggs sunny-side up, potatoes and bacon. This was all good but there was nothing remarkable about it. I am very eager to go back for afternoon tea. It's the perfect space for that kind of open-ended nosh. As for Buddy Brew, I am sorry to say it but their espresso roast is very one-dimensional. It's a shame to see those beautiful La Marzoccos making great looking espresso that doesn't have all the flavor that it should. I think Kahwa's espresso roast is way more interesting than Buddy Brew's. Unfortunately, on my one visit to the new Kahwa downtown, the barista didn't have a clue what he was doing. That's not the case in St. Pete. Hopefully, some training and experience will take care of that. To my tastes, Buddy Brew has more significant hurdles to overcome in order to get their espresso tasting the way it should.

      1. re: CFishman

        Mild Bill - I think you'll enjoy it - don't miss the roasted vegetables side or the "slaw". I think they're only a dollar a piece with the sandwiches. CFishman - I appreciate your lengthy post. I've only been twice, once for coffee/sweets and once for lunch, but not for breakfast. We had the grilled cheese with gazpacho, the jalapeƱo chicken sandwich, and the same club sandwich you had. (BTW, my wife, without any prodding, just told me it was the best club she'd ever had) I would agree with you in general about the food if I had not had the roasted vegetables side nor the slaw. But those two items alone make me put this restaurant on a distinctly different level from many other places in Tampa. Did you have either one of those? What did you think?

        I did consider that I may have been swayed by the sublime interior, but I think most of the food I tasted really stands on its own. As far as the coffee goes, this was my first experience with BB after intimate familiarity with Kahwa. They are very different, without a doubt. I still enjoy Kahwa, but to my taste, BB was much rounder in flavor. To each his own. I'm sure you're tasting the same thing I'm tasting, I guess I just like it!

        I'm hoping to get there for breakfast next week, and I'll post when I do.

        1. re: Noice

          The club sandwich would have been way better had it not sat for however long that made the bottom soggy. That's a service problem really. I did have the gazpacho; I forgot about that. I liked it. My wife got the gazpacho and the half-sandwich. I have to say that the gazpacho portion on that dish did not look generous to me. It was a tiny little ramekin. One other thing I ate that I forgot about was a scone. I like the cream and jam that you can order with the scone (you do have to pay for it). The scone was fine but nothing exceptional. I did not have the roasted vegetables or the slaw; I guess that is because I ordered those fries (seemed mandatory with the club sandwich). These are early days and things are likely to tighten up as they move forward. I think we agree that this is a great place that we will both be spending a lot of time at. I just wanted to temper the expectations about the food a little bit. We should have a chowdown to explore the afternoon tea menu.

          1. re: CFishman

            I've been back twice over the last week for lunch (but not yet for b-fast), and I have been brought down to earth. I had your club sandwich, and had the exact same reaction as you: soggy (although nice and thick) bread, and this time it seemed overly buttered (should there be butter there at all?). I also had the grilled cheese again, and noticed the same too-buttered bread, but it's not as off-putting on grilled cheese, I guess. Other than the bread, the club was good, but certainly not the best I've had (wife must have been hungry a couple of weeks ago!). What was still outstanding was the slaw and the gazpacho. Hell, I think next time I'm just going to ask for three sides of the slaw and a bowl of gazpacho and call it lunch.

            The largest disappointment, to my surprise, was the roasted vegetables salad with shrimp added. At $17.50, this was the most expensive item we have ordered there. I thought it was a sure thing based on my experience on my first visit with the roasted vegetables as a side. Although this preparation seemed to be the same as that for the sublime side I had previously, these were slightly different vegetables, and there was very little flavor -- needed salt and a bit of acid. My wife even said the pieces of sweet potato were undercooked. Probably a one-time stumble, but at $17.50, my faith is definitely shaken.

            Tea/coffee both oustanding, and reason enough for a visit, in my opinion. My wife ordered a latte, and again, to my taste, it was the best steaming of milk I've had in Tampa. And I'm not even a steamed milk guy. Of course, I ordered a triple espresso, and was in heaven.

            Also, I agree with you on the scone. Clotted cream was nice, but scone itself could use work.

            I would be down for a chowdown at the Ox anytime. I'm sorry I didn't reply sooner but I was in Colombia with family chowing on some delciousness for a few days. I don't know what the rules are for discussing meetups on the board, but if it's ok to do so, please suggest a few dates for tea, and we'll be there.

            1. re: Noice

              Sorry for the slow reply. Actually went to tea earlier this week with a colleague. It was a fun experience. I don't think there are too many places here that serve high tea. The tea and the ambiance were great. The food was kind of mixed. I would say the sweet items were better than the savory ones. I would definitely go back if I had someone that I wanted to have a long relaxing conversation with. I really hope that Oxford Exchange will bring the quality of the food up to par with the rest of the facility.

              1. re: CFishman

                Thanks for posting about tea. Been back another few times, but still not for breakfast or tea. Other than the things I've loved that I've posted about previously, I recently had the cooked greens side (I think the vegetable side rotates every day or so), and it was oustanding. Collards, kale, and spinach, I believe (maybe chard?). Cooked perfectly, served near room temperature, still crunchy, but completely flavorful, and not oily in the least.

                Generally, I am encouraged, and rooting for the improvement of the whole menu, because I feel that they have the chops to take it to near perfection. May be wishful thinking, but I don't think so, as I've had several bites and sips there already that have made my eyes roll to the back of my head.