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One dinner at Datz -- what are their specialties?

My wife and I will be going to Tampa for an event in about a month, and I've already made us reservations for one dinner at Datz. I'm not sure how I first heard about it, but I discovered their website some months back, and I've been looking forward to going ever since. I actually recommended Datz to my boss a while back when he had to go to Tampa (with the caveat that I hadn't been there myself), simply based on reading the menu online, and he came back raving about it.

My favorite restaurant in the whole state is the Ravenous Pig in Winter Park (we live in the Orlando area), and I'm also a huge fan of deli food. Datz sounds like a Ravenous Pig-style gastropub crossed with a New York deli, and I'm eagerly anticipating the experience.

So what are the can't-miss items? Also, is part of Datz a market (like the incredible-sounding Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, as seen in the movie The Five-Year Enagagement), or is it just the restaurant?

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  1. Lou, Datz and Ravenous Pig have very little in common. I would strongly suggest that you consider some other options. Edison has started to serve up some very good food. The prices have gone up a bit, which is unfortunate, but it's not too dissimilar from the prices at RP. I have enjoyed most of my meals at Boca. Pane Rustica is always excellent for dinner. Wimauma is good if you want a slightly more southern flare. I think you would be much happier at one of these other places.

    1. I agree with CFishman - to some degree. Datz is a great restaurant, but it isn't the same as the Ravenous Pig - you would need to adjust your expectation. I don't know of anything specific I would recommend as I tend to order their specials. The food doesn't blow me away but I'm always happy with my meal and go back frequently. I haven't seen The Five Year Engagment so I'm not sure how it would compare, but Datz does have a market, however it is not as large as it used to be.

      Boca has some similarities to RP as far as using locally sourced items and having a rotating menu (which, all of these restaurants mentioned change their menu daily/weekly/seasonally), although I have only been once so I can't speak to their consistency. Wimauma has good food (although sometimes they seem to take things too far) and their service is spotty (my husband won't go back despite them having the best fried okra). Pane Rustica is always good (I prefer it for lunch) and I don't think you'd be disappointed. I have not been to Edison, but it has been getting excellent reviews.

      1. If your boss raved about it, I understand why you want to go, but I agree with the other two posts, it's not really all that. The menu looks good, yes, but...well, it's just not all that. I agree with all the ideas here, and would like to add The Refinery, which is more like the Ravenous Pig in its ambition and creativity, and also has a couple of James Beard nominations under its belt. I would rank my suggestions this way: The Refinery, Pane Rustica (very good for lunch, excellent for dinner), Boca (third only because, like ccat3, I've only been once). Haven't been to Edison, but the chef is a local celeb and it's getting good word of mouth.

        15 Replies
        1. re: Miss E

          at least i know what i'm getting when i order at Datz, some of it quite good. The Refinery is a glorified crap shoot. The kitchen's reach exceeds its grasp with the weekly menu. Beard nominations are open, so those don't impress me. Consistent food and service does. I'm happy to see Domani open nearby. I'd prefer Boca, Pane Rustica, or Datz over the Refinery's roulette wheel.

          1. re: andy huse

            I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, andy, because I've never had a bad meal there, and we go once a week!. Some dishes are more successful than others, but I think that's what comes with creativity: not every flavor profile will please, not every combination will really work. Service is always excellent, the servers are knowledgeable, and the food, in my view, anyway, is always somewhere between Yummy and Wow.

            As for the James Beard nods, your reply stymies me: what would impress you more than the opinions of actual diners?? (She asks on Chownhound)

            1. re: Miss E

              Living close by, I wanted to love the Refinery and tried for quite a while. i know plenty of discerning diners who have had the same negative experiences i have.

              No need to get defensive. I'm not trying to discredit your opinion. If you enjoy it, by all means go. It wouldn't be the first time we've had different opinions, and that's okay--- that's Chowhound.

              1. re: andy huse

                I generally try not to criticize the Refinery publicly because I am so pleased to have an advocate for adventurous cuisine in my neighborhood. I also hate to leave Andy hanging here, so I will join in and say that I wish the Refinery could step up their consistency. I have had transcendent dishes at the Refinery but also not a few dishes that were utter failures. Anyway, we shouldn't turn this into a referendum on the Refinery. That's not what Lou was asking for. Where the hell is Lou, by the way?

                1. re: CFishman

                  Cass, don't you think that with new dishes, the chef should have a better feel for what the customer will enjoy. "Utter failures" do not indicate to me that the chef knows will appeal to the public.

                  1. re: RibDog

                    John, I would say just the opposite. I think I am culinary soulmates with Greg and Michelle. I read the menu and I swoon. It's just that occasionally the kitchen does not deliver on the original vision of the dish. I do think they would be better off ditching the rotating menu and instead focus on getting the core dishes nailed down. Miss E, you have never had these sorts of problems? Maybe it's because I always order the craziest thing on the menu. I fall for that trick every time.

                    1. re: CFishman

                      CFishman, I make a distinction between a dish that is poorly executed--overcooked, undercooked, that kind of thing--and a dish that I just don't find successful. I hope you won't think I'm splitting hairs, but I don't have problems with the execution at The Refinery. A while ago I myself posted about overcooked entrees and the like, but IME they fixed all that and it's been smooth sailing ever since. There have certainly been dishes I wouldn't order again, because the flavor and/or textural combinations just didn't work for me, but I enjoyed them once for their creativity. Believe me, if something is actively wrong, I have no trouble sending it back. In fact, I did send a fish dish back once because it was virtually raw--they fixed it quickly and politely and all was well. But I also had to send a dish back at Pane Rustica once because the rice was crunchy. I don't consider a very rare error to be a deal breaker if it's handled well.

                  2. re: CFishman

                    I'm here, and I truly appreciate all the input -- good, bad, and indifferent! My wife and I rarely make it out of Orlando and the surrounding suburbs anymore, so we're really looking forward to this little trip. However, I still think our hearts and minds are set on Datz this time.

                    I thought it was more of a gastropub crossed with a deli, but even if it isn't anything like the Ravenous Pig (which I like more than she does anyway), it ought to be a pretty good deli meal. All we have in Orlando is the Toojay's chain, which is mediocre and inconsistent. Some of our fondest shared Chowhound experiences have been at delis: Ben's in Boca Raton and Katz's Deli, Ess-A-Bagel, and Barney Greengrass in NYC on our honeymoon. (We also went to Babbo, which I loved and she didn't much care for -- go figure!)

                    We'll be heading from Tampa to Clearwater Beach for our next stop, so we're going to hit Frenchy's for lunch the following day before returning home. One thing we both always agree on is casual seafood.

                    Thanks, folks!

                    1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                      Have fun, Lou, and please let us know how Datz goes for you. It's waaay better than Toojay's, and I doubt you'll be seriously disappointed. If you are, you can drown your sorrows in Frenchy's bisque! (JK)

                      1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                        Lou: to answer your original question, I have a hard time not ordering Ty's Two Fister, a corned beef/pastrami sandwich. the entrees rotate but i've rarely been disappointed.

                    2. re: andy huse

                      andy, dude, who's being defensive here?? Thanks for the swipe--guess I 'm not one of those discerning diners, lol.

                        1. re: andy huse

                          Yep, you are. And discerning.

                          Is this how you want to treat a dissenting voice on Chowhound? Ever wonder why there's no one posting about Tampa any more? If I have to put up with your personal insults when I disagree with you, I won't either.

                          1. re: Miss E

                            you read into what you want. those seeking conflict will find it wherever they look.

                            1. re: andy huse

                              OK, andy, I get it. Your cuisine reigns supreme. I'll leave Chowhound to you.

              2. Oh, and one more thing, the "market" at Datz is teeny, tiny--nothing like Zingerman's, not even a ,little!

                1. Definitely temper your expectations when comparing Datz to Ravenous Pig. Datz was fantastic when it first opened and the original owner based his plan for it off of Zingerman's. I feel like it's changed greatly since he sold it. There used to be a market space, although not as large as Zingerman's, where they sold various high-end goods and had a deli, bakery, etc. They also used to focus on sandwiches but now the sandwiches have become much smaller, yet the prices remain the same. I'll always miss getting a "Really Big" sandwich there for a couple dollars more than the "Big" and being able to eat half and be full and have another half saved for my next meal.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jeff6806

                    I concur. I really like the atmosphere in Datz and the way it's laid out can feel more more intimate than RP, but I wouldn't discuss the food there in the same breath as the food at RP. I think you'll enjoy it, but keep those expectations in check.

                    FWIW, I agree with the majority view of the Refinery -- my experiences there have followed that pattern to the letter. It's uncanny, really. I've often looked at my wife and said, "It's impossible these plates came from the same kitchen." But the OP didn't ask about the Refinery, so I'll be on my merry way now.

                  2. Well, we went to Datz last night (AND SAW LOUIS C.K. IN CONCERT!), and both were awesome. Datz was pretty much exactly what I imagined, so I loved it, and my wife was very pleasantly surprised. The space was beautiful, and a similar place in Orlando would do really well -- definitely more "cas" than the Ravenous Pig, but it would be another foodie/chowhound oasis in the middle of chain restaurant purgatory.

                    We showed up earlier than our reservation, putting us at quite the "early bird" schedule for dinner, but it was also happy hour, which sounds so much cooler than early bird. Luckily, apps are half-price on weekdays between 4 and 6, so we got the pretzel bites and a cheese and charcuterie plate with St. Andre triple creme brie for my wife, and guanciale and duck prosciutto for me, plus the Cajun-spiced popcorn they bring to your table for free.

                    We both love soft pretzels, and the pretzel bites were some of the best we've ever had, dripping with garlic butter and finely-shredded parmesan. My wife loved the brie (strangely, it has never been one of my favorite cheeses), and the duck prosciutto was one of the best things I've ever eaten in my life, as a huge fan of both duck AND prosciutto. I was disappointed by the guanciale, which I've never had, but searched for all over Orlando (in vain) when I made bucatini all'amatriciana for the first time earlier this year. I eventually substituted pancetta in my recipe, which was probably a good move, as the guanciale had the rubbery-yet-crunchy texture of pickled ginger. The platter also came with some crusty bread slices, delicious red grapes, these awesome savory almonds covered with sea salt and rosemary, big olives (ewww, but my wife liked them), and a large spoon full of the best honey we've ever tasted (and we even buy nice local honey).

                    Our entrees came out in record time -- my wife got their fried shrimp po'boy, which was incredible, and I got the stuffed meatloaf, which comes stuffed with bacon macaroni and cheese. It was very salty, but delicious. I was torn between that and the Two-Fister sandwich that has corned beef, pastrami, swiss, and gouda cheeses, but just like the duck prosciutto, meatloaf stuffed with mac and cheese is one of my favorite foods stuffed with another one of my favorite foods, so it seemed like a good choice at the time, and it was.

                    For dessert, I was stuffed, but my wife got a sampler of three locally-made gelato flavors: cookies and cream, chocolate hazelnut, and amaretto, which she loved. We heard a group of annoying young ladies oohing and aahing over Oreo beignets, but after all the other rich food we just ate, that would have been a bad move before a long comedy show and a two-hour drive home. But when and if we find ourselves in Tampa again, we'd go back to Datz in a minute. It is our perfect kind of restaurant -- casual but still very nice, with classy takes on comfort food, deli sandwiches, creative apps and 'zerts, and a great ambience. I'm so glad we went.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                      I've had guanciale before that tasted good and didn't have that texture so don't let that turn you away from it. Would I rather have pancetta? Probably, but guanciale certainly shouldn't be as you described it.

                      1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                        BBVL:

                        Thanks for the excellent report! It's great to hear you two had a great meal. I haven't had most of what you mentioned, so I'm certainly due for another visit. Thanks.

                        Noice