Carmel Cafe opens in south Tampa

"I've always wanted to open here," Schneid said. "I graduated from Plant High. This really is my neighborhood."

Ipads in thick black rubber cases are all over the restaurant. Have you ever placed an order for food on an Ipad? The locally based restaurant chain started in 2010 with their Countryside restaurant. Two years later, they've got a fully functioning Ipad "menupad" application and four stores across the Tampa Bay area. Menus rarely have photos of all the dishes, and in a visually based society, we love looking at the pictures.

Before receiving our food, we get to see exactly what we're getting on the Ipad. We're served chickpea fries that are shaped in Jenga configuration with tomato jam and curry aioli, it's delicious. The chickpea fries are like a healthy version of mozzarella sticks. They also bring out the Meze platter, edamame hummus, Muhammarra and Baba Ganoush, crispy fried feta cheese, artichoke hearts, relish and grilled pita. Everyone comments on the edamame hummus and agrees it tastes great.

"We really want this to be a feast for your eyes wherever you look," Schneid said. "This should be one place to relax with some wine and let your worries go away."

As I sip my Capsolado Pinot Grigio, a mighty fine white wine by the way, their mission is accomplished. Deadlines, house chores, bills, all fade away for just a moment. That is, as they say, priceless.

click to enlarge Carmel Cafe opens in south Tampa - CARMEL CAFE
Carmel Cafe opens in south Tampa

click to enlarge Carmel Cafe opens in south Tampa - CARMEL CAFE
Carmel Cafe opens in south Tampa

Lights are low and warm. Conversations buzz and drinks flow on the corner of Swann Avenue and Himes, home to the newest Carmel Cafe location.

"This is our first free standing building we've opened," co-founder Nancy Schneid said Tuesday. "We weren't pre-conditioned with the space and got to create our own vibe."

The space is separated between the bar and high tops, group seating on couches, and smaller tables for a quieter dinner on the edge of the dining area.

"We wanted different zones for different uses," Schneid said. Opening in South Tampa has always been in the plan Schneid said, finding the right location took some time though.

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