Datz is like a comfort food theme park. There’s a sense of excitement, energy to spare, lots of social media urging you to have fun. Roger and Suzanne Perry are smart restaurateurs; they’ve got their fingers on the pulse of popular culture. The free Datz smart phone app lets you “text to wait list, get real-time beer menu updates, place to-go orders online. All this and more. Easy. Fast.”
Datz’s menu comes in the form of a handsome newspaper that proclaims, “Take me home, I’m free! Plenty to read — news, events, general yumminess and more! It’s okay to play with your food… we do! (evidence inside). Also … uber local ingredients! Cravings, pg. 5.” There’s even a full page of colorful fan-sighting pictures and a plea to “Instagram your meal at #datz4foodies.”
The bill of fare champions the finest local ingredients. It takes diners on an uninterrupted sunrise-to-moon-glow journey from breakfast sammies/sweets to big-ass burgers/salads for lunch to a dinner menu that covers an entire universe of comfort food. In the words of “boss lady” Perry it’s “familiar, comfortable and local.''
Datz’s market has everything and is the “cure for the epicure.” There’s artisanal vinegar, sausage, cheese, sauces, spices, oils, bacon, honey, salt slabs, and chocolates. So there’s also no surprise that Datz doesn’t have a chef, per se, but rather a Director of FUN, Heather Stalker, who helps the Perrys in their relentless pursuit. This light-hearted touch is evident in the titles of many of the dishes. “When pigs fly” serves five different crisp artisanal bacon slices with tasty accompaniments of balsamic glaze, maple syrup, chili pepper jam, and Vosges chocolate. Datz’s version of
Tampa’s claim to culinary fame, the Cuban sandwich, is the yummy “Havana hottie.” You get the idea.
The impressive bar menu includes 100 varieties of bourbon, whiskey and scotch; and 37 on-tap craft beers chosen by the restaurant’s beer manager (aka genius) Danny Reid. The wine list offers half pours by the glass that encourages diners to branch out and includes one of my favorite whites, Conundrum, a California white that’s great with fusion cuisine. But my dining companion is dismayed that the emphasis on American wines means three California Sauvignon Blancs but nary a one with the citrusy zing from New Zealand.
Both delicious cheese and charcuterie flights are offered as appetizers; they’re well-chosen, mouth-watering and easy to share. And the sandwiches are served with homemade sweet-n-salty chips topped with a creamy, mild blue cheese drizzle and green onions.
House favorites for dinner include a juicy meatloaf slathered with ketchup, that in an inspired foodie coup is stuffed with a delicious bacon-jalapeño mac n’ cheese.
“Mayday, mayday, comfort food OD at table 12.”
Another promising favorite is waffles n’ tweet with cornflake crusted boneless fried chicken teamed with cheddar Belgian waffles and an inspired sweet-savory jalapeño maple syrup. Unfortunately, the waffles arrive lukewarm and doughy, which defeats the purpose of the dish. My dining companion is crushed, and a debate ensues about whether the fault lies with the kitchen cutting corners and not preparing the waffles “à la minute” or if slow service is the culprit. In any case, the result is maddeningly disappointing. So much so, that we query an adjacent table as to the crispness quotient of their waffles. Alas, the result is the same.
Jack Daniels cake advertises layers of chocolate cake drenched with sour mash whiskey and smothered with chocolate frosting, but the overall effect in reality is more subdued. That is also my experience with Dough, the Perry’s adjacent new bakery with the undeniable theatrical Datz touch plus rustic breads, oversized doughnuts, boozy milkshakes and, of course, bacon — that shows up in the signature latte.
We choose to try beautiful creamy gelato. The salted caramel and mixed berry flavors pop, but the pineapple cardamom seems dull and the butterscotch biscotti has an odd finish. The huge chocolate chip cookie is far from the traditional Tollhouse, neither crisp nor chewy, but more cake-like with a noticeable hit of sea salt that is a welcome surprise to your taste buds. The ginger crinkle cookie shows nice bite from crystallized ginger, but the cookie itself is more redolent of chocolate than molasses. Unfortunately, I confess no neutrality about soft ginger cookies; my sense memory vividly recalls the cookie of my dreams, which looks similar to this offering, but alas, Dough’s falls short on the palate.
The scone we try is light of texture, but also light on flavor. The glaze doesn’t provide enough sweetness and the lone piece of fruit (which seems prune, not raisin) is sitting on top. Ultimately, the result is bland. Perhaps my perception would be different with tea at breakfast, but after dinner at Datz, well … And the luscious-looking bright green lime cake with buttercream and curd also ends up being less than sigh-inducing.
I certainly enjoy the “Datz experience,” but I’d trade some of the hype for a warm crisp waffle and at least one Sauvignon Blanc from down under.
NEXT WEEK: German Bistro 2
This article was updated to reflect to correct name of the owners of Datz and Dough.