More Taiwanese treats, Lebanese eats to satisfy the area

Grape Leaf Express and Naga Tea are two of Hillsborough's newest food and drink joints.

click to enlarge Naga Tea's crafts boba and more. - KGV-Photogaphy
Naga Tea's crafts boba and more.

Last month, Naga Tea opened its doors to Tampanians at 10950 N. 56th St.

Specializing in bubble tea, or boba, the Temple Terrace shop, which imports its blends from Taiwan, offers four types of tea: fresh, herbal, milk or fruit. Each may be ordered hot or cold.

For the fruit drinks, including passion fruit and mango, owners Carl Yen and Yi-hsiang Liao, both USF Tampa graduates, use "real product" rather than artificial sweeteners or powders, according to Naga Tea's website.

Ice cream black tea, mint chamomile tea and oolong black tea are among the shop's 22 flavors. Naga Tea's grand opening special, 15 percent off orders from 12:30 to 7 p.m. daily, runs through Wednesday, Dec. 31.

Another Hillsborough joint, a franchise called Grape Leaf Express, which is based in Toledo, Ohio, and owned by Arbid Wehbi, premiered in Brandon last week. Serving up classic Lebanese cuisine, it's the first Grape Leaf in Florida.

Wehbi and some of his Ohio kitchen staff traveled to the Bay area to help launch the new eatery, said Anas AlGhazzi, who's handling the restaurant's marketing. According to AlGhazzi, the owners of the Brandon branch, Haitham Barazanji and Ali Saifi, plan to open a second location in the Tampa area within the next year.

With more than 30 seats, Grape Leaf's menu is stacked with Mediterranean-style offerings such as falafel, chicken galaba sautéed with veggies, kafta kebab and raw kibbe. 

The kids' menu highlights items like grilled cheese, which AlGhazzi said, to this reporter's surprise, is a favorite. There are also house-made grape leaves stuffed with lamb, and a vegetarian rendition, too (yes!).

And although this is a little late, West Bay Public House, which opened around the end of September, is Largo's newest craft beer bar. The spot has more than 40 local and brewed-elsewhere suds on tap.

Bingo, open mic and tap takeover nights are regularly showcased throughout the month alongside food truck bites. And from 7 p.m. to close on Fridays, drinkers may score $1 off beer flights.


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