No Subs

What if I don't want fries with that?

I have this thing against no-substitution rules at restaurants. I'm not averse to paying a little extra for something more exciting than French fries or cole slaw, and it's not as if I'm asking the chef to whip up a whole new concoction.

That's the attitude I brought with me the other night for a late-night dinner at Daily Eats, South Howard's new hip diner. Unfortunately, my dreams of sweet potato fries were dashed by DE's unwavering commitment to its anti-choice policy.

A chivalrous Planet staffer even tried to charm the waitress on my behalf. His efforts, however, were all for naught; the only way to get those special sweet fries was to order them separately. Begrudgingly, I ate my sandwich with regular fries. I know ... the horror!

It's just that if it's a side dish and it's on the menu, I feel that it should be fair game. Just sayin'.

Tampa gets down to Grass Root

Vegetarians in Tampa have cause to celebrate: The city's first entirely vegan/vegetarian restaurant, Grass Root Organic Restaurant, is set to open in mid-March.

Owners Spencer and Sabrina Sterling moved to Tampa Heights about a year ago with plans to open a vegetarian restaurant. After attending The Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute in Puerto Rico last summer, the duo began to focus more on raw and living foods — uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

For the past several months, they have been building up a customer base, sponsoring a raw food discussion group the first Thursday of each month and running a co-op for members to purchase organic produce.

Grass Root Organic, located at 2702 N. Florida Ave., will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tues.-Fri., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sat. and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. for Sun. brunch. Call 813-221-ROOT or go to www.thegrassrootlife.com. For information about the raw food group, visit www.rawfood.meetup.com/66.

Aqua Bella opens in Gulfport

The village of Gulfport has a new waterfront seafood joint. Aqua Bella Raw Bar & Grill opened Jan. 23 at 3128 Beach Blvd. S.

Gulfport residents and co-owners Sandi Geller and Chris Midulla bought the building, which formerly housed the Mexican restaurant Casa Cortez, an ice cream shop and a gift shop. Renovations included remodeling the dining areas as well as installing a rooftop bar, the only one in Gulfport, Geller pointed out. The 250-seat restaurant also features patio and rooftop dining.

Geller describes the place as having a "Key West flair." The menu, which runs the gamut from burgers to filet mignon, from grouper nuggets to specialty fish dishes, has "a little bit of everything for everyone," said Geller.

Hours are 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs. and 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri. and Sat. Call 727-328-8280.

NoHo Bistro reopening postponed

After closing down temporarily just before Christmas, popular South Tampa lunch spot the NoHo Bistro has delayed its reopening.

The owners, Jessica Raia-Long and Michael Long, had tentatively planned for a Feb. 1 reopen date. They now hope to get things up and running again in early March.

"Everyone is ready to go," said Raia-Long, but they are waiting on code approval from the city.

The new bigger place, at 1714 N. Armenia Ave., will seat about 25 people, a considerable upgrade from the cramped seven-seat quarters at the old property at 1912 N. Howard Ave. Raia-Long is also expanding the menu to include more sandwiches, entrees, daily soups and rotating specials.

Once open, regular hours will be 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri., and the Bistro will be available for rent in the evenings and weekends for special events and private parties. In the meantime, call 813-514-0691 for catering or information.

Ybor adds two new joints to the strip

The Good Luck Café, 1910 E. Seventh Ave., in Ybor City, opened Jan. 24. The upscale café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with menu items including chicken and waffles, and shrimp and grits.

Hours are 7 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Tues.; 7 a.m. til late Wed.-Fri.; 10 a.m. til late Sat.; and 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun. for brunch. Call 813-241-2233.

A couple doors down at 1930 E. Seventh Ave., Taverna Opa is scheduled to open next month. The Greek tavern and bar known for its raucous atmosphere has three locations already in Miami Beach, Hollywood and Ft. Lauderdale. Visit www.tavernaoparestaurant.com.

Boston's heads for Tampa

Boston's Gourmet Pizza is moving into the Veterans AMC Theater complex at 9316 Anderson Road. The opening, which was scheduled for March, is now set for early to mid-April.

Managing partner Tony Regas said Boston's is like "a cross between a Champps Sports Bar and a Macaroni Grill." There will be a sports bar area with plasma TVs, a separate dining room and a large patio.

The menu features gourmet pizzas, as well as pastas, ribs, salads and sandwiches.

This will be the first outlet in Florida for the Canada-based company. They are also in negotiations to open locations in Brandon and Sarasota within the next year.

Boston's will serve the full menu from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week, with lunch specials Mon.-Fri. Call 813-901-9590 or go to www.bostonsgourmet.com.

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