The days are getting shorter, the holidays are looming, and winter on the horizon. This is the time of year when most of us shift our eating habits away from light salads and breezy, summer tapas to heavier, more filling dishes as we prepare to hibernate. Winter may bring the perfect Florida weather but I can’t shake the desire for classic, comfort food this time of year.
In this installment of The Gabber Newspaper’s “Top Tastes,” we went in search of good, old-fashioned comfort food in the St. Pete area — like mom and grandma used to make. Think chicken pot pie, meatloaf, and pot roast. (This is not to be confused with Southern soul food, which we’ll highlight in a future article.) Armed with some adventurous taste testers, I headed toward the Gulf Beaches in search of the best, inexpensive comfort food at Foxy’s Café, Dead Bob’s, and the Horse & Jockey Pub. Here’s the rundown of our sampling:
Cheapest Entrées: Meatloaf Melt at Foxy’s Café ($9.39)
When I think of comfort food, meatloaf is the first think that comes to mind. Granted, I never ate it as a kid but generations before me sure did, and they ate a lot of it. You’ll find it on the menu at nearly any old school diner and Foxy’s Café (while not a diner, per se) serves theirs as a melt. It’s a no-thrills sandwich: a quarter-inch slab of (dry) meatloaf, with lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese and mayo, all sandwiched between toasted rye bread. We loved the price (and the coleslaw side) but this melt just misses the mark. The meatloaf itself was much drier than we had hoped for, so thank goodness for the fresh veggies and mayo. Points to Foxy’s for actually melting the cheese, though. But at $9.39, you get what you pay for. I recommend skipping this melt entirely and going straight for the key lime pie ($4.29). But if you’re really craving comfort on a plate, get Foxy’s Sloppy Joe ($9.29) instead.
Foxy’s Café, 160 107th Ave., Treasure Island. Mon., 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs., 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri. 8 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sat., 7 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun., 7 a.m.-3 p.m., 727-363-3699.
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Biggest Portion, Cheapest Drinks: Dead Bob’s Pot Roast Dinner ($11.24)
For a hearty, meaty dinner, you have to try Dead Bob’s pot roast. The meat itself was so tender, it fell off of our fork. There was enough gravy to add texture and flavor to the meat without drowning it out in a congealed mess (which is usually what I get when ordering pot roast at a restaurant). The mashed potatoes were creamy, well-seasoned, and speckled with red potato skin – obviously house-made. But the broccoli! The broccoli was softly cooked but still had crunch, and it was doused in the most flavorful herb butter — adding to the overall comfort charm of the dish. Dead Bob’s is known for being dirt-cheap affordable (with bargain drinks, too) and the food is surprisingly delicious given such the low price point. For a huge, inexpensive portion that tastes just like “mama’s Sunday dinner,” get Dead Bob’s pot roast.
Best Flavor & Top Taste: Chicken Pot Pie at Horse & Jockey Pub ($15.95)
You can’t go wrong with chicken pot pie. It’s a warm, classic, comfort dish that uses simple ingredients but when executed perfectly, like at the Horse & Jockey Pub, it’s absolutely divine. The pub combines onions, carrots, peas, and red potatoes with chunks of white meat chicken for the ultimate filling. This personal-sized pot pie dishes a delicately seasoned and velvety velouté sauce that is creamy yet light. The entire thing is wrapped in puff pastry, for a tender-crisp crust, and is served steaming hot (literally). If you’re in search of a dish that will warm your soul and tickle your tastebud memories, you definitely need to hit up Horse & Jockey for their chicken pot pie.
Now you know who we think makes the best inexpensive comfort food in the St. peet area. Next, find out who we thought made the best fish spread.
What is Top Tastes?
The Tampa Bay food scene is awesome. It’s constantly growing as new establishments pop up and now diverse food concepts are everywhere. In addition to restaurant reviews, I’ll be on a months-long campaign to sample specific dishes at various locales and then ranking my favorites. Follow along as I sample everything from salads and sushi, to Cubans and coffee in St. Pete, Gulfport, and the Gulf Beaches. This is a collection of food comparisons from a small sampling of area restaurants. By no means have I dined at every establishment that serves every category of food in this competition.
If you disagree with my rankings, that’s totally fine, but please be civil about it. And lastly, you won’t see me writing about Stella’s or the Salty Nun. It’s not that they don’t deserve the love, but my wife owns Stella’s and is part owner of Salty Nun, so in the interest of fairness (and marital harmony), those eateries don’t get to play.