Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hot Tuna: A restaurant review

Have you ever noticed that there are certain locations where restaurants just do not succeed? They change names and owners all the time, but to no avail. I think certain buildings are simply cursed when it comes to restaurants. You could open a place in one of these locations and call it "Pizza & Orgasms", offer a 2-for-1 special every Friday and you'll still be out of business in six months. Every town has at least one place like that. In Tampa, there are a few. One is the place I ate last night, currently known as Hot Tuna, located directly across the street from the St. Pete Times Forum. Here's a brief unofficial history of the establishments that have occupied this space during the last six or seven years or so: It has been a Beef O'Brady's (family oriented sports bar, wildly successful at their other 3 million locations), Rivals (a Beef O'Brady's minus the official branding) Dave Andreychuk's Grille (a sports bar that Dave Andreychuk himself probably visited less than 10 times) and Latitudes (I don't know...I don't think it was open long enough for the ink on their menus to dry). And now, Hot Tuna. I guess it's named after the band because they seem to be playing up a rock & roll theme.
Let me be clear right up front; I don't wish the proprietors of this place any ill will. I have no reason to want them to fail. But, well...
I had onion rings and a cheeseburger off a menu that had about a dozen options. To be fair, it says right on it that it's a temporary menu and that they'll be offering a wider variety after a grand opening in January. Also, the cheeseburger wasn't bad at all. It was a fine cheeseburger. I'll go so far as to say it was delicious. And they didn't screw up the onion rings (it's pretty difficult to screw up onion rings, but some places still do somehow). But there was nothing about any of it that would inspire me to make it a special destination. Not with tons of places that serve cheeseburgers and onion rings nearby. Our server was fine but they were obviously not staffed for a busy night (there was a Lightning game at the Forum) and it took a long time to get our food and to pay our check. And no happy hour? Ouch!
So, what you've got is good-but-nothing-special food and good-but-slow service. I'd stop there if I was hungry and on my way to the Forum and it was close to where I parked but I wouldn't go out of my way to get there. They'll probably be busy on event nights but I don't think that's going to be enough to break the curse.


Gail said...

I know exactly what you mean. There was this storefront on Third Ave near Gramercy Park that was home to about 5 or 6 different "gourmet" specialty food shops before it found success (over 15 years!) as an upscale pet supply place with the very bad name of "The Barking Zoo." Great blog Clark, at any rate!

What's Up Tampa Bay said...

I totally agree with you. I stopped at Hot Tuna because I did not want to spend $10 on a beer at the Lightning game but did not find that this bar had anything that really set it apart from other sports bars. I would think with a little marketing creativity and a larger menu they could stick around for a while.

What's Up Tampa Bay

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Anonymous said...

Whatever the building, Hot Tuna should serve Juarez City Market ceviche [in essence, bits/pieces of all types of seafood from fish to squid, marinated overnight in lime juice, cheap white wine, bit of ketchup. Served with marinade, pico de gallo, cilantro and soda crackers. People would come for that alone. [There are then many different styles which seem to have geographic associations]