Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Restaurants

Pretzel-bread sandwiches

Decades from now, the history books will claim that the Great Pretzel-Bread Sandwich Craze of 2013 began with the introduction of Wendy's Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger.

Not for me, though. I fell in love with pretzel-bread sandwiches more than a decade ago, at a little cafe in Cambridge, Mass., that served cheap but delicious sandwiches on chewy, salty, knotted-up buns. There and then, I decided: Calories be damned; every deli and restaurant in America should offer pretzel bread as an option.

Now, it seems like they are. In droves. Wendy's, Dunkin' Donuts, Steak 'n Shake and Sonic all have rolled out pretzel-bread sammies in 2013; Ruby Tuesday launched an entire pretzel-burger menu. And while these may be the most visible entries into the pretzel-bread scene, here in Tampa Bay, they're far from the best.

For example, lunchers in Tampa are overwhelmed with quality options at the Oxford Exchange, the museum-esque tea room and brunchery across from the University of Tampa, so it's possible to overlook the Pork Belly & Blue Burger ($13) — a belt-busting burger topped with bacon, fried egg, smoked paprika aioli, bibb lettuce and tomato, all served on the restaurant's signature toasted pretzel buns, baked in-house each morning. The saltiness of the pretzel is overwhelmed by the blue cheese and bacon flavors, but there's a lovely crisp to the bread. It's messy, though, so be prepared to use a knife and fork. For something a little simpler, try the OE Grilled Pretzelwich ($10), a ham, cheddar, honey and jalapeno sandwich served on a cinnamon-chili-dusted pretzel roll.

Ham and cheese, you'll find, is a common refrain among the pretzel-bread set. Just up Kennedy, The Bungalow serves a massive Twisted Ham & Swiss ($9) that's greasy, salty and slathered in tangy mustard and served with crispy golden fries. Perfect pub grub, in other words.

Speaking of pub grub: The Pub at International Plaza has a Ham and Swiss Pub Pretzel ($9.95). It comes with Guinness-battered onion straws and mustard. But the ham and swiss isn't the Pub's best pretzel-bread sammie. That honor goes to the Welsh Dip Pub Pretzel ($12.95), which is sort of a cross between a French dip and a Philly cheesesteak — it's sliced prime rib, green peppers, onions, melted mozzarella and provolone with a side of au jus.

The World of Beer is well known as a craft beer lovers' destination, both in Tampa Bay and beyond. But most locations don't serve food. That's not the case at the World of Beer in Carrollwood, which has a diverse and filling menu of "tavern fare," including fried foods, flatbread pizzas and curiosities like chicken and waffles, a Scotch egg and something called a "pint of bacon." For $8, you can order a hand-rolled pretzel, the size of a dinner plate, which comes hanging from a hook like a wreath. Or you can go with one of two pretzel-bread sandwiches: The Guinness "Brat" Slider, which is Guinness-infused bratwurst with carmelized onions, peppers and Dijon mustard on a quartered pretzel roll; and the Smoked Chipotle Chicken Sandwich, a smoked breast slathered in bacon, Swiss and chipotle aioli. The menu helpfully suggests a beer pairing — a stout for the brats, an IPA for the chicken — and at the World of Beer, you won't want for options.

The one thing all these sandwiches have in common is, well, they're kind of common. Pretzel-bread burgers and ham-and-cheeses can be found in taverns all over the country. But there is one place in Tampa Bay that dares to think outside the biergarten: O'Maddy's Bar & Grille in Gulfport.

O'Maddy's has named most of the sandwiches on its menu for a staffer, such as Jess's Crab Crab Cake Sandwich — a backfin lump and crab-claw cake on a toasted pretzel bun with chipotle mayo, lettuce tomato and onion. It's spicy and zesty, and the bun's crisp, smoky rim adds a perfect texture you didn't know you were craving.

As a bonus, O'Maddy's doubles as a friendly and laid-back beach bar, with a huge menu of tropical drinks and an open-air bar that faces the water. So as you're inhaling your salty sammie, you can also inhale the salty Floridian air.

Comments
Review: Platt Street Borough is casual Tampa dining with high standards

Review: Platt Street Borough is casual Tampa dining with high standards

TAMPAIt wasn’t that long ago that Platt Street was a bit of a conundrum for restaurateurs: Not exactly downtown, without the dense auto traffic of Kennedy, and far enough off the South Howard main drag that it didn’t entirely qualify as part of SoHo....
Published: 02/19/18
The Reading Room’s Lauren Macellaro and Columbia’s Richard Gonzmart are James Beard semifinalists

The Reading Room’s Lauren Macellaro and Columbia’s Richard Gonzmart are James Beard semifinalists

It’s almost a sick joke. On the morning after Valentine’s Day, the second-busiest restaurant day of the year, chefs all over the country are hauling themselves out of bed early to find out: Did I make it onto this year’s James Beard Foundation list o...
Published: 02/15/18
Blind Tiger Coffee Roasters opens in South Tampa, plus learn how to roll sushi at Kelp

Blind Tiger Coffee Roasters opens in South Tampa, plus learn how to roll sushi at Kelp

LOVE STUNT: SUSHI ROLLSIf you dropped the ball Wednesday and did bubkes for your sweetie, here’s a tip: Through Sunday at Kelp in South Tampa, couples can dive into a reservations-only chef-led art of sushi rolling class that comes with bottomless sa...
Published: 02/14/18
Out of time this Valentine's Day? Five ways to still have a romantic meal

Out of time this Valentine's Day? Five ways to still have a romantic meal

Valentine’s Day is Wednesday, and that means your odds of scoring a reservation at a popular restaurant are roughly equal to the odds of you opening your own restaurant in time for dinner. Thinking about showing up somewhere with no reservatio...
Published: 02/13/18
Review: 2nd & Second will serve you 24/7 in St. Petersburg

Review: 2nd & Second will serve you 24/7 in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURGAn older couple sits at a booth, hunched over mugs of coffee, occasionally murmuring in a way that seems more soliloquy than conspiracy. Outside at a table, two travelers pay their tab, plates streaked with cold yolk. They ask for direc...
Published: 02/12/18
Review: Maybe the Lure can beat the odds at this unlucky South Tampa location

Review: Maybe the Lure can beat the odds at this unlucky South Tampa location

TAMPA - This will be my fourth review of restaurants in this space, all of them more or less favorable: Bistro Bleu (a sophisticated New American charmer), Marrakech (Yay! We have almost no Moroccan food here! Bring on the tagines!) and Catrinas Taco...
Updated one month ago
Here's what you can eat at the Armature Works' new Heights Public Market

Here's what you can eat at the Armature Works' new Heights Public Market

TAMPA — "This project will change the DNA of Tampa." Bold words from Ferdian Jap, co-owner of Zukku, one of 14 vendors who began selling their food and drink to the public Thursday at the anticipated Heights Public Market at the Armature Works...
Updated one month ago
Valentine’s Day ideas for Tampa Bay foodies: wine and chocolate, berry picking and more

Valentine’s Day ideas for Tampa Bay foodies: wine and chocolate, berry picking and more

PICKING: BERRY FASTLooking for something fun, yet competitive, to do with your sweetie in advance of Valentine’s Day? Wish Farms and Monte Package Co. are collaborating on the fifth annual Strawberry Picking Challenge this weekend.The main event Satu...
Published: 02/01/18
Updated: 02/07/18
A salute to Tampa Bay's Top 50 restaurants of the year

A salute to Tampa Bay's Top 50 restaurants of the year

Every year, I cull through thousands of words about the local restaurant scene from Times food critic Laura Reiley. I edit her weekly restaurant reviews, salivating over the best of them and making note when she leans over and says, "Oh yeah, you wou...
Updated one month ago
The list is here: Our 2018 edition of the Top 50 Restaurants of Tampa Bay

The list is here: Our 2018 edition of the Top 50 Restaurants of Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay’s Top 50 Restaurants has arrived, and so has the Tampa Bay food scene. The highly-anticipated annual list from food critic Laura Reiley contains some surprises this year, in restaurants that made it and ones that didn’t. Our foo...
Updated one month ago