Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Restaurants

Restaurant review: Features Gastropub in Riverview is fine as movie theater fare, but unimpressive otherwise

Movies aren't exactly dying. Despite all the sturm und drang of predictions that Netflix and streaming videos would kill the cinema, global box office receipts hit $38.6 billion in 2016, a 1 percent gain over the previous year. But that doesn't mean going to the cinema is precisely what it was a generation ago.

Eighteen- to 24-year-olds go the most these days, and the next-highest patronage is among 12- to 17-year-olds. Which brings me to this: Why have high-end, super-swanky restaurants-cum-theaters proliferated in recent years? I've written about Studio Movie Grill, CinéBistro and a raft of others alongside Times movie critic Steve Persall. These are places where ticket prices are $12 and $15, things ratchetting up quickly when you add in a couple beverages and a grilled salmon bowl.

I know 15-year-olds, and they aren't dropping $40 at the movies.

In March, an ambitious new "eatertainment complex" opened in Riverview. I can't speak to the Riverview 14 GDX's 80,000-square-foot, 14-screen state-of-the-art multiplex (plush recliners and 70-foot-wide screens with something called Dolby Atmos and 4K projection). But I can talk about the 5,900-square-foot Features Gastropub that is attached. 

For the project, they tapped Philadelphia chef Brian Duffy, who has appeared on NBC's Today show and the Spike TV show Bar Rescue

Duffy (who has a tattoo that says "the art of the preparation creates the experience," also a meat fork on his right bicep with a sugar skull) has spent a big part of his career consulting on new concepts, for a while a series of restaurants that showcased "new Celtic cuisine." I spoke with him months ago by phone, and he talked about how Features would have stuffed burgers, craft beer dinners, and cheese and charcuterie boards.

Huh. I've eaten my way through a bunch of the menu and I'm not seeing it. There's nothing gastropubby about the concept — it's straight-up American food that will be familiar to anyone. There are buffalo wings ($10), retro artichoke and crab dip ($8), perfectly pleasant burgers ($9 to $13, but nothing "stuffed") and a quartet of grilled flatbreads ($8 to $10) that would feel right at home at any of the big national chains. Certainly it's convenient to the theater, and definitely the Gibsonton/Riverview area isn't awash in ambitious restaurants, but it's perplexing that the folks behind the GDX would import a chef with an impressive resume and this would be the result.

Only a couple of the dishes are seriously flawed — that artichoke and crab dip has a mantle of cheese on top that, once cooled, created a hard barrier to entry (you have to peel it back like a cap to get to the goo underneath), and the cookies on the cookie sundae ($5) are so thick and inelegant you wield your spoon like a hoe — but much is forgettable.


MORE DINING: Restaurant news and reviews

COOKING: Recipes and tips to do it yourself

DINNER AND A MOVIE? What's New In Theaters


A spin on a Caesar salad ($8) has so little flavor it makes you pine for a traditional Caesar dressing with its anchovy and garlic punch. This version seems hardly dressed at all, the chopped outer leaves of romaine accompanied by a charred lemon half and a few salt-roasted tomato wedges (these are nice, and you'll see them again as an accompaniment with the burgers and again on the "Florida caprese"). Duffy does seem to be adept at using items in a variety of contexts: The seasoned and grilled flatbreads perform a variety of functions as crostini on salads and scoopers for the dips.

The flatbreads themselves are unlikely to charm. The grilled veggie version ($8) read like a grill-marked pizza dough that, once cooked, is strewn with sauteed onions, zucchini, peppers and mushrooms (but not wild mushrooms as the menu touted), with little clods of goat cheese and a whiff of truffle oil adding a bit of interest. It's fine, and fairly wholesome, but in no way memorable. Same goes for the Florida fish tacos ($9), a slightly sweet blackening spice dominating the fish's flavor, with a bit of chipotle cream and corn salsa lending textural interest. But what makes them "Florida"? Is the mahi from the gulf? The menu makes no local sourcing claims.

Many cocktails are served in huge highball glasses packed with ice and juice, the booze lost in a sea. The beer list skews toward the familiar (Bud, PBR, Corona and a few big-production craft like Cigar City), and the service staff is by-and-large nice young folks for whom it seems like this may be a first waiting job.

In short, Features is a boon if you're patronizing GDX and feeling a little peckish. But it doesn't have enough "features" to draw on its own.

Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley. She dines anonymously and unannounced; the Times pays all expenses.

     
   
Comments
Shake Shack, Momofuku and more: Please come to Tampa Bay

Shake Shack, Momofuku and more: Please come to Tampa Bay

Fabio is coming! Not the Fabio on your romance novel, with the billowing hair and large quantities of artificial butter. This Fabio, in all likelihood, uses real butter. And olive oil. Fabio Viviani, the charming Top Chef alum known for appearances...
Published: 01/17/18
Time to carbo load: Three new bakeries include an Australian bakery, second La Segunda

Time to carbo load: Three new bakeries include an Australian bakery, second La Segunda

LA SEGUNDAA Tampa Bay giant has stirred and is on the move. La Segunda Central Bakery, a family-owned Ybor City institution for nearly 103 years (they celebrated that birthday Jan. 15) and the largest producer of Cuban bread in the world, will open a...
Published: 01/17/18
Restaurant review: Byblos Cafe has busted out of its mold with a broader Mediterranean menu, and that’s good

Restaurant review: Byblos Cafe has busted out of its mold with a broader Mediterranean menu, and that’s good

TAMPASeldom have I paid such close attention to a restaurant closure, remodeling and reopening. Byblos Cafe began a major renovation last year, keeping the restaurant open as long as possible during the summer with some nifty temporary walls to shiel...
Published: 01/16/18
Restaurant review: Ichicoro Ane brings ramen, Japanese small plates and a whole lot of fun to St. Petersburg

Restaurant review: Ichicoro Ane brings ramen, Japanese small plates and a whole lot of fun to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURGWhen Station House restaurant opened on Christmas Eve 2014 it was a totally reinvented space, Steve Gianfilippo’s vision for the basement level of a 104-year-old, five-story, 30,000-square-foot building he’d bought for $3 million. For y...
Published: 01/12/18
Updated: 01/13/18
Top Chef’s Fabio Viviani will open a restaurant in downtown Tampa

Top Chef’s Fabio Viviani will open a restaurant in downtown Tampa

The Tampa Bay restaurant scene has hit a certain kind of critical mass. For several years, rumors have swirled that the nation’s celebrity chefs were considering this part of the Florida peninsula as "the next big thing," a place to colonize and set ...
Published: 01/12/18
The future of food includes insect cuisine, edible packaging, sea vegetables and more

The future of food includes insect cuisine, edible packaging, sea vegetables and more

Insect cuisine. Edible packaging. High-tech rooftop gardens. The future of food is around the corner. With a current world population of 7.2 billion, the United Nations is projecting an increase of 1 billion people over the next 12 years, and 9.6 bi...
Published: 01/10/18
La Segunda Bakery to open new South Tampa location — with seats

La Segunda Bakery to open new South Tampa location — with seats

A Tampa Bay giant has stirred and is on the move. La Segunda Central Bakery, a family-owned Ybor City institution for nearly 103 years (they celebrate that birthday Jan. 15) and the largest producer of Cuban bread in the world, will open a second loc...
Published: 01/09/18
Tijuana Flats now sells a ‘take-home burrito meal kit’ and Rattle N Hum offers BOGO shots

Tijuana Flats now sells a ‘take-home burrito meal kit’ and Rattle N Hum offers BOGO shots

THE TWO B’S: BEER AND BACONFor the second year, Patrick Green is putting on the St. Pete Beer and Bacon Festival at Vinoy Park from 1 to 6 p.m. Jan. 20. Last year more than 5,000 people showed up to celebrate both B’s. Why this particular dynamic duo...
Published: 01/04/18
Updated: 01/10/18
Our food critic’s tips for eating out and not gaining weight in 2018

Our food critic’s tips for eating out and not gaining weight in 2018

There’s a three-panel comic circulating on social media right now. In the first panel is a stick figure with a Santa hat, the caption, "festive." In the second panel a pudgier stick figure is wandering, confused, with a wedge of cheese in his hand. I...
Updated one month ago
Restaurant review: Pin Wok and Bowl in St. Petersburg blends Thai and Japanese for familiar but solid fare

Restaurant review: Pin Wok and Bowl in St. Petersburg blends Thai and Japanese for familiar but solid fare

The name is a riff on rock 'n' roll (I hope not with a gesture at a bad Asian accent), the Pin part a reference to a lute-like stringed instrument in Thailand, the instrument a subtle decorating motif in the new restaurant.
Updated one month ago