Saturday, April 21, 2018
Restaurants

Review: Engine Rose builds on success of burger hot spot Engine No. 9

ST. PETERSBURG

There comes a point during a Tampa Bay summer — the air is hot breath on the back of the neck, car seats feel like the surface of the sun, thunderstorms scuttle all afternoon plans — where you don't feel smart for living here. We are not yet at that point. In fact, we've got a number of weeks of "ah, summer" left. And this is why you should go to Engine Rose immediately.

Engine No. 9 opened at the corner of Ninth Street and First Avenue N toward the end of 2012, back when that part of St. Petersburg was still a little scuzzy. Immediately it established itself as a go-to place for serious burgers. Serious in the sense of fancy bells and whistles, but also in the sense of sheer size. In addition, as we've seen in the past couple of Stanley Cup-crazy weeks, it quickly became a sports bar with a special zeal for hockey. (Owner Jason Esposito's father and uncle, Tony and Phil, are both in the Hockey Hall of Fame and founders of the Tampa Bay Lightning.)

No. 9 has competed ably in local burger competitions, is a draw for craft beer zealots (65 kinds in bottle and a bunch on tap) and has televisions at every table. In short, it has been a hit, Esposito building on that success with a second project debuted in the burgeoning Grand Central district in December.

Engine Rose is more outdoors than in. Inheriting its space from the short-lived La Creperia Cafe, there is a tiny indoor dining room (mostly what you walk through to get to the restrooms), a shiny silver Airstream that houses the kitchen, a lovely covered bar with a phalanx of flat-screen televisions above it, and then a bunch of umbrella-covered tables on an outdoor deck surrounded by wooden planters bristling with a profusion of native Florida plants.

Take a seat out there and start ordering: Definitely going to want the tater tots ($2.95) and the skillet of fresh corn mixed with roasted red peppers and jalapenos, not too hot and topped with chipotle cream ($5.95), rendered extra obsession-worthy with andouille added in ($2). I also found myself in a race to decimate a basket of fried green beans ($6), their cucumber wasabi dipper perhaps the best part. The Sriracha-amped chicken wings seemed a little pricey at $12.95 — I might suggest instead an order of the fried pickle spears ($8) with jalapeno ranch, but only if you're a diehard pickle enthusiast (they are very, well, pickly).

But really, you're here for the burgers. It's Angus beef, not overworked or super tight and with a nice coarse-ish grind so there's some meaty tooth resistance to the chew. In a couple of visits: medium, medium rare; they nailed it. The Demi-God was my favorite ($12.95), the juxtaposition of Swiss and cheddar with caramelized onion and sauteed mushrooms satisfying, then given extra verve by a swipe of horseradish mayo. These are big burgers for which you choose a side: fries and chips are good, but the cuke/tomato/onion salad is actually a lighter foil for some of the heavy-duty burger options.

Now I'm going to complicate matters. They also serve good hot dogs. They are 9-inch Viennas, nothing you haven't seen before, but toppings are good, especially the one with the hot mustard and warm kimchi blanket ($8.25). And if, by chance, you didn't double up on the deep-fried appetizers, I will direct your attention to the tender, doughy-centered-but-crunchy-edged funnel cake fries ($4), served with dippers of chocolate sauce and berry coulis.

Add craft beer, a game on the television and a warm (but not miserably so) evening, and Engine Rose is in full bloom.

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

   
Comments
Tampa’s 60-year-old Housewife Bake Shop may not be closing after all

Tampa’s 60-year-old Housewife Bake Shop may not be closing after all

For nearly 60 years it was breads, cakes and pastries, up before dawn for the Perrone family in Armenia Garden Estates. For a minute it looked like Tampa’s Housewife Bake Shop was going to close, but third-generation owner Tena Perrone said on Wednes...
Published: 04/19/18
Four new restaurants in Tampa Bay: Brazilian steakhouse, Chinese, juice bar and more

Four new restaurants in Tampa Bay: Brazilian steakhouse, Chinese, juice bar and more

TERRA GAUCHATerra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse, a classic churrascaria-style Brazilian meatery — you know, where the guys in South American cowboy attire walk around with the swords of meat until you capitulate in a carnivorous haze — has opened a loc...
Published: 04/18/18
Food events this weekend: Blueberry Festival, Whiskey Obsession, Taste of Carrollwood and more

Food events this weekend: Blueberry Festival, Whiskey Obsession, Taste of Carrollwood and more

WORTH THE DRIVE: Ocala Culinary FestivalThe Ocala Culinary Festival runs through Sunday with dozens of food and educational events throughout Ocala and Marion County. The list is impressive, tickets for events priced individually. Here is a sampler: ...
Published: 04/12/18
Tampa restaurant Steelbach’s Florida-raised beef program could be a model for true farm-to-table dining

Tampa restaurant Steelbach’s Florida-raised beef program could be a model for true farm-to-table dining

TAMPATrust me, this will be a restaurant review. In a couple of minutes. First, we need to dive into something the new Steelbach at Armature Works is doing that is ground-breaking, disruptive, way-outside-the-box. It’s so forward-thinking that Commis...
Published: 04/09/18
Updated: 04/12/18
10 questions with Molly Schuyler, the competitive eater who won $2,500 for eating a big Taco Bus burrito

10 questions with Molly Schuyler, the competitive eater who won $2,500 for eating a big Taco Bus burrito

When it comes to competitive eating, Molly Schuyler is one of the best in the world. Last weekend she dominated her competition at Tampa’s Taco Bus Burrito Eating Championship by taking down a 2.5-pound "El Jefe" in just over a minute to win $...
Published: 04/10/18
Caddy’s At the Pointe apologizes for putting diner’s race on their receipt

Caddy’s At the Pointe apologizes for putting diner’s race on their receipt

A Bradenton restaurant has publicly apologized for a server who described a table by including the diners’ race. A photograph of a Caddy’s At the Pointe receipt posted to Facebook shows the table was entered into the restaurant’s p...
Published: 04/09/18
Updated: 04/10/18
Maple Street Biscuits now open, bringing much-needed biscuits to St. Pete

Maple Street Biscuits now open, bringing much-needed biscuits to St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG — I was prepared. I’d been to the Maple Street Biscuit location in Tallahassee in our circuitous escape from Hurricane Irma. The woman behind the counter was going to ask me my favorite childhood television show so it could...
Updated one month ago
This weekend’s food festivals: Celebrate wine, craft soda, shrimp and crawfish

This weekend’s food festivals: Celebrate wine, craft soda, shrimp and crawfish

CHEERS: TO DALÍRaise a glass or two to welcome spring as the Dalí hosts its seventh annual signature wine and food tasting, Los Vinos de Dalí, on Sunday from 3-7 p.m. Both Old World and New World wines are paired with tapas tastings from area restaur...
Updated one month ago
Florida chef Jeanie Roland talks competing on ‘Iron Chef Gauntlet’ and the time she beat Bobby Flay

Florida chef Jeanie Roland talks competing on ‘Iron Chef Gauntlet’ and the time she beat Bobby Flay

In August 2015, Punta Gorda chef Jeanie Roland beat world-famous Bobby Flay with her signature moules-frites (that’s mussels and fries). Let’s say Flay got filleted by a petite, now 51-year-old chef in a fairly sleepy waterside Florida town not known...
Updated one month ago
Free Little Caesars for lunch today for all of America, thanks to UMBC’s NCAA upset

Free Little Caesars for lunch today for all of America, thanks to UMBC’s NCAA upset

TAMPA — Who doesn’t love free food? Who doesn’t love pizza? Well, thanks to Little Caesars and some March Madness, everybody in the country can get free pizza today. Before the NCAA men’s basketball tournament started, Little...
Updated one month ago