Make us your home page

Review: Flight restaurant soars in Tampa

By Laura Reiley

Times Food Critic


Get a restaurateur thinking outside the box and sometimes restaurant themes get kooky.

There's Buns and Guns, a military-themed burger restaurant in Beirut; The Zetor Restaurant, a Finish tractor-theme spot; and the Modern Toilet in Taipei (I bet you can imagine what the chairs look like).

Here in the Tampa Bay area, we have not one but two flight-themed restaurants. There's the Hangar Restaurant and Flight Lounge in St. Petersburg, Steve Westphal's third bayfront eatery, this one at the Albert Whitted Airport so the theme is natural. But in Tampa late last year another one came in for a landing: Flight Restaurant took over the Northdale spot once home to the very laudable Blu Figs.

I didn't see that coming. The aviophobic among us may need to pop a Xanax at just the thought, but even for the rest of us airplane flights aren't known for their rock-solid culinary offerings (now you're lucky if you even get a bag of nuts).

But what owner Mike Lau is trying to do is evoke the excitement of travel. Yes, there are those classic airplane pictograms for the rest rooms and waitresses wear jaunty flight attendant neck scarves, but the menu is strictly for those with serious frequent flyer miles: Maryland crabcakes, New England clam chowder, Mexican street-style elotes. It reads like a scrapbook from your favorite vacations.

But here's what you need to know. It's crazy cheap. And I don't mean when compared to actually traveling to New England or Mexico. Dishes hover around $7 and sharing a few of them is plenty of food for two people — then consider happy hour 5 to 7 p.m. with $4 top shelf drinks and all dishes $5 and you can dine out and still sock money away for your next getaway.

I know I've been writing about this a lot lately, but on one of my visits to Flight it was serious girls' night out, with dozens of women dining and painting. Easels were set up around the room and an instructor from Party Artsy was guiding participants through a floral still-life. For the non-participants it was serious entertainment watching artists with greater or lesser skills manage the task at hand. But I digress.

By and large, the kitchen is skilled in interpreting far-flung dishes. My fave was a Southern corn-flake-battered chicken thigh ($8.45) topped with blue cheese crumbles and a drizzle of a sweet, slightly spicy sauce I couldn't identify, the whole thing perched on a bed of roasted corn niblets. Fries are also tremendous and clearly house-made (that's rarer than it sounds; $6.23), and a spin on a Caesar brought mixed greens in a punchy dressing with just a handful of hot battered and fried Brussels sprout halves adding drama and textural interest ($7.89).

A duo of Thai veggie lettuce wraps ($5.89) were fresh and crunchy, but I'd love to see either a kickier ginger vinaigrette or something Sriracha-like as a sauce to spark the demure flavors. Black bean soup ($5.89) and no-rice gumbo with lots of andouille ($6.45) are both flavorful and homey-tasting (soups tend to be tough to split and this seems very shared-nibbles kind of place).

If you feel like spreading out a little, turn the menu over and the chef has designed a sextet of "first class" three-course menus in loose travel themes (the "European backpacker" starts with warm German potato salad, then offers beer cheese with toast points and beef stroganoff all for $16.45) — again, very sharable.

The short menu is supported by a fairly pedestrian wine list (but good prices) and servers at Flight are efficient and friendly and luckily never break into that flight attendant pantomime about how to use the oxygen masks.

Northdale, with Grille One Sixteen, Cigar City Brewpub and Mekenita Mexican Grille, has taken wing as a dining destination. Flight pushes it to its cruising altitude.

Laura Reiley can be reached at or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.


Flight Restaurant and Lounge

15463 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa

(813) 963-0471;

Cuisine: Eclectic

Hours: 5 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, until midnight Wednesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday

Details: AmEx, MC, V, Disc.; reservations accepted; full bar

Prices: $4.89-$9.89

Rating out of four stars:

Food: ★★★ Service: ★★★

Atmosphere: ★★★

Overall: ★★★

Review: Flight restaurant soars in Tampa 09/17/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 6:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 19: A peregrina spends the whole day under the weather, and part of the day under the table


    Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Puente Villarente: 25.4 km, 7.5 hours (Total for Days 1-19 = 454 km (282 miles)

    This list pretty much sums up my day:

    Eat two bananas

    Walk 13.1 kilometers


    Walk 6.2 kilometers


    Eat half an apple

    Walk 6.1 kilometers

    Crash< …

  2. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 18: Despite feeling ill, this pilgrim passes the midpoint in her 500-mile journey on foot


    Day 18: Lédigos to El Burgo Ranero: 34.3 km, 12.25 hours (Total for Days 1-18 = 428 km (266 miles)

    Today was a struggle.

  3. Actor John Heard dies at age 72


    John Heard, who played so many roles in the '80s but was probably best known as the dad in the Home Alone movies, has died, according to media reports. He was 72.

  4. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 17: Think 11 miles of nothing but straight trail and open, flat fields sounds easy? Think again.


    Day 17: Villarmentero de Campos to Lédigos: 33.5 km, 10.25 hours. Total for Days 1-17 = 394 km (245 miles)

  5. Tom Sawyer with a revolver? Twain house has live 'Clue' game


    HARTFORD, Conn. — Was it Tom Sawyer in Samuel Clemens' billiard room with a revolver?

    In this July 14 photo, actor Dan Russell, left, portraying the character Arkansas from Mark Twain's book Roughing it, responds to a question from 10-year-old Emma Connell, center, of Arizona during a "Clue" tour at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Conn. The tour allows visitors to interact with Twain characters while playing a live-action version of the board game. [AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb]