Monday, February 19, 2018
Restaurants

Review: Flight restaurant soars in Tampa

By Laura Reiley

Times Food Critic

TAMPA

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 [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.

 
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