Make us your home page
Instagram

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 lreiley@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.

.review

Flight Restaurant and Lounge

15463 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa

(813) 963-0471; flightrestaurantandlounge.com

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

Loading...
  1. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sept. 24

    Events

    Zac Brown Band: The country, folk and Southern rockers embark on the "Welcome Home" tour in support of the album. 7 p.m., MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre at the Florida State Fairgrounds, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. $27.50-$77.50. (813) 740-2446.

    Handout photo of the Zac Brown Band, performing at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on 9/24/17. Credit: Shore Fire Media
  2. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sept. 23

    Events

    Smithsonian Museum Day Live: Museums across the nation partner with the Smithsonian to offer free admission for one day. Among them are Florida Holocaust Museum, Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs.Cracker Country in Tampa, Ringling Museum of Art. Note: Dalí Museum is free for Pinellas County …

    The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg is among the museums participating in the Smithsonian's Museum Day Live, offering free admission. (LANCE ROTHSTEIN   |  Special to the Times)
  3. Tampa Repertory's 'Flying' soars in some places, sputters in others

    Stage

    TAMPA — Tampa Repertory Theatre has always insisted on putting on plays that mean something. Several shows over the last couple of years have zeroed in on the social and cultural baggage that comes with being female (The Children's Hour, Silent Sky and Grounded come to mind). None of those …

    The Southeastern premiere of Flying, Sheila Cowley's play at Tampa Repertory Theatre about veterans of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots, includes (from left) Holly Marie Weber, Rosemary Orlando, and Becca McCoy. Photo by Megan Lamasney.
  4. After 22 years, it's last call for beloved Ybor venue New World Brewery

    Music & Concerts

    YBOR CITY — Steve Bird spreads his tools across a patio table. He has awnings to unbolt and paraphernalia to unpry, from the busted Bop City neon by the stage to the Simpsons "El Duffo o Muerte" mural in the courtyard. He'll uproot a fountain and dismantle a roof and attempt to keep his bar intact. The …

    Various decor and memorabilia fill the walls and shelves at New World Brewery in Ybor City.
Long time music venue and hangout New World Brewery in Ybor City will be closing it's doors and moving locations. Patrons enjoy one of the last events before New World Brewery changes its location to Busch Blvd in Tampa.  [Photo Luis Santana | Times]