Sunday, April 22, 2018
Restaurants

Review: Oxford Exchange weds booze, select suppertimes

TAMPA

When Oxford Exchange opened near the end of 2012 it was the hottest thing going. That is, at breakfast, lunchtime and for afternoon tea because owner Blake Casper and his sister Allison Adams weren't open for dinner. There were enough moving pieces to keep track of: the restaurant with its greenhouse atrium, the tiny bookstore and gift shop, a Buddy Brew coffee stand and a TeBella bar, the "Commerce Club" rentable office spaces upstairs, special events and, as it turns out, lots and lots of weddings.

Adams says there are more than 30 weddings on the books right now. And no wonder: Next time I get hitched I am definitely making my dramatic entrance (all right, not a white dress, maybe taupe) down the grand staircase at Oxford Exchange's central hallway.

But here's a curious thing. If you cater weddings on your own premises and you don't have a liquor license, you have to buy all the hooch retail, not wholesale. Pony up for a liquor license and the savings ramp up pretty quickly. So a few weeks ago they were granted a liquor license, and as a byproduct added a beer and wine menu and the first fledgling cocktail array powered by cold-pressed juices from the OE Market down the block.

That's all fine and good, but the era of the three-martini lunch is (she says wistfully) long past. Wine, beer and liquor are most aptly trotted out at dinner.

"We were looking for ways to sustain the business," Adams said. "And people kept asking about dinner."

Welcome to the Oxford Exchange for supper, Thursday and Sunday evenings. More evening hours may follow and Adams anticipates launching a summer supper series.

It's a gorgeous space at night and, so far, less mobbed than at lunchtime. Chef Erin Guggino, who has been lobbying for supper hours, has crafted a menu that features some of the lunch items but is mostly all new. Not all of it is a slam-dunk, but there's quite a bit worth ordering.

As at lunch, the burger is very good (but pricey at $17), at dinner gussied up with fried onions and fat slices of applewood bacon. The new steak frites ($32) is one of those dishes that should be rethought, its fries soggy with truffle oil (much too pungent) and the meat tough, gristly and not cooked as ordered. The other clunker we tried was the vegetable "lasagna" ($18), really just layered veggies with ricotta, not nearly as nice a dish as the lunchtime veggie curry.

Still, a very happy meal could be made of the fried Brussels sprouts with their Meyer lemon dipping sauce (a lunch item that for supper is $11), the roasted baby beets with crispy shiitakes and poufs of microgreens ($12), and the fruity blistered shishito peppers with their knockout yuzu sea salt powder ($11). Share those before settling in with a trio of spicy Asian chicken tacos ($18), really a spin on what at lunch is offered as a salad. Shrimp and grits ($24), a redux of a lunch item, is deeply satisfying and savory with smoky collards, and a new braised pork cheek pappardelle ($21) makes a hearty and sustaining evening meal.

For the past year in some South Tampa circles the refrain has been, "Have you been to the Oxford Exchange?" followed by a just-slightly-whiney, "Wish they served dinner. And booze." Well sometimes wishes are granted, and let's raise a toast to the Tampa brides who may have to compromise on their magical date.

Laura Reiley can be reached 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