Chef Jeff’s Review of Tampa’s Wimauma Restaurant

Chef Jeff Hearn, Special Food and Wine correspondent, EatCheapDrinkRich.com
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Wimauma Restaurant (photo www.wimauma.com)

Wimauma Restaurant (photo http://www.wimauma.com)

Where Cracker Meets Cuisine”, the theme for Amy and Gary Moran’s pride and joy, should be changed to, “Where your belly learns to smile!” After my first meal at Wimauma I left with a happy belly.

This little oasis of fascinating food seemed to be bubbling over with preparation and presentation ideas. It feels like Chef Gary can’t wait to try something else.  The excitement is written all over the menu.

There are few farm-to-table style restaurants that need the whole 8 ½” width of the menu to describe a dish. A special appetizer was noted on the blackboard when you enter the comfortable dining room: “Sweet-Chili Lime Glazed Pork Belly on Green Papaya Salad with Fried Garlic and Crushed Peanuts.” Reserve two lines if it makes it on the regular menu. By the way, it should!

The chalkboard wall behind the bar (that should have bar stools by the time you read this) features an expansive selection of beers, ciders, and daily food specials.  The wine list captures the major grape growing countries and states with 35 bottles. Half of the list can be ordered by the glass.

When you visit Wimauma, try the 2010 Cune Monopole, White Rioja from Spain with the Salt & Pepper Fried Okra with Cilantro, Scallion, Jalapeno, Fried Garlic and Shallot. I have not tried the White Rioja yet, but it sounds like a good pairing. I have inhaled the okra and rest assured, this is not your Nana’s Fried Okra.

There are enough of the traditional comfort food fare to make it, uh, comfortable – braised collard greens, hush puppies, “old school grits,” creamed corn, fried green tomatoes – but the recipe for Pickled Peach and Cornbread Upside Down Cake served with Sweet Cream Ice Cream and Peach Bourbon Sauce is not in your Southern Living Cookbook.

After my meal I learned that Amy grows herbs, citrus, tomatoes, and black-eyed peas on the shore of what I’ll call Lake Wimauma, behind the restaurant.  Farm-to-table = 20 yards!

After six months of action, the service still needs a little fine-tuning. If you go expecting the service to be a little disjointed and just relax and enjoy the creative food, you will have a wonderful evening. I’m sure the new computerized ordering system installed the day before I arrived contributed to some of the delay I experienced. More works stations were on the way.

If you are coming from the ‘Burg, take Gandy across the bay, and turn left on MacDill Ave. It’s about 15 minutes from North St. Pete. No excuses.

P.S. I was the only guy in the place wearing a blazer. Take a friend, not a jacket.

Wimauma Restaurant
4205 South MacDill Ave. / St. Croix Shopping Ctr.
Tampa / 33611
(813) 498-0494 / Website: www.facebook.com/Wimauma

To read another Chef Jeff restaurant review click HERE.

Looking for a great wine to take to a dinner party? Go to Chef Jeff’s Best & Easy to Find Wines by clicking HERE.

Jeff Hearn has been perfecting his cooking skills for than 25 years and is the co-host, with wife Donna, of the syndicated reality cooking show,  “Eat Cheap Drink Rich.”  Take a look at all 26 episodes and join the conversation on www.eatcheapdrinkrich.com.

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