During winter, is there any meal more comforting that a bowl of warm soup with fresh baked bread on the side? Some clever chef somewhere had the genius idea to combine the two in one, to make a dish beyond delicious: the bread bowl! Usually made from an over-sized bread roll or a small loaf of bread with the center hollowed out, they are ideal for thick soups like clam chowder, stew, chili or creamy and cheese-based varieties. Lucky for us, bread bowls are quite affordable and a number of restaurants around Tampa Bay feature them as specialties on their menus. Here’s a quick tour of the best in bread bowls our region has to offer.
11402 N. 30th St.
Tampa, FL 33612
McAlister’s seems to have found the formula for success. Now with locations around the southeastern US, this deli with “southern charm” got its start in Mississippi. As expected of a restaurant from this part of the US, it considers quality sweet tea a necessity rather than a privilege. The broccoli cheddar bread bowl is another real star here. A creamy, cheesy soup with chunks of broccoli, all inside a tasty bowl – who could ask for more? Don’t miss the huge variety of sandwiches, salads and potatoes (called “spuds”) available as well. McAlister’s is also a hot spot for USF students who love it because they receive a discount.
1026 Florida Ave.
Palm Harbor, FL 34683
Peggy O’Neill’s got its namesake from a young Irish girl who sought to immigrate to the United States and who tragically fell victim to the fate of the ship on which she sailed, the Titanic. Since 2005, this pub named in her honor has been providing the Palm Harbor community with delightful Irish specialties and a full-fledged liquor and beer bar. A surprising 43 TVs ensure you won’t miss your favorite live TV events. While you won’t find the traditional bread bowl on the menu, it does include the fajita chicken bowl, with grilled onions, peppers, black beans and rice, all served inside a tortilla bowl. O’Neill’s also dishes out several soups, such as the famous beer and cheese, the overloaded potato and the black bean chili.
Sloppy Joe’s On The Beach
10650 Gulf Blvd.
Treasure Island, FL 33706
Without a doubt, Sloppy Joe’s chose one of the best spots on Treasure Island to make its Bay area debut – inside the lobby of the landmark Bilmar Hotel. From the outside patio, one can enjoy watching the sunset while eating or enjoying one of Sloppy Joe’s numerous frozen drinks. In terms of the kitchen, the restaurant serves its signature soup, a golden lobster bisque, inside a toasted bread bowl. If in the mood for a salad, try the Gulf Boulevard, which combines fresh vegetables, bleu cheese and toasted walnuts that cascade out of a crispy tortilla shell. Other menu favorites include the fish and chips, the blackened fish tacos, chicken wraps and mozzarella sticks. Come on a Sunday for dinner and stroll down to the beach before or after your meal to enjoy one of our area’s most unique weekly traditions, the Treasure Island drum circle, which starts around sunset and continues late into the night.
Old Northeast Tavern
201 7th Ave. N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33704
Regulars at the Old Northeast Tavern can’t seem to get enough of the place. An unassuming exterior hides the wonderful food and wide variety of drinks that keep customers coming back for more. With 30 different beers on tap, 10 of which in seasonal rotation, there’s no way to get bored of the drink selection. The mouth-watering beer cheese soup, served in a bread bowl, ranks among the best dishes on the menu. Classic bar food comes with an inventive twist, such as seafood pizza, chicken and plantain quesadilla, prosciutto-rolled scallops and the gorgonzola pear salad.
The Sandbar Restaurant
100 Spring Ave.
Anna Maria, FL 34216
What can be better than enjoying a meal directly on the beach? Having a delicious bread bowl as part of that meal, of course! Located directly on Anna Maria Island’s coast, the Sandbar serves its famous spinach and artichoke dip inside of a bread bowl as an appetizer. Other popular menu items include the tuna tacos, the red snapper, the conch fritters and the sparkling berry sangria, made with flavored vodka, orange juice and sparkling wine. For dessert, check out the the sinner’s delight, a delightful mix of brownies, fudge and ice cream. Despite prices that can sometimes seem inflated, fans of this restaurant say the food, drinks and view are not to be missed.
Aaron Phillips has experience in marketing and journalism. Recently back to his hometown, he’s excited to discover and share what Tampa has to offer. His work can be found at Examiner.com.