We knew when we decided to write about neighborhoods where particular world cuisines are concentrated, two districts in particular would have to be included: Drew Street in Clearwater, with its Mexican restaurants, and USF Tampa, the destination for anyone interested in Indian food.
But Drew Street proved to be a shadow of its former self. (More on that later.)
And Indian? Well, the writer (cough, editor, cough, me) who intended to do the story had the best intentions. I made a date with my gorgeous Indian-American neighbor and her charming new boyfriend to eat at their top choice, Udipi Cafe, hoping they’d fill me in on any other spots in the USF area they liked. (I knew from my neighbor’s past comments that she didn’t think much of Indian cuisine locally — she’s a tough critic — but I figured I could get the lay of the land.) I also got a few recommendations from man-about-town Aakash Patel, who spoke highly of Udipi, a bastion of South Indian vegetarian food, and mentioned Cilantro, Taj and Taste of India as well.
But alas, one thing led to another and I couldn’t sample any of these Indian restaurants before deadline. I know, my bad, I even lived in India once and I couldn’t get to one single restaurant? Yup, mea culpa, but trust me, I had a good excuse.
So that’s where you came in. With our tandoori compass spinning wildly, Arielle Stevenson and I called on the people for guidance. Via Facebook, you answered our query:
Where can we get good Indian food near USF Tampa?
“Taj’s buffet is so so good. Definitely worth checking out!” —Aurora
“Taj has a nice buffet, though it can get spicy there. There’s a place right across the street that’s pretty good called Jai Ho. Both of these places are on Fowler between 22nd St. and 30th.” —Richard
“Taste of India at Fowler, right off the interstate and west of 15th in the shopping plaza where Toys-R-Us used to be. Think it is better than Taj. Also, Cilantro on 56th, just a few blocks south on Fowler is really good but the food always explodes in my stomach. Arintha is really good too, on Fowler across from the mall.” —Jennifer
“Jai Ho on the south side of Fowler, just west of 30th, is quite good.” —Kamran
“The one on Fowler, not far from USF, Taj, that’s it. Very good!” —Natalie
Cilantro Indian Cuisine, 11009 N. 56th St., 813-983-8220, cilantroindiancuisine.com
Jai Ho Indian Cuisine, 2311 E. Fowler Ave., 813-631-8439, jaihofoods.com
Taj Indian Cuisine, 2734 E. Fowler Ave., 813-971-8483, tajtampaindiancuisine.com
Taste of India, 1241 E. Fowler Ave., 813-341-8100, tasteofindiafl.us
Udipi Cafe, 14422 N. Dale Mabry, 813-962-7300, udipiusa.net
As for the Drew Street area of Clearwater, Arielle remembered Mexican culture teeming in its strip malls and street corners. La Reyna de Michoacan ice cream shop was home to some of the best homemade Mexican ice cream anywhere. In fact, many of the tropical fruit popsicles sold in Latin markets and convenience stores were made at La Reyna, and the same family owned a bakery next door. But we were saddened to discover a handwritten note confirming, in Spanish, that La Reyna had closed. Caramba’s is closed, too. Los Mariachis is now Los Mayas. The only holdout seems to be the much-beloved Cabana del Tio.
So once again, we turned to the people. But they pretty much confirmed what we’d heard:
Are there any good Mexican restaurants still on Drew Street?
“Los Mariachis is on Cleveland, a block over from Drew Street. GOOD GOOD STUFF. It’s called Los Mayas now.” —Kelly
“There is a Mexican ice cream shop on Drew.” —Dave
“Sad to say, it closed recently Dave. Found out this weekend.” —CL
“Maybe Caramba’s. Poblanos is whiter than I am.” —Dave
“Caramba’s closed, was replaced by another Mexican restaurant but I haven’t been in over a year. I wasn’t impressed. Also, I ate at a recently-opened place in a strip mall behind the Tilted Kilt on 19 and Drew. It had a Dia de los Muertos theme, but the name escapes me.” —Casey.
La Cabana del Tio, 1709 Drew St., Clearwater, 727-466-0504
Los Mayas, 1200 Cleveland St., Clearwater, 727-442-5545
Well, we tried. And please, if you know of any restaurants we need to add to this or any list in this week’s issue, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Or go to Creative Loafing’s Facebook page and get the arguments started.
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