That Food Guy
Saturday, May 29, 2010
  The Gathering Place - Lake Seminole Square
Click to enlarge –  Gilbert, Janis and Effie at The Gathering Place.Click to enlarge –   R to L: Janis, Effie and Gilbert at the entrance of Seminole Square.




The Gathering Place - Lake Seminole Square
8333 Seminole Blvd, Seminole, Florida

Click to enlarge – Cup of clam chowder.This is a rather unusual food blog. It is about a place you probably can’t go. You have to be a resident or their guest. Lake Seminole Square is a retirement community with a lot of amenities. That is where my wife’s Aunt and Uncle live. It has the usual things like a gymnasium, a pool, and arts and crafts. A few of the amenities include a mini branch bank, a restaurant and a small coffee shop, called The Gathering Place. We met Aunt Effie and Uncle Gilbert at The Gathering Place for lunch.
While the restaurant up on the fifth floor, featuring linen, silver, crystal and a full menu, is open for a more formal lunch and dinner, The Gathering Place is open for a more casual breakfast and lunch. Closed Sunday, it is open Monday through Friday from 8:00Am until 2:00PM. Saturday hours are from 8:30AM to 11:00AM. The menu has prices listed but youClick to enlarge – Turkey sandwich, plain. never see any cash. Click to enlarge -  Turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato.The Gathering Place doesn’t deal in money. The lunch tab is added to the resident’s monthly rent.
It is a small menu featuring cold deli sandwiches as well as griddle favorites such as burgers, patty melts, hot dogs, Ruebens and grilled cheese sandwiches. Desserts include milk shakes, root beer floats and pie (add a scoop of vanilla ice cream for only a quarter). Someday I will have to wangle another invitation and sample the breakfast fare which includes the obligatory, eggs, breakfast meats, toast, pancakes, waffles, omelets and juice. Click to enlarge – Cheeseburger, no fries.In all, more than enough to get set for the rigors of a busy day.
Everyone, except me of course, ordered their sandwich with a side of the soup of the day, clam chowder. It can be a bit salty with crackers crumbled in but it has a nice flavor and would be welcomed again. My wife and Aunt Effie ordered sliced turkey sandwiches. Janis had a pedestrian version and Effie’s included lettuce and tomato. Uncle Gilbert ordered a cheeseburger. I ordered a cheeseburger and fries, my benchmark test meal for the small café setting. After all - if you can’t do my hamburger right, then I have serious doubts any further visits.
It is low key casual, not a lot of garnish. The turkey sandwich come on a plate, cut in two diagonally, just like your mom would have served it. As advertised, it was a turkey sandwich and Click to enlarge – Cheeseburger and French Fries.had good flavor. The hamburger was griddle cooked and had the taste and texture of the roadside diner burger. That’s not bad, just a bit different from the grilled hamburger. The meat was cooked through as requested (when eating ground beef from an unknown source, I always go with medium well). The bun was toasted on the griddle. The lettuce was fresh and crisp. There were two slices of nice looking tomato. The cheese was melted over the top of the patty which is my preference. The French fries were fresh and hot, golden brown and crispy. If I had made this hamburger and fries at home I would have been well satisfied.
The Gathering Place is a nice little out of the way place with a casual atmosphere to have lunch. It’s just too bad you probably can’t go there to try it out. Thanks again Gilbert and Effie for treating us to lunch.

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Friday, May 28, 2010
  Leverocks Seafood House - South Pasadena, FL


Leverock’s
840 So. Pasadena Ave.
South Pasadena, FL (727) 367-4588
Way back when, on one of my first trips to Florida, I went with my in-laws for lunch at Leverock’s. A long established seafood restaurant, it had a commanding view of Boca Ciega Bay. Legend has it that a Johnny Leverock won an oyster bed in a card game. Johnny opened an oyster bar at his already established gas station. Johnny’s wife was apparently a good cook because she created a recipe for clam chowder that was exceptional. The oyster bar became a restaurant. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I remember the old Leverock’s. It had the weathered gray clapboard siding, nets and cork floats adorned the walls. There was a little bit of every kind of marine memorabilia in all the nooks and crannies. It looked the part of a long established sea food restaurant.
When Johnny Leverock died, the restaurant was sold to some investors. That was in the early 1980’s. The operation was quite successful and the Leverock’s name grew to be a chain of eight restaurants and some additional franchises. In 2000, with the exception of the St Petersburg restaurant I am writing about, the Leverock’s chain was sold to a restaurant corporation. The investors continued to own and operate the St. Petersburg area facility.
Unfortunately, the restaurant did not own the land. A few years ago the land owners sold the property for condominium development. Leverock’s closed and the locally venerated restaurant was torn down. (In an ironic touch of fate, because of the drop in the housing market, the condos were never built and the land sits vacant to this very day.) An almost fifty-year St. Petersburg tradition had ceased to exist.
About the same time Leverock’s was closing, another restaurant a few miles own Pasadena Ave. was also in dire straits. The Ponderosa Steak House closed after many years. The building sat vacant for a long time. The owners of the St. Petersburg Leverock’s discovered the property. After a lengthy renovation and remodeling, the new Leverock’s opened early in 2007 continuing a tradition that started in 1948. And that is the story of Leverock’s as told to me by my father-in-law, Sonny Jones, life-long resident and unofficial historian of all things St. Petersburg, Florida.
I will say upfront that I am not a good judge of most seafood. Some seafood, such as lobster, crab, scallop, abalone and shrimp, I really like. Other things, things that taste like fish, I am not really fond of. I cannot tell you the difference between a good piece of salmon (about as fishy a fish as you can find) and a bad one. So please bear with me as we stumble over this little quirk of mine. I have had the pleasure of dining at Leverrock’s several times and I usually have either the fish and chips or the fried shrimp and rice, sometimes along with the clam chowder. I can tell you about that.
Shortly after Leverock’s reopened, in early 2007, my wife and I went with Sonny Jones for dinner at Leverocks. That’s when we learned about the Sunset Specials. During late afternoon and early evening, they offer a choice of slightly smaller portions than their full menu counterparts, but the Sunset Specials carry a much reduced price. Portions are still adequate and ideal for a light dinner. Leverock’s traditional hors d’oeuvre is a small loaf of crusty bread served with a saucer of olive oil laced with plenty of fresh ground black pepper. Over drinks, bread and oil we perused the menu.
We started with a cup of their signature clam chowder (cup $3.99, bowl $4.99) that is served with a small bag of oyster crackers. The clam chowder is very good and while I was eating it I was thinking that maybe it would be just as good a choice to have a large bowl of chowder for dinner. Salad was the house salad and choice of dressing was house dressing, a creamy vinegar and oil I recall, or nothing. That was during my ranch dressing period and, somewhat miffed, I passed on the salad. My selection was the Sunset Special Fried Shrimp ($8.99 its full menu cousin is a dozen shrimp at $13.99). They do a nice job with the batter breading, the shrimp cooked to a nice golden brown. The shrimp are served with a helping of saffron rice and it is nice combination. With the cup of clam chowder it was an adequate meal for even a large appetite.
In 2008, again with father-in-law Sonny, we went to dinner at Leverock’s. Of course there was bread and olive oil, salad and clam chowder. This time, however, it was steak and shrimp ($16.99) for Janis and I. Sonny selected the Sunset Special fried shrimp ($8.99) with a baked potato. A half dozen of their “batter dipped” fried shrimp, a 10-ounce sirloin steak and French fries made for satisfying meals. All very tasty and rated a well done. The serving staff was attentive, always keeping the drink glasses filled, quick to come when called but never hovering at the table.
Sonny has passed on now. We have an abundance of good memories, many of which include Leverock’s. But we hadn’t found the opportunity to return to Leverock’s until just recently. We did a little repair and maintenance on our friend Martha’s dock. She wanted to take us out to dinner to say thank you. We chose Leverock’s. (There is so much more to that part of the story but, alas, that is for another day.) So, the Leverock’s meal freshest in memory, it was just a few days ago, is thus:
As traditional, we started with the bread and olive oil. Our host, Martha, ordered the house salad and Janis ordered clam chowder and a Caesar salad. I ordered the clam chowder. I could see the salad greens were fresh and had a nice crisp look to them. My clam chowder lived up to the “signature” billing, a thick and creamy soup, well flavored, with lots of clams.
Martha ordered orange roughy with fries. I didn’t get a chance to get a snapshot but it was well prepared with light golden brown crust and flaky white meat. Janis ordered the Sunset Special fried shrimp with fries. They were nice-sized batter coated and fried shrimp. The fries were golden brown and crispy. I ordered, in a break from custom, fish and chips (I felt safe as fish and chips are usually a white fish with little fish taste and way back when I did develop a fondness for H. Salt Esq. Fish and Chips). The fries were piping hot, brown and crispy. The pieces of fish were well breaded, fried to a nice golden brown, none over cooked, and even better, none undercooked. It is served with a tartar sauce that has a nice flavor. While I was eating I remembered back and wondered if they had malt vinegar as a condiment. I’m sorry now that I didn’t ask because I think it would have been, to my taste, a better condiment for the fried fish. It was a good meal and we were all sated and happy with our selections. When the server came around with the tray sample dessert goodies we all had to say no.
The serving staff was courteous and contributed to the enjoyment of our meal. Leverock’s offers three menus. There is a luncheon menu, the Sunset Specials I mentioned and the regular dinner menu. If you are a local, Leverock’s offers an e-mail notification of new catches of the day, specials and other promotions. There is a card at each table to sign up or got to their website, http://www.leverocks.com/, to sign up.
 

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