SPARC After Holiday Party - Kristina's Cafe
3590 34th St N, St Petersburg, FL 33713 (727) 526-6673
The St Petersburg Amateur Radio Club holds an annual after the holidays
party. Traditionally it is held at Kristina’s Café. From the perspective of the
club members it is a time to meet, come face to face with voices on the radio,
remake and rekindle or make new friendships and, well I “gotta
” say it,
catch up on all the gossip all while having a lot of fun.
From the perspective of the harried servers and cooks at Kristina’s it is the
sudden arrival of fifty plus ravenous appetites, loud and laughing and having a
good time (but otherwise well behaved) customers all ordering at the same time
and from the full menu. How can you possibly plan for that?
A special note at this year’s party was the attendance of Woody, K4SCL. The
club honored Woody with a plaque citing his over forty years of Amateur Radio
Service both to the club and to the community. Active in the club, serving in
many roles, of late he has been a net control operator and liaison to the
National Traffic Net spending many hours every day handling traffic for the net.
I have talked with Woody many times on the radio but had never met him in
person. In later years, as Bob, KC4SXO said, “Woody sightings have become few
and far between.” Over ninety years of age, Woody has decided it is time to slow
down a bit. We were all honored to have him and his wife join us for the After
Usually a restaurant will offer a limited menu for large group gatherings.
The constraints of so many people, such short time and so many possible
selections can be wholly intimidating. Each year the staff of Kristina’s is up
to the daunting challenge.
Although I saw dishes from all parts of the menu being served, I will only
report on my wife Janis’ and my selection. Memory can be persistent even if only
subliminally. Janis and I both duplicated our order from last year’s party
almost exactly. It was good then so it will most likely be good again.
Janis started off with a bowl of the soup of the day. Kristina features a
different soup each day of the week. Since this was Sunday, the selection was
Cream of Potato Soup ($2.25 bowl).
It was a nice thick and creamy soup with lots of potatoes and vegetables
served with several packets of saltine crackers. She said it was very good, very
tasty and she certainly had no trouble finishing her bowl of soup.
The main part of her meal was to be the Roast Beef and Turkey Club ($6.25);
the same as last year. Since she was having the soup, she didn’t want the side
order that would come with her sandwich. Since my plate is a convenient
depository for unwanted food, she asked me what I wanted her to order. I chose
the coleslaw since I was already having French fries with my order. The sandwich
was made with the thinner, sandwich sliced bread and toasted nicely. The thin
slices of bread mean that the filling has to be more than adequate to make the
sandwich stand out. There is plenty of beef and turkey as well as the lettuce
and tomato to fill the sandwich.
Janis enjoyed her sandwich saying that it was very good but could only eat
half and asked for a take home container for the other half to enjoy at a later
My Déjà vu order was the Steak Hoagie ($6.25); similar to a Philly
cheesesteak sandwich but with sautéed onions, peppers, mushrooms and melted
Mozzarella cheese all on a hot, toasted hoagie bun. My side of choice was French
fries but don’t forget, I was also having coleslaw. On arrival it was a full
plate and included a spear of dill pickle.
The sandwich was full of all kinds of good things, meat, peppers onions,
mushrooms and cheese. So much in fact that picking up the sandwich dumped lots
of the filling on the plate. No matter, it tasted just as good off a fork. It
was nice tender beef with lots of flavor from the vegetables and cheese; a
thoroughly and filling sandwich. The coleslaw, a small serving actually, was
good. It is a finely chopped cabbage with a mild dressing, not too tart and not
too sweet; enough to moisten the cabbage but not compete with the flavor and not
too much to drip into the serving plate.A good accompaniment but not an all-star
to stand by itself. The French fries, still hot from the fryer, were not oily,
were crisp and tasty. They were good French fries. I enjoyed my meal very much.
It was good food to start with but being surrounded by so many, as Donn, N4KII,
would say, “hamsters
” made it even more enjoyable. I am already
looking forward to next year.
Labels: After Holidays Party, Amateur Radio, cheese, cheesesteak, club sandwich, coleslaw, French fries, hoagie, Kristina's, mozzarella, mushrooms, pepper. onions, potato soup, roast beef, SPARC, St Petersburg, steak, turkey
Cheddar's Casual Cafe
My wife Janis’ Aunt Effie and Uncle Gilbert called the other
day. Seems they had found a nice new place to dine out and wanted to share with
us. When someone wants to treat me to a
meal where they serve good food I’m ready. Let’s go!
The Cheddar’s concept is, according to their website, the
brainchild of Aubrey Good and Doug Rogers. Their vision was a casual,
comfortable eatery with scratch prepared good food at reasonable prices. They
opened their first establishment, located in Arlington, Texas, in 1979. They
have grown sine with many, many stores in many states.
On arrival we were greeted by the maître de and shown
directly to a table. It was our luck to arrive at a lull in the lunch crowd
rush which was later very busy. Although the café is “casual,” the décor is more
upscale than expected, much more so than other casual cafes, from their own
applied description. Almost immediately we were greeted by our server, Angel,
who is aptly named. She was a very personable young lady, seemingly always busy
but never too busy to refill glasses or check on our progress, close at hand
but never hovering. Her attention added
to the pleasure of our meal.
Cheddar’s has a full menu featuring appetizers, soups,
salads and combos, a regular dinner menu as well as hot and cold sandwiches,
burgers in their own little section, a low calorie section, a children’s menu,
desserts. Each table has a color menu of their bar offerings, many of which are
colorful and inviting. Non-alcoholic beverages, coffee, tea, soft drinks, fruit
lemonade and fruit teas are offered with free refills.
This was a family get-together, time to exchange gossip and
enjoy family company. That called for an appetizer and beverages so we could
linger a bit before ordering. From previous visits, Uncle Gill suggested the onion
rings. (Homemade Onion Rings $4.49
Hand-battered, served with homemade ranch and Cajun dipping sauce.) It is
an impressive interleaved, plateful stack of onion rings. Light batter, fried
crispy and golden brown, the best description I can come up with is
tempura-like. Small bowls of the dipping sauces accompany the stack of onion
rings. The ranch dip is very good and makes an excellent accompaniment for the
excellent onion rings. The Cajun dipping sauce, on the other hand, has to be
what is called an acquired taste. I really don’t want to work that hard to
learn to like that sauce so if I were ever to order these onion rings again I
would ask for both dipping bowls to be the ranch variety. Of note, these onion
rings would also be excellent with tentsuyu, tempura dipping sauce. With the
slight exception of the Cajun sauce, I consider these onion rings to be the
best I have ever tasted even surpassing even the legendary stack of rings from
The Salads & Soup menu section
offers the Ultimate Lunch Combination
(Chose 2: Choice of half sandwich and one
pairing $5.99, or Chose 3: Choice of half sandwich and two pairings. Sandwiches: Double Decker Club, Monte
Cristo or Buffalo Chicken Wrapper. Pairings:
Bowl of Soup, House Salad, Loaded Baked Potato or Caesar Salad.) Effie and
Gilbert ordered the same, a Club Sandwich (Potato
bread, smoked ham, turkey, bacon. Aged Cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and
seasoned mayo) with the Chicken Tortilla Soup (Grilled chicken, tomatoes and onions simmered with Southwestern spices,
grated Cheddar cheese and tortilla strips). Janis ordered from the same
area of the menu. She chose the club sandwich and the Baked Potato Soup (Made fresh in our kitchen from select
potatoes, celery, onions, grated Cheddar cheese and bacon). Each enjoyed
their meal finding them tasteful and leaving nothing for a doggie bag. Effie
and Gilbert may have found the tortilla soup spicier than they remembered and,
after seeing Janis’ bowl of soup, will probably go for the baked potato soup on
any future visit. Janis did enjoy her soup. It was a thick creamy soup with
lots of cheese and bacon on top; comfort food for a chilly day.
The club sandwich was made without the customary middle
slice of bread for a club sandwich. However, there was more than sufficient
filling, turkey and ham, to make a tall sandwich that did indeed need the
toothpick to hold it together. Everyone enjoyed their sandwich and as I said,
nothing left to take home.
I was a bit different in my selection. I chose from the Half-Pound
Burgers (Grilled medium well. Add French fries, coleslaw or red beans and rice
$1.99). Of the five choices, I chose the Mushroom Swiss Burger ($5.79 Sautéed mushrooms, Swiss cheese,
onions and Cheddar’s dressing). An interesting note, the mushrooms are
sautéed whole mushrooms, caps and stems. The melted Swiss cheese does a good
job of anchoring them on top of the meat patty. The meat was cooked medium well
with just a bit of pink in the middle; still juicy and not dried out. The
lettuce was fresh and crisp enough to have a mouth feel. I had wondered what
they do with the center section of the onions they use for the onion rings. The
answer is they chop them and they find their way into the sandwiches and
presumably the soups. My hamburger had a nice scattering of the chopped onions;
enough to add to the flavor but not too many to be offensive. All in all, it
was a very tasty sandwich. The meat was juicy and flavorful, cooked just right,
the greens crisp and fresh and there were plenty of mushrooms (always a good
thing). That brings us to the Cheddar’s sauce. It had a distinct taste. It
certainly didn’t taste bad. However, if I were to order this burger again, I
would ask for it to be served dry with a spot of regular mayonnaise on the side
instead. The French fries, cut from whole unpeeled potatoes, were cooked to a
nice golden brown, were lightly salted, were not oily and had a good flavor.
They were okay French fries. I did enjoy my burger and fries, a very filling
meal especially with the refills of the soda.
As the dishes were cleared away the conversation continued
until it was suddenly decided that dessert was in order. Gilbert ordered the
Cheddar’s Monster Cookie Sundae ($4.99 A
homemade skillet-baked chocolate chip cookie topped with premium vanilla ice
cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, nuts and a cherry. Please allow a few minutes).
A meal by itself, too big to be a solo dessert, it is meant to be shared. After
a short wait, apparently the cookies are bake to order, Angel arrived with the
luscious looking dessert and four long-handled spoons. Everyone dug in at once,
much like a four way fencing match, spoons clanking. As a result, I didn’t get
a presentation picture and I had to borrow a picture from the menu. As to how
good the Monster Cookie Sundae was, all I can offer is a picture of the
It was a very enjoyable interlude and I thoroughly enjoyed
the company of the in-laws. Being their treat didn’t hurt either. The time
together was great, the conversation wonderful and the food for the most part
was very good. All the elements made for a most enjoyable afternoon. If a
revisit to Cheddar’s is ever in the offing (even if we have to pay) we shall
certainly do so. If you try them I think you will find most of their offerings
to your liking.
Labels: baked, baked potato soup, Cajun, Cheddar's, club sandwich, cookie, French fries, monster, mushroom Swiss burger, onion rings, ranch, soup, sundae, tortilla soup