That Food Guy
Saturday, June 21, 2014
  Harold Seltzer's Steak House

Harold Seltzer’s
3500 Tyrone Blvd N, St Petersburg, FL 33710
(727) 954-7777


About this day: Some days are easy to keep track of; The Fourth of July, New Years, Christmas and Thanksgiving are a few. Some other dates have a way of falling through the cracks; birthdays and anniversaries are prime examples of two of those dates. My wife remembered and, luckily, so did I. So, we made plans to go out to dinner to celebrate. But where? That was the question. After deliberation, we decided to return to Harold Seltzer’s where we celebrated our anniversary the year before – sort of like making a family tradition.

About the restaurant: Harold Seltzer opened his first restaurants in 1995; he named them Sam Seltzer’s in honor of his grandfather, Sam. Sam was a butcher in Montreal. As a young apprentice in his grandfather’s shop, Harold learned about beef. The restaurant was successful and expansion followed. The company opened seven stores and employed upwards of 300 people. A downturn 6 or 7 years later led to infighting. Harold sold his interest in the company in 2004 and his cousin Michael Seltzer was in charge. The company acquired heavy debt and went through a period of reorganization. There was no turnaround and about 2009 Michael ceded control of the company to the creditors. Although the restaurants were doing business as normal, including selling gift cards, the creditors, without forewarning, closed all of the existing restaurants, locking out the employees and leaving gift card holders with a worthless piece of plastic.

In 2010 Harold opened a couple of restaurants under his name as the Sam Seltzer name was entangled in bankruptcy court. It is reported that he wanted to clear up the Seltzer family name and one of the steps was to make it right for the holders of the Sam Seltzer gift cards. Although the name has slightly changed, you would be hard pressed to point out difference between the Sam Seltzer of the past and the Harold Seltzer of today. The restaurant we visited today, located on Tyrone Blvd., in St Petersburg, is the same facility, the same look, the same feel, and the same delicious prime rib that we visited many years ago when it was Sam Seltzer’s.

We have actually been to Seltzer’s several times since the reopening. We went there on our last anniversary and signed up for the wife birthday special. An e-mail reminder some months later brought us back to Seltzer’s for the wife’s birthday and the complimentary bottle of wine with dinner. There have also been a couple of well remembered lunches with her Aunt Effie and Uncle Gil. I have included a few photos of those happy times at the end of the blog.

For out day out together, we went in the midafternoon, after the lunch crowd and before the dinner rush. It was quiet in the restaurant and it had a nice laid-back easy feel. We were shown directly to a table. Our server, David, was almost immediately there. He was a soft spoken man but with a good-humored demeanor. He has acquired that essential server trait, attentive without hovering. He kept watch over his tables and seemingly anticipate our needs before we were aware of them. He did add to the enjoyment of the meal.

We perused the extensive menu, snacking on the croutons much as you would some peanuts or crackers. There is a full dinner menu and the late night-lunch men as well as selections for children. There are sections for soups and salads, appetizers, entrees including lamb, chicken and beef selections, seafood, add-on to your meal and side dishes. Also listed are specialty mixed drinks, beer, wines and cordials. There is also a dessert section with lots of sweet and luscious things to make you really go off your diet. The reading of the menu was mostly for curiosity sake as we both already knew it was going to be a prime rib night. The only question was what size? We both chose the one-pound cut. I would eat all of mine there, in the restaurant, while Janis would take half of hers home for dinner the next day. Tomorrow I would be on my own for dinner.

The One-Pound cut of prime rib ($19.99 “The best prime rib in town. Our superb roast prime rib of beef, perfectly aged for 35 days or more, perfectly prepared, rubbed on the outside with Harold’s Secret Steak Spices & simply delicious!” Served with choice of “Au Jus,” creamy horseradish sauce or regular horseradish. The Star of the Show! All dinners served with our homemade garlic croutons, bakery fresh rolls, choice of traditional or Caesar salad, and your choice of baked potato, Harold's homemade French fries, homemade garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potato puffs, seasoned black beans and yellow rice, creamed spinach, broccoli, or vegetable medley. Choose from one of Harold’s six signature homemade salad dressings: blue cheese, classic vinaigrette, French, garlic ranch, honey mustard or thousand island.)

Janis ordered the Caesar salad, the one-pound cut of prime rib, medium rare, with garlic mashed potatoes, Au Jus. I ordered the traditional salad with thousand island dressing, a one-pound cut of prime rib, medium rare, Au Jus, and a baked potato with all the fixings. Our salads and rolls arrived soon after. Janis Caesar salad was Romaine lettuce with a creamy Caesar dressing and a generous portion of shredded Parmesan cheese. She said the salad was good, average but perhaps a bit too much garlic and Parmesan isn’t one of her favorite cheese. That being said, she did finish her salad.

My salad was of mixed greens and a bit of red cabbage and some cherry tomatoes for color and texture. The house thousand island was creamy and smooth, adequate for the amount of salad and very tasty. With the freshly baked roll, it was a good start for the meal. A few of the crouton snacks also went well in the salad. About the time we finished our salads the entrée arrived.

The prime rib is served on an oval platter. Even though the baked potato on mine was of medium size, there was little extra room on the platter for the portion cup of Jus and a sprig of parsley. Janis’ serving was very lean, only a small piece of fat on one edge. It was beautiful medium rare, a pinkish red, enough to get any carnivore very interested. Accompanying was a substantial serving of garlic mashed potatoes. She said the beef was very tender and delicious. The garlic mashed potatoes were also very good she said. They were of a rustic variety, bits of potato in a creamy potato and garlic mixture garnished with a bit of parsley. Except for the half piece of prime rib that went into the take-home container she managed to clean her plate quite handily.

My prime rib was also a perfect rosy red medium rare piece of meat. Being a steak house, the standard table setting is a steak knife. This cut of meat was tender enough that a standard place setting butter knife was all that was needed to cut through the thick slice of prime rib. The 35 day aging does a good job of breaking down the fibers and the result is a piece of meat that is almost butter smooth. Even if I had planned to eat only half and take the rest home, it would never have happened that afternoon. I ate it all.  Harold seasons the outside of the roast with their seasoning blend. Much of that seasoning is still on the edge of the prime rib slices. To my personal taste, that seasoning doesn’t need to be there. All that cut of meat needs, even though my cardiologist says no, is a slight sprinkle of salt. It was an excellent cut of meat, flavorful and tender to the max. The baked potato, of medium size, was one that is cooked in batches and kept warm for the upcoming service. That makes for an okay potato but not the best. The butter, sour cream, bacon, cheese and chives added to the top surely made it seem better than it was. Normally I eat the skin of the baked potato but that was not the case this time.

Other than a couple of little things that I think could be done better, it was still a delicious and enjoyable meal, more than ample to sate even the heartiest of appetites. The service was quick and courteous. It all made for a memorable interlude and a nice way to low-key celebrate our wedding anniversary. If anyone asks me, I’ll simply say, ”Sam Seltzers is a good place to go.”

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Thursday, June 19, 2014
  Teppanyaki Grill and Supreme Buffet - St Petersburg, Florida

Teppanyaki Grill and Supreme Buffet
391 34th St North
St Petersburg, FL 33713

 727 327-8886 


The Sunday paper had a single sheet, full-color advertisement for the Teppanyaki Grill and Supreme Buffet. That was a new one to me and I looked at the ad a bit more closely. It is indeed a new establishment. It has set up shop in the old Social Security building and boasts 18,000 square feet and seating for 500. I remember the Social Security building from a few years ago. There was a tiny, cramped little waiting room with no amenities and a pass-through window that was mostly closed. Once inside there was a maze of walkways, a seemingly endless warren of partitions and office cubicles. I was curious to see what the new occupants had done in remodeling. Among the other boasts in the advertisement was the phrase, “…something for everyone” and “The Largest and Most Elegant Chinese, Japanese and American Cuisine Restaurant.” That covers a lot of ground.

With something for everyone, the wife was amenable to trying it out if only to humor me. We called Martha. She has a liking for the oriental style foods. What with the recent closing of one of her favorites, Good Fortunes, she was at a loss for a new place to occasionally visit and take visitors. It looked like a good bet for everyone. The fact that the advertisement had several $1.00-off coupons was an added inducement.

It is a buffet-style restaurant. The lunch buffet Monday through Saturday (11:00 am to 4:00 pm) is $7.29 for adults and tiered lower prices for children depending on age. The dinner buffet (4:00 pm through 9:30 pm) is $9.99 for adults and lower priced for children. Sundays and holidays are all day dinner buffets (11:00 am through 9:30 pm) adults are $9.99 and children at reduced prices. We arrived in the late afternoon but in time for the lunch buffet. With the coupon a filling buffet meal for three, soft drinks and tip was just about thirty dollars; pretty reasonable for a dinner out.

The anteroom, the left over from the Social Security days, is still there. It is bare, devoid of furnishings or decor. Perhaps it now serves as an air-lock entry keeping the hot and humid air outside. In the future, if there is a need, some comfortable seats would transform the area into a congenial waiting room for overflow guests.

Just inside is a wishing well pool to help set the mood. Opening the central area and colorful lighting of what was an office complex helps to transform it to a large, festive arena filled with more than a dozen self-serve buffet counters. At the far end of the area there is a sushi station and a teppanyaki grill. Seating for up to 500 customers is along both sides of the complex. Being new, everything appears very clean and pristine.

The usual in a buffet is to pay at the door; so much per head and your drinks. Then you are free to roam the floor. Since The Teppanyaki Grill offers extra cost items, such as beer and wine, the customer is presented with the bill at the end of the menu.

With so many choices, the best strategy is to walk the aisles between the serving stations to see what is offered. Even a little dab of this and a little dab of that can be overwhelming when there are so many options to choose from. As much as I would have liked to, I knew I could never sample everything. Most of the stations are of an oriental flair. Others offer American comfort food items, fruits, salads and a large selection of desserts and ice cream. Perhaps they do have something for everyone.

My first round was a sampler, a little of this and a little of that until I filled the plate. It included, among other items, a teriyaki chicken skewer, honey chicken, beef and broccoli, salt and pepper you peel shrimp, some fried zucchini and some California rolls. First lesson: soy sauce, wasabi and the like are not table items. They are there at the serving stations but not always obvious. Also, small dishes or containers are also available; you just have to look around to see where they are.

The sushi, layered on top was the first to be sampled. It is decent sushi, machine made I believe, but the rice is well cooked and the grains are not compressed into an amorphous mass like some although it may be a bit stickier than you are used to.  The selection of sushi is makizushi; I didn’t see any nigirizushi. About a dozen varieties were offered; a small selection If sushi was to be the main course. A little dip in the soy sauce and the rice holds together (the hashi are also located at the serving station). Tasty morsels and considering you can make many trips to the sushi bar, an economical entrée.

The teriyaki chicken skewer tasted fine but it was a bit on the tough side and a bit overcooked. The fried zucchini was more crunchy than crispy, as well a bit over cooked although it did taste pretty good; it just needed to come out of the fryer a minute or two earlier. The salt and pepper you peel shrimp, one of their signature dishes, had a good flavor, not too heavy on the spices so you could still taste the flavor of shrimp. It’s just that it is messy, more suited to a New England Shrimp and crab seafood boil; good but messy. My favorite of that plate was the honey chicken; small strips of chicken in a slightly sweet sauce. These were cooked just right, tender and moist and the sauce slightly sweet and a wonderful adjunct to the chicken.

My second sampler plate consisted of some fried rice (I know, it’s a filler but fried rice is definitely one of my favorite foods), sweet and sour chicken (more about that to come) some shrimp, egg foo young and skewered meatballs. The fried rice was, as you might have guessed, a filler dish. Not bad just pedestrian, uninspired and needs some work to be a good dish. The shrimp were shelled and deveined 40 - 50 shrimp cooked in a slightly spicy sauce although I can’t remember the name. They tasted like shrimp in a slightly spicy sauce. Not bad but nothing exceptional. The egg foo young, hard to find in most buffets, was a bit over cooked but with a bit of the gravy top moisten the patty it had a pleasant flavor. The skewered meatballs were a bit of a disappointment. They looked very good. If they had been cooked on the skewer someone would have had to tend them very carefully to get them to cook so evenly although a bit overdone. The flavor was okay but a bit dry. A sauce or dip would be of great value. That brings us to the sweet and sour chicken. New York, or whatever style it is, is merely breaded and fried chicken nuggets with a red sweet and sour sauce on the side. So it is with every other local take out or buffet I have tried.  For me, sweet and sour chicken (or pork) is a much more involved dish that combines stir fried onion, Bell peppers and pineapple with the sweet and sour sauce and breaded meat morsels. A trip to the salad bar provided some raw peppers and some pineapple tidbit from the fruit bar. Although the chicken tid-bits here tasted okay (I suspect they are purchased pre-breaded and fried, just heat and serve) and the sweet and sour sauce was also tasty, I can’t rate the overall dish very high because it isn’t complete; a short coming shared by many restaurants.

Many restaurants that claim to be Mongolian have a raw bar where you select the items you want the chef to cook on the grill. This restaurant also has a raw bar where you select the items you want and then the chef will cook them on the grill while you watch. In this case the grill is rectangular instead of round and perhaps that is why it is called the Teppanyaki Grill. There is a nice selection of vegetables, onions, peppers, sprouts, mushrooms and such. The meat selection is limited to chicken and beef. The buffet counter is well iced and the selections seemed to be fresh (the meat is put out in small batches to preserve freshness).

To try out the Teppanyaki grill, I make a small selection of chicken and vegetables. The chef was very amenable even smiling so I could take his picture as he prepared my food. You are offered a variety of flavoring sauces for you food. It was small plate and I neglected to get a picture. However, fresh vegetable and fresh chicken cooked in front of you, to your order, is certainly better than previously prepared foods, kept warm while waiting to be served. In my case, the meat was cooked through, the vegetables had mouth feel but were cooked through and the sauce was quite tasty.

My dining companions, my wife Janis and our friend Martha, we all look favorably on the Teppanyaki Grill and Supreme Buffet. It does have its deficits but overall it is as good as or possibly better than other buffets in the local area, at least meeting that standard. My next visit I will probably spend more time at the sushi bar and teppanyaki grill although I will seek out some of that honey chicken and, well, I have to admit it, some fried rice too.

The local Teppanyaki Grill and Supreme Buffet seems to be part of a larger chain with many stores in the North and Midwest. I can’t seem to find a web presence for the parent company although many local TG&SB’s have web presence. Check your local facility’s inspection record.

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