After many years living in complete ignorance of, followed by maybe a year of just ignoring, Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe, I finally went out and gave them a try. ‘Cause, I mean, everyone is talking about Ella’s Cafe! Or haven’t you heard? It’s currently sitting at the number three spot on Urbanspoon’s Top Ten Restaurants in Tampa. Now, their top ten list in no way corresponds to my list of favorites, but I guess they reflect the favorites of the people, as well as more respected (paid) critics. So that means you are all about Ella’s! Or at least you’re supposed to be. So, in an effort to better understand you, the reader, I went to Ella’s.
Ella’s is one of those real cool places. The kind of place that you like a lot, but then other people start showing up there, and it becomes popular, then you don’t like it so much. But it’s new to me! When my friend and I got in, I was excited/disturbed to find a lot of cool dudes hanging around the place, causing us to have to wait around for a table. Bastards… think you’re cooler than me. I’ll show you who’s cooler than me. TO THE BAR!
So we went to the bar, to pass the time by way of alcohol. I ordered a Cigar City stout of some sort, which I thoroughly enjoyed. While drinking, I observed my surroundings. There was lots of… junk. Cool junk, I guess. I mean, it was supposed to be folk artsy. So it was cool in the same way folk art is cool. There was also a television set hanging over the bar, showing an episode of How I Met Your Mother. If you’re so cool, Ella, why do you need a TV? Huh? Tell me that, Ella. Ella? WHY WON’T YOU TALK TO ME????
After an hour of boozing and/or schmoozing, we were sat, and treated to a comical display of tomfoolery in the kitchen (some sort of hazing or erotic game they seem to do here, involving one member of the staff covering another in a white, creamy substance). We ordered some sweet teas, as it seemed like a sweet tea kinda place. The server told me they made the tea fresh, which I believe, but the tea was nothing special. I should have gotten more beer (when is this not the case?). We put in our orders, and not much later we got this:
BREAD! Yeah maybe not too exciting, but for some reason it seems that none of the places I’ve been to since I started this blog serve bread (unless I’m forgetting something). That is likely due to the fact that the kind of restaurants I like to go to don’t typically give something as classy as bread away for free. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a nice slice now and then! So I was happy to get it, and the butter was nice and creamy, sweet and with a hint of garlic. I proceeded to massage the butter into my hairy chest.
And wings, of course! An order of Ming’s Wings, featuring an Asian marinade. And feathers! For the first time in my many years experience as a wing eater, I was greeted with several fully-formed feathers still un-plucked from the wings. You can see one sticking out in the picture. This was a bit unsettling, but not so much that I didn’t dig right in. The wings, covered in sesame seeds in addition to the feathers, had a thick and sticky sauce, which was a really nice spicy/sweet combination, with very light notes of licorice or fennel. They were served uncut, with a side of a wasabi cream sauce. I liked the idea behind the sauce, but in practice it just grossed me out; it was a frothy green slime, similar to a melted milkshake. The flavor was good, but I couldn’t get past its consistency. But the wings by themselves didn’t need anything else, as their flavor was strong and quite good.
Ella’s most impressive dishes come in the form of either a burger or a pizza, and seeing as I’d just been to Alfonso’s, I went with a burger. They cleverly named three of their burgers “The Good”, “The Badd”, and “The Ugly”. The Good and The Badd were both for pussies, but The Ugly… oh The Ugly was for me.
Two 1/2 pound Organic Raised Angus Patties
w/ Sauteed Peppers, Onions, Portabella
Mushrooms, Bacon, & Cheddar Cheese
This was one intense burger. Nice big slices of bacon, two gigantic beef patties, and the peppers onions and mushrooms all melded perfectly into the cheese. My god, the cheese. Melty and delicious. Excellent cheese. I had ordered the burger medium rare, but it came out more like rare, so it might be a good idea to order up one level (but if you’re into rare, go for it, because this meat was awesome and I loved every bloody bite). The whole thing was a mess, but for such a mess it was surprisingly manageable. The bun was instrumental here, pulling the whole thing together. The burger was so big, I could only got through half of it. This may not have been the best burger I’ve ever had, but it was really good, and it had enough personality to make a trip to Ella’s worth it.
As a side note, my friend ordered their stuffed burger, which he let me try. It’s not listed on their website, so I don’t know everything that was involved, but I do remember Gorgonzola cheese being the main ingredient stuffed inside the patty. Unless you’re a huge fan of Gorgonzola cheese, I would advise against ordering this thing, because that’s all you could taste. Nothing beyond that. He could only finish half too, not because of the size, but due to the strong cheese taste. Unpleasant.
The burgers come with either sweet potato fries, or zucchini fritters. I went with the fritters (though my plate had the fries, as can be seen in the burger picture). They were really good. The batter they used was perfect, a bit sweet and full of flavor, and the zucchini itself was really tasty too. A perfect side dish. The sweet potato fries were also really good.
So it was a good visit. I like the food, and having a full bar in the place is really nice. Downsides are the bunches of people there, and the price (it was about 35 bucks for my meal and a couple drinks, before tip). You could get two full meals at Burger Monger for less than you spend here, and both burgers would be better. But here you get the full bar, and the atmosphere. So it depends on what you’re looking for. As I said, it was a good time.
Oh! And they have live music! And something awesome called Soul Food Sundays, featuring an entirely different menu with a bunch of soul food dishes (fried catfish, chicken and waffles, crawdads, barbecue, good stuff). If I go back, it will definitely be for that.
Go there and try to get laid!