Charley’s (Tampa)

Charley's Steak House on Urbanspoon

Charley's Steakhouse & Market Fresh Fish on Foodio54

Day of the Week: Sunday, 9/9
Total Bill: $225 (before tip)
Breakdown: 2 glasses of wine, several beers, 50% of 4 appetizers (split the cost with our friends), 1 steak, 1 pork chops, 1 lobster tail, 1 lobster mac & cheese, 1 baked potato, 3 desserts
Pros: real wood-fired grill, amazing steaks, fabulous ambiance, great service
Cons: mixed reviews on some of our food, limited cocktail and beer menu
Verdict: We’ll go back.

He says:
Charley’s – as I write this, I’m eating my leftovers, which are great.

A pleasant surprise! I like a lot about this restaurant. We went to the bar to start off and they had a large selection of spirits and wines. The bartenders knew how to make a drink. Big, giant, full drinks. My buddy got a martini and they fill it past the top of the glass so it makes that bubble above the rim.

We then went to sit at the table. The table was great, dark and right next to the fish tank. Great ambiance. So on to the food, for apps we got the fried gator, escargot, fried calamari and seared tuna. I didn’t get to try the escargot, but I dipped some bread in the butter and it was great. The gator was the best gator ive ever had, thick, meaty, firm and not chewy, the best part was the flavor. No gaminess, and seasoned well. The ahi tuna was delicious, large portion, fresh and the sesame seeds were fantastic. I loved the calamari, very lightly breaded and delicious, but it could use a different sauce besides the traditional marinara. I almost never use the sauce that comes with food, so it really doesn’t matter, but I tried it and it was mediocre.

I had two pork chops and a 17oz lobster tail for dinner, with a side of lobster mac n cheese. The pork chops were very good. They had a nice char on them and you can definitely taste the oak that it is grilled on. The lobster tail was very dry… it was a little disappointing but the flavor was good. The lobster mac n cheese was fantastic, possibly my favorite thing on the menu. It had two full lobster claws with knuckles and all sitting on top of a cheesy creamy delicious spiral pasta. I would eat it everyday if I could.

For dessert I had the turtle cheesecake and carrot cake. The carrot cake was fantastic, the icing was soft, creamy and almost fluffy. It was not the traditional thick and overly sweet icing usually found on carrot cake. The turtle cheesecake was good too, nothing special but very well done.

The things I did not like… The menus were so ungodly large that you knock glasses and whatnot off the table and have no where to store them between the times you figure out what you and and the time you order. The drinks I ordered, which are the infusions they have behind the bar, are so very sweet… I was not a fan. The beer selection was very limited, and the only had one domestic craft beer. The craft beer menu is heavy on Unibroue, which is not my favorite brewery. The last gripe I have was that the dessert selections were very mundane and the same thing you find at every old restaurant. Most desserts are done well but there was nothing that jumped out and made me say I have to eat that.

I would definitely go back and I had a great experience with the food, service and ambiance.

She says:
I hadn’t been to this Charley’s in 8 years. I really liked it at the time but I wasn’t sure what I’d think of it now; my tastes have changed and matured, and I don’t eat nearly as much steak as I did then (since Hubby doesn’t eat red meat). Our friends wanted to go there for their wedding anniversary.

My first impression upon walking in is that it’s old-fashioned. I don’t mean dated, just old-fashioned. The reception area has a little arrangement of furniture meant to look like someone’s parlor; there is a cold case next to the hostess stand that displays various cuts of meat. It’s quite dark inside, and very lovely, with lots of dark wood and leather, beautiful landscaping outside (when you’re inside and look out, you feel like you’re in a rainforest), and a really nice fish tank where we were seated.

We went to the bar first, which is a very large area. The kitchen is open to the bar. A brick half-wall separates the two and there is a grate at the bottom of the wall where you can see the burning coals under the grill. I was impressed because it made their claims of grilling all their steaks over wood instantly legitimate.

Behind the bar there were three large containers with infused spirits, so we were all hopeful. One of them was vodka infused with strawberries, one was vodka infused with pineapple, and the third (I was told) was Crown Royal infused with Washington apples. I’m a Crown drinker under the right circumstances, so I decided to try it. What the bartender did NOT tell me is that they also add Sour Apple Pucker to the infusion. Yuck!!! I hate that stuff. It’s just so fake. I drank some and had the bartender add more Crown, but I still ended up drinking only half of it. The cocktail menu is limited and everything on it is very sweet (it relies on liqueurs like Drambuie, sour mixes, etc.) but they do have a good wine list with a decent selection by the glass, as well as a half-bottle list and many more full bottles.

After we were seated we met our server, who was very nice and knowledgeable. She explained all of their cuts of beef and told us they get all of their beef from a ranch in California (no hormones, etc.). We ordered a round of appetizers to share: escargot, gator tail, calamari, and seared ahi tuna. The tuna was rare (as it should be) with a nice crust of sesame seeds. The gator tail was really tender and had a great flavor. I wasn’t as impressed with the escargot and calamari. The escargot was baked in a garlic butter sauce…but all I tasted was butter. The calamari was too chewy for my preference and the marinara served with it was boring.

All of their entrees come with salads and cheesy yeast rolls, which was our next course. The salad there is excellent, chopped and served with their homemade vinaigrette (but not too much of it!). The rolls were delicious, perfectly chewy and soft. For this course I had a glass of Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc for $12, which was very fair (the pours are pretty generous).

I ordered their 10 ounce filet mignon with a baked potato (a la carte) and I was really, really impressed. The steak had the most delicious sear on the outside. Our server told us their oak grill gives everything a smoky bacon flavor and she was right. I think they even grilled my potato. I think I preferred Charley’s steak to Bern’s. The baked potato was definitely better than Bern’s. For this round I had a glass of merlot that seems like it was also $12, and it was definitely good.

For dessert I had the almond cake, which is their version of tiramisu (ladyfingers are soaked in Amaretto instead of espresso), and it was excellent. The almond flavor was authentic and pronounced but not overwhelming, and the cake wasn’t mushy, as often happens with tiramisu. I tried Hubby’s turtle cheesecake; I know he liked it but I didn’t. I thought the cheesecake was too dense. I also tried his carrot cake. I don’t usually like carrot cake but theirs was really delicious and I would even consider ordering it next time we go.

And that’s the bottom line: we would definitely go back. In fact, we almost went back the next night (but ended up at Roy’s instead for My Prix Fixe Monday—more on that later). The service is good, the ambiance is really cool, and the steak is craveable (I want one right now).

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About twofoodiesinlove

About the couple: We are thirtysomethings. We’ve known each other since 2001 when we were in college together and we got married in 2009. About the wife: She’s been an accountant since 2004 and loves numbers maybe a little too much. She eats and cooks and bakes and drinks and constantly has to watch her weight because of it. About the husband: He’s a government employee… for 9 years… he likes nice people who don’t talk too much and FOOD!!! He’s a fatty who loves beer, wine and clear spirits. He likes to cook, usually stuff that is too hard for him but usually turns out well. he tries to watch his weight as it goes by at the speed of light but can’t seem to see it… oh and he loves the Wifey. she rocks.
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