Day of the Week: Thursday, 1/22
Total Bill: $111 (estimate, before tip)
Breakdown: 2 starters, 2 entrées, 2 desserts, 2 cocktails, 1 beer
Pros: Fascinating concept.
Cons: Shoddy service and inconsistent food.
Verdict: Needs a lot more polish.
When Fodder & Shine was originally announced, I was thrilled. I loved the concept of true historical Florida food, not just more key lime pie and grouper sandwiches. And, of course, we’re big fans of The Refinery. Unfortunately, this place is not ready for prime time yet. Please keep in mind, it opened less than a month before we went.
We got there about 8:15 and found it pretty quiet, so we got seats at the bar right away. The host was really welcoming when we came in, so that was a good start. Our bartender was friendly and my Countess Negroni ($13) was fantastic, if a bit pricey. Hubby got a Fountain of Youth (“Flor de Caña White Rum | Coconut Mint Syrupus | Lime,” $9), which was also tasty, like an authentic daiquiri.
The space is very open and spare. Honestly, a little too spare for us. I felt like there was a lot of wasted space, like they didn’t put enough tables in. The bar is a pretty good size and I like the way they separated it from the dining room. Two pool tables are next to the bar, which is cool. You don’t see that often these days.
Hubby ordered the Minorcan clam chowder (“a soup of little neck clams, tomato, salt pork, potato, chiles, and peppers,” $10), fried chicken ($19), and a side of crackling cornbread (“flourless skillet cornbread, unsweetened, served with butter and local honey,” $9). I ordered the smoked mullet spread served with hard tack ($7), grilled smothered quail (“served with onions, scallions, sherry, sofkee, and pork fat-glazed charred radish,” $19), and a side of sofkee (“native porridge of fermented rice, cream and butter,” $7), not noticing that sofkee came with my entrée. Nor did the bartender point that out and ask if we still wanted it, which is what I would expect (staff training issue).
An early indicator of trouble was when Hubby asked the bartender if the base of the clam chowder is white or red. She said it was “reddish.” Ok, the clam chowder was really great. But it’s not a traditional clam chowder and his question gave her the perfect opening to describe it. Their clam chowder is full of steamed clams still in the shells and big chunks of potatoes in a very tasty broth (thank you, salt pork). It’s a really great dish. But saying the base is “reddish” really does not describe it at all (also a staff training issue).
Back to the meal. The fish spread came out right away. The smoked mullet was amazing. Unfortunately, it’s overpowered by the amount of onion in the spread. The hard tack was good (I guess—not like I’ve ever had it before, just read about it).
But while we were eating the fish spread, my quail and sofkee came out! I asked the bartender to have them put it back under the heat lamp so that I could wait for Hubby to get his food, too. Then we waited for 40 minutes for ANY of Hubby’s food to arrive (apparently, the computer did not communicate Hubby’s order to the kitchen, which was discovered when my entrée came and not even his soup had arrived). When his food did come, it all came at once. That’s something I would expect the expediter to catch (another staff training issue).
Anyway, whatever, let’s see how it tastes. As I mentioned, the chowder was excellent. The cornbread was pretty good. The fried chicken was a bit dry and bland, though. Hubby got cathead biscuits as a side and he said they were the same as the biscuits at The Refinery. My quail was excellent (very juicy with lots of flavor) and we both really enjoyed the sofkee.
Along the way Hubby ordered a Stiegel Radler ($6) and he probably would’ve drank more but our bartender got busy chatting with another bartender and didn’t seem to notice his empty glass.
When it was time for dessert, we weren’t sure if we should risk it but we did. The dessert menu isn’t online so I can’t quote prices but I can tell you what we had. I ordered the fried jam pie (that day’s flavor was kumquat, which we love) and Hubby ordered the sour orange pie, which another server there said was his favorite of the desserts. The dough of the fried jam pie was pretty good but the filling was so bitter that it just overwhelmed the dough (and, as a confirmed hop head, I love bitter things). Definitely not enough sugar in the filling. The filling of the sour orange pie was really good (like an orange key lime pie) but the crust was shiny and pale—underdone.
Bottom line, it will be a while before we return to Fodder & Shine. The front of house staff needs additional training and I think the kitchen staff needs to gel more, too. I really hope they can sort out these problems, though, because Tampa needs authentic Florida food. It’s almost like a public service.
[Edit: The Tampa Bay Times has published a review, which can be found here: http://www.tampabay.com/things-to-do/food/dining/review-fodder–shine-is-a-vigilant-re-creation-of-florida-cracker-food/2215150 ]