Local Love

LOCAL LOVE: ULELE

FIRST RESTAURANT REVIEW! Although this isn’t a true review because I’ve been to Ulele 1,000 times (roughly). In any case, I thought I’d showcase one of my all time favorite restaurants in Tampa. And let me tell you I don’t use that ranking lightly, Ulele has some fierce competition because Tampa is foodie-central and these restaurateurs know. what. they’re. doing. Ulele (pronounced you-lay-lee) is on the Hillsborough River and serves up some seriously awesome views of the area and some of the best food and drinks I’ve ever had.

If you’re anything like me, you pull up a restaurant’s menu before going so that you can determine what you’re going to eat. I highly suggest doing this when you go to Ulele because it will take you THAT LONG to decide what to order since everything is delicious. EVERYTHING. Of all the times I’ve gone, I’ve never had a bad appetizer/entree/dessert/drink. And neither has anyone I’ve dined with. Oh and don’t even get me started on their frozen rose, it’s my first stop when it gets warm in Florida. IT’S A SUMMER NECESSITY.

I lunched here with my mom and my sister earlier this week and, of course, documented it all to share. If you haven’t gone, MAKE IT A PRIORITY. And if you have gone, I’m offended that you didn’t take me with you (just kidding, live your life).

Before we get into the good stuff (the food), let me just brief you on some other important elements that make Ulele one of my favorite places.

  • The staff is always on point – I haven’t had bad/slow/subpar service once. Even the waiters who are clearly going through training are knowledgeable and fast. Let’s be real, service can make or break your dining experience so this is a huge reason why I am a repeat customer.
  • There’s so much room for activities – if you’re ballsy enough to show up without a reservation (WHY), you’re not going to sit on some bench in a dark corner waiting for your table. Aside from just mingling with your friends and enjoying the water views, Ulele has cornhole for it’s guests to play to help pass the time. And the outside bar slings drinks fast so that you don’t spend 30 minutes waiting for one cocktail.
  • Reservations – as a Type A, over-planner, I. NEED. A. RESERVATION. It’s always a plus for me when I know I can make a reservation instead of waiting for an underestimated amount of time to be seated. As some wise person on the internet once said, “‘Hangry’ is an emotion, I feel that in my soul.” It is good for no one if I get hangry (think Leslie Mann tearing down her husband’s office in The Other Woman).
  • Complimentary Valet – v important when you hate driving around looking for a parking spot like moi. Tampa Heights is being built up fairly quickly so there’s a lot of changes and a lot of construction happening all at once so if you’d rather not navigate that mess, Ulele has a complimentary valet service.

Ok, here’s the good stuff :

Can we talk about how amazing this doorway entrance is?!
Outdoor seating area + cornhole!
Outdoor bar + dining space
Ulele Sunset Cocktail – this be a sippin’ drink for all us lightweights. Neo 8 Year Silver Rum, Licor 43, Aperol and fresh lime juice with a pressed orange peel.
Classic Bloody Mary – 10/10 recommend.
Native Summer – Refreshing AF. Made with Nolet’s Silver, JDK + Sons Fleur Handcrafted Elderflower Liqueur, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, and cucumber slices.
Jalapeno Cheddar Grit Cake – being from the South, I am VERY picky about my grits. I order these every single time and the table usually ends up ordering a second helping because we devour them.
Okra Fries – they’re tossed in lime juice and salt with housemade ketchup for dipping. These are so good and serve as a good balance with the grit cakes!
Fire-Roasted Chicken – A perfect mid-day meal, filling but not heavy. Grilled chicken breast, saffron risotto, garlic spinach all with a vine-ripened tomato garlic lemon basil sauce.
Panamanian Sea Bass – I LOVE A CRISPY OUTSIDE. Cast-iron seared fresh sea bass with ginger basil vinaigrette, charred corn salsa, and shishito peppers.
U Club – A popular choice for entree’s amongst other diners this day and for good reason, fresh ingredients make this stacked sandwich a no-brainer. Carved turkey breast with sugar-cured bacon and country ham with “jimmychurri”aioli, romaine lettuce, vine-ripened tomatoes, and swiss cheese on whole-grain bread.
Karson’s Jalapeno Corn Beer Muffins – I clearly did not get enough carbs with the grit cakes so we ordered these muffins and they did not disappoint. The jalapeño really comes through in these muffins, so diner beware if you can’t handle the heat! Roasted fresh corn, pickled jalapeño, Ulele Pale Lager (yes they have a brewery!) and creamed corn.
Key Lime Stack – Confession : I consume all the “burnt” parts of the meringue before I even touch the key lime pie. Hi, my name is Andrea and I LOVE burnt sugar. And regular sugar. And brown sugar. ALL KINDS OF SUGAR. Like grits, I am also picky about key lime pie – very few pass the test. But of course this one does with it’s creamy texture and crumbly crust.

So that wraps up our lunch, go get your food on at Ulele and tell them that I sent you. It won’t do anything but maybe if they hear my name enough, they’ll let me get that grit cake recipe. Or a lifetime supply of frose.

Ulele : http://www.ulele.com

Reservations : https://www.opentable.com/ulele

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