Mortar & Pestle: Coffee, Food, Alcohol? Sounds Like a Good Time!

There are a lot of opinions about this restaurant. Lets see what the Exploring Tampa crew thinks!
Mortar & Pestle, 2019
Coming from the ashes of a popular food truck, Mortar & Pestle is a concept that thrives to bring back the old timey pharmacies. You know the ones... You go to get a soda from the fountain, you wander the aisles, make your way to the lunch counter, then leave with your prescriptions. Located on the same block as local favorites Angry Chair Brewing and Trip's Diner, there's no lack of business to be had. This is also one of the few places in Seminole Heights with a real parking lot. Had you never read a review of this place and had you not heard about their filing for bankruptcy, you'd be impressed. The inside of the building is a hipster's paradise, with the industrial looking tables and chairs, the high ceiling, the steampunk-esque inspired decor. The inside of this building is cool. Next door is also a fully functional pharmacy that I wasn…

Lee's Grocery: Now Serving Pizza

Ok, so I may be late to the party. But the pizza was excellent.

Random Dude About to Enter Lee's Grocery, 2018

Do you ever hear about a restaurant and tell yourself that you have to try it and you just keep waiting? That is exactly what happened here! I had heard a rumor (unconfirmed as of this posting) that Lee's Grocery was a pizza place that broke away from Hampton Station a while back. You may remember Hampton Station for making national headlines for banning children from entering their establishment. Stormy and I had gone there once and weren't impressed with the food, or the bartender bragging about their latest DUI. Guilty by association, I assume. And allow me to be man enough to say that I was wrong to do that. Lee's was the polar opposite of Hampton Station in just about every way. The name dates back to 1887 when Lee's Grocery operated as a grocery store for the immigrants coming into the newly formed Ybor City. The (severely out of date) website states that four years ago (I'm sure it's been longer), Lee's Grocery ceased operation as a grocery store and went on to become a local bar for pizza, wings, and craft beer. For some reason, you don't hear much about this place online, but it is a hidden gem in a city that is starting to fill with more restaurants by the day. The crew on this particular occasion was myself (naturally), Stormy, and our good friend Ryan (who is Tampa born and now lives in Orlando). Ryan has been out of Tampa for quite some time due to the nature of his job, and when he left, "The Heights" wasn't yet a thing. I've been slowly showing him around every time he gets a chance to come by. This was the perfect time to try Lee's with a lot at stake. I absolutely hate suggesting restaurants that people wont like. We pull up to the nondescript building, realize that, like just about everything else in The Heights, there's no parking, we pulled up behind another car on the street and we went inside. But you didn't come here for that...

Beer Slingin', 2018

Off the bat, the first thing you notice is that this place is small, like most other places in The Heights. They do manage to make the absolute most out of the little space they have. The bar is long, there are a few tables situated along the inside, and then there's the outside patio area. They carry a large selection of craft beer (my favorite, obviously) in the coolers and also have six beers on tap. The employees here are people of few words, but they never came off as unfriendly. They were full of awesome beer suggestions and I ended up with the Imperial Cookies & Cream Death Roll by Red Cypress out of Winter Springs. I can safely say that it's been quite a while since I'e had a craft beer surprise me. It was a nice change of pace. If it is still on tap when you make your trip, be sure to grab a glass... Just make sure you're not driving. To complete the look and feel of this establishment, old school vinyl record sleeves line the walls, Pink Floyd and The Eagles are pumping over the speakers, and old school Adam Sandler movies are playing on the TV. The biggest shock of this place is how so many different types of people all showed up and enjoyed the food. This place was obviously hipster friendly, but also had older people, children, nerds, metal heads... Of all races, in the same place at the same time. 

Deadman's Party, 2018

But the environment can be friendly, the people can be diverse, and the beer selection can be amazing, but if the food sucks, it's not worth going to. Ryan and I decided to share a Deadman's Party seeing as we're men of refined taste and enjoy a lot of meat on top of bread covered in sauce and cheese. Allow me to start by saying that the meats were cooked to absolute perfection. I can't even begin to count the number of times the pepperoni wasn't right, or the sausage was cold, you name it. This wasn't the case with the Deadman's Party at all. Every piece of meat came out hot, came out at just the right crunch level, and there was no shortage of any of them. Ham, bacon, sausage, and pepperoni. Of all the pizza I've eaten in my life, I can safely say that the crust at Lee's Grocery is in my top 5. The sauce isn't as noticeable, but when you do get a good taste of it, you realize how well it pulls the entire pizza together. Ryan and I had absolutely no problem polishing this pizza off, which is impressive considering Ryan weighs significantly less than myself.

Can We Legally Call This Pizza?, 2018

Have no fear: if you have a friend who's wrong and likes pineapple on their pizza, Lee's can accommodate that as well (with only slight sneers). Stormy decided to get a 10" "Hawaiian" pizza and ate it herself because she's the only deviant who would touch something so grotesque. Her one and only complaint about this pizza is that it seemed to have significantly more pineapple than it did ham and it made for an awkward pizza (yes, someone putting pineapple on their pizza called it awkward). I'm going to imagine that this is a common problem among the 10" pizzas as the smaller size makes it difficult to put the appropriate topping ratio on each pie. That said, the crust came out looking just as good as ours did, the sauce was the same, and it was all ruined with some pineapple, but Stormy really enjoyed it. She decided to pair her pizza with the same Red Cypress pairing that I was drinking with mine. I should also note that Ryan, a man who has not (yet) joined us in the beer game, was drinking a Kolsch and I'm not sure who brewed it or what beer it was. Alas, he put it down like a champ.

Outside Patio, 2018

Overall, I really enjoyed Lee's. The pizza was amazing, the beer selection was great, the staff was friendly, and it was a fun experience. It's very hard to get bored while there. It's a place that I am eagerly awaiting going back to, which speaks volumes as I tend to want to try new places constantly. Make sure to bring some good company with you. It'll help sell the experience even more. I will say that the one downside to this place is that it's a bit on the pricey side. A 16" pizza, a 10" pizza, and three beers set me back well over $50. It was worth it and I'd gladly spend it again, but it wasn't something I was expecting going into. That said, if you're in Tampa Heights and you're tired of the food halls, I'd strongly suggest you come try Lee's Grocery. 

Artsy Shot, 2018

Things to know before you go:
- There is literally no parking. You will have to park on the street in front of the store.
- The place is small, but they make the most of their space.
- The beer selection is on point, but their taste in movies is not. 
- It's a bit on the pricier side.
- The Deadman's Party is my new favorite specialty pizza. 

Do you enjoy pineapple on your pizza? Do you have any other suggestions for eats in Tampa Heights? Leave a comment below. If you'd like more information on Tampa, check out my YouTube Channel and if you'd like to support my efforts, don't hesitate to buy a shirt from our Spreadshirt (we have new designs!).  Also, don't be afraid to click subscribe and you'll instantly be notified whenever a new entry is posted. Thank you all and I will see you next time!

Comments