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…

Ulele: Beer + Eats in Tampa Heights

The Heights have had no shortage of restaurants opening over the years. Meet Ulele.

Ulele, 2018

If there's one other Tampanian who loves this city as much as I do, it's Richard Gonzmart. You may know the name as the man behind The Columbia, or perhaps Goody Goody, or maybe even heard his name from some of the other restaurant plans he's made around town. One thing is for sure, Gonzmart loves the history of Tampa. The Columbia is the oldest, continuously running restaurant in the southeast, and the food takes you back to the early days of Ybor City. While that's cool, Ulele's menu takes you back to a time before Tampa. But before we can get to the food, allow me to introduce you to the legend.

Princess Ulele, 2018

First thing's first, the legend dates back to the 1500's, during Spain's initial run through Florida. The name "Ulele" was first written in 1859. In other words, the name Ulele was, more than likely, not actually her name. And, like Gasparilla, the majority of the details have nothing backing them up. WARNING: Graphic story.The Tocobaga Chief at the time had his nose cut off by a group of Spaniards and his mother was fed to dogs. When a new expedition came through, and three Spaniards stepped foot in modern day Safety Harbor, the chief had his men use two of the men as target practice and ordered the third man (Juan Ortiz) roasted alive. Not wanting to see the man tortured, Princess Ulele threw herself on top of the man and refused to let her father kill him. The chief decided that, instead of killing Ortiz, he would simply make him a slave of the tribe. Ulele later had a friend sneak Ortiz to another tribe where he learned to communicate with the natives and ended up joining de Soto as a translator, dying during the expedition. End graphic story. It is possible that Juan Ortiz did exist, and that a princess of a chief did take pity on him, but it's not realistic. De Soto brought 1,000 men with him and there aren't enough artifacts to prove there were ever that many men in the area. While it's possible Ulele helped Ortiz escape, it's  more likely that he was traded to another tribe. This is a very romanticized story.

Outdoor Bar, 2018

Alas, while the story may not be true, the food certainly is. You will get the same artisan concept that you get at most restaurants opening in Seminole Heights, but Ulele does it a bit differently. For one, the food isn't so off the wall that it will turn off picky eaters. This is another restaurant that claims to be farm-to-table, though we all saw how that played out last time a few restaurants made the claim. If there's one thing that this place doesn't lack, it's seating. There's the outdoor bar (pictured above), outdoor tables next to that, more outdoor tables around the corner, an indoor bar (and bar area), the main dining room, and then an upstairs portion. In other words, the building is huge and it cane fit even more people. The building's history dates back to 1903 when it was used at the Tampa Water Works pump station, which provided drinking water to a very new Tampa. But you didn't come here for that!

Crab Mac & Cheese, 2018

Right around the time Ulele opened, and after hearing the hype from everyone around us, Stormy and I managed to talk my parents into checking it out with us. This was a few weeks after they opened. Needless to say, it was one of the worst meals I had ever been served. Ever. Stormy and I knew we had to go back, but we wanted to give them time to work out the kinks. Four years is enough time, right? The crew was Stormy and I and we decided now was the time to give them their shot of redemption on a whim while heading to Green Lemon. Sorry Green Lemon! We'll be there soon. We were seated quickly and noticed that the restaurant was pretty busy for a Wednesday afternoon. This seemed to be a popular hangout among the businesses in and around Downtown, Ybor, and The Heights. Our waiter was Rick and we quickly ordered some drinks and the crab mac & cheese. I had an IPA and Stormy had a glass of wine. The IPA was brewed in house and, I must say, was significantly better than the beers we were served four years ago. While I wouldn't put Ulele Brewing on my top 50, the beer is a solid choice to compliment your meal. The crab mac & cheese was also really good. It wasn't overly fishy tasting, and it had a good amount of crab in it. The cheese used complimented the noodles, and while there were breadcrumbs, they weren't overwhelming the dish. This was a good start. 

U Club, 2018

Stormy decided on the U Club sandwich, which was a heaping pile of turkey, a thick cut of bacon, and a smaller pile of ham on a bed of lettuce and tomato. Stormy, being the picky eater that she is, got it without the sauce. Alas, I can't comment on that. I can say that, the bacon and the Swiss cheese were the standouts of this sandwich. The bread was also a nice touch. The problem I seemingly had with it is that the sandwich was way too sweet, at times giving the back of my tongue that tingling feeling. I only had a bite or two, so I can't comment as to whether I could eat the full sandwich, but I can say that Stormy did and she really enjoyed it. That's all that matters. The sandwich is also a nice size, much bigger than any club I've seen in a local restaurant. The fries were also very good, but I can vouch that I am not a fan of the homemade ketchup. I have a feeling this sandwich will be very divisive. 

Water Works Meatloaf, 2018

Being that I now work overnights, my eating schedule has been a bit wonky. Is it breakfast or dinner? Lunch? Better eat something big! Alas, I settled on the Water Works meatloaf plate. Ground strip loin, Cabernet garlic demi glace, complete with onion straws, white cheddar popcorn mash potatoes, and green beans. Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite meatloaf is at The Front Porch, so anything else will always be second tier. That said, this piece of meat was so tender. While (badly made) meatloaf tends to be dry, this piece never left me reaching for my beer. The meat itself was really, really good. However, the demi glace they put on it was also on the sweeter side. For the most part, it was really good, but there were a few bites where the sauce was simply too much. I enjoyed it, but I would've preferred less sauce. The sides are what I had the biggest issues with as the cheddar potatoes were almost nonexistent after eating the meatloaf. You couldn't taste them over the meatloaf. The green beans had a nice flavor, but were a little too crunchy for my taste. That said, Stormy really liked my potatoes, which leads me to believe that they would make an awesome side for a meal with a less dominating flavor. While this paragraph makes it sound like I didn't enjoy my meal, that's not the case. I had a very good meal with a few issues that I'd like to point out.

 Beverages, 2018

While I can't tell you what I ordered (outside of it being "the IPA"), I can tell you that the flavor was perfect for the meal that we were having. It went down easy and there was no off putting flavors. Here's the thing with Ulele Brewing, and this was true the first time I went and it was true this last visit: Their beers are all non offensive. While you're always guaranteed to get a solid beer here, easy drinking, and flavorful, none of it is going to push any boundaries. You're not going to get a Hunahpu here. In other words, this isn't a brewery you're going to visit to grab a beer. You're going to grab a beer because you're eating. And I'm not doubting head brewer Timothy Shackton's ability to brew. I'm sure he's fully capable of making crazy beers, but he'd prefer to pull back and allow the beer to pair with the food. You can have a good beer here, but if you're looking for boundary pushing, crazy flavors, and out there beers, I'd look elsewhere. 

Fortune Taylor's Guava Pie, 2018

Lets talk about the one thing that every Gonzmart restaurant does well: Pie. This was no exception. Stormy and I decided to share a piece of the Fortune Taylor's Guava Pie, which was an excellent decision because the pie is huge. I am one who does not tend to like the crust on a pie, but I found myself going out of my way to enjoy another piece of this crust's shortbreaded goodness. The guava is whipped up with some cream to give just the right guava taste without being overwhelming. If you'd like a little more guava, there's the guava jelly that sits next to it on the plate. If you do manage to make your way here, I'd strongly suggest getting on of their pies. If I didn't know any better, I'd say it's the one thing Gonzmart is most proud of. 

A Horse of Course, 2018

Things to know before you go:
- Tampa Heights is a very interesting area, one of the older Tampa neighborhoods, which means that the idea of you and me owning a car wasn't a thought in anyone's mind. Ulele does have parking, but it's not as close to the restaurant as some would expect. They also offer valet.
- Ulele does get busy. It was half full on a rainy, Wednesday afternoon. I can't even imagine the crowds that show up on a Saturday night. Make plans accordingly. 
- The guava pie is amazing. As Stormy puts it, it's the freshest guava she's ever had.
- The view is amazing. If you have the chance to sit outside, by all means, do it. Awesome view of the Hillsborough River, nice view of the Riverwalk, and an amazing view of Waterworks Park.

Do you like the artisan style food venues opening in The Heights? Have you had the guava pie? 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!

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