On Swann: A Review of Hyde Park’s Newest Restaurant

The appropriately named On Swann, located on the corner of Swann Avenue and Oregon Avenue, is Tampa, Florida’s Hyde Park neighborhood’s newest restaurant. The interior displays a simple, yet chic open kitchen and bar concept that mixes nice touches of stone, velvet, and wood that give a nod to refined rustic design. The fresh flowers and friendly staff, along with the open dining room and large windows give the new establishment a warm and welcoming feel. The antique mixed silverware was also a nice touch showing that the design was thought through down to every little detail.

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When walking into On Swann you are welcomed by an open waiting area that immediately displays the rustic chic design.

We decided to take the risk of dining on the grand opening night of the restaurant, knowingly lending ourselves as guinea pigs to the fresh set of waiters and chefs ready to display their talents. We went for an early dinner assuming that it would be pretty crowded due to the local media coverage the restaurant had recently gained. At five o’clock we walked in the door and were promptly seated. Although they had already been booked full for dinner service, they were able to squeeze us in to one of the few tables available.

The cuisine is branded as American fresh and seasonal, and menu offerings were limited to a page but contained a variety of small plates and entrées. The dishes were not your typical burgers and steaks like many American styled restaurants offer. On Swann’s Chef Ponte did a fantastic job of capturing flavors from across the country using fresh, seasonal, and (when available) local ingredients. The menu offers everything from Nashville inspired hot chicken to coastal cuisine fresh fish and even New Orlean’s beignet-like zeppole’s with parmesan and ricotta whip.

We began our meal with the warm parm zeppoles and whipped ricotta corn dip as well as a cheese and accoutrement board. The zeppoles, which are traditionally coated in sugar as a fried dessert, took on a savory transformation being coated in parmesan. Accompanied by the warm fresh whipped ricotta dip, this zeppole appetizer was both filling and delicious. The saltiness of the parmesan coating combined with the creaminess of the ricotta

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Chef selected cheese plate with accoutrements

was the perfect bite. You never know what to expect with a chef chosen cheese board, but On Swann’s cheese board was an excellent assortment. The cheese board included artisan crackers and cheeses from the cream, blue, and cheddar families, as well as both dried and fresh fruit and Marcona almonds. However, while the cheeses themselves were delicious, the show stopper of the plate was the locally sourced honey and locally made strawberry-basil jam. Paired with the various cheeses, the honey and jam were incredibly tasty. We may have even asked for some bread so we could finish off the jam…

 

For my entrée I ordered the “Beets Salad”, which is actually listed as a starter, but is big enough for an entree especially after sharing an appetizer. The salad, which consisted of red endive, pear, citrus fruit, beet, whipped goat cheese, and pistachio vinaigrette was fresh and light. I would recommend adding bacon to the dressing in the future, as it lacked a small savory-salty component to round out the flavors. Others at the table ordered the kale salad and pimento cheese burger, both of which I was able to also try. The kale salad was tasty but had the crunch factor of a slaw and needed more dressing to give it some life. The burger was juicy and savory, great for a hearty meal.

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Beets Salad

 All in all, On Swann blew me away with the smooth and quick service on their first official night. The plates passing by all looked delicious and unique. The staff was friendly and took pride in every detail of the menu. The food and atmosphere were different and excellent, and I would definitely recommend this restaurant to a friend. The best part was that the menu offered reasonably affordable prices for the excellent food, making this the perfect date night or a break from cooking at home. Located in the Hyde Park district of South Tampa this restaurant makes the perfect end to an evening of walking around Hyde Park. I have no doubts that this will become one of the next go-to restaurants in the area, and may give others a run for their money.

 

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Seven Hours in Charleston, SC

Charleston, South Carolina may be best known for the palmetto tree, Rainbow Row, or the Battery. However, over the past decade the city has become famous among food lovers for its variety of unique eats. If you’re in town for a few days you may want to try out some of the reservation only restaurants that line the streets. But don’t fret, just one day in the city is just enough time to taste the modern southern fare the city has become famous for.

A few of my girls and I challenged ourselves to seven hours in this wonderful city. I personally have been to the city many times in the past, and have grown to love the hot cobble stone streets shaded by the palms. Both of my girlfriends had never been to the Charleston, but wanted to see and taste the best of it in our short time.

We began by parking at the College of Charleston which will cost you around ten dollars for an 7 hour stroll of the city. We hit the streets and started the day by walking around the campus, which sits within the city shops and office buildings. After forcing my guest to fast in preparation for our city sight seeing, I figured it would be best to start with a brunch on-the-go spot after our campus walk. This landed us at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit.

A small restaurant with enough room for a few bar stools and a line that often exceeds out the front door, the biscuit shop offers big flavors and hand held snacks to walk the city with. The menu consists of their usual biscuit flavors ranging from cheese chive to cinnamon, as well as compound butters and jam fillings to add on. They also have a daily sandwich creation that normally consists of an egg and cheese biscuit topped with local South Carolina bacon or ham. The biscuits are fairly small, usually providing about two to three bites. I chose the box of three biscuits (buttermilk, cheese chive, blackberry filled) and a side of savory thyme whipped butter. My gals both went with the daily item, that day it was a cheddar, egg, and ham on a buttermilk biscuit. Salty and crispy on the outside and warm and buttery on the inside, they were the best biscuits I’ve ever eaten. The thyme butter complimented the buttermilk nicely, and the local fresh blackberry filling made the sweet cinnamon biscuit a perfect bite.

We took our biscuits and began our walk down historic King Street. The beautiful day allowed us to stroll the streets checking out local shops. We made our way to the public market which is nicely air conditioned and houses several local artists and clothing stands, as well as refreshments. After picking up some items at the market we walked past the famous Rainbow Row and down to the Battery. The walk along the water in the Battery was

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Battery Park hosts long walk ways along the beautiful water.

the perfect way to see the city and water while making room for our final food destination. We took an alternate route back to our last stop in order to see more of the city and stop in some art galleries.
Our final stop, Persimmon Cafe, sat on the corner of Smith and Calhoun Street adjacent to the College of Charleston, and a favorite of the college crowd. The cafe offers more than just lunch and custard; it also holds a laundromat in the back of the store. The food ranges from fresh almond quinoa to lump crab sandwiches. Besides the fresh food amongst the washing machines, they are best known for their homemade custard. My choice was, of course, the Nutella custard (because you can never have too much Nutella). This isn’t your average Nutella swirled into custard. No. This is Nutella loaded custard with flaming marshmallows atop it. Now, I am not generally one to eat marshmallows, but I took a risk and hoped that 1) the combo would taste delicious and 2) the torch wouldn’t catch my cup of custard on fire. It was better than good, it was one of the best desserts I have ever had. For $4.75 the cup of Nutella custard comes out filled to the top and more than you could ever eat (but don’t worry you will manage to eat every bit of it) topped with marshmallows. But wait, there’s more. With custard in one hand and blow torch in the other, a cafe server brings the custard to you. Then, in front of your very own eyes the marshmallows are torched until on fire, leaving delicious campfire inspired Nutella custard for you to devour.

If you only have a few hours in Charleston, grab some bites to-go and walk the city. Small cafe finds will give you a perfect taste of the culinary treasures Charleston has to offer.