TAMPA, Fla. – If you haven’t heard of Datz, you’re one of a rare few in the Tampa Bay area. The award-winning gastropub’s mouthwatering creations have graced Good Morning America, the Travel Channel, Food Network and just about every Instagram feed in South Florida.
Excessive exaggeration? Probably. However, Datz lives up to the hype and is undeniably one of the best foodie destinations in Tampa.
Before this weekend I was one of the few that had never set foot in the restaurant. I tried once a few months back, but inevitably gave up after a 15 minute search for parking. Looking back, I should have doubled down and searched harder for parking, or just parked in the middle of the street. Coming so close to over-the-top, expertly crafted comfort food and giving up is almost criminal, so for that I’m sorry.
Saturday I went ahead and gave it a second try. From the front doors, which are almost always jammed with a crowd of hungry patrons, you’re immediately drawn in by the warm, open-style appearance of the restaurant. Chandeliers made from empty wine bottles hang from the rafters, accompanied by exposed industrial lighting and vents that waft an aroma of delicious bliss.
Walking through the restaurant is complete sensory overload for the uninitiated. Glass displays are filled with a gambit of colorful, gourmet baked goods from the next-door sister location, Dough. Shelves stocked with an eclectic variety of artisanal liquors, including a vast bourbon selection and even an impressive stock of Mezcal.
Already overwhelmed? Too bad. Datz’s menu is a sprawling testament to the magic of creatively concocted and borderline-excessive modern American dishes. The menu caters to nearly every palate, ranging from fresh vegan offerings to dishes loaded with enough bacon to make even Ron Swanson (Parks and Rec) giddy with excitement.
A complimentary basket of White Cheddar Sriracha Popcorn quickly landed on our table, followed closely by our first round of drink orders. I’m still wondering how many gins one has to drink before coming up with the name “Spaa Blahblah” or how anyone thought to combine the taste of s’mores with an Old Fashioned, but for the adventurous, it works and that’s all that matters.
Done with the formalities of studying the menu, and I mean that with no disrespect, I quickly got back to my mission – tackling The Cheesy Todd. Loathed by Bay area cardiologists, the lore of this towering burger is well-deserved. The Cheesy Todd is made up of 100 percent fresh ground chuck, American cheese, tomato, lettuce, red onion and pickle, wedged between two oozy bacon-jalapeño mac n’ cheese “buns,” and a side of house-made chips drizzled with blue cheese for good measure.
Just ordering the dish gives instant satisfaction. It feels slightly devilish, to blatantly laugh in the proverbial face of whatever diet routine you are currently suffering through, or recently gave up on.
After a few minutes the burger appears and quickly disappears, bite by delicious bite. It’s absolutely worthy of the national praise. The jalapeño adds just enough heat to balance the creaminess of the cheese, and the burger itself is damn good. The dish is no monstrosity exclusively built for insta-buzz, it’s a carefully put together masterpiece.
That may be the beauty of Datz. It’s a winning combination of jaw-dropping exorbitance and dedicated culinary flair. The restaurant takes what it does seriously, but not too seriously. It appeals to the kid in all of us, without sacrificing quality.
Don’t take my word for it though. Datz is worth a trip to South Tampa, or if you’re on the other side of the bridges and extremely patient checkout their new location opening in downtown St. Pete in Spring 2018.