Thursday, October 17, 2013

Datz Delicatessen

While Mrs. Hackknife and I were attending our first local Dishcrawl (which seems to have gone on hiatus for now) event back in May, I noted that a number of the attendees (many of whom worked in the Tampa restaurant industry) made reference to a particular dining venue in town that was specifically geared for foodies called Datz Delicatessen. Upon further investigation, I discovered that, although the Datz folks bill themselves as a deli, the actual operation (whose complex is located at 2616 S. MacDill in South Tampa) entails quite a bit more than that. When the owners Roger and Suzanne Perry first conceived the place in 2009, they were using the famed Zingerman's Deli counter in Ann Arbor, MI as their inspiration, wanting to provide gourmet sandwiches to the populace along with other high-quality, artisanal products in a market-like setting. What soon evolved from that first attempt was more of a gastropub offering inventive versions of comfort dishes paired with craft beer/fine wines, plus a bakery, gelato emporium, food shop, catering operation, and endless font of musings about the virtues of bacon (at least that's how it seems if you read their Twitter feed). Seemingly right up our alley yet still somehow a bit under the local culinary radar, I made us a dinner reservation one recent night to get a better read on this epicurean enigma.

Upon arrival, I found the small building that houses Datz's main enterprise to pack quite a punch, probably square foot-for-square foot the most productive food-related endeavor you'll ever see. The first floor contains a modest market, bakery case, coffee counter, beer bar, and restaurant seating, with another bar and larger dining room upstairs. There are also outdoor tables on the veranda, plus a second building next door that houses the main bakery operation and gelateria.

We knew what we wanted for our appetizer before even opening the menu, opting for the so-called bacon flight "When Pigs Fly", a collection of five bacon varieties (Benton's hickory smoked, jowl, back, peppered, and Nueske's applewood smoked) paired with four dipping sauces (maple syrup, balsamic glaze, red pepper jelly, and, our friends from Chicago, melted Vosges chocolate), all in a neat serving tray presumably custom designed for the purpose (see photo above). And, yes, it was as delicious as you imagine.

For my entree, after much deliberation, I decided to go with one of the house originals, the Waffles n' Tweet, consisting of boneless fried chicken tenders, cheddar Belgian waffles, sauteed garlic spinach (for health reasons, you know), and jalapeno-maple syrup. While not my absolute favorite version of chicken and waffles (Roscoe's in LA is still the champ), this one was still a solid contender, with both the chicken and the waffles spiked with jalapeno spice for some added kick. Mrs. Hackknife ordered the seasonal special harvest ravioli (squash ravioli in a sage-brown butter sauce with shaved parmesan), which she was kind enough to share with me (it was fantastic). Of course, a standout menu must also have a standout beer list to match, and I happily enjoyed a hard-to-find pint of Cigar City's Tropical Tripel (on tap, no less) with my meal.

Since this trip to South Tampa would not be complete without dessert, we wandered next door to the bakery (which is called "Dough") to get some sweets for the family before heading home. With walls like a little girl's candy-colored fantasy of a ice cream parlor (think lots of pinks and purples), the display cases were chock full of gourmet chocolates, macarons, cakes, pastries, and interesting gelato flavors, like the banana chocolate chip I was persuaded to get, everything housemade and everything sinful. I don't know what the Datz people will next add to their repertoire, but I pledge to be near the front of the line to try it...

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