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Restaurant has Dominican flavor

The tropical pink building on Dale Mabry now houses Cesar's Palace, but it's more Caribbean than Vegas.

By MICHAEL CANNING and AMY SCHERZER
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 6, 2002


HAIL CESAR'S PALACE: It was too tempting for Cesar Herrera to name his new restaurant and bar, opening today, after the famous casino resort in Las Vegas. But he certainly doesn't propose to fool people.

For one thing, the "a" is missing from "Cesar's" (the Dominican native reminds us that his name is pronounced "say-sar"). For another, Herrera doesn't have the clout to book Celine Dion.

What he does promise is authentic Dominican cuisine and, eventually, DJs, live music, dancing and karaoke.

The building at 4015 S Dale Mabry Highway has undergone notable changes. Formerly Strohmeyer's German restaurant, its exterior old world half-gabled motif is gone, replaced with a tropical pink paint job. Inside, the old fireplace in the dining room remains, but sunny peach walls, faux marble veneers, and blacklight night sky ceiling murals reflect Herrera's peculiar tastes.

He's particularly proud of the imitation Spanish barrel roof tiles he used inside. They're actually PVC pipe cut in half and painted terra cotta.

He's also proud of his native culture and figures the area could use some Dominican flavor, and maybe a taste of Santo Domingo night life.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner menus are planned. Much of the food will be the familiar Caribbean/Latin staples (beans and rice, roast pork, mofongo, red snapper, plantains), but with unique Dominican flavorings.

Herrera expects the music to kick in a couple weeks, after he secures permission to sell beer and wine. Expect merengue, the music and national dance of Dominica, plus Salsa and American popular music.

As for Celine, she's booked for Vegas in March.

HAS HEAVENLY HAM GONE TO HEAVEN? No, it was simply bought out by the HoneyBaked Ham Co. Whether that's divine intervention, we'll leave to you ham connoisseurs.

A COMPUTER SHOP IN INTERBAY? Port Tampa isn't Silicon Valley. But we did notice the new Interbay Electronics at 6103 Interbay Blvd.

It was opened a few weeks ago by Brian David. (Full disclosure: He's also a carrier for the St. Petersburg Times.) He sells computers, laptops, Palm Pilots, Playstation games and Gameboy accessories.

He also does repairs.

The shop is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday.

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN' ON MANHATTAN: It's possible with a tri-tip sandwich on your plate. It'll be probable when the murals of the San Francisco Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge appear on the walls in a few weeks.

The California Grill opened two weeks ago at 4334 S Manhattan Ave., the former site of Shari Cat's Cafe. Owners Richard Myers and Michael Morris arrived from the Golden State merely three weeks ago.

Why did they end up in the neighborhood of Fair Oaks/Manhattan Manor? "The people in California are just rude," said Myers. "They're stuck on themselves."

So the catering business veterans hope to tap into South Tampa friendliness with their 40-seater. They feel their tri-tip sandwich will help.

Don't know what a tri-tip is, do you? It's a California thing, nothing more than a hot beef rump sandwich, big on the west coast and joined by a slew of other hot and cold sandwiches on the California Grill's menu. Plus turkey, roast beef, meat loaf, pastas and breakfasts. The pending addition of a grill in the kitchen will mean a selection of steaks.

Myers also intends to have renderings of those famous bridges on opposing walls.

-- Do you know something that should be everybody's business? Call 226-3382, or e-mail citytimes@sptimes.com.

THE FIND

Minaret ornamentMinaret ornament

Hang a bit of Tampa's skyline on your Christmas tree. The H.B. Plant Museum gift shop offers this 5-inch, hand-blown, hand-painted glass minaret to recall Tampa's architectural landmark, the former Tampa Bay Hotel, now the University of Tampa. The limited edition ornament sells for $50. Call 254-1891, ext. 5, for store hours.

-- AMY SCHERZER

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