Every year around this time, for about the last 10 years, my wife and I have gone down to the Tampa Bay area of Florida for a week. Her family has a condo down there that we typically stay in, but this year was a little different. Instead of going with my wife’s family, this year we went with my family to celebrate my mom’s 60th birthday and her retirement.
When my dad turned 60 a few years back, my mom paid for me, my two brothers, and our dad to go out to Denver for a long weekend to hang out, eat, drink, go ATVing, and catch a Cubs game against the Rockies, so it was only fitting that for her 60th birthday we all got together and did something as well.
And that ended up being a trip to Siesta Key, Florida.
All 10 of us were able to make the trip (13 if you account for the babies that are due at the end of this year), which made the trip a lot of fun. We rented a house on the canals, which included a pool, rented a boat, and spent the week exploring the area. And rather than making one extremely long post about all the different places we ate that week, I’m going to break it up into a couple posts to keep things manageable.
The night we arrived it was already pretty late, so we just kind of snacked on stuff that my parents had picked up at the grocery store before we got there. My parents spent a few days driving from Chicago to Florida while my wife, kids and I flew with my brother and his wife from Chicago, and my other brother and his wife flew in from Austin, TX. And unfortunately American Airlines decided to change our flight time a few weeks before the trip, so instead of arriving at like 4PM, we neded up getting in at 7PM, and then having to make the hour drive to Siesta Key.
So while most of us just snacked on stuff, a few people ordered Thai food at about 10PM, but I did not join them and I have no clue what the place was called, but they seemed to like what they got.
Gilligan’s Island Bar & Grill
The next day, after everyone got settled, we spent most of the day by the pool. There was an attempt to go to the beach, but it started raining about 45 minutes after we got there, so we decided just to head back to the house.
Of course, in typical Florida fashion, the rain stopped once we got home and the sun came out… so we just sat in the back, had a few drinks, and swam in the pool until dinner.
For dinner, we decided to wander into Siesta Key Village, which is the main strip of restaurants and shops, and see what we could find that could accommodate all 10 of us without a reservation.
We ended up at Gilligan’s Island Bar and Grill, which was able to seat us on their back patio right away.
The menu is pretty typical American food… burgers, sandwiches, tacos, chicken, fish, etc., so it was a pretty safe bet for everyone.
Appetizers – Unstoppable Nachos & Dill Pickle Chips
To start us off we ordered a plate of the Unstoppable Nachos and an order of the Dill Pickle Chips.
The Unstoppable nachos are a huge plate of nachos topped with seasoned ground beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, jalapeno, sour cream and their homemade white queso. At first I was a little hesitant to give them a try only because I know I don’t like sour cream and I can’t eat onions and tomatoes, but I did try to scoop out some chips that didn’t have any of those ingredients on them. It was also a little hard to tell after a while what was sour cream and what was the white queso, but I will say that what I was able to try was actually really good… I was pretty impressed.
I thought the ground beef was seasoned perfectly, not too spicy, not too bland. The queso was awesome and the chips were super light and flaky, just the way I like them.
We polished off nearly the entire plate of nachos… although there were 10 of us (well, 9, since my daughter was fast asleep in her brother’s stroller), but I didn’t think the plate of food was so big that a group of 4-5 couldn’t finish the whole thing.
As for the Dill Pickle Chips, I did not try them, but they were lightly dusted and fried, served with a side of ranch. I only saw a couple people eating them at the table, and there were some left over on the plate when the server took them away, so I’m guessing they weren’t quite as good as the nachos.
Burgers, Fish, & Grilled Cheese
Just in case you weren’t sure, this place is definitely kid friendly, as are most of the places in Siesta Key Village. It’s a very touristy area so they have to be sure to cater to families with children, but I can’t say for sure that every restaurant in the area serves their kids foods on a frisbee!
Of course there is wax paper between the food and the frisbee, but the kids loved the fact that they got the take home something to play in the pool with after dinner.
And as for the kids food… my son had the grilled cheese, which he seemed fine with (but what kid isn’t), and even though my daughter slept through dinner we ordered her chicken fingers to go, which she ate later that night and really enjoyed.
As for me, I ordered the Big Kahuna Burger, which is basically just a double cheeseburger… there’s not really anything special about it. No special sauce, no special toppings, just a normal cheeseburger that has two 1/4lb homemade black angus patties.
That being said though, it was actually pretty damn good. Again, I was very impressed.
Normally with these types of beachy, touristy looking places, I kind of figure I’m going to get mediocre food, most of which is frozen, that does the job, but doesn’t necessarily taste the greatest. I have to say though, I was definitely impressed with Gilligan’s Island Bar.
I love me some smashed griddle burgers so this was definitely what I was looking for, and I actually ate the entire thing, which I normally end up taking 1/2 home with me to eat later. So if you’re super boring and always order the same thing when you go out, the burger at Gilligan’s is definitely a step above what I was expecting.
As for everyone else at the table… there were a couple more burgers between my dad and brothers (see where I get it?), I believe my mom got either fish or shrimp tacos, and I believe she got them blackened, which was a little too spicy for her liking. And my wife got one of the fish specials, which I believe was grouper.
Overall the service was great, the food was good, and we enjoyed our meal at Gilligan’s.
And, to top it all off, they even offered us water in plastic cups to go, since I guess there’s not many places to grab water while walking up and down the strip. And it was damn hot outside… so that was a nice little added touch at the end of our meal.
So while it does look touristy, which it is… because it’s Siesta Key, the food, atmosphere, and service were all great.
Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream
Instead of grabbing dessert at the restaurant, we decided to make our way back near the cars and check out Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream, which was apparently featured on Shark Tank (which I don’t watch).
Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream is your basic ice cream shop, but with a twist. After you pick what toppings you want on your ice cream, and what flavor, they pour a liquid mixture into a stainless steel bowl, which they then blast with liquid nitrogen in order to flash freeze it and turn it into ice cream right in front of your eyes!
Unfortunately I was too busy taking a video of the process for the end of the year video I edit together, so I didn’t get any actual pictures of the process. But basically it’s just a puff of smoke and then you have ice cream.
Is the ice cream that much better than other places? Probably not. It was definitely good ice cream and everyone seemed to enjoy theirs, but the concept itself seems like more of a gimmick than anything else… but, that does set it apart from other ice cream places, and we did hear a bunch of people talking about it when we were in line for another ice cream place the next night (which I’ll write about in my next post).
So if you’re looking for something a little different when it comes to ice cream, then I would say go ahead and check out Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream. If you’re looking to be blown away by the flavors or variety of ice creams, it’s good, but don’t expect it to be the best you’ve ever had.
And that was that… night 2 was in the books. After ice cream, we went back to the house, had a few more drinks while sitting out on the patio in the back and then I think everyone was in bed by 9PM, ha!