With the holidays behind us and a bit of 2016 under our belts, we got ourselves for a much deserved night out with friends.
I booked the reservations for a spot I’ve been lusting after for months.
Seemingly everyone who “restaurants” regularly gushed about it. Reviewers had raved. It was time.
When our friends confessed they too had been longing to go South Tampa’s new hot spot, Haven, I hopped online and signed us up.
Haven is located where its former iteration, Side-Berns (also owned by legendary Berns Steakhouse) resided, on the corner of South Howard and W. Morrison Ave.
Gone is the wine store front, but the inside of Haven still reminds one of Side-Berns atmosphere. The lighting is dim, setting an always-evening mood, and allowing tables to lurk in darkened corners.
The centerpiece of the room, visible from every corner is a large bar where bartenders shake and shimmy your drinks up and a line of casually leaning folks enjoy the company and bartender entertainment.
We met our friends on a Saturday night and were shown to a deep booth, big enough for twice our number.
With the sound of rumbling conversations from across the dining room set the background, we carefully perused the menu.
Whose cover was just a list of 60+ cheeses!
Though I had heard cheese a must order item, I had no idea as to their range! Divided up by intensity, all the staples were on hand, with even a selection of Chef selections that they swap in and out regularly.
Once I had visually digested the cheeses, I finally made it to the inside menu pages, which included all the trendy ingredients one might expect to find on menus these days – bone marrow, oysters, dumplings, sashimi, foie gras and tacos, among many others.
It’s hard not to find something you’ll want to try, which is a good thing, because most of the plates are smaller and your server will likely encourage you to try a few things and enjoy them family style.
Seeing as we were all food lovers, we all picked a couple plates, a selection of cheese and charcuterie and settled back with some truly delicious cocktails.
Dishes arrived as they were ready, in waves, so that before I knew it, the table was covered and everyone was digging in.
Among the ordered plates was, Goat’s Milk Pimento Cheese, a Beet Salad, Chanterelle Mushroom Gratin, King Crab Dumplings (my fave!) and Conchinita Pibil Tacos.
Personally, I love the family style free-for-all dining. Picking and tasting your way around many different dishes almost always leaves me more satisfied, and I somehow always eat less when I’m just eating the things I really love. Knowing I’m sharing holds me back from overeating a whole plate on my own.
Though the ladies felt quite pleased after our initial order was delivered and devoured, the boys… well they just had to go for some slurpable Raw Oysters to round out their meal. With one each, they both dove on them as soon as the plate touched the table…
A modest dessert menu boasts some tasty options for those with a sweet tooth, and as I’m never a girl to pass up that final flourish, I opted for the Olive Oil Pound Cake.
Paired with a citrus marmalade and silky whipped ricotta, I had no dish envy.
Though I will say the Bananas Foster Pudding was thoroughly enjoyed by our friends.
And I found the Coffee and Macadamia Nut Ice Cream that N had ordered paired almost perfectly with my pound cake.
The service was smooth, our server helpful, but not intrusive, and the food was fresh and delicious. Truly a special night for us all.
And since we rarely got together for photos very often, we even snapped a photo to commemorate the night, laughs, full bellies and big smiles.
Book yourself in at Haven ahead of time, as they’re still quite popular. You can make a reservation on their website or OpenTable (easy peasy!).
Dare I say it would make for a spectacularly cheesy Valentines’s Day date!
Just be sure to try and save some room so you can spring for the dessert!