Olde Heights Bistro
The dark-tinted storefront glass gives no evidence of life. Is the place closed or open? The map on my smartphone shows the location on 4703 Nebraska Avenue as open. My friend, who decided to go on this adventure with me, is having second thoughts, but I assure it is only 3 pm on a Tuesday (secretly concerned that we have to look for another place to grab lunch). As we open the door, we are pleasantly surprised to a chic interior, a gallery of paintings on the wall, and a warm welcome. The tinted glass, although mysterious on the outside, makes the interior extremely cozy. My friend is still a little skeptical and wondering how in the world I found this place.
On our first visit, we each ordered a small Buffalo Chicken Hoagie, and each of us tried the soups available, Miso and Gumbo. It was all SO good, and we were not prepared for the size of the sandwiches - making mental notes for next time. My skeptical friend was sold on our new lunch spot. We commented to our waiter how happy we were to have found this place and asked about the paintings. It turns out he is the resident artist, Robert Wegmann. His artwork of famous actors surrounded us during lunch: Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, and the most famous of all, R2D2.
The location of Olde Heights Bistro was previously occupied by Reservations Gourmet-To-Go, a Seminole Heights favorite for sandwiches and heat-at-home gourmet meals. Chicago native, Phil Hutchenson, former owner of D’s Sandwich Shop in Temple Terrace, purchased the restaurant from the Catania’s and opened doors with his business partner and master sushi chef Hisashi “Shima” Shimazaki, on December 3, 2014. Each chef has decades of experience in either European or Japanese cuisine. They have worked in large, upscale restaurants, like the Viceroy Miami (now W Miami), but decided to switch to a smaller scale, community-oriented dining. Knowing the Catania’s faithful following, Hutchenson kept most of their sandwich creations on the menu, and added new ones along with a great sushi selection - and that’s only lunch. When you feel like sushi, but your skeptical friend is not into raw fish, Olde Heights Bistro is the place to go. Dinner offers several fresh kinds of seafood, chicken, and meat dishes (try the Shrimp Scampi, Scallops, or The Burger). Dessert includes a delicious Chocolate Almond Whiskey Torte and an award-winning 3-layer Carrot Cake (Best of the Bay 2012).
I highly recommend the Shima Bowl with the best spicy tuna I have tasted in Seminole Heights so far. Shima started his culinary career in Japan and continued in New York and other places before coming to the Tampa Bay area. He made some changes to the traditional Japanese and sushi cuisine to appeal to Tampa Bay residents, while Phil brings his training with Italian chefs to bring a true European bistro feel. The ingredients are fresh, either grown or purchased daily, to provide “healthy food with integrity.”
Needless to say, we have returned several times with friends, and every time we go, we feel very welcome. Olde Heights Bistro is the perfect solution for lunch, dinner, and soon to be BRUNCH!!! Once it is available, the restaurant manager, Natalia Mendez, is trying to convince Phil to add a little Southwest flair to the brunch menu once it is up and running (Don’t tell Phil but we’re cheering her on). But of course, there are only so many hours in the day and helping with charitable events, like WMNF’s fund drives, keeps them busy as well. In the future, they also plan to offer cooking classes and wine tastings. And you never know what new painting will pop-up on the wall.
Olde Heights Bistro is open Tuesday thru Saturday. Tuesday thru Thursday from 11 am to 8 pm. Friday from 11 am to 3 pm for lunch, 6 pm to 10 pm for dinner. Saturday is dinner only from 6 pm to 10 pm.
Happy Hour is 3 pm to 6 pm, Tuesday through Thursday. Keep up with special events through their Instagram and Facebook pages.