Have you ever wanted to leave place so bad that you would abandon your car and walk if you had to?
I spent a week in Tampa visiting family and stuffing my face. While I was there, I swore to not eat at a restaurant that scored below an 80% on Urban Spoon. With a score of 82%, Skipper’s just barely made the cut, but, even if it had gotten a 3%, I knew that I was destined to check this place out because of its Man Vs Food reputation.
I was hopeful walking in. The theme for 2012 and I guess 2013 is the Aztecs and the end of the world, so the place is decorated to look like a cave in certain areas complete with caveman=esque drawings. I hear the theme before this was 2001: A Space Odyssey (I would have loved to have seen that). I’m really optimistic exploring this place, which has three separate areas (dining hall, oyster bar, and concert bars) and all three were PACKED. There was a sold out concert that evening and the place knew how to handle crowds, but had nowhere to put them. There was a line to walk around the place, but it looks like a fun place to hangout with your buddies, smash a few beers, and listen to a rising band. That night, I was not there for the atmosphere or the two dollar drinks. I wanted some FOOD!
Skipper’s advertises its grouper reuben as Adam Rickman’s favorite sandwich in America or some crap like that. Ordering this item at the bar, I was hungry with anticipation. When the paper plate arrived, I was devastated. The Man vs Food ads are just an excuse to put a $12 price tag on a dollar menu item and I wasn’t the only person to fall for it; a lot of tables around me were staring at the same dismal plate in disbelief and not pleased about the chore that eating it would be.
I took one bite out of this thing and I honestly wanted to spit it out. The filling for the sandwich (fish, cheese, sourkraut and sauce) was about as thick as one of the burnt, dry, brick and mortar slabs of rye that it dies between. I couldn’t find the fish, not just fish but GROUPER, with a Hubble telescope. I spent less money on a grouper burger the previous day and had a piece of fish so large it could knock a semi-truck off the highway if thrown. This pitiful reuben sandwich was the only time in my life that I felt the paper plate it was served on deserved better than this. And TWELVE BUCKS, nearly two hours of minimum wage work for a schoolbag sandwich that doesn’t come with slaw, fries, or anything like that? It’s fighting time.
I was being hosted by some regulars at the bar. One of whom is the self promoted “mayor” of the place. He was so tall and his hands were so large that I wasn’t going to argue with a man who had been drinking two dollar tall boys probably since noon the day before. When he asked me what I thought of the sandwich and I told him that it really sucked, I knew I had crossed the line and I was preparing to face the mob that would run me out of town and I would burn at the steak if necessary as long as I died convincing one person that this sandwich SUCKS. Put it on my tombstone.
The mayor and his girlfriend were looking at me with daggers in their eyes. He convinced me that the remedy would be for me to try their wings; so we ordered a basket of 30.
The chicken was high middle class. Very crisp and not much grease. And this place does it right, a big bowl for the wings and a small bowl for the bones, no wet naps, no roll of paper towels on the table and they will mail your blue cheese and celery to your mamma’s house. Since the sauce is served on the side, I can tell you that the chicken is great on its own, good flavor, good cooking, but their hot sauce is about as lazy as a chef can get. If the recipe is anything more than Texas Pete with a little butter, I would be stunned and embarrassed for the thriving hot sauce community, because this place is setting you back about 12 years.
This time, I said the food was good. Satisfied, the mayor took another guest under his wing. While he was working on a possible convert, I threw down some money, way more than the meal was worth, and booked it for the exit. Because of some concert traffic, I knew that driving anywhere was out of the question, at least for a little while, so I walked down the street, heading towards some glowing, gold arches down the road, still searching for a place to get some food.