"How you doing?" the gruff-voiced bartender at Dale 1891 asked on a dreary Thursday afternoon, "They call me Boston."
Rick "Boston" Burke mans the old-school wooden bar at 1891 with the warm camaraderie of an old Cheers episode. His warmth and raucous humor extends throughout most of my meal as we casually chat, not as customer and salesman, but two friends passing the time, enjoying the company. As a critic, I'm almost suspect that this camraderie is covering up for something lacking at Dale 1891, but I assure you, it's not. This is simply how people are treated here; real, welcomed, supported.
This homey gastropub opened in a tiny spot off Dale Mabry in North Tampa earlier this year with all the trappings of an affordably original bar and restaurant; comforting foods, many fried, and subsequently delicious, a full bar, and more.
Meal starters like stuffed potato skins packed to the brim with bbq pulled pork, cheddar, and scallions are executed with a delicious precision that could only come from someone who seriously loves the food they put out. The pulled pork is soft, succulent, dare I say even better than the pork some strictly bbq restaurants around the area produce.
Wings also follow suit. These deep-fried delicacies are hardly an artform and Dale 1891 does them well with a signature Thai sauce that balances nicely between cloyingly sweet and tongue-searing hot.
When it comes to the main course, Dale 1981 specializes in an assortment of sandwiches, burgers, and contemporary, comforting entrees. Their take on the traditional Philly cheese steak comes between an odd, but workable hamburger bun that enhances the sandwich as opposed to working as bland filler. Their buns come from the renowned La Segunda Bakery in Tampa, and the extra effort shows with this pillowy-soft, mildly-sweet bun that provides a nice contrast between soft chunks of ribeye, sauteed shitake mushrooms, onions, and gobs of gooey, melted Yuengling beer cheese.
Speaking of that beer cheese, Dale utilizes it in a frighteningly good side of macaroni and cheese with the sandwich. The beer taste is there, but it's just a savory hint made all the more succulent by the addition of hearty ham and bacon slices throughout.
By all accounts, Dale 1891 has all the trappings of a longstanding neighborhood pub. Quality is a priority with everything from comfortable customer interactions to their savory cuisine, and something like that is worth more than any review or marketing dollars can provide.
If you've been, or are planning to visit Dale 1981, be sure to give them your own rating and review on the Dale 1891 business listing on 813area.com.