McAlister's Deli, Tampa

A few months back, my friend James, who has pretty much spent the past 7 years living on or near the USF campus, asked me to meet him for dinner. He chose McAlister's, a place I was unfamiliar with.

That first trip, I had a soup and sandwich combo and was pleased with the service, the food, and the price. Their menu is along the lines of what you'd find at Panera and Crispers, with many more options, including baked potatoes, but less soups. What I didn't know is that it is a chain that can be found throughout the US.

Today, I ventured over there because I wanted a salad and maybe a sandwich. Unfortunately, the Panera near campus has the worst parking lot I have ever encountered, so I avoid them for lunch. I've been disappointed that we don't have Crisper's over here, but remembered McAlister's today.

I opted for the pick two for 7.49, getting a half angus beef spud and the Savannah chopped salad (removing the gorgonzola). Behold what you get for that bargain price:

The spud had roast beef, cheddar jack cheese, caramelized onions (though they were barely there), and au jus. I was asked if I wanted butter and sour cream. While it was supposed to be half, I got a full size potato. Considering the price of a full, I wonder if they use gargantuan potatoes for those. I enjoyed the blend of flavors and ended up eating half.

The salad was a winner. Candied almonds, warm grilled chicken, cranberries and mixed greens with a nice balsamic vinaigrette. As with the potato, I ate half, but I wanted to eat the whole thing. The knowledge that it would be too much won out and I now have a good lunch waiting for me in the fridge at work.

Service is top notch, with a staffer bringing out my food and another topping off my peach tea. They were happy to provide a to go box, too. Both times, everyone was really friendly. The thing that gets me is that the place is nearly empty compared to Panera up the block, but they've got a much larger parking lot! I think I'll be heading over here when the urge for a salad hits.

If you're at USF and want something different, or you're leaving Busch Gardens and don't want fast food, try this quick serve place-it's less than a mile away on 30th street. Even better, there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options hat either are already on the menu or one of the existing things can be modified easily. I won't be waiting so long to come back.

McAlister's Deli on Urbanspoon


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