Quick Bites: A ‘Tropical’ Treat

Some restaurant openings excite me more than others, and I’ m thrilled about one I recently discovered that I would call a sleeper. When Tropical Smoothie Café first opened on SR 200, the only words that jumped out at me were “tropical” and “smoothie,” even though the word “café” is bigger. I thought it was just a beverage place. Then friends started asking me if I had tasted their delicious and healthy food options. Food? No, I hadn’t, and so I did.

I was amazed by the size of the menu. After tasting a few sandwiches, I decided this is one restaurant where I’m going to sample almost everything instead of sticking to a favorite. As of this writing, I already have a few favorites—and the list is growing.

The franchise, operated by family, has been open for about six months. It’s somewhat hidden and limited on parking and entry, but well worth each visit.

Accompanied by some of the Ocala Style crew, I enjoyed samples of the Jamaican Jerk, Chicken Philly Grill, Thai Chicken, Ultimate Club, Turkey Guacamole, and Cranberry Walnut Chicken sandwiches, which are just a few of the varieties this little café has to offer. What about those rumors that smoothies are loaded with calories? Their 24-ounce Splendid Smoothies, made with Splenda, are less than 200 calories without skimping on taste. They also offer Low-Fat, Power, Super Charged, and Dessert Smoothies.

One of the many reasons Americans don’t eat healthy is because they’re under the impression that healthy food doesn’t taste good. Tropical Smoothie Café debunks that myth in one bite, especially of the Jamaican Jerk or Cranberry Walnut Chicken.

Enjoy combo promotions every day that include your choice of soup, gourmet salad, or sandwich with a smoothie and your choice of chips, a cookie, or fruit for $9.99 or less and smaller portions for $6.99. On Mondays, from 5-7pm, if you buy one smoothie, you’ll get a second one for free. Children eat free on Sundays. Ask for details.

Visit tropicalsmoothie.com to download their menu and join their club for specials and promotions. Located in the Papa John’s Pizza plaza and near Amrit Palace, Tropical Smoothie Café also serves breakfast. For more information or catering, call (352) 237-2548.

Jade Dragon China Grill, (352) 351-2711, recently opened in the building on 27th Avenue by the movie theater. After heeding the recommendations of Marion County diners, the owners, including Managing Partner Raul Miranda, decided to offer Asian dining without a buffet or take-out. Instead, Jade Dragon is à la carte at take-out prices.

The interior is uncluttered, simple, and bright. The menu looks similar to what you’d find in a take-out Chinese restaurant, only on more expensive paper and with flair. The dinner entrées start at $5.95 for small and go up to $12.95 for large. All lunch specials are only $5.95.

Visit Jade Dragon China Grill for an inexpensive work lunch or a night out with the ladies or your significant other without breaking your wallet.

Two areas are available for private parties—one enclosed, one not. Jason Ruby, the bartender manager, offers specials including Happy Hour every day of the week. Satisfied customers Becky, Charlotte, Ronnie, and Ann were tickled to receive a birthday dessert.

“The food is awesome and the service has just been great,” they agreed. “We’ll be back.”

Three words that every restaurateur wants to hear.

Nibbles: In the next issue, I’ll report on the newest restaurant in the old Roadhouse Grill, Los Pinos Restaurant, as well as 110th Street Grille, a pleasant surprise in Belleview, and the results of Hooters’ fundraiser for breast cancer.

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