Being so active in the food world can be tough at times. You hear about all these awesome new places all the time and want to check them all out. However, reality tends to get in the way of whether you can actually visit a place or not – work, school, bills, and other commitments. The one day I tried to visit Oxford Exchange it was actually on a Sunday and they were closed, luckily they will be open on Sundays starting on the 17th.
“At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet.” -Plato
I finally made it to the Oxford Exchange yesterday for Valentine’s Day lunch with some friends. The facility was as breathtaking as people say. It is like nothing else in Tampa Bay – the architecture and decor immediately brings London to mind, at least what I imagine London would look like. The coffee shop is quaint, the customers range from young girls to business professionals. The bookstore and gift shop were both very impressive. This Amazon dot com age has killed off one of my favorite past-times, visiting bookstores, and I am happy that Oxford Exchange keeps that alive.
I completely agree that “freedom is blogging in your underwear” haha.
The gift shop had something for everyone.
After some wandering we found the restaurant (we entered through the back of the Oxford Exchange) and the place was slammed with a 45 minute wait, which was to be expected a place with this much local buzz. Not a problem, more exploring time for us. The woman running a Valentine’s Day booth was nice enough to let us kill some of the time in a photo session which was a ton of fun. They had several props including fresh roses.
Quite a fun photobooth :]
I absolutely love things associated with traveling, like globes or maps (my entire bathroom is even travel themed) and Oxford Exchange had plenty of that which was awesome! I was looking for Valentine’s Day gifts as well and they had a good assortment of things for the occasion. I’ve heard things at the gift shop are pretty expensive and while I admit it is more expensive than what may be the average in Tampa, I didn’t feel like the prices were ridiculously crazy.
Before we knew it the 45 minutes were up and it was time for lunch. I came with a recommendation from Yelp Tampa Bay Community Manager, the Steak Sandwich ($12.50) was a must-try. My friends browsed the menu and went with the steak and club sandwich. We decided we would also split the Smoked Salmon Bruschetta ($9).
The smoked salmon was pretty standard – the chive creme, pickled onion, and fennel salad gave the appetizer a nice finish.
Now let’s discuss the service during my visit to Oxford Exchange:
It was after our smoked salmon was finished that we experienced a service hiccup at The Oxford Exchange. Two steaks were brought out from the kitchen with sides. When we told the employees we ordered a steak sandwich things took an odd twist. The waitress, Alisha, told us she was sure we ordered steaks and attempted to guilt-trip us into acting like this was all our fault. My two guests actually felt guilty as the waitress requested that we tell the service manager that we had actually ordered the steaks, but meant to order a steak sandwich.
The waitress was unapologetic and I was completely positive we ordered the steak sandwich. Besides hearing my friend and myself say we wanted the steak sandwich, I also pointed on the menu to the steak sandwich when the waitress was taking my order and asked her if the french fries would be $1 extra with the sandwich, when you order a la carte fries with a steak the fries cost $4 extra. I wouldn’t need to ask that question if I was ordering the steak.
The service manager never stopped by our table either way. The orders were quickly corrected and soon enough we had our steaks sandwiches and fries. This wasn’t the end of the service hiccup. After our steak sandwiches came out our waitress quickly closed our checks without asking us if we wanted anything else.
I have a serious issue with service personnel closing your check before you are ready. It’s like telling the customer that you are done serving them. There is situations where this could be a valid, for example a server bringing your check if you are alone and pretty much picking at your food. This is only if the server is still checking on you and letting you know there is no pressure on you to finish up. However, when your check is quickly closed without being asked, it is like you are being shown the door by the restaurant and it made our already tense visit even more awkward. We were actually planning to try the dessert on the menu, but ended up not ordering because our check was already closed.
Even worse, the server actually charged us for 2 steaks instead of 2 steak sandwiches with no explanation, which was the most blatant and unapologetic service I have seen. The balance was almost the same as our three sandwiches and appetizer because steaks are more expensive and by now I was pretty much ready to leave this restaurant as my patience was running thin so we quickly closed our check and left after.
It is really a shame that service was like this too because our food was absolutely incredible. I loved my steak sandwich, thank you Brett N. from Yelp Tampa Bay for your recommendation. The steak sandwich was spot on and very enjoyable. The french fries are similar to McDonald’s in texture and appearance with less salt, in my opinion, which is not a problem for me because I actually like McDonald’s fries (yeah I said it and what?).
Remind you of McDonald’s french fries at least a bit?
Mega-yummo looking sweet potato chips my friend enjoyed.
Despite the service hiccup, I would return to The Oxford Exchange and still recommend visiting. There is just nothing like it in Tampa Bay and with the exception of the service during this visit we had a great time. Hopefully that server is an isolated scenario in the restaurant. The food is also great and there were many other things on the menu that caught my eye, especially the Tuna Tar Tar. The place is an example of how Tampa can really be a cultural haven and that there is a market for something you would only expect to see in much bigger cities like San Francisco or New York City.
One cool thing I liked is the check at the Oxford Exchange is put inside a page inside a book – it a simple but effective touch to try and make your experience more interesting.
The Oxford Exchange should be on your checklist if you’re visiting Tampa or a local looking for something new.
Restaurant Name: The Oxford Exchange
Cuisine: American, Breakfast, Tea
Neighborhood: Hyde Park
Address: 420 W Kennedy Blvd. Tampa, FL 33602
Phone Number: (813) 253-0222