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Downtown Tampa to get a lot sweeter with Dough Nation

Dough-Nation-TampaDough Nation. It’s a perfect play on words and it’s about to make downtown Tampa a whole lot sweeter.

Combine edible cookie dough with a non-profit working to change the lives of people in our community and you’ve got the area’s newest restaurant concept that’s bringing the latest dessert food trend to your plate all for a good cause. Consider your purchase at Dough Nation as a donation to your neighbors in need.

The edible cookie dough concept, Dough Nation, will open mid-September in the same location where Metropolitan Ministries’ Inside the Box Cafe was once located at 505 N. Tampa Street. Just like Inside the Box Cafe and Catering, which is moving to the new Armature Works in Tampa, Dough Nation will provide training to the culinary students in the Metropolitan Ministries culinary program who are transitioning out of homelessness. The program has graduated more than 150 students in the last 4 years; many of who now work at some of the area’s best restaurants.

“It’s creating jobs, it’s training students and it’s producing income to go back to our programs,” explained Cliff Barsi, one of the people behind Dough Nation who serves as the senior director of food service and social enterprise at Metropolitan Ministries. All of the proceeds from Inside the Box, and soon Dough Nation, go back into the non-profit’s programs. It doesn’t get any sweeter than that!


We discovered the cookie dough concept at Gasparilla Music Festival when Inside the Box first tested the product that was making waves in New York City. It was a huge success and that weekend, the team at Inside the Box Cafe knew they were on to something.

Barsi has spent the last several months working to perfect the edible cookie dough recipe.

“You have to handle the product properly. You need the right ingredients, which we found wasn’t the easiest thing to get,” he said.

A local food company donated the special heat-treated flour and Barsi finally perfected an edible dough recipe that we can tell you is AHHH-mazing!  In fact, he’s developed several flavors you’ll be able to enjoy like dark chocolate, s’mores, chocolate chip and more.

What’s even more unique about the Dough Nation recipe is that you’ll actually be able to bake the edible dough if you choose to do so!

“You can buy a container, you can eat half of it, take the rest home. It’ll last for a week in the fridge and 3 months in the freezer. Or, you can just scoop it out, bake it up,” he told us.

We asked about the design of the new concept and he assured us it will be one that will impress even the most discerning eyes featuring colors of white, pink and gold and plenty of beautiful photography of the product hanging up in the store.

“We definitely want it to look like a franchise instead of a mom and pop. We like to look very professional. We have an incredible marketing team here,” he said.

Dough Nation will also serve ice-cream, milkshakes and baked cookies with even more surprises in store down the road.

As Dough Nation readies for its grand opening, Inside the Box Cafe is also growing. It now has a grab and go location at Tampa Interational Airport and soon the Times building and some schools are even bringing Inside the Box grab and go on board.

Barsi estimates they’ll triple their business next year, which is a win-win for the community.

“It all gets driven back to Metropolitan Ministries. We get a lot of credit for our food being good and all that, but I tell people our programs at Metro are ten times better than our food,” he smiled. “They are really changing people’s lives and helping drive them toward self-sufficiency.”

We’ll have more in our September 2017 issue, so stay tuned!



Laura Byrne
Laura Byrne is an award-winning former television news journalist who spent 15+ years in newsrooms across the state of Florida including Sarasota, Tallahassee, Fort Myers and right here in Tampa Bay where she still freelances on occasion. She covered the political beat, crime beat and every day breaking news during her time in Florida newsrooms, but is now focused on sharing positive news stories and events with families in Tampa Bay. She is a proud mommy of two little boys who keep her on her toes and laughing every day. Her goal is to inspire families just like yours to get out and play and experience all that Tampa Bay and our great state of Florida have to offer! She encourages you to share your stories and upcoming events so we can spread the good news.

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