The sound of the sizzling skillet is as regular as a rooster's crow each morning at Rodie’s Restaurant & Pancake House. Before long, the wait staff is delivering skillets, omelets and crepe creations to diners eagerly clutching their forks, knifes, and maple-tree taps. As the afternoon sun perches high in the sky, the lunch crowd lingers to enjoy greek salads and triple-decker sandwiches paired with a collection of homemade soups.
The chefs at Taverna Skara never stray far from garlic, tahini, olive oil, and other quintessential Greek seasonings. Chilled dips, such as hummus, and warm appetizers, such as grilled haloumi cheese, kick off meals before waiters bring out rich entrees, such as pastitsio, which layers thick pasta, ground beef, and béchamel sauce inside a traditional clay pot. As diners sip Greek and Napa wines, they settle into blue pillow-topped banquettes beneath a mural of Greek figures draped in togas sewn from some of Zeus’s old curtains.
Licensed aesthetician Raye Toscano and her husband, Dr. Francis Toscano, operate Red Bamboo Medi Spa, a facility that marries aesthetic treatments with nonsurgical, medical-grade therapies. Their services, which recently garnered the spa a Best Aesthetics Practice award at The Aesthetics Show in Las Vegas as well as recognition in Tampa Bay Business Journal's 2012 Best in the Biz spa category, cosmetically enhance both the face and body. SmartLipo mimics liposuction treatments with fiber-optic lasers, and a four-layer face lift topically banishes dead skin with enzymes, glycolic acid, and mini exorcisms.
When Nick Pappas noticed the popularity of the guacamole at his first restaurant, Flamestone, he was struck by an idea: to open an eatery that fused the classic meats of an American grill with Latin American influences. His idea comes to life at Besa Grill, where Nick and his team infuse Latin flavors into each aspect of the meal, including the salsa-dancing salt shakers, starting with five varieties of guacamole that servers make tableside using creative ingredients such as mangos and applewood-smoked bacon. Nick experiments with different pairings, such as ceviche scoops served in half-avocados or street tacos loaded with baja shrimp. At the core, however, Nick anchors the restaurant in fresh grilled meats and seafood. He ages Chicago Angus beef for a minimum of 28 days and partners with a local vendor to import daily batches of fresh fish directly from Poseidon's underwater farms. Nick's efforts have caught the attention of Tampa Bay Times food critic Laura Reiley, who lauded the restaurant for its seafood, inventive guacamole, and "stylish margaritas," writing "sweetness is reined in and excellent tequilas employed." She also took notice of Besa Grill's atmosphere and wrote, "cool black glass pendants hang over the bar; black and white carpeting hints at animal print; a grove of gnarled, bejeweled trees separates two halves of the dining room."
During World War I, Greek immigrant Louis Pappas served in the Army as a personal chef to General John Pershing. To give the hungry general some extra nutrition, Louis began adding scoops of potato salad to his traditional greek salads. When Louis returned to the United States, he opened up his own restaurant, Louis Pappas Riverside Café, where he would re-create this signature dish using fresh produce from his own ranch in Tarpon Springs.
Today, Louis Pappas's grandson continues his grandfather's old Florida family tradition at Pappas Ranch. There, he and his kitchen serve up a new menu of fresh seafood, poultry, sandwiches, street tacos, hand-cut steaks, and barbecue dishes whose "family flair" has been lauded by Metromix Tampa Bay. They continue to scoop savory housemade potato salad into their internationally renowned Louis Pappas Famous greek salad, tossing it in massive bowls that serve as many as four diners. Bartenders dole out glasses of locally brewed craft beers and wine or mix cocktails and martinis at the full center bar with flat-screen TVs.
The restaurant's decor channels that of the original Pappas family ranch. In the dining room, spacious booths are surrounded by rustic wooden walls, and outside is a covered outdoor patio.
Hot Ticket Pub & Venue's cadre of chefs conjures hearty plates of pub fare in a cozy sports-bar setting. Corral wayward appetites with starters such as smoked mullet dip ($7.49) sidled up next to club crackers and bucking taste buds with the heat from sliced jalapeños. The Black Jack burger fills a toasted bakery roll with a half-pound beef patty draped in pepper jack cheese and blackening seasoning ($8.99), and Casey's classic giant tenderloin sandwich ($9.99) piles a toasted roll high with buttermilk-marinated pork tenderloin, pounded thin for greater ease in jimmying car locks. For a bit of regional flair, the southern seafood basket ($12.99) sets a duo of catfish fillets and buttermilk battered shrimp afloat in a sea of crispy fries, hush puppies, southern-style coleslaw, and fried okra. While tongues are gift-wrapped in savory comestibles, Hot Ticket indulges the rest of the senses with TVs decked out with sports broadcasts such as NFL Sunday Ticket and hosts live music Tuesday–Saturday nights.