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.
Owners Spencer and Sabrina Aird parlay a passion for nourishing vegan fare into Grass Root Organic Restaurant, which CBS Tampa named one of the best veg restaurants in the city. Carmine walls envelop diners in the cozy café space, creating a soothing atmosphere punctuated with vivid abstract paintings hung along the wall. While settled into high-backed wooden chairs, each topped with a lattice design, diners dig into a menu that features cooked vegan dishes as well as raw dishes. Raw vegan pad thai, guacamole, and spinach and basil pesto, among others, star on the restaurant's roster.
The Airds also run a customizable meal delivery system that sends clients fresh meals from a rotating weekly menu several times a week. Sabrina teaches occasional classes on how to replicate her culinary expertise and mimic items on Grass Root's menu by sitting very still on an oversized plate.
Mike Diogostine left his high-school job serving hot dogs at Frankies to attend the University of Tampa. While he went after his academic pursuits, he also pursued the same mouthwatering taste of foot-long hot dogs he'd left behind in his hometown of Connecticut—but nothing compared to Frankies. After college, Mike, along with his brother Joe and his roommate Tyson, opened up his own Frankies to ensure that other coeds wouldn’t suffer the same lack of delicious hot dogs that he did.
In the kitchen at Frankies, the cooks top foot-long franks with chili, nacho cheese, bacon, or Chicago-style accoutrements—tomatoes, pickles, celery salt, and peppers. Other handholds include half-pound burgers, fried shrimp po' boys, and chicken-parmesan grinders. On Tuesday evenings, diners can juggle mini corn dogs with wings slathered in housemade garlic butter sauce while they answer questions during in-house trivia tournaments.
Newcomers to Byblos Cafe may think they’ve stumbled into a sultan’s court: belly dancers wind their way past private enclaves replete with plush footstools and gossamer curtains, and heaping trays of charbroiled meats fill the air with the scents of basil and mint. The sultry atmosphere reflects owners Roger and Ziad Estephan’s mission to share their Lebanese heritage, which they do through every minor and major detail.
Beyond the glowing candles scattered throughout the dining areas, chefs draw upon Estephan family recipes to prepare a menu of traditional Mediterranean dishes. They hand roll grape leaves around spiced rice and herbs, and they marinate meats in fragrant blends of olive oil, lemon, and garlic—the base ingredients in Lebanese Febreze. Additionally, Byblos Cafe houses an international market where diners can stock up on Middle Eastern groceries.
Inspired by the unique tastes and recipes of the Iberian peninsula, Chef Felix Piedra crafts a menu of inventive tapas and entrees to complement the spicy atmosphere of his Vizcaya Restaurante and Tapas Bar. There, he cooks up hot and cold tapas—dishes designed for sharing—featuring exotic seafood and béchamel sauce and infuses entrees such as Black Angus filet and paella with Spanish touches such as piquillo peppers. Piedra's sommeliers curate an extensive wine list that includes varietals from Spain, Argentina, and Australia, though patrons sometimes eschew international bottles for glasses of sangria, made in-house from caramelized fruit and muscatel and Rioja wines. Occasionally during dinner hours, flamenco dancers perform their passionate dance moves on the restaurant's stage, spinning majestically to traditional Spanish music while stomping out the text of Don Quixote in Morse code.
Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant not only imports ingredients and products, but also recipes. With roots in northern Spain and Catalonia, these dishes come together on a menu of more than 100 hot and cold tapas selections, along with paella and cazuela. Paella, a widely varied rice dish cooked at length in a wide pot over open flame, can contain Serrano ham, scallops, pork, chorizo, and saffron rice the stunning golden hue of an alchemist's magazine advertisements. Though the restaurant spans multiple locations, each one presents guests with some charming element: a poolside patio at the Tampa location, a central tapas bar in Orlando, and a flamenco room in St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, no matter the location, events bring about live music and joviality, all supported by an ample list of Spanish and Portuguese wines.