Prepare 1,000 lunches in less than 20 hours. That was the challenge posed for The Brunchery’s catering staff. The eatery’s experts met the daunting request, quickly assembling the hefty sandwiches that The Brunchery has perfected throughout its more than 25 years in business. When President George W. Bush came to Tampa, the White House called upon The Brunchery's catering. In addition to corned beef, grilled grouper, and shaved steak piled on deli rye bread and kaiser rolls, The Brunchery plies guests with half-pound burgers seasoned by chipotle mayo and dill pickles.
But as its name implies, the restaurant doesn’t just craft food for lunch; it’s possibly best known for its morning treats. Made-from-scratch hollandaise sauce for benedicts and golden pancakes have earned The Brunchery awards including Best Place for Breakfast/Brunch from readers of the South Tampa Community News in 2010. When NBC interviewed owner Greg Elliot, the feature zeroed in on the restaurant’s signature french toast, which mingles cream-cheese sauce, bananas, strawberries, and slivered almonds.
Guests devour this lavish creation and others while dining among the dining room’s decorative dishware, Coke bottles, and shelves. Many of the objects come from Greg’s family, such as a hutch his great-great-grandfather built in the 1800s, making guests feel as at home as a rabbit in a top hat.
Dale Del Bello remembers everything about his first hibachi experience. While stationed in Korea as a part of the Air Force National Guard, Dale and a group of friends visited Tokyo on leave. They followed a traditional route among his fellow service people, which took him to a hibachi restaurant. Immediately he sensed that he’d stumbled upon more than just dinner. The chefs’ showmanship fascinated him as they seared meats and vegetables on their tabletop grills, allowing guests to sample forkfuls directly off the 600-degree surface. After returning to Buffalo, New York, in 1971, Dale opened his first Arigato location, attempting to recreate what made that dining experience so remarkable. Since then, he has distilled the authentic experience into something that families can enjoy without traveling abroad, establishing Arigato restaurants throughout New York and Florida and staffing them with more than 60 chefs from Japan.
Surrounded by 8–10 diners, these chefs act not only as the restaurant’s culinary creators, but also as showmen and magicians of sorts, dexterously slicing ingredients, flipping shrimp tails into their hats, and conjuring soy sauce out of thin air. Away from the flaming tabletops, meanwhile, bartenders make use of their own skill sets as they mix specialty cocktails, which occasionally use splashes of plum wine or sake to imbue familiar-sounding drinks with new dimension.
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.
As a server lifts the lid off a diner's straw-woven mesob basket, waves of ginger, garlic, cardamom, nutmeg, and fiery pepper aromas waft across the table. Instead of using utensils, guests scoop simmered vegetables and stewed meats off the family-style platter with spongy pieces of homemade injera bread. While this ritual remains the same for all Ethiopian meals, diners can customize the experience by ordering mildly spiced servings or tongue-scorching entrees, which teach disobedient taste buds a lesson they won't soon forget. In addition to orders of free-range chicken, lamb, and beef, the chefs can whip up vegan- and vegetarian-friendly dishes by simmering lentils or root vegetables in the region's signature spice blends.
Sunlight streams through the dining room's gauzy white curtains and illuminates the orange, plaster-textured walls. Occasionally, the restaurant hosts live reggae performances, and its gift shop helps visitors replace their pantries' stock of expired powdered astronaut meals with Ethiopian spices and coffees.
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.