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.
More than 40 years ago, Harry J. Hoenselaar chose individual hams, cured them in his secret marinade, and smoked them over hardwood chips before offsetting the earthy flavor with a crisp, sweet glaze. To this day, the staff still makes the signature bone-in hams one at a time and glazes them in the shop. In addition to the eponymous victuals, the ham denizens turn their braising prowess on similarly delightful platter toppers, including turkey, barbecued pork, and 2-pound beef roasts smothered in gravy.
The hammery's kitchens also whip up classic side dishes and desserts, such as the sweet-potato soufflé. For less formal feasting, party trays and packed lunch boxes fuel business meetings, backyard grad parties, and lengthy end-zone celebrations.
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.
While it takes prodigious skill to man the 600-degree, 7-foot grill that is the center of bd’s Mongolian Grill’s dining room, the chefs running it don’t have any secret recipes. Instead, customers fashion their own customizable bowls of stir-fry according to their taste preferences, dietary restrictions, and desired portion size. Guests wander, nearly overwhelmed as they choose from an array of meats and veggies and ladle sweet, spicy, and herb-filled sauces into a cup. Chefs sauté the meal in front of their eyes, swords flicking skillfully across the grill to entertain and build anticipation like a mime about to jump buses on an invisible motorcycle. The resulting stir-fry dishes are accompanied by brown rice, white rice, tortillas or lettuce wraps.
Born in the Lebanese city of Tripoli before moving to Canada in the '80s, Frank Ishraki was raised on the traditional cultures and flavors of his homeland. Ishraki dedicated himself to sharing the classic, healthy flavors of Lebanese cuisine, first in Canada, then at his family of restaurants around Orlando. The Lakeland location is a convenient, quick-service shawarma stop complete with chicken, lamb, and beef loaded on rotating spits to cook evenly and slowly hypnotize diners. Guests can enjoy meats wrapped in pita or served on a platter with tabbouleh and hummus or go vegetarian with rice-stuffed grape leaves and fried falafel.
Founded, owned, and run by the Harvey family, Mitchell's is a cozy and convenient spot to grab a coffee and some family cooked fare. Morning caffeine jolts come in the form of cups of joe ($1.75 for a medium), lattes ($3.20 for a medium) and frozen mochas ($3.90). Smoothies ($4.00) are also available in banana, strawberry, raspberry, or any combination of the three encompassable by the meager scope of human imagination. Those who wish to supplement their morning coffee buzz with nourishment can take advantage of Mitchell's breakfast, served Monday through Saturday until 11 a.m. Tastebuds, dormant through the night, will be awakened to joy with the Mitchell's Favorite breakfast burrito ($4.95), a delectable mélange of scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, cheddar cheese, and chipotle hot sauce. Non-carnivores can partake in the Veggie-Tastic breakfast burrito ($4.95), replete with scrambled eggs, spinach, tomato, Parmesan cheese and basil. Lunch is offered on weekdays, serving up a tantalizing collection of soups, sandwiches, and salads. Customers who are attracted, moth-like, to the mysterious might wish to try Mitchell's Famous Chicken Gumbo ($3.99 for a cup, $4.99 for a bowl), a local favorite, made according to a secret recipe bestowed upon the owners in an ancient and esoteric ceremony, deep in the heart of Louisiana. Other lunch opportunities include Chicken or Tuna salads ($5.85) and "Create Your Own" Sandmitches ($5.99), named after the owners' son.