Originally built in 1919, the building that houses The Bungalow Restaurant and Bar has seen its fair share of history in the making. But today it's a haven for spirited revelry that even earned a spot on CBS Tampa Bay's 2014 Best Sports Bars In Tampa Bay. To start with, The Bungalow's private skybox?a 1,200-square-foot luxury suite with its own bar, poker room, and vault of vintage Sports Illustrated issues?provides an uber-premium game-day experience. But the rest of the restaurant is more than prepared to accommodate fans. Twelve flat-screen TVs adorn the walls, providing plenty of viewing opportunities throughout the dining areas and around the fully stocked bar. On some days, celebrations are known to spill out onto the outdoor patio section, which features shaded seating and its own views of the surrounding foliage.
The Bungalow's menu also shares the vibrant, eclectic spirit of its environment. Beginning with traditional comfort foods, the chefs incorporate Latin, Cajun, and international flavors into their dishes, creating distinctive items with familiar roots. Orders of shrimp and jalapeno-spiced grits arrive with roasted salsa, and beer-battered fish and chips are accompanied by remoulade and a key lime tartar sauce. The chefs even inject a bit of Cuban flair into the egg rolls by stuffing them with mojo pork, salami, ham, and swiss cheese. Perhaps most importantly, pints of beer, shaken martinis, and specialty cocktails all help keep spirits high between bites.
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.
Cooking always came naturally to Sunita Chheda. When she wasn’t frolicking through the bustling avenues of Bombay with her seven brothers and sisters, Sunita was in the kitchen, learning the ins and outs of traditional Goan cooking from her mother. Today, Sunita brings her family’s time-honored recipes and her lifetime of Indian cooking experience to her own restaurant—Saffron Indian Cuisine.
Sunita’s kitchen is flooded with the aromas of ginger, coconut, and freshly ground herbs as she folds fresh meat, seafood, and vegetables into the traditional dishes lauded by reporters from the New Tampa Neighborhood News. The nimble chef simmers pans of creamy butter chicken and spicy goan fish curries before darting over to the clay oven to check on the baking naan. Sunita even offers a kids’ menu featuring youngster-friendly specialties such as french fries and invisible curry for invisible friends. Servers bring her still-steaming dishes out into the sunlit dining room, where a vivid mural of the Taj Mahal stretches across the wall.
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.
Considering Juan and Alvaro Gorrin studied medicine and business, and went on to forge careers in real estate and banking, it's probably surprising to many that they found their ultimate success in a totally unrelated field: baking. The Gorrins, who were born in Spain but moved to Venezuela in their youth, found there was a demand for European-inspired baked goods in South America. They developed the Don Pan brand in Venezuela in 1982, and eventually relocated to Miami, where they opened their first North American bakery in 1995.
Today, their menu maintains distinctly Spanish and South American accents. A bounty of pastries includes guava danish and tres leches, as well as brazo gitano, a sponge cake rolled with chocolate or cream that's popular in both Spain and Venezuela, as well as the section of Canada that uses cake as currency. There are also plenty of savory menu items, including cachapas—corn pancakes served with meat or cheese—and Venezuelan-style tamales bursting with pork, beef, chicken, and veggies.