John Pappas didn’t know much English when he first arrived on American soil, but he did know the secrets of cooking excellent Greek cuisine. The native Greek passed on his recipes and expert techniques to his son Nicholas, who would go on to open his own Mediterranean restaurant—Greek City Cafe.
Deep in his restaurant’s kitchen, Nicholas and his chefs fold juicy meats and fresh vegetables into a variety of Greek-inspired paninis, wraps, and salads. They layer pitas with juicy slices of shaved lamb and beef before adding dollops of flavorful tzatziki and creamy greek dressing. To craft specialty pizzas, the chefs shower soft pita shells in mixed cheeses, diced tomatoes, and grilled chicken. When discussing these dishes with a reporter from Westchase Patch, Nicholas explained, “We take a mainstream item and put a Greek twist to it. I make them feel comfortable, but when they taste it they realize they've never experienced that flavor.”
In the casual dining room, where sunlight streams onto soft blue and green walls, guests can linger over their last bites of these inventive eats before ordering desserts such as baklava. Countertop seating surrounds a lush olive tree in the center of the room, which was imported from Greece and lives off of sunlight and Greek wine.
In its simplest form, the art of cooking can be traced back to fire and stone. FlameStone Grill relies on these elements—specifically lava stones and open-fire pits—to invest their cuisine with authentic, rustic flavor. Chefs tailor the char on each Stock Yards of Chicago Angus beef steak, aged a minimum of 28 days, to every order or slow-roast braised short ribs after massaging them with an herbal dry rub ($25.90). Specialty plates such as the mile-high meatloaf ($14.50) and pasta rustica with sautéed shrimp ($16) round out the menu, and a wine list, 150 bottles strong, contains the ideal complement to entrees, first dates, or nearly finished wine-bingo sheets.
Founded 25 years ago by Bostonian Bob Theriault, the Boston Cooker crafts definitive New England dishes from fresh seafood flown in weekly. A hearty cup of New England chowder ($2.99) or a bowl of sherry-imbued lobster bisque ($4.50) offer tasty starting points on the fish-laden menu, while shrimp and eggplant Parmesan ($12.99) delivers ample bounty from land and sea with eight grilled shrimp over eggplant steeped in marinara. A glass of house Chardonnay ($4.50) pairs well with broiled and buttery Boston Scrod ($15.99) as well as the baked stuffed flounder topped with a delicate Newburg sauce ($14.50). Patrons can imagine they're in an old New England eatery while quaffing Boston brew Samuel Adams ($3) in a wood-paneled dining room bedecked with Red Sox and Bruins banners and wall-mounted fish. Finish the meal with a rich Boston cream pie ($3.99) before protesting the tyrannical English government by throwing shiploads of Queen Elizabeth's electro-rap album into Tampa Bay.
Eggstyle helps to jump-start weary brain cells with abstract murals on the walls and a menu that heavily features sweet and savory breakfast classics. The Strawberry Delight fills its paper-thin crêpe with strawberries, hazelnut chocolate, and house-made custard ($8.95), creating a delicate satchel for sopping up leftover sweets or stashing spare Candyland game pieces. Teetering towers of sautéed flapjacks ($7.95) fill the kitchen, adorning select plates beneath a dulcet blanket of cinnamon apples and caramel, whereas blenders whisk together fresh fruits, honey, and yogurt to create a kaleidoscopic selection of refreshing smoothies ($4.25+). Turning its focus toward diners' savory taste buds, the menu also includes a Meatlovers combo, which bear hugs incisors with hearty sausage, bacon, and ham alongside two eggs ($6.95). Guests customize a traditional plate of eggs benedict by ordering such additions as portobello mushrooms and brie ($10.75) and selecting from a list of house-made hollandaise sauces culled from ingredients such as herbaceous dill or cheese imported from the Sea of Tranquility. Diners who visit between Monday and Thursday will also receive a complimentary small glass of orange juice.
Stroll through an Oldsmar farmers market early in the morning and you might run into Andrew Koumi rifling through baskets of tomatoes in search of the ripest ones. The mastermind behind Green Market Cafe, Andrew was still in college when he hatched the plan to open an eatery that served healthy takes on sandwiches and soups. When discussing the inspiration behind the restaurant with reporters from the Tampa Bay Times, Andrew explained, "I wanted to create a place where I'd like to go and eat everyday."
Arms laden with bags of produce, Andrew returns to his café, where his chefs fold the fresh vegetables into crisp salads and toasty grilled flatbreads. Because everything is made to order, chefs are able to accommodate special requests, adding extra tomatoes or picking out any raisins that look too much like a California Raisin. Diners chitchat over cups of organic tea inside the colorful dining room, an open space tinted with greens, purples, and pinks to please the eye. The building is also home to Kiwi Frozen Yogurt, Green Market Cafe's sister shop, which serves wholesome yogurt with candy and fruit toppings.
Central Park's ingredient-stacking chefs craft a menu of amply portioned bread cocoons that span international borders. The Midtown meatball sandwich's house-made meatballs orbit a fresh-baked hoagie roll amid a nebula of marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese ($6.99), and the Pittsburgh pastrami glazes the namesake protein with spicy mustard, adding heaping strata of grilled onions and swiss cheese to its grilled rye bread ($7.29). The deli's continental comestibles include an array of wraps ($6.29–$6.99) hermetically sealed to preserve flavor, as well as a gyro whose beef and lamb blossom within its pita casing, unfurling a kaleidoscopic mixture of onion, tomato, and tzatziki sauce ($5.99). Central Park accessorizes its crusty creations with a slew of sides, such as its house-made coleslaw and potato salad ($1.79 each), evoking childhood memories of picnics and capture-the-mountain-lion tournaments.