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PCR #149  (Vol. 4, No. 5)  This edition is for the week of January 27--February 2, 2003.
La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
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Hungering for Memories

The Friday Extra supplement of the January 17, 2003 edition of the Tampa Tribune had a great article by Kurt Loft titled "Hungry for Nostalgia?" The article was about restaurants in the Bay area that have come and gone over the years. I thought I would take this opportunity to do my own reminiscing about some of these wonderful eateries, as well as some not mentioned in the article.

Bon apetite!
Mexican Burro
: My earliest and most cherished memories at a Tampa restaurant undoubtedly go to the Mexican Burro. Formerly located next to the current Checkers restaurant on Gandy Boulevard, the Burro not only featured the best Mexican food and beer I ever had, but is where my tree planting group T.R.E.E. Inc. was created in December, 1982 and where almost every Sunday evening from 1978 to 1982 ,Greg Van Stavern shared enough tales of his Miami visits to get me interested in visiting that magical city again. It turns out that this wonderful restaurant was owned and operated by Johnny and Dottie Williams, relatives of T.R.E.E. Inc. Treasurer John Blechschmidt. Sadly, after my two year stint in Gainesville (1988-1990), this south Tampa landmark closed its doors by the time of my return to the Bay area. I will treasure the memories of leaving there during summer thunderboomers, and the coldest winter nights with PBA DC-3's flying overhead. The first Burrito I ever ate was in 1970 from this restaurant. God I miss that place!

Falges: My second earliest memory was Falges, which was literally three blocks east of the house I lived at on El Prado. Falges was a small family run business at Gandy and Bayshore with the best hot dogs anywhere, one of the best views of Hillsborough Bay (with the exception of the Colonnade), and always had those great tacky Florida paper place mats. I'll never forget seeing my first C-5 Galaxy land over this establishment on its way to MacDill A.F.B. back in 1971-- it looked like the sky was falling. In the late 70's, the old Falges structure was destroyed, a former Pizza Hut building, originally located on Dale Mabry Highway between Gandy and Euclid next to the bridge that used to pass over the old Seaboard Coast Line running down to Port Tampa. There was a go-cart track immediately south of that Pizza Hut (where I saw my first U.F.O. in June 1973), and a small amusement center directly across the street. That old Pizza Hut building served as its replacement until the early 80's when the establishment sadly closed its doors to make way for a condominium. The old Pizza Hut building, however, was moved for a second time, becoming the Red Baron Sports Grill in 1984 on dale Mabry between Gandy and Interbay (earning it the nickname "Pizza Hut on wheels " by me, Denis Lebrun and Nolan). The structure still exists, now being used again as a sports bar and grill.

Chavez at the Royal: My wife and I frequented this fine restaurant with my late aunt, Barbara Graf, between 1991 and 1992. The food was top notch, and its proprietor, former Tampa City Councilwoman Helen ("no shirtless men in Tampa Stadium") Chavez was herself an absolute class act.

Rax Roast Beef: Was a favorite Sunday lunch spot for me and Greg Van Stavern in the early 80's. We would talk plants and planes at lengthy while munching on great sandwiches, and looking forward to dinners later that day at the Burro. The restaurant was located on Gandy Boulevard in the same building that The Egg Platter restaurant now occupies (an eatery of great import to Nolan and Greg and me. When at the Platter, say Hi to Rita!). (After Rax and before The Platter, it saw a few years as a Shangai Express--N)

Lums: Next to Falges, Lums had the best hot dogs in south Tampa circa 1970-1973. Located on Dale Mabry near Britton Plaza, I remember my aunt Barbara going out to bring back those distinctly flavored beer fried wieners. By 1975 Lums had pretty much closed its doors throughout the state. While living in Jacksonville an off-shoot of Lums called "Ollie's Trolley' also featured "Beer-friend hot dogs". (I think it may have lived slightly longer in Tampa. Older readers may remember Lums' ad from 1976 0r '77 featuring the boisterous Ollie from Ollie's Steakhouse in Miami, bragging up a storm about his "secret sauce" burger. Forming a partnership of sorts with Lums, the new ads proclaimed "Lums--home of the Ollieburger!" The next tenants to lease that building Will referenced were then-new arrivals from Chicago with one other restaurant in Tampa: Pop 'N' Sons. See below.---N)

Shakey's Pizza Parlor: I have fond memories of coming in from hot, glaring summer days, fully parched, to gulp down ice cold Cokes in beer mugs in the dark coolness of Shakeys Pizza when I was still in high school. This was Van Stavern's favorite high school-era hang out. Good pizza, and lots of banjo-playing performed by dudes in 1890's era threads. (Located just south of Britton Plaza on South Dale Mabry, it was sold to a succession of private eateries, non successful for long. It now sits abandoned in the old Woolco/Phar-Mor parking lot, waiting for the bulldozer to clear the way for a new Loew's Home Improvement center.)

Selena's: Located in Hyde Park Village, I used to go there in the mid 80's with my aunt and my wife on occasion.

Aunt Hatties Victoriana: Located out on Kennedy west of Memorial, I remember going there with my wife in its last days back in 1987. There was an Aunt Hatties in Pinellas, and an off-shoot called "Uncle Ed's".

The World's Worst Pizza: Located on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard in Clearwater, and frequented by motorcycle gangs, this place had absolutely great pizza. I remember my brother-in-law doing photography for the owner, who pretty much mirrored the clientele. TWWP would end up closing its doors by 1983 to be replaced with the world's first Hooters.

Galaxy Diner: Located on Himes Avenue north of Cypress Street, was an occasional hang out with Greg, Nolan, Denis, Waylon and Willie and the boys. I also used to visit that structure for breakfasts in the '70s and '80s in its former guise as Ayers Diner on Dale Mabry.

Mrs. Campbell's Original Alabama Bar-B-Que: A more recent memory (mid 90's to 2001), this was one of the best barbeque joints around. Located in the strip plaza at Gandy and MacDill, many a Friday night saw me, Greg and Nolan visit this wonderful place. The baked beans were and still are the best I have ever had.

Honorable Mention for those Not Featured in The Tribune Article
Der Weinerschnitzel
: Located on Dale Mabry between Euclid and El Prado, Der Weinerschnitzel had, in addition to Falges, the best hot dogs in South Tampa. I believe I dragged just about every friend I had from 1973 to 1978 to this restaurant with the A-frame roof and its kick-ass mustard dogs!

Pop 'N' Sons: A favorite hang-out in the 70s and 80s with me and Nolan. Strung along Dale Mabry at several locations, Denis Lebrun did the artwork for this restaurant's menu cover prior to his days drawing "Blondie". (I spent more time at Pop 'N' Sons during the 15-year period from 1978--1993 than any other restaurant in my personal history. Just had the right combination of location, atmosphere, price, and casuality to be perfect for any occasion; band meetings, out-of-town guests, personal meditation--anything. Eventually, I fell away from spending so much time--and money--in restaurants.--N)

Skyline Chili: No place had better 4-way chili than Skyline Chili, located on Dale Mabry between El Prado and Bay to Bay, circa 1977-1978. A favorite with me, Greg, Denis and mutual friend, Sam Roland.

Anita's Mexican Cafe: Was the early 90's replacement for the Burro. Located in a strip plaza on Manahattan between Gandy and Euclid, this fine restaurant closed its doors by the mid-'90s, leaving South Tampa with no stable family-owned Mexican restaurant for years to come.

Maria's: Located on Westshore Boulevard between Euclid and El Prado, I had many a great spaghetti dinner there when I was a teenager.

Black Angus: Located on Dale Mabry south of Euclid, this was the first "steak house" I had ever been to, and the first that I had ever had "Texas Toast".

Steak and Egg: In the early to mid 70's there was this curious retaurant chain similar to the Waffle House called the Steak and Egg that was located on Dale mabry in south Tampa.

Sambo's: Another national chain restaurant of the early to mid 70s was Sambo's, which was similar to modern day Denny's or The Village Inn. There was a Sambo's on Gandy boulevard west of Manhattan. My favorite item there was their hamburgers, which had this sorta weird looking, but tasty, orange sauce on them.

Ranch House: Similar to the Black Angus, the Ranch House served beef fare throughout the mid '70s to the early '80s. That same building next became Coyotes restaurant from the early '80s until it was replaced several years ago by John's Beef Barn.

The Diner on Kennedy: Was without a doubt the most fabulous, though sadly, short-lived diner in Tampa. A relocated and fully restored diner, this chrome-and-neon '50s retro fantasy was repleat with juke- box with '50s and '60s fare, served tasty burgers and shakes, and was what all good diners of that period should have been. Located on Kennedy not far from the University of Tampa, this top-notch establishment, built in late 1987, was destroyred by 1990 to make way for a University of Tampa high-rise.

Pat's Place, aka, Pat's "Hefty": The more familiar location was across from Britton Plaza in the late '70s, early '80s. Started as an ice cream and sandwich shop hang out (typically real big with the Interbay crowd in the '60s and '70s) in a little green building located on Gandy in front of old Interbay post office across the street from current-day Publix. Originally, even that structure housed a Dairy-Joy. After Pat's moved northward across from Britton Plaza, the former building was occupied by the Gandy Sandwich Shop. (Even the building Pat's took over across from Britton had a former history as one of the original Burger Chefs in Tampa. The name "Hefty" referred to Pat's special hamburger, altho most passers-by must've assumed she was fat or something---she was not. After Pat's, it became a Taco-Tico, then a Karl's Kitchen [thanks Steve, for helping with the name], then another kind of German restaurant, then it was abandoned for a long time before it became "Cesar's Palace" which it still is as of this writing. The Gandy Sandwich Shop, owned by a family named Sullivan, eventually was sold to a family who briefly made it a Spanish food place, but the name escapes me. Years later, it was torn down when the property was sold to Blockbuster Video.---Nolan)

Rough Riders: Good dining at Ybor Square, circa 1970's-80's.

Serapico's Sandwich Shop: Located at Wyoming and MacDill, was located in the same building that Lola Janes Crawfish House is currently in.

Notable relocations...
Burger King:
The first fast-food burger chain to be built on Gandy Boulevard (in the late 60's) this building now serves as an Enterprise Car Rental office west of Manhattan. That Burger King relocated by the late 70's to its current location at the corner of Gandy and Manhattan.

We Hardly Knew Ye...
Giles South Carolina Bar-B-Que
(circa 1980, near the old Woolco/Phar-Mor on Dale Mabry), Big Bird (Armenia Avenue and Hillsborough Avenue, circa 1978), and the strangest restaurant of them all, circa 1983-1985, Naugles (Home of the Macho Taco, Wet Bean Burrito, Ortega Burger and a life story fact sheet on founder Bill Naugle-- located at Hillsborough Avenue in the Town n Country area). (There was also a Naugles on 56th Street and Riverhills Drive in the Temple Terrace area. Meaningful because it's where I introduced a former Naugles manager to a former Andromeda society member---and they later married.---Nolan)

And if I may leave a thought about Dairy Queen: As far as I know there are none left in Tampa, save for one on the northernmost tip of town....maybe.---Nolan

Steve Beasley's contributions to La Floridiana's Eatery memorial...
Another fabulous piece by Will.....I hope he doesn't mind me adding my personal memories to his grand idea of a restaurant memorial page.

Of all the restaurants Will mentions, I've been to them all except The World's Worst Pizza. I worked at Shakey's and Sambo's (http://www.cnn.com/US/9801/28/sambo.revival/), in the 70s before the opening of Tampa Bay Center in '75 or '76, when I went to work there. After Sambo's closed, Zackly's Country Kitchen open in the same building, before being bought out by Country Music Star Bill Anderson's Po' Folks chain restaurants (http://www.pofolks.com/).

Mexican Burro was a favorite of many, including me and my family. In the '70s, the Mexican Burro was the best place in town for good and cheap Mexican food. You were served chips and salsa (or cheese dip) before they even took your order. The Burro served up ice-cold Dos Equis way before import beers were all the rage. The decor was very rustic, at least that's how I took it to be....a sort've ramshackle old building. I even dated a couple of the waitresses there.

What about Consuelo's? I do miss the Mexican haunt on Neptune, just off east of Dale Mabry. The food here was rich and greasy, but delicious. Consuelo's was famous in the 80s around something called a "jet-fuel margarita". I believe they had 190-proof Everclear in them. The Mexican band was entertaining to me, but only because I love live music and I thought my dates were enjoying themselves.

Other restaurants I remember are Marybelle's on South Dale Mabry past Thoni's gas station (if memory serves) and El Palacio's on West Gandy (if you were to look at Zayre, El Palacio's was to the left on the same side...set back a bit).

My brother David worked at the original Burger King on West Gandy that Will mentions. My friend Tom Morrow's (who played football all through school, for the Robinson Knights) sister Theresa worked at Rax Roast Beef.....and you and I ate many a meal at Shanghai Express.

With Lum's, I always remember a large standup or poster with Milton Berle....practically life-sized as well as the smallness of the place.

At Shakey's Pizza Parlor (http://www.asiatravel.com/shakey/), I did everything from washing dishes to busboy to 'beer'tender (Shakey's had a beer & wine license, not a liquor license) to making pizza and then my favorite job......running the projector to show those old silent films. They're still in business in Asia, of all places and there slogan is, "The Number 1 Pizza Restaurant in the Phillipines". My how the great have fallen! There used to be a huge photogragh (approx. 3 ft X 5 ft) on the wall of Willie Shoemaker, where the pulldown movie screen was. I wonder whatever became of that? It later bacame, as we all know.....Boomer's, home of killer buffalo wings!

If I'm not mistaken, the Black Angus became a Duff's Smorgasbord (http://www.pigeonforge.com/restaurants/restaurants_main.htm#1), where Ronald Canova, Clyde Brakefield, myself, and the rest of the Woolco (http://www.wtv-zone.com/dpjohnson/60sdiscountstores/page3.html) gang and I ate lunch almost daily (when we weren't eating at "The Red Grille" inside Woolco?). Remember Ron's speed-demon car?

My brother, Mack, worked at the Ranch House in those days as a cook to pay for high performance parts for his Plymouth Duster, which was a streetrod. (He and many others used to race at Tison Beach, past Westshore going west. Pat's Hefty, became Karl's Kitchen, which went thru extensive remodeling before changing hands and finally closing down. (The owner's daughter, Julie crashed into my sister Lisa's car there once). When I worked at Landcare, a lawn maintenance company on South MacDill, I used to eat at Serapico's.

How could anyone forget A&W Drive-In (http://www.awrestaurants.com/) on Kennedy, west of MacDill Avenue. I ate there a lot in high school and even worked at one part-time while in the U.S. Air Force in Miami in the late 70s.

How many times have I eaten at Belk Lindsay's little diner in Britton Plaza....although the actual name escapes me these days.

At Westshore Plaza, Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor had great sandwiches, but the main draw at Farrell's was it's ice cream. Or was it the old-timey candy shop, complete with peppermint sticks. Where else could you find sarsaparilla (rootbeer, to me) on the menu? ....and the cute chicks in the Farrell's uniform didn't hurt either!

My mom, Pam, toiled behind the bar downtown at Licata's and was the Colonnade's Shipwreck Lounge manager for decades.

By the way, does anyone remember taking a date to the Kapok Tree in Clearwater, across from the Savoy? The Kapok Tree shut down for some strange reason and after lying in a dormant state for some time, became the new home of Elliot's Thoroughbred Music, catering to the famous, the not-so-famous, as well as the infamous.

And last, maybe even least.....Zichex at Gandy and South Dale Mabry had some decent cheap food in the old days, although it became really trashy in the 80s and 90s. (A similar fate befell The Llamas Club, directly across the street.---N)

The more I write, the more my memory comes back to me, albeit slowly.

MY GOD CHRIST JESUS, have you opened more floodgates, Steve!! I'm sure Will will be reeling in the years even more so than he was, after he reads your additions, as I did! Thanks for helping make this a very exhaustive list. I'm going to go sit in my rocking chair now and contemplate my mortality---Nolan

Mack Beasley's contributions to La Floridiana's Eatery memorial...
The old restaurants list is very good, incomplete of course, but good. Please add the following memories...

The House Of Sandwich on Kennedy Blvd......Another Sambos at the current Flemming's BBQ site on Dale Mabry.......Prime Time was across the street next door to Marybelles......A great sandwich at the Sanchez on Manhattan......Ayers Diner near the interstate on N. Dale Mabry......Western Sizzlin' on W. Kennedy......Bisquits on S. Dale Mabry (later, Bojangles) (Thanks, I remembered when Biscuits changed hands, but couldn't remember the name "Bojangles". Even tho it later became a Hardy's burger joint, and has been for many years, I can tell you the service never got any better, sorry, it was a haunted location like that. For everyone's info, it's also that location which housed the short-lived, above-mentioned Jack-In-The-Box.--N)......A Karl's Kountry Kitchen on N. Dale Mabry towards Waters......and what was the name of the place near the Tiger's Den where Home Depot is now, was it the Hawaiian Village? (Yes, I think so.--N) Pach's Restaurant owner Al Pach use to be the Chef there I think. ......The best Chicago style pizza was at Capone's on Westshore near the mall...... Maas Bros had a nice place upstairs at the old downtown location......I'm sure I had 100 hotdogs from the old Der Weinerschnitzel on S. Dale Mabry before there was a Mel's Hotdog.

O.K thats all, I'm better now, you can put the handcuffs away......unless you want to recall old bars and clubs, like Rubiconti's, and the Rocket Club and Mark Twain's and, shit, here I go again!

DON'T GET ME STARTED ON CLUBS, particularly ones that shut down after we played there: "Ruby's Rock 'N' Roll pub", "The Quay" (pronounced "Key"), "The Sandpiper" (Clearwater), "The Upstairs Bottle Club", (insert a million others in here someday), and, of course, "Squire's Lounge" where it all began, and "The Sunset Club" where it all ended. Don't forget "Rock City" and the "Level Three Lounge" (altho we never played there). I think "Spinnaker's" and "MB's" might still be in existence. OK, I'M STOPPING RIGHT NOW, I HATE WHEN THIS HAPPENS. You guys have done it to me again. Damn you....damn you all to hell......Nolan

"La Floridiana" is ©2003 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.