Make us your home page
Instagram

After the storm: Tampa Bay old-time restaurants for which we're grateful

Storms make you thankful, right? You pause to appreciate things you might have taken for granted, knowing they could all be whisked away in a whoosh of storm surge or wind. Here are some of the Tampa Bay stalwarts for which I'm grateful.

 

1905: COLUMBIA RESTAURANT

 

The granddaddy of them all, the Columbia Restaurant bears the distinction of being the oldest restaurant in Florida as well as the nation's largest Spanish-Cuban restaurant, with 13 rooms extending one full city block. Some of these waiters have been here a lifetime, there are stirring flamenco shows most nights, and owner Richard Gonzmart has an evangelical zeal when it comes to authentic Cuban sandwiches and the tossed-tableside 1905 Salad. 2117 E Seventh Ave., Tampa; (813) 248-4961, and other locations.

 

1945: WOODY'S WATERFRONT

 

Woody's Waterfront started as a tiny bait house for anglers doing their thing along Blind Pass, a rocky little inlet carved out by a ferocious hurricane in 1928. Back then it was burgers and such. It's still burgers and such, only now they are accompanied by margaritas and live music six nights a week. Servers hustle through the patio, tight-set with high-gloss picnic tables and turquoise sun umbrellas, hefting paper-lined baskets of fried shrimp and the ultimate Woody burger (mushrooms, fried onions, bacon, cheese). 7308 Sunset Way, St. Pete Beach; (727) 360-9165.

 

1950: TED PETERS FAMOUS SMOKED FISH

 

It's been featured on the Food Network, but that hasn't made Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish uppity. Prized for its laid-back style and inviting picnic tables, the big-time draw is, of course, the smoked fish: Smoked fish spread with saltines is fabled, the salmon is excellent, the mullet is an intensely fishy acquired taste. But Ted Peters also produces beloved cheeseburgers and German potato salad that is balanced precariously between the zing of vinegar and the smoke of bacon. This is a beer-drinking establishment, it closes early and for a price they will smoke your catch for you (they can even make kingfish taste good, and that's saying something). 1350 Pasadena Ave., South Pasadena; (727) 381-7931.

 

1951: CHATTAWAY

 

Big bathtub planters outside, froufrou English collectibles inside, and it's dog friendly: The Chattaway in the Old Southeast neighborhood is a quirky bird with legion followers who have the bumper stickers to prove it. The central draw is the burger, a big dry cleaner's nightmare, but Chattaway is also cherished for its historic, ramshackle glory (it started as a general store with a gas pump back in the early 1920s). 358 22nd Ave. S, St. Petersburg; (727) 823-1594.

 

1952: MUNCH'S SUNDRIES & RESTAURANT

 

It's time travel, pure and simple. Munch's Sundries & Restaurant's booths are lined with Lakewood Elementary class pictures from the 1960s (a lot of unfortunate haircuts); on the walls are tacked-up, and down-home, morsels of wisdom; and on Tuesdays every table is topped with the fried chicken feast — two pieces, mashed potatoes and gravy. Some people swear by the fried green tomatoes and open-faced roast beef sandwich, others applaud the crazy-cheap breakfast offerings, but all hail the house milk shakes. 3920 Sixth St. S, St. Petersburg; (727) 896-5972.

 

1960: BIFF-BURGER

 

Back when shakes cost 15 cents, Biff-Burgers dotted the Southeast. It stood for Best in Fast Food. They had drive-in service and walk-up windows, they had "roto-broiled" burgers topped with a closely guarded secret-sauce concoction. Now, it appears, there's only one Best left. Burger King may be responsible for the near-extinction of Biff-Burger, but St. Petersburg's George Musser stayed strong. His location still has the original Biff-Burger neon sign; the menu runs to barbecue sandwiches, burger baskets and soft serve; and on Friday nights the parking lot fills with hot rods and their devotees. 3939 49th St. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 527-5297.

 

1963: WRIGHT'S GOURMET HOUSE

 

Marjorie Wright is long gone, as is her vision of Wright's Gourmet House as the local go-to for caviar, truffles and other persnickety stuff. Instead, stalwarts stand in line for red velvet cakes, pecan pies and monster sandwiches (best: the turkey pecan salad or the "beef martini" with its rare roast beef, wine-marinated mushrooms and crisp bacon slices). During the holiday season, Wright's is bedlam, its refrigerators stacked deep with pies and cakes. 1200 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; (813) 253-3838.

After the storm: Tampa Bay old-time restaurants for which we're grateful 09/13/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 13, 2017 11:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Top picks for healthy convenience foods that put popular whole grains to good use

    Cooking

    Whole grains are trending. The National Restaurant Association declared them one of the top 20 food trends of 2017, multiple surveys report that consumers are seeking them out, and thousands of grocery items have been reformulated to include more in the past year. That's a good thing because there is a tall stack of …

    There is a tall stack of research supporting the health benefits of eating whole grains, which include preventing the risk of stroke, diabetes and heart disease and helping with weight management.
  2. 'Battle of the Sexes' is a fine time capsule comedy, and not really about the tennis

    Movies

    In 1973, tennis champion Billie Jean King joined a two-ring circus with hustler Bobby Riggs, billed as a Battle of the Sexes amid the women's liberation movement. Fifty million Americans watched the pop spectacle on TV.

    Emma Stone and Steve Carell in the film "Battle of the Sexes." [Fox Searchlight Pictures.]
  3. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sept. 26

    Events

    University Lecture Series: Jackie Cruz: In part of USF's Hispanic Heritage Month activities, actress Jackie Cruz (Orange is the New Black) presents "Cruzing Through Adversity" in which she offers lessons on resilience, determination and turning life's challenges into opportunities and a better outlook. 8 …

    Jackie Cruz in a scene from Netflix's "Orange is the New Black" Season 2. Photo credit: Jessica Miglio for Netflix.
  4. Restaurant review: Mortar & Pestle in Seminole Heights should focus on mom-and-pop pharmacy vibe

    Food & Dining

    By Laura Reiley

    Times Food Critic

    TAMPA

    Sometimes, the more time you have with a project, the more complicated it gets. I started hearing about Mortar & Pestle in Seminole Heights about 18 months ago. It was the vision of Ujwal Patel, a pharmacist;

    Mortar & Pestle opened in Seminole Heights in Tampa in August. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
  5. Snap Judgment's Glynn Washington on growing up in a 'cult' and how to tell a good story

    Events

    Glynn Washington spent much of his last visit to Tampa preparing his soul for the impending apocalypse. He was assured it was coming any day.

    Glynn Washington, the creator and host of NPR's "Snap Judgment," will bring his live show to the Tampa Theatre on Sept. 29. 
Photo courtesy Snap Judgment