Category Archives: American

Doe Does Diner

In a surprising twist, Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom and Ivo went on a breakfast by themselves, while Marek and I were off working. They asked that we publish a proper review anyway, which I think is going to work out just fine. They visited Doe Doe’s Diner at 9395 Bay Pines Blvd N, St Petersburg, FL 33708. Doe Doe’s was a recommendation from Tampa Bay Breakfasts fan Kathy R. a while back.

Check out the marquee sign. “Be kind.” That’s a positive sentiment.

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Remember, Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom took our photographs for this review and handed them to me to write it up for her. So I’m going to just make stuff up.

I imagine she took this picture to give us a chance to comment on how odd it is that they close half an hour earlier on the weekend. Half an hour seems almost silly, why not just close at the same time and have a smaller sign?

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The menu has scrapple on it. Grandpa would be pleased to see that. It’s surprising to me just how many places in the Tampa Bay Area serve scrapple. I can think of half a dozen.

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Ivo is wearing the Stuttgart VfB shirt our friends from Stuttgart gave Marek a few years ago. Marek could wear it for about four months before outgrowing it.

We met these nice Germans, by the way, a couple days after our first anniversary, back in the mid-1990s. There’s a friendship that’s stuck through the decades.

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Daily specials. Now, if the grammar police were here, which they are because Andy’s writing this, we’d feel compelled to point out that this menu appears to be serving “Atkins” as a menu item rather than a description of a specific item. Given that the Atkins Diet was created by Dr. Robert Atkins, who died a few years ago, we can certainly hope that he’s not actually … on the menu.

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The dining room appears clean and welcoming. We like to see the counter to sit at. I’m seeing this for the first time, just like you are, dear reader.

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It’s always a good experience when they give kids crayons and allow them to mark up the place. Ivo surely is adorable. He got lucky he looks like his mom.

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Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom always likes the French Toast. A little scrambled eggs and bacon here, too, because she was out on the wild side without her husband this morning.

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Pancakes for Ivo. Obviously NOT mommed-up by mom in this photograph.

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The whole bill weighed in at under 10 bucks, which doesn’t look too shabby.

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Good food, nice folks, and a cheap bill. What’s not to love. Mom and Ivo give this one a Tampa Bay Breakfasts four pancake rating.

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Doe Does Breakfast and Lunch Diner on Urbanspoon

The Hangar

Today is Mother’s Day. Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom had a choice. Sleep late and have the morning to herself, or get up and come to breakfast with us. She made the right choice.

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For Mother’s Day, Mom opted for The Hangar. She heard there were airplanes (so maybe she could make a run for it?). The Hangar is at Albert Witted Airport in St. Pete and was our Breakfast of the Year in 2010.

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Our favorite table. This is the table where if you listen closely, you can hear the sound of Ivo endangering his life by trying to stand on his chair to look at stuff.

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Marek is lecturing Mom on the finer points of ordering. “You see,” says he, “it’s very important to get extra butter for your eggs.”

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This railing is the single most irresistible thing in Ivo’s life. He simply cannot not climb it.

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Father-son pose. This was taken moments before Ivo managed to hurl a chair at an airplane.

He didn’t do that, but I keep expecting something violent out of him. He may look sweet, but don’t trust this boy.

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We picked up a map on the way in. Ivo’s looking for good spots to visit and terrible-two-terrorize. Terrible two-er-ize. Terri-two-er-ize.

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Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom is going to have the waffle. She was disappointed that there’s no French toast.

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A round of coffee for everyone! From the look on Marek’s face, you’d think his tastes like pickles.

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Ivo needs his jolt of caffeine to keep the energy up.

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Poof! Here’s Ivo in Marek’s chair! Note the magician pose. With a smoke cloud around him, you’d think he was The Amazing Ivo instead of just Ivo.

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We live in Tampa but we like playing like tourists. People from around the world pay a lot of money to visit this place we call home. Marek went to the tourist map rack downstairs and got us information on things to see.

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A Mother’s Day Cheers!

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Spiderman shoes! Fast. Stylish. Not in adult sizes.

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And here comes breakfast! Ivo, always ready with the knife. He actually brought this one with him, strapped to his jackboot.

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A lovely, yet somewhat plain-looking and unadorned, waffle for Mom.

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A heap of bacon and a pancake for Marek. Odd, though, that we didn’t actually want two pancakes for the boys.

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This pancake looks like it’s the victim of a brutal back-alley knife fight. It’s like Ivo stabbed that pancake so he could steal the pancake’s strawberry wallet.

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And for me, the lovely spinach and brie omelet, which is just outstanding.

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Marek has taken to calling us, “The Fabulous Breakfast Boys.” That’s because he learned to read this last month, I mean it all clicked with him and words started jumping out and he started reading our little blog for himself. His world just opened up and he’s thrilled.

So here we are, The Fabulous Breakfast Boys.

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Extra butter for the eggs. Just like we said. I think that’s disgusting, but who am I to complain?

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Airplanes!

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The bill needed a forklift, weighing in at $45.

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After we settled up we went downstairs to the lounge and sat in the comfy couches, like we were waiting to go on a flight to someplace exotic.

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This is the Andy Method, by the way. Find fun and interesting public spaces and just hang out. Amazing how much fun you can have without paying heaps of cash for theme parks.

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After The Hanger, we went to the Seminole Heights Market to walk around and enjoy the lovely Florida Springtime.

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And we got to pet some birds. No, Ivo, we’re not getting a bird.

Isn’t Mom just lovely today?

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This was our third visit to The Hangar. We love coming here for the high quality food, great ambiance, and the great views of the flight operations. The Hangar was the 2010 Tampa Bay Breakfast of the Year. But today we’re going to downgrade a half a point. While the food was excellent as usual, the whole experience was not what we’ve come to expect. Lipstick on the coffee cup and an order that showed up as what the waiter thought we wanted rather than what we said we wanted led to a feeling that The Hangar’s exceptionally-polished experience is becoming a little frayed. Still excellent, but less than we’ve come to expect from this great restaurant. For 2013 we give The Hangar a Tampa Bay Breakfasts four and a half pancake rating.

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The Hangar Restaurant & Flight Lounge on Urbanspoon

Gayles Diner

It’s our fourth anniversary for Tampa Bay Breakfasts! Here’s how we look today. (That’s a Marek and Ivo head-butting in progress you’re seeing here.)

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Here’s what we looked like four years ago this week. (Which was a year and a half before Ivo hired onto the team.)

Gloomy day here in Tampa Bay. It’ll clear up. We have faith in the weatherman. The lovely Don Cesar on the horizon there. Boys were all about the big castle, wonder who lives there.

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We parked next to this loader. It’s seen better days. I’ve always loved derelict equipment like this. Isn’t that odd? Ivo loves it, too.

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Ivo looking for his first tetanus shot, while Marek dismounts from Driftercoaster (our new name for the car) in a most inelegant fashion. Why just get out of the car when you can get out of the car butt-first?

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Lovely boys. It’s a good thing they look like their mother.

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They’re worth two portraits this morning. That’s how lovely they are.

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This morning we were going to go to Gayle’s Diner, but I’m strongly thinking about going across the street instead. Anything called a “megacenter” has to be awesome.

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Here we are at Gayles at 455 75th Ave St Pete Beach, FL. Already from the outside we can say, this is our kind of place.

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Both boys insisted on sitting at the counter. Ivo’s first time, and it’s a bit perilous. He’s about a mile off the ground. I don’t usually get nervous about his safety, but in this case I sat close and was ready to yell at him if he fell off and got seriously injured.

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Marek immediately placed his order. His new thing: Home fries and bacon. And also some eggs, please.

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Coffee for everyone, please, ma’am.

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An old, but apparently still in-use milkshake machine. An “I almost got away with it” book about a local guy (I went to school with a guy who ended up on that show, too. The key word for the show is “almost.”) I like a place where the staff keep emergency bottles of beer on the counter, just in case.

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The menu: Short but just right, all the right parts in all the right places.

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And breakfast came licketysplit fast. We were still goofin’, and here’s a forklift of chow. Ivo was already sawing on the pancakes before the plate stopped moving.

Notice the daughter of the proprietress, setting up coffee filters. Marek asked me how he could get a job like that.

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Arial view of breakfast. This is what we’d look like if the U.S. Geological Survey were to do this blog.

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Good breakfast, upon which the boys descended with vigor. Coffee making the rounds in the diner, which is small and cozy. This is an obvious family affair that has a warm vibe.

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Family portrait. This is what we’d look like if I also had a 9 year old daughter.

Notice how Ivo can’t even see over the counter? He still was able to take care of business. He’s a pro.

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Here’s a milestone for this year. Marek using a fork and knife. He’s like European aristocracy this morning. Which is an improvement from his usual fingers and belching.

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This look on Ivo’s face? It’s because, very likely, out of camera range he’s squeezing syrup on the floor behind his back.

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A bit pricey-feeling on the bill. A Jackson covers it, but barely.

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Ivo raised his hand first so he got the job.

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The folks behind us just laughed at this, when he ran off with the cash. But he showed everyone that he knows what he’s doing.

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After we left Gayle’s, we headed straight to the beach. We played in the sand, in the water, we got sunburns, Marek picked up a 6yo girl but forgot to get her number, everything boys are supposed to do at the beach.

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Apples for snacks on the way home. Notice how the Scion FR-S is a family car?

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Great greasy-spoon diner with serious and sincere mom-n-pop chops. Price seemed a little high, but the chow was good and plenty of it. Everyone’s friendly and there seemed to be a lot of regulars. We all had a great time at Gayle’s and are pleased to give a Tampa Bay Breakfasts four and a half pancake rating.

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Gayles on Urbanspoon

301 Family Restaurant

Fabulous, ridiculously lovely morning here in The Bay Area. Driving through Port of Tampa, looking at all the cool ships and shore facilities.

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Today we were going to go to Sandy’s Homestyle in Riverview, but we drove in circles for 45 minutes and could never find it. Not even Google Maps could help. I suppose it’s closed. Brandon area is NOT flush with great mom-n-pop breakfasts. We actually were starting to think about eating the weakest of us, until I realized that the boys were teaming up to eat me. Then I made a beeline to the closest known breakfast in the area, the 301 Family Restaurant at 3407 N HWY 301. We visited the 301 about a year ago at the suggestion of TBB fan Chris S.

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This is a great family photo. But if you look closely, you’ll see that Marek is considering taking a chomp out of Ivo’s shoulder. He’s hongree.

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The boys chose the patriotic table. USF and USA!

Marek dressed himself. He allegedly left the house with both shoes.

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Marek took this, and many other pictures this morning. Ivo took some too.

This last weekend, Marek for the first time “got it” on the whole breakfast project. He talked all day Friday about his “dot com” and spent an hour cruising the Tampa Bay Breakfasts web site. Seriously, he never really realized that this was his web site and I just work for him. Expect him to be exerting greater influence this summer.

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Since Marek was taking pictures, you get a rare look at me placing an order. Notice the precision, the command, the poise of Tampa Bay’s most experienced Pancake Professional. If this were a paying gig, I’d be able to afford to buy Marek both shoes.

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The menu. Had all the right parts in all the right places, no surprises. The 301 is exactly what you expect out of a classic greasy spoon.

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Ivo would like to give all our Breakfast Fans a big hug!

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Coffee and chocolate, just the way we like it.

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Portraits by Ivo. He took this shot. Composition is OK, but he needs to work on focus. The jaunty horizon is very avaunt-guard.

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Breakfast came on lots of plates, and Ivo attacked with the speed of a Breakfast Spider.

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I’m trying something new. The daily special was country fried steak. I haven’t had one of those in years.

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Ivo likes his food to look like it spent some time fighting with a Florida panther.

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Marek likes him some home fries these days. Here he’s musing on the delights of home fries in all their forms.

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It’s A-OK!

Actually, I have no idea what he was doing, but it’s not an old-school A-OK sign. Kids don’t do that anymore.

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Ivo shoved in as much pancake as his hatch could hold.

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And then the hatch lost containment. He kept it together and chewed in a most disgusting fashion.

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About $16 for a robust, filling breakfast. Not bad at all.

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Ivo, who is going to pay the bill today?

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Why, I am, dad!

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Here’s the cash. Let’s see what happens next.

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It’s Flamenco Ivo!

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Running at a dead sprint through the dining room to find someone to take the cash. Ivo is all about results.

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When he came back, I asked him if he could make a funny face. This is all he had.

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Marek jumped in to demonstrate his prowess, and lead his little brother in the finer arts of goofyface.

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How else would Ivo learn if he didn’t get this kind of loving moment from his big brother?

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When we got home, we had a good, old-fashioned Florida Saturday morning. Bikes and popsicles and trampolines and playing in the street. These will be the good old days.

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Great chow, just like you’d expect from a 30 year old diner. Good prices, friendly folks. On our way out we stopped to chat with a Korean War vet, and that made our day. The bacon and home fries met Marek’s demanding standards. The kid’s pancake got mauled and chawed in approving Ivo fashion. And I found the eggs and country fried steak to be a fine change to the usual, if a bit heavy on the sausage gravy. The coffee did run a little dry along the way, but otherwise this is a breakfast worth the drive. We’re pleased to give the 301 Family Restaurant a Tampa Bay Breakfasts four pancake rating.

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301 Family on Urbanspoon

Eggstyle

Ivo’s hauling Roary with him this morning. I actually brought Roary home for Marek three years ago, before you could find Roary on Sprout and you’d have to go all the way to jolly old England to find Roary.

Here’s the funniest part about it. The Roary show in the U.K. is in English, with U.K. accents, of course. Except for the American stock car race car, “Tin Top,” who has a voice like Elvis Presley. The U.S. version, they’ve dubbed all the voices into American accents … including completely changing the already-American Tin Top to a non-Elvis voice.

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Marek’s playing his harmonica. I’m not smiling, I’m gritting my teeth.

My sister, Tia Cindy, got me this shirt. I’m always sort of freaked out by depictions of animals celebrating that they’re being eaten, like this pig saying “mmmm, bacon” on my shirt. I had at least three people today compliment my shirt.

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This morning we’re visiting Eggstyle in Oldsmar, at 3980 Tampa Rd. They also have a flashy web site at http://www.eggstyle.com/. Note on the web site that the very first thing they say is “fast-growing,” and you’ll see on the cover of the menu a statement that “franchises are available.” The web site says there’s a location in Oldsmar, one in Sarasota, and one opening soon in St. Pete. So that’s a local chain and in-bounds for the Tampa Bay Breakfasts mission.

Except that our waiter told us that the restaurant was “a Canadian chain.”

I am confused, and a bit nonplussed by the franchisy thing.

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Nice interior, but a bit over-polished. The whole experience reminds me of our visit to J. Christopher’s. More on that later.

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Ivo sets out the tools. Preparation for battle. Which reminds me …

We’re actually here at the recommendation of TBB fan Greg. I met Greg in Iraq three years ago and he let me stay in his CHU and use his Kindle while I was waiting for air transport for several days. Of all the people in the world to whom I acknowledge a debt, Greg’s on the top ten for that small act of mercy.

(A CHU is a containerized housing unit, which is like Da Ritz compared to the eerily-empty 100-man tent I was originally in.)

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The “eggz” thing in the menu is OK, but if you’re going to run that all the way down, call the place “Eggzstyle.” The menu is very robust, lots of ways to tamp down a hunger here. I was impressed that when we asked about how the pancakes were made, we were told we could have them our way, even though it wasn’t on the menu like that.

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We had an odd hot chocolate experience. Hot water and a packet for us to stir up. First time for everything, including this.

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The good stuff for The Ivo.

We actually call him “The Ivo” sometimes. Not like he’s some inanimate object, more like he’s one of a kind.

If you don’t count Ivo D.

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If The Ivo were a race car, he’d be as cute as Roary. If Roary were a boy, he’d be as cute as Ivo.

Also note, Marek is next to me and not in as easy camera range, so … lots more pictures of second-son for this breakfast.

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Caption contest! I vote for “Gimme your wallet or I’ll cut you.”

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And about this moment, Ivo’s saying, “I’m gettin’ daddy!” Note the proper katana hand grip on this one.

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Odd hot chocolate moment part deux. A nice girl who was not our waiter brought us two actual, normal hot chocolates with whipped cream and everything. This was actually preferred by The Marek.

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And Ivo was delighted, because he usually doesn’t get hot chocolate. More stuff to hurl around and stress out daddy, yay!

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Breakfast came on a forklift. Pancakes large enough to call donk.

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Bacon, eggs, home fries. All in sufficient quantities for hungry boys.

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Marek approved of the bacon. I did too, I even got a bite for once, which just goes to show that there’s adequate quantities delivered here. Usually it’s “bacono disappearo” with Marek.

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Ivo, oddly enough, didn’t eat much. He was too full of juice and coffee and hot chocolate and who knows what else he’s gotten into. Probably had some tamales hidden in the car that he ate on the ride over.

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Though he did take a big handful of eggs. Not a forkful, a handful. There were actual animal feeding sounds.

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The sweet things 2 year olds do. Ivo pulled a piece of toast and fed it to Roary. “You eat too, Roary,” said Ivo.

Everyone join me: “awwwww….”

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Then he started trying to put Tabasco in his juice.

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For all this chow, the bill isn’t bad. Twenty two clams for so much we couldn’t finish it all.

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“I pay the bill, dad! Me!”

OK, kid. Here ya go.

Then he shied up and wouldn’t go. But while we were sorting that out we did meet the hostess, not pictured here, who was from Czechoslovakia. The Slovak side. My few words of the language didn’t pass muster (I studied for trips I took on the Czech side, so I reckon my accent was funky).

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After breakfast we took The Driftercoaster (Marek’s name for the FR-S) to the car doctor for shots and a checkup.

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In the showroom where we were waiting, Ivo inspected this display FR-S. He’s pointing at the tailpipe and talking about this is what makes it go fast.

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Without a doubt, these are the good old days.

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Our overall experience at Eggstyle was pretty good. Some oddities, but the staff were generally friendly, helpful, and prompt. The food and ambiance were very much in the spirit of J. Christopher’s in Carollwood. An added polish that takes it a step past homey and towards that almost sterile feeling you get when you’re in store # 4,230 of a national chain. My own mom-n-pop predilection is turned off by the “franchises available” on the cover of the menu. The chow was good. Big pancakes with fresh blueberries, really nice bacon, good eggs and home fries. Coffee was the way I like it: black and refilled. Read the Urban Spoon reviews and you’ll see a lot of unhappy customers at Eggstyle. The most frequent complaint was poor service, but we can’t say we had anything but a positive experience; everyone we talked to was really nice and attentive. We’re happy to give Eggstyle a Tampa Bay Breakfasts four pancake rating.

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Eggstyle on Urbanspoon

Stella’s Deli

We’re starting out the day pretending like it’s summertime. This wad of bikes on the back of the mom-car is guaranteed to make motorists go “awwwwww……”

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We’re taking a long ride to breakfast this morning. Everyone came prepared. Marek has his current favorite book. He loves books about nature but has decided that he really dislikes interacting with any actual nature.

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Ivo has his new Buzz. You can see how the roles are falling out with the boys. Marek, nerdy smart kid. Ivo, ug-play-crash-go. Three stitches under that band-aide, if you were questioning the “crash” in “ug-play-crash-go.”

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Lovely day here in Tampa Bay. All that blue sky makes us hungry.

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We’re headed to Gulfport, a little town hidden on the edges of St. Pete. For all our years and miles, we’ve never been to Gulfport. Residential roads, as you can see here, just end at the bay. There’s something nice to be said about that.

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Today we’re visiting Stella’s Deli at 3119 Beach Blvd South, Gulfport, FL 33707. They have a nice little web site at http://stellasingulfport.com/.

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Menu is extensive, with all kinds of standard and non-standard stuff. Hangover burgers make me already appreciate the clientele at Stellas.

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For Tampa Bay Breakfasts fans Jason and Jess, here’s yours.

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We’re sitting outside. How nice is that? Table’s pretty dirty. I only mention it because I noticed, and if I noticed, what with two boys who make icky an every day pleasure, you know it’s noticeable. Just surprised with all the great press Stella’s gets that they don’t start out the day by wiping off the accretion of dirt, dust, pollen, and nighttime from the outdoor tabletops.

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Marek appears very uncomfortable here. I appear very comfortable here.

These appearances are accurate.

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Ivo repurposed the creamer bucket as a fez. Looks good on him. As will the creamer pod he will doubtless split open and dump on himself in a few minutes.

Note the little girl in the background. Staring at Ivo, thinking, “hey, nice hat!”

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Hot chocolate for Marek. This is the first place where he didn’t really care for it. It was too hot at first, and when it cooled down he still didn’t care for it. I didn’t try it, myself. I don’t like to drink after these little monsters.

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Ivo, on the other hand, mainlined his triple-shot of the good stuff.

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I asked Ivo to go get me a newspaper. Parenting technique of distraction, as all the coffee was making everyone jittery. So Ivo executed this excellent dismount. Yes, he knows it’s easier to just get off the chair, but he’s going to do it his own way. Thank you very much.

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Fetching the above-mentioned newspaper. Note that actually placing our order for chow had a significant lag time, leading to the need for an actual newspaper.

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No breakfast merit here, just a sweet picture of little Ivo. Look deep into his eyes and enjoy the fact that for this tiny, quiet, personal moment between father and son …. he’s not actively breaking something.

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I predict lots and lots of goofy looks from Marek in the coming decades. Here’s an early example. His biographers from the future will cite this as the first time his goofball genius was documented.

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We’ve had a great half an hour here at Stella’s Deli. Read the newspaper. Had some coffee. And here’s our chance to get some chow to go along with it. We were digging the super-tech ordering system, first place in The Bay Area we’ve seen that.

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Ivo’s going to do a magic trick. Notice the very nice folks from Pennsylvania behind him.

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Step one: Bite the creamer pod.

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Step two: Wear the creamer and be proud.

First time readers of Tampa Bay Breakfasts are probably thinking, wow, Andy acts like he knew that was going to happen and he didn’t stop it?

Ayyup.

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Not to be out-done, Marek proposes doing the same thing with the jelly.

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At first we thought the umbrellas were for the sun. Then we saw the birds in the trees.

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Just in time to prevent us from breakfasting on creamer and marmalade, here’s breakfast! Ivo dives into the fray with fork and knife, shredding and mauling pancakes with gleeful abandon. I can only imagine him on a medieval battlefield, with a sword and axe.

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I had the homemade corned beef hash. I’m a sucker for homemade corned beef. Having been a bachelor at one point, I have actually eaten canned corned beef for 27 straight meals.

I don’t know if that’s actually true, but it’s not entirely false either.

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Breakfast boys at work. Tampa Bay’s only Pancake Professionals!

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Took us long enough to mention, but we’re here with a Tampa Bay Breakfasts Guest Reviewer, Randy.

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Marek says “syrup on eggs is the BEST!”

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Even Ivo looks at him with that look of “huh? syrup on EGGS?” If you’re grossing out Ivo, you’re doing it right.

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If you think for a moment that this syrup squeeze came straight out at Marek’s old man you’d be wrong. He did that earlier with the ketchup in the caddy and got in a bit of trouble that he hasn’t quite yet forgotten.

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Ivo with Marek’s old t-shirt, a gift from dear friends in Stuttgart.

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Randy’s reading that whole book on the table behind him.

It’s the owner’s manual for 2 and 5 year old kids.

Volume 1.

Of 2000.

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And then, while we’re casually talking, suddenly eggs are flying through the air. My Breakfast Ninja Ways took over and I caught the eggs in mid-air. In one fluid motion, elegant in its efficiency, I caught the eggs and said, Ivo, eat this.

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Ivo jumped like a cat. Pounced. Struck like a cobra. And the wayward eggs were gone. No one, to this day, knew where they came from.

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Marek’s plate is suspiciously void of eggs. Hmmm.

And here we are, back with the jelly.

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Because eating actual food is never as satisfying as just slurping condiments.

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I’m just glad I’m a lot bigger than Ivo, that’s all I’m sayin’. ‘Cause this is scary. Like a professional pancake wrestler, Ivo’s about to fly off the top rope at me.

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More with the painful, unnecessary dismounts.

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And we’re off to pay the bill. Just over $20. Not terrible, but not a bargain either. About average these days.

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Ivo’s got the cash. Marek’s the muscle. Good force protection posture.

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Quote from folks around us, “did you just send your kids into the restaurant alone with the money?” Ayyup.

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And within three hours, they came back with change.

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They’re starting to get paid for their efforts. The funny thing is, the quarters just come out of their little pockets in the washing machine and I put them back in my own jar anyway. So here ya go, kid, take two!

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Ivo ran off and got a quarter stuck in his eye. Does this happen to anyone else?

Here’s Marek in bouncer-mode. He’ll pick up work at Prana in Ybor when he’s older.

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Stella’s is a quality breakfast and well worth the long haul from Tampa. Service was a bit chaotic and slow to get moving, but the coffee never failed and the chow was very nice. TBB Guest Reviewer Randy gives it a thumbs up as one of his favorites. We’re pleased to give Stella’s Deli a Tampa Bay Breakfasts four and a half pancake rating.

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Stella’s Deli on Urbanspoon

After breakfast we walked to the shore and chased birds.

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And wouldn’t ya know it, the birds chased back!

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And once in a while, I get a picture that makes me think I might be doing this right after all.

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Gulfport had a mini-parade. Ivo climbed the fence by himself, looking for more stitches.

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After the playground, we went to SE Mattis barber shop in Seminole Heights, near our place.

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Marek negotiated with his barber.

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Ivo’s not interested in a haircut today.

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But when Marek paid the bill, he found out there were lollipops. Suddenly, Ivo appears by the chair.

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Jump up and ready to go, no fuss at all. There’s a lollipop at the end of this ordeal.

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Our barber has a good hand with these boys. He understands little-boy-hair-cuts and tickle spots.

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That’s a sharp haircut!

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Later that evening, we took a nighttime walk with our family hound. These are the little things the boys will remember when they’re my age and working until forever o’clock all the time.

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Just a normal day.

Jessi’s Restaurant

Boys are on dad time again today. We were going to get old-timey haircuts (for them, natch), but our local chop-shop is closed on Sundays. We’ll be back next week, boys’ attitudes allowing.

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New location in the area for dad to pop in for a quick one on the way home. Last time I was in this building it was a used appliance store (and they were sold out of window-unit air conditioners). Now it’s becoming the “Red Star Rock Bar.” Being a fan of retro-references like the 45 RPM inserts in this cool mural they’re painting, and being a fan of appropriating the devenomed Soviet Union as if it existed only to become an aspect of American hipster pop culture, I think I’m going to like this when it finally opens.

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This Bayshore morning is gloomy. Maybe not Portland-gloomy, but what do I know, I’ve never been to Portland.

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In the year 2063 when Ivo is going to the robot doctor because he has pain in his right hip, the highest court in the land, the Google Internet Court of All-Seeing, will exhume my FaceBook page and blame me for Ivo’s middle-aged arthritis by allowing his older brother to pull his leg out of the socket. This picture will be all the evidence the future needs.

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The gloom is worse over in Pinellas Park.

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It cleared up slightly by the time we got to Jessi’s Family Restaurant, recommended by TBB fan Don B. Jessi’s has a nice web site at http://jessisrestaurant.com/, and in the realm of the physical they’re located at 8331 66th Street N. Pinellas Park, FL 33781. Or in Tirana, if the Albanian omelets are any indication.

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We look like a bad 70s TV show promo picture, don’t we? Ivo’s the tough guy. I’m the unhinged mad scientist. Marek’s the psycho who eats lollipops while tying dynamite to your chest before throwing you out of the back of an airplane so you explode in mid-air.

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It’s a good sign. There was coffee on the table before I could even sit down. And not from the table’s previous occupants, either.

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Marek makes me think of the old Springsteen lyric, “Well now Wild young Billy was a crazy cat and he shook some dust out of his coonskin cap.

This boy needs a coonskin cap.

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Coffee straight up for young Ivo.

Man, that boy needs a haircut. And I should know, just look at all my hair.

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Marek’s lure to come to breakfast: The hot chocolate. He initially ordered the wrong kind. What he really wanted was the “hot chocolate please,” which is so much tastier than a regular “hot chocolate.”

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I’m having the Albanian omelet, and I’m thinking there’s a lot of Albanians in this part of town. Not the first Albanian breakfast we’ve been to. Our waitress, however, is Canadian. A real melting-pot here.

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Two year old with a knife. Nothing to see here.

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Marek would like you to note that he brought his “very special Corvette” with him this morning.

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And here we go with breakfast. Standard-issue bacon and eggs for the Marek.

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Ivo promptly started mauling his pancakes with cutlery. Taking out hidden aggressions from all that militant potty-training, I suppose.

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Albanian omelet. This will put a spring in your traditional Albanian folk dancing.

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I see this and think that Ivo’s conducting an orchestra. Orchestra of his belly.

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Marek’s eating the whole thing. This picture is notable, by the way, as it represents the one split-second where both boys were actually good and calm at the same time this morning. Every other shot I take is of a good boy while the other is pouring sugar down my gas tank.

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Marek pauses. The din of the melee raging around him fades. He looks his nemesis in the eye. Coldly. Measuringly. He knows that this moment will define him and will decide the outcome of the battle. He prepares to strike.

This.

This is what the Iliad would look like if it were about breakfast.

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We all pause for a coffee.

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Ivo whipped out a Jackson and said, “I’ve got this one, dad.”

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Sizing up the challenge.

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On the way out, we noticed all these pictures of, presumably, family and friends. This bumped Jessi’s from a 4 to a 4.5. These are folks who care about folks, and that counts a lot to me.

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Not captured on camera here: Marek stopping at one of these statues and saying, “Dad, this woman is naked!”

Also not captured, dad replying, “ayyyup.”

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Leaving the parking lot. I suspect the building housing Jessi’s is repurposed. I didn’t see a single cart in the restaurant that would cause them to need this sign.

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Jessi’s is a recommendation that came to us from Tampa Bay Breakfasts fan Don B. This was a great breakfast. Food was just right. Staff and customers alike were friendly and warm. A good family atmosphere, and the coffee never ran dry. Two breakfasts and three drinking men set us back just a sliver under twenty, which wasn’t the cheapest ever, but was still in budget. We’re pleased to give Jessi’s Family Restaurant a Tampa Bay Breakfasts Four and a Half Pancake Rating.

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Jessi's Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

After breakfast, we rolled into the Lake Seminole Park, which is where my parents used to take me when I was Marek’s age.

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As is the tradition with our tribe, we took a quiet moment of solitude to reflect, and also to yell at ducks.

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We had gone to the grocery the day before. Each boy carried his own basket and got to choose one apple. Bachelor training, you know. We brought our apples for snacks for the ride home.

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I took note of this fine American’s pickup truck on the way home. Soon enough I’ll be discussing with the boys why this person felt his misogynistic and violent views need to be on display. Let’s analyze: The “shocker” sticker in the upper left is a sexual reference not suitable for this blog, though we can say that it is not an act of empowerment for women on the receiving end. The “assault life” statement with the weapon implies a life that is founded on violence. I see this truck and it scares me. Not me, personally, but for my children who will have to grow up and navigate a world where it’s not only OK, but even encouraged to make crass statements on the highway that women are toys and lethal violence is the whimsical answer to the question. This guy probably has boys in the back and thinks it funny to teach them the little rhyme for “the shocker.”

I’m teaching my boys to grow up smart enough to manipulate the bullies, navigate the hate, and become real human beings.

Let’s hope so, anyway.

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Sunshine Cafe

Hello race fans and welcome to another morning of “Racing for Breakfast!”

As you can see by Ivo’s 30 degree off-axis and Marek’s goofy “DoItAgainDad” grin, we were doing donuts in an empty parking lot at 0800 this fine Saturday morning.

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To get ready for breakfast, and race day, we spun one of my favorites, “Dr. Funkenstein.” Which is Deadmau5 tracks and a vocal that just repeats, “Dr. Funkenstein” over and over.

It’s a lot less awesome when described that way, by the way.

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We visited The Sunshine Cafe this lovely 10th of February. Sunshine Cafe has a sort of generic-looking web site at http://www.sunshinecafeoftampa.com/ and they’re located at 3624 W Gandy Blvd“>3624 W Gandy Blvd.

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Deadmau5 plus reckless driving makes Ivo hungry. I mean honngreeee.

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Marek opened the door and Ivo immediately went to this gumball machine.

And had his first of many disappointments in life when he turned the knob and nothing happened.

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Comprehensive, if somewhat oddly ordered menu. Appetizers. Breakfasts. Sandwiches. Why not put appetizers over with the other dinner stuff? Ordered alphabetically, I’m thinking.

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Dad (my dad, their grandpa) will be interested to know that Sunshine Cafe has scrapple. That’s four or five places in The Bay Area that serve it.

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A round of coffee for everyone. Ivo doesn’t get appropriately pingy and start hurling eggs at people until his second cup.

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Here’s my prized Dali/Simpsons t-shirt, purchased from a street vendor in Figueres 15 years ago. Ivo spent 15 minutes pointing at things, saying, “what’s this, daddy?” Andy Warhol got his start just like this.

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Ivo, doing a bit of faux Kandinsky. Quoth Marek, “I hate abstract expressionism.”

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Marek, admiring an example of early 21st century parental neorealist portraiture. Quoth Marek, “That’s not me, daddy!” Oh, yes it is, son.

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Another work of art, from the Edward Hopper School of Grits.

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Moments after this quiet picture was taken, Ivo managed to take one of the pre-packaged syrup containers and pry the corner loose, dumping syrup right in his crotch where it was not obvious that he had done so at first glance. More on that later.

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I had the “spinach and feta skillet.” While obviously this is not served in an actual skillet, it was still a quality meal artfully served.

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Ivo gnawing his way into a packet of butter. A kinder father would open it for him.

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Not large pancakes. Perfect for The Ivo, though. And attractive to look at, too.

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Here we are in mid-cleanup. A positive puddle of oil under the boy, not unlike what you’d find under a ’72 Dodge with a bad oil pan gasket. Just sticky and nasty. But only syrup, nothing more. (Though at this point, there was truly no way to know, so I made him sit on a napkin and pretend that everything was normal (which, oddly enough, it sort of was for us.).)

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Now that we’re all done talking about sticky, syrup-soaked two-year-olds, I wanted to mention that this was a good breakfast I was having.

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Last week, Marek put syrup on his eggs. This week, butter. I read that Einstein did the same thing.

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We got grits, just for you, Kim on AM 820!

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The bill was around 17 clams for all of us. Not terrible, but not super-cheap. A good amount of chow, so we didn’t feel swindled.

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Marek was still ladling butter onto his scrambled, so Ivo took the cash.

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And promptly tried to pay this cab driver picking up a take-out order. Shows how good Tampa’s cabbies are. The man said, “look kid, for $20 I can take you to the airport, but no farther.”

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Finally, Ivo found the right spot. Who says a two year old can’t apply problem-solving skills?

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Smokin’ and Jokin’ on the way home. Notice how Ivo is carrying a jelly packet. That’s not going to be good news for me later on, I can tell.

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We stopped on the way home to enjoy the City we call Tampa.

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And do what we do best. Which is, right after breakfast, the time-honored hobby of Yelling At Birds.

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We had a fine time at the Sunshine Cafe. The chow was nice, the people friendly, the price on the slightly high side of OK. The coffee cups were tiny and the dining area was that flat, open plan that belies a former retail space. And also, we walked in on an old guy sitting on the can when we went to wash up the syrup explosion, and we haven’t been able to un-see that yet (sir, there IS a lock on the door). At the end of the morning, Sunshine Cafe is worth a visit (just knock first). We’re happy to give Sunshine Cafe a Tampa Bay Breakfasts four pancake rating.

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Sunshine Cafe on Urbanspoon

Datz Deli

We’ve got a visitor this weekend. An old Air Force buddy, Jason. The boys hate him and don’t want anything to do with him, as you can see here.

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Even after we all got dressed, they still refuse to even acknowledge his presence.

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Because we’re all guys, we had to talk cars. Jason hadn’t seen the Breakfassst FR-S before, so we popped the hood and made vrooming noises. Check out Marek’s Formula Racing jacket. I found that in an Abu Dhabi market a few years back, and he’s finally grown into it.

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Ivo says, “because RACECAR!”

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I says, “because RACECAR!”

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This morning we’re visiting Datz Deli, one of the best restaurants in Tampa. Marek actually rode on Jason’s shoulders the whole way here, which was uncomfortable in the car. Datz is at 2616 South MacDill Avenue. We’ve been here a bunch of times, and it always delivers.

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There’s a line. That’s OK, we have a reservation, thanks to AM 820 Food Talk co-host and Datz owner Suzanne. This must be how real celebrities feel. We’re just faux-celebs. Pancakes don’t usually make the red carpet.

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We’re up on top, with a great view.

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The Datz menu is always new, printed on custom newspapers. Pirate pancakes … a Tampa Special!

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Me and Ivo, goofin’ at Datz.

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We’re going with the love potion pink pancakes.

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Jason’s liking the “You Had Me at Nutella.”

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We had to keep a close eye on Ivo. He might want to “share” some toys with the people below us. Marek did that a couple years ago and we had to go retrieve cars from downstairs. One is still down there somewhere.

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We warmed up and took off our jackets. Ivo’s sporting his Stuttgart shirt, a present from our German friends. Though I wonder, why does it say “Germany Stuttgart” and not “Stuttgart Germany?”

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Jason taught the boys a new game, “muppet.”

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Check out how cool is Datz, they even have coffee in kid-sizes.

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We’re sitting by the bar. Mimosas were flowing here at Datz. Not for us, though. We have to concentrate. We’re on duty. Though I’m curious … never had a mimosa before.

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Again, no one likes Jason. He’s so lonely.

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We had a visit from a member of the Datz management team, General Manager Erica. Thanks for the attention … we loved it

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Checking out the Datz mobile app.

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A bit of a mishap. Hot chocolate spill caused by unbridled enthusiasm.

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A great restaurant has to deal with complexity. There clearly was an emergency response protocol for “Hot chocolate spill on the upper deck.” It probably has a code, like “DR075-Alpha” if the rapid response is any indication.

By the way, we are not going to talk about Lauren’s tattoos.

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The lighting in Datz is such that all the food appears with angelic halos.

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Nutella decadence for Jason, corned beef hash for Andy. Yes, that’s a pair of binoculars on the table. We ARE on the upper deck, after all.

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Pink pancakes for Ivo.

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This is chow worthy of taking a picture for the folks back home.

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Marek’s also got the pink pancakes, but we all know he’s just here for the bacon.

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Jason is momming it up for Ivo.

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And as a result, Ivo is able to shovel it in. He’s not actually making Cookie Monster sounds here, but he ought.

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I asked our cheerful waitress for more coffee, and she pointed out that we already had a hot carafe on the table. That’s a nice touch, Datz!

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Me and Marek traded plates, and he finished my home fries (a.k.a. “square french fries,” thanks to Jason!) and I finished his pancakes.

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Insert “gobble chomp” sounds here.

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We wrapped up with little mimosas. These are a new signature drink from Datz, and the first time I’ve ever had a mimosa. I can see where that could be a dangerous habit on Sunday mornings.

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We had a visit from our old friend Tina. We know her from Rick’s on the River and from previous visits to Datz.

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A Breakfast Lineup in the parking lot on a sunny Sunday morning.

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In the overflow parking lot, a Jeep with mascara.

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We stopped at another Tampa favorite of ours on the way home, Rollin’ Oats.

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Where we showed Jason how we do it with the little carts. Marek hasn’t left Jason’s shoulders in 36 hours. I don’t even want to know how he’s been going to the bathroom.

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Don’t be fooled by this Tampa Bay Breakfasts rating. Datz is no diner. It’s a high-end, foodie-friendly restaurant that takes risks in the kitchen and gets it right in the dining room. What Datz has more than any other breakfast in the Bay Area is attention to detail. They care about the food, how the food looks, how you feel, and the space around you.

Go to Datz. Take a bunch of money. Don’t be in a hurry. Try something adventurous. Love it.

We’re pleased to return to Datz with another Tampa Bay Breakfasts five pancake rating.

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Datz Tampa on Urbanspoon

Country Pumpkin Cafe

Marek’s heading out for Breakfast. We tend to capitalize the “B” in Breakfast around here.

Note that he has:

  1. A jacket, because mom told him to.
  2. His favorite fireman boots, which are two sizes too small, but “it’s OK dad, really.”
  3. His t-ball baseball pants, with a big rip in the nethers that I didn’t discover until later in the morning.

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Here in Tampa it’s a lovely, lovely morning. February, so it’s cold. In the 50s, maybe. On the left is a place I sometimes buy daddy-beverages in quantities of six, and on the right is where Ivo got his first real haircut. In the distance is the city skyline. Just our neighborhood.

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This morning we visited the Country Pumpkin Cafe at 2620 E Hillsborough Ave in Tampa. Marek appears to be prying himself out of the car. It’s a family car, and I’ll stand by that statement until a medical professional advises me that the car is stunting my children’s growth.

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Says I to Marek, let’s take a picture together and pretend that we are normal and sane and like each other and all that. He concurred in a most dutiful fashion.

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And then we got newspapers. Because 1. they’re free and 2. There might be coupons for mom.

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I’m teaching Marek to read the paper over breakfast, old-style. He’ll look back fondly on these moments and think, wow, dad was a real dinosaur in 2013, with his newspapers made out of paper and all that.

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The Country Pumpkin has an interesting menu. You can get stuff you expect, and stuff you don’t so much expect.

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What you may not expect is a “breakfast burger.” Now I can tell you, we’ve been doing this Breakfast Thing for a while. And we’ve never encountered a “breakfast burger” before. Worthy of note.

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Hot chocolate for Marek. We had a serious discussion about the relative merits of marshmallows in hot chocolate afterwards. Also note the nice display of coffee creamers. Like a little blossom of creamers. I decided early on, 25 years ago, that I would drink coffee black so that I’d always like what I had and not be too worried about things like “we’re out of creamer.”

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Enormous cutlery on the wall, in case an enormous person walks in and orders the whole thing.

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“Ma’am, I’ll take a breakfast over here, please.”

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And politeness works. Bacon first, as is Marek’s method for approaching bacon and eggs. Afterwards he said, “good bacon.” I didn’t get any. Somehow, the Scarfing of the Marek (much like “the running of the bulls”) prevented me from sampling.

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Here are pancakes that made me stop and ponder. Consider. Mutter, “whoah, interesting.”

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Not huge, but moderately sized. My hands aren’t exceptionally large, but those fingers can type about a million words a minute. Stand back.

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It’s the cook-in banana appearance that has me. This is so neat-looking, and tasty too. I really liked these pancakes.

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Five year old with a knife. What? His mom’s not here. So the boy can have a knife.

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Syrup on eggs. What, you think I’M going to stop him? We already established that boy has a knife.

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More newspaper reading. Something about a “Monster Truck Jam” in Tampa tonight. We discussed the cultural, literary, and metaphysical aspects of a “Monster Truck Jam.”

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Around ten clams for a robust breakfast. Note our new business cards for 2013. This is our third set of business cards since we started. That’s kind of weird.

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Marek paid the bill. After all, who else would? Ivo? Not here. Didn’t want to come. Pajamas and time with mom, that’s all Ivo wanted this morning.

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Note the clean and somewhat spartan interior. And sparse of customers, though it did start filling in as we were leaving. I wasn’t a fan of the televisions, which seemed a bit loud and distracting in the empty dining room.

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On our way home, we went by the stadium. Sure enough, there’s Grave Digger, the “most feared monster truck on earth.”

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The Country Pumpkin Cafe was a fine experience. The chow was good, especially the banana pancakes. The price was reasonable. The service was good, and even a little sassy. We like sassy. At the end of the morning, we can say that the Country Pumpkin is worth a visit. We’re happy to give “The Pumpkin” a Tampa Bay Breakfast four pancake rating.

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Country Pumpkin Cafe on Urbanspoon