The Ranch House

It’s a mid-week breakfast morning. We’re cruising down the road listening to Vanessa Lively, one of our favorite “girl with guitar” folk singers.

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Family portrait, boys-style.

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This morning, 27 November 2013, we’re re-visiting the Ranch House at 7706 W Hillsborough Ave. We first visited here back in May 2009.

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Take note that the Ranch House is next to a Buddhist center and a tax refund center and, just off the picture, a strip-mall Christian church. Lots of diversity going on here.

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Boys chose the same booth where we sat four years ago. We were looking at the original review, and Marek says, “awww, look, it’s little Marek!”

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The menu hasn’t changed, but we sure have. On our first visit I wasn’t real impressed. But now we’re taking a closer look and wow, this is three big pages of breakfast. Including all the things named after people, which I think is a great touch.

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Three big pages of breakfast, and even a kids menu to go along with it.

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We asked. These arepas are Colombian, not Venezuelan. We have a bias due to our Tia Sofia being from Caracas. So we skipped these substandard Bogota Arepas.

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I decided immediately that I wanted a Hot Mexican. Lucky for my marriage, there was an omelet named “The Hot Mexican.” If there wasn’t, who knows what would have happened when I asked for one.

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Civil engineering projects. Probably part of a large public works project designed to stimulate the local economy.

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These boys should have submitted plans for the World Trade Center project. I’ve never seen such sky-high stacking!

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By now you’d think Marek would have a crowd of admiring people chanting, “one more! one more!” But no one other than Ivo and I were there to witness this incredible stack.

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It’s Thanksgiving, the traditional time for family to pick at political issues. So I’ll get out in front of it all and admit that the failure of this ambitious publicly funded artwork is all Obama’s fault.

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Lucky for Marek, there was a breakfast safety net for him to fall into. Bacon and eggs, Marek-style!

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These boys are growing up to be such a team. First they’ll fight and kick and bite and fart on each other. Then, when you’re not paying any attention, Ivo will give one of his butters to Marek because he knows how much his brother likes it.

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The following image is not safe for work. It’s R-rated. It’s only suitable to be looked at after the kids go to bed.

It’s my Hot Mexican!

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Butter on the eggs and bacon. We’re all still wondering about this, but hey, so long as he doesn’t expect me to eat it he can do whatever he wants.

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A little salsa for the Hot Mexican. A biscuit that I swear was dunked in butter. By the way, don’t get this meal without consulting your physician.

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Ivo’s only three and he can do this. He’s farting the whole time and giggling, but he can butter his own pancakes.

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For the first time all morning … silence. Gives me a moment to reflect on why the heck I ever had children, anyway.

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Pancake-induced coma for Ivo.

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A dose of coffee perks up any boy. I know it’s a requirement for old dad.

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And off they go to pay the bill. I’m hoping it fits on a Jackson. Last time I did this, they came back to say they needed more money.

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All the gumball machines were fascinating. One of them was Fox News sponsored — it had an equal number of Evil Exploding Obama Heads and Saintly Rush Limbaugh Halos. If it wasn’t an equal number, then it wouldn’t be fair and balanced.

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Our nice waitress is from Uruguay. The first time we’ve ever met anyone from Uruguay. These ten facts about Uruguay will not leave you feeling very informed. This description is better, as it at least talks about food and drink.

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A peso for the Ivo. Aggressive.

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A peso for the Marek. Photogenic.

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Prizes from the machines! This is a special day! Un dia especial! Despite the fact that I had a Hot Mexican, the restaurant is staffed by Uruguayans and owned by Colombians. Ay Caramba!

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After our excellent breakfast, we hopped up on U.S. 19 and rolled north to Homosassa Springs to visit the manatees. Marek, as you can see here, is showcasing the latest fashion in “County Orange.”

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From the boardwalk, some of the local residents. They are much larger than they appear from this photograph.

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Boys exploring the under water observatory. Nothing like energetic young Florida boys yelling at fish to make all the real tourists wonder which animals they’re here to see.

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The best manatees of them all, Marek and Ivo.

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Our first visit to the Ranch House was good, but we were new at our reviews and didn’t take the time to really appreciate it. Looking back, we gave them an average three pancake rating; good place, average pancakes, OK price. But this time we really paid attention, and this is what we saw: Locals at every table being greeted by name. A very personal, family place where people’s names are part of the food. Very friendly staff. And I’m STILL talking about my Hot Mexican several days later. Price is reasonable, chow is good, and it’s one of those labor-of-love restaurants that I always enjoy. We’re pleased to promote the Ranch House’s rating from a dismal three to an exceptional Tampa Bay Breakfasts four and a half pancakes rating.

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