Category Archives: Columbian

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.


Family portrait, boys-style.


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.


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.


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!”


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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!


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.


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.


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


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


Pancake-induced coma for Ivo.


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


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.


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.


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.


A peso for the Ivo. Aggressive.


A peso for the Marek. Photogenic.


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!


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.”


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


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.


The best manatees of them all, Marek and Ivo.


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.


Ranch House on Urbanspoon

La Pequeña Colombia

Watch out Tampa, the Breakfast Boys are doing their thing this morning.


We visited La Pequeña Colombia at 6312 North Armenia Avenue on 9 November 2013. They have a flashy web site at This is a recommendation from Tampa Bay Breakfasts fan J.C., who is from Colombia and knows what he’s talking about.


You get a sense of pride in La Pequeña Colombia, the folks running this restaurant really love what they do. Everything is vibrant and exciting. You don’t even have to open the menu to see what you’re in for here.


Lots of desayunos to choose from. No pancakes. Arepas everywhere (though we do have a preference for Venezuelan Arepas, because of our Tia Sofia).


For the gringos, number 13: the “Desayuno Americano” with French fries.

Reminds me of the time I was in a pizza place in Hungary. They brought me a pizza and some ketchup. Why, I asked. Because I’m American, and Americans eat everything with ketchup.


You can see the bakery cases behind Marek. Lots of lovely Colombian breads and snacks there.


Marek picked up a newspaper outside on our way in. I think he’s reading that article at the bottom, “Oracle, Google, y Red Hat.”


Just like his old man, Marek needs his glasses to read.


Like I said, just like his old man.


Out in the parking lot, the fastest pancake mobile in Tampa. It’s going to be a really sad day when Marek grows another two inches and doesn’t fit in the back seat anymore. He’ll have to start riding in the trunk.


Hot chocolate and cafe con leche.


Ivo decided to “fix” our googlyglasses. In Ivo-speak, anything he offers to “fix” will be completely disassembled down to the molecular level in the time it takes for you to get another beer from the kitchen.


Just in time, here comes breakfast. Desayunos, that is. And there’s butter so, of course, Marek is pleased.


I had whatever our fine waitress recommended. Scrambled eggs with peppers, beans and rice, arepas, tostada. This is “Calentado,” and I’d recommend it to you.


The boys both had “scrambled eggs and bacon.” Which turned out to be “eggs scrambled with bacon.” And they were thrilled. Like, wow, they can DO that, dad?


Marek, in this fugue state, mumbled that this was the best breakfast he’d ever had. I think he stopped breathing for a moment.


If you go to La Pequeña Colombia and you like sunshine, sit in the booth at the north end of the dining room. I sort of wished we’d chosen one booth over and not been in the tanning salon, but I wanted to get these little monsters as far away from decent people as possible.


Ivo was done. I said, hey Ivo, give dad a kiss. And the little bugger licked my cheek. Ick. But oh, did he laugh at how he had one over on me.


While that little drama was going on, over on Marek’s side of the table there’s a full-blown theatrical production on how he loves those scrambled eggs with bacon in them.


Total bill, 48,000 Colombian Pesos, or about $25 USD. A little more expensive than our usual, but we had a lot of food (and, to be honest, our usual is usually me getting something and splitting it with at least one boy).


I don’t know why Ivo is folding his bills long-ways like that. And also, if his face looks sort of dirty, it’s because Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom was out of town last night and boys skipped bathing and probably slept in their clothes under boxes of cereal for all I know.


Off they go to pay the bill. While I catch a break from trying to keep them quiet and keep them from destroying the restaurant.


Our fine waitress was very kind to put up with us. Though she didn’t seem interested in wearing googly eyes with us when we first sat down.


She gave the boys Bon Bon Booms! Our friend for life.


Did I mention that Mom is not home? So after breakfast we went and had fun the way only dads can do. We went to a furniture store and played on the beds. Boys won’t take naps at home, but take them out in public into a room full of bare mattresses, and OFF come the shoes and up they go to get cozy. Dad is then free to wander around, looking at prices on doilies and foot stools, for at least an hour.


In the bed-choosing competition, Ivo wins. Up and down and up and down and up and down.

And just think, Mom actually Spends Money to take the boys to fun places.


But back to La Pequeña Colombia. A fine experience. Food was great (“best breakfast I ever had,” swoons Marek). People friendly (and tolerant of our chaos). Price a little higher than usual for us. The restaurant is exceptionally lovely inside, despite being in what is really a wretched little strip mall. We’ll be back. We’re happy to give La Pequeña Colombia a Tampa Bay Breakfasts four and a half pancake award.


La Pequena Colombia on Urbanspoon

La Montaña Colombian Bakery

We’re not really going to breakfast today. We already had breakfast at home. Today, 8 September 2012, we’re just taking a fun bike ride down Armenia Avenue.

But all of us world-class five-year-old bike riders sometimes need a break. So we popped into La Montaña at 8206 N Armenia Ave, a nice little Colombian bakery in our neighborhood. This section of Armenia between Waters and Hillsborough is very seriously Colombian. Like getting your passport stamped serious. While we do wish it were Venezuelan instead of Colombian, it’s still exciting.

This is Ivo, shaking his head that he doesn’t think my Spanish is up to the challenge. (It’s not, by the way, but that doesn’t stop me.)

Marek’s a fan of the free car trader magazines. He picked up this one out front where we parked the bikes. He doesn’t read English yet, so it being in Spanish is not a big deal.

We had some jugos de naranja, freshly cut and squeezed in front of us. Really nice!

And I had a guava pastry. The boys didn’t even want to try it. No sense of adventure, these ones.

We sat outside and had our naranja and coffee break. While we were sitting here, the Señoras y Señoritas Colombianas kept stopping to pat Marek on the head and say “que lindo.”

This is how Marek looked as he says to me, and I am not making this up, “Daaaaad. Why can’t we just talk English?” This is in response to me saying to him, when we walked in the door, “ahora, solo Español.”

Cafe con leche and guava pastry on a bike ride. 30 years from now, Marek and Ivo are going to look back at times like this and think how neat their childhood was. Of course, 10 years from now, they’ll think this is all so dumb and dad why can’t we just do something that’s not with you?

Choosing his new pickup truck.

Enjoying his jugos.

When we were all done, the boys collected all the free magazines. Marek announced he was starting a paper route.

Ivo on the ride home. Tell me, does he look sweet … or apprehensive? Could it be because I’m taking this picture while also pedaling the bike? Ponder….

We didn’t really have breakfast at La Montaña, so we can’t honestly give it a rating. We did see other folks having some seriously delicious-looking beans and rice and arepas. This is a great little place with friendly people and good bread (I pick up a loaf every now and then) and fresh juice. Take your best high school Spanish if you go!

La Montana Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Antojitos Latin Cravings

This morning Marek woke up in a pure panic. “Hey Old Man! You never took me to breakfast last weekend! What, did you forget we have a MISSION and people in Tampa Bay DEPEND on us?!?!” Well dunk me in honey and throw me to the bees, the boy’s right. I called out of work with an emergency and Marek and I went off for breakfast. Next on our list? Los Hermanos on Florida. Somehow, I think maybe they’re not open on Thursdays.


Plan B! How about one of those places down on Columbus we haven’t tried yet? This boy, he’s quick with the ideas. We rolled south to Antojitos Latin Cravings on 2300 W. Columbus on 5 November 2009. While they don’t seem to have a web page, they do, interestingly enough, have a Facebook account. This was our first ever visit to Antojitos.


Inside was nice, clean, open, but certainly not new. This is one of those well-worn places that has probably served a million plates over the years, much like Aguilas, or West Tampa Sandwich. You’re sure to get good food, but you don’t want to worry about wearing your Sunday best. And there’s a nice lunch counter with a couple of what appeared to be regulars. That’s a cozy little spot to have a cafe y tostadas!


Marek was worried when we sat down. Dad, he says, what if they don’t have pancakes? I mean really, what the heck are we gonna DO? I’m HONGREE.


Our very nice waitress visited with a menu. ¿Ingles? No. OK. Marek y yo. Nosotros estudiamos Español. Por favor, I said in my best High School Spanish, cafe con leche, jeuvos revueltos con jambon y tostada, y arepas con queso por el niño. FINALLY, that C- I got in my senior year is Paying Off. Marek just looked at me like, dad, come on. You sound like a dork.


While we waited, we agreed that the state of father-son-breakfast relations had never been better. Despite our concerns over global warming and genetically modified food and the Illuminati, we still have each other.


We smuggled in a juice box because, well, you never know what a place will have on the menu for a two-year-old foodie. Turns out this was completely unnecessary as Antojitos has a wide range of jugos on the menu. We didn’t realize until after we broke out the private stash.


Then we had cafe con leche. I neglected to ask if this was a typical Colombian thing, but it must be pretty prevalent as it’s been the coffee of choice at every Latin restaurant we’ve tried. While I like my diner coffee to be blacker than the soul of a serial killer on a moonless night after he just fell into a vat of black ink while tripping over a black cat on black Friday.

Sorry, got kind of carried away there. I have come to like some cafe con leche, and this was a good dose of it.


And here comes some desayunos. There were no pancakes. But we’re in uncharted South American territory here, so we’re going with the flow. Scrambled eggs with ham were pretty good, and a sizable portion that I couldn’t finish.


Arepas con queso. We got arepas in honor of our Tia Sofia from Venezuela. She says that Venezuelan and Colombian arepas are different, but there’s not any Venezuelan desayunos in Tampa for us to try so here we are. And Marek, he’s the smarty. He says, hey long chops, that’s NOT a pancake, so quit trying to pass it off as one. So I ate Marek’s arepa and he ate my tostada.


And he liked that toast good. It was yummy!


When we were done, Marek said he would pay. We didn’t have the bill in hand so I figured a Jackson would do the trick.


He found his way through the maze.


And, as is typical for him, found his way into the arms of a pretty girl behind the counter. Obviously, the pretty girl is obscured in this photograph.


When we were done paying, Marek and I were sort of conferring in our telepathic dad-son way, well, no pancakes, but folks are nice, but no pancakes. We’re thinking it’s an OK place but, well, it’s OK. Then the nice fellow behind the counter whips out a bonbon! A POP for Marek! That’s worth a half-point bump.


After we got our bill paid and our pop sorted, Marek made the rounds and gave plenty of adios y besitos por todos. Gracias!


When we were done and paid up, we walked away with full bellies and found Antojitos to be a nice family place with regulars and good Colombian food. I think I miscounted the change when we left, as it did seem to be a bit expensive for what we had, but overall it was a fine desayunos and a good chance to practice hablando en Españo! We’re happy to give this Tampa Bay Breakfast a 3.5 pancake rating.


Antojitos Colombianos on Urbanspoon