Category Archives: Greek

Mamas Family Kitchen

It’s a beautiful day in Tampa, Florida. A great day for a bike ride. Ivo’s on his Kazam bike. This used to be Marek’s Kazam bike, and is the reason why he’s such a biking ace today.

Of course, you can’t ride a Kazam all the way to breakfast, so Ivo still gets strapped to the back of my bike.

I have no idea how Ivo’s face got filthy between leaving the house and stopping for a photo-op break. This morning I achieved a parenting coup and managed to convince Marek that a wrench is a toy just like Star Wars action figures or Hot Wheels cars. “Oh dad, this wrench is so much fun,” and so on.

Everyone gets a newspaper for some reason. I think the reason is, the newspapers are free.

We’re revisiting Mama’s at 9312 N Florida Ave. This is our favorite seat because we’re under the lions.

Here’s how you can tell that Ivo is really my kid. Already with the hot sauce. And still a dirty face, despite the parking-lot-spit-bath, dad-style.

The updated menu at Mamas. Also, they’re really fun on Facebook.

Ivo with crayons.

Marek showing off his Stuttgart VfB colors for our friends back in Germany. Why the look? Because I said, “show me your Stuttgart shirt, Marek,” and he made that face.

The 2011 Tampa Bay Breakfasts Waitress of the Year … Vicki!

Every two year old needs his morning coffee. Ivo is no exception.

We may have to switch Ivo to decaf. First cup he’s ever broken. In going on four years of Tampa Bay Breakfasts, we’ve only broken two coffee cups (the first was in 2009, and it wasn’t Marek who broke it).

We were joined this morning by a new breakfast friend, Carolina, who has a great camera. Another modern mystery, it ended up with a lot of syrupy fingerprints on it.

Marek’s journalism cred is well-established. The problem now is that his Christmas wish-list just got more expensive.

Just in time to save the camera from the same fate the coffee cup endured, here’s Vicki.

Here’s a plate of lovely banana-walnut pancakes.

Andy, Marek, and Ivo split the pancakes, bacon, and eggs.

A recurring theme for Tampa Bay Breakfasts is the independence of the child. We like to foster and encourage development of good judgement, level heads, and critical thinking. We think it’s more valuable to teach kids to have a good response to a new situation than to try to protect from all possible threats. We’re fans of free-range kids. And also, we give knives to our two-year-olds.

Marek doing a Brad Pitt imitation.

Ivo getting the Brad Pitt paparazzo treatment.

Here’s what Carolina was snapping. Ivo with a whole pancake in his mouth at one time. Twenty years from now, Ivo will look back at this moment … and immediately change his name and enter the Witness Protection Program.

Marek is reciting poetry to this pancake. I believe it’s Ode on a Grecian Urn.

As the level of overall chaos ascended, Ivo stepped up to pay the bill. As everyone knows, a two year old running around a restaurant waving Jacksons always has a calming effect.

He was gone for a while. I finally decided that since I hadn’t seen him for 15 minutes, I ought go exercise some parental responsibility and find him. He was negotiating for more lollipops.

Which he proudly delivered back to the table. He didn’t bring the change, though. I think his priorities need alignment.

This is a visionary look, worthy of a presidential campaign poster. “Pops for everyone! Vote for me!”

Vicki and Marek, Breakfast Buds.

We piled back on bikes. Ivo was out before we were even half-way home. Dreams of breakfasts past and future.

And we saw this neat oldtimer turning into the gas station. I didn’t know that the 7-11 had gas, diesel, AND charcoal at the pumps.

Great chow. Great prices. Friendliest service in Tampa. Lions on the wall. Exuberant Facebook page. And we get recognized every time, which makes us feel good. Tampa Bay Breakfasts Five Pancake Rating (and shhhh, also going to be the 2012 Breakfast of the Year when we do our annual wrap-up next month!).


Mamas Kitchen III on Urbanspoon


We re-visited Nicko’s on 27 October 2012. As you may recall, Nicko’s was our 2011 Breakfast of the Year.

Marek is doing a Bieber pose. Or maybe a Bowie pose.

We brought a puzzle to keep little hands occupied. Let this be a lesson to dads everywhere. Don’t bring a puzzle to breakfast. This did not work out as planned.

Ivo having morning coffee. The funny part is the goofy look on dad in the mirror. That’s apparently the look I get when I’m taking a picture of my kids.

The menu is basic, and makes a point of telling you about Elvis. Which is one of the top three cool things about this place.

A family photograph. Ivo. Andy. Monkey. Marek.

Monkey is the brains of the operation. I’m the financier. Marek is special teams. Ivo is the enforcer. It’s like Ocean’s 11.

Hot chocolate for Marek. Dig his OEF t-shirt. Given the proximity of MacDill, he’s probably not the only kid with one of those. But he’s MY only kid with one of those.

After a long and harsh political debate over the menu, we decided on pancakes, bacon, and eggs.

Inside Nicko’s is like rolling back in time. And this morning, back-in-time was packed.

I got desert first. Ivo kisses are the best!

Not only did we discover that this puzzle was actually made up of several different puzzle pieces, but I think we donated some to the floor under our table.

This is a quick trick brick stack.

Marek is almost ready for this.

And Marek is definitely ready for this.

Ivo gets a Mickey Pancake. The eyes and mouth cut into it are a bit macabre-looking.

Ivo puts a fork to good use.

Stuffing an entire pancake into his mouth at one time.

And then there’s the knife. Which he started swinging around like a mad pirate after a while.

Dad got breakfast also.

The whole lot rolled in at fifteen even. Not bad at all.

Marek took care of the bill. When he brought change back he announced that the coins were his. The folks at the next table pointed out that he did work for it. So there you go.

Great food. Lots of locals. Old-time railcar diner. Elvis. Breakfast of the Year winner. Go to Nicko’s to have a great breakfast. We’re pleased to re-award Nicko’s as a Tampa Bay Breakfast Five Pancake experience.


Nicko's Fine Foods on Urbanspoon

The Four Coins

This trio is ready for action. Breakfast Action.

It’s a gloomy day in Tampa, this Halloween Eve.

Marek isn’t so much a young photog as a 4-year-old master of my smartphone. I’m equal parts amazed and annoyed that he can, for example, take this picture of me driving, despite the fact that I don’t think I ever actually showed him how to do it.

And he’s having even more fun. Here’s Marek’s first self-portrait. Oh golly, the poor kid looks just like me in this one.

We visited the Four Coins restaurant at 2700 34th Street North on 30 October 2011.

Marek is a Breakfast Team Leader, first at the door. You can see the reflection of Ivo in the window. Ivo is HONGREE. (Which is our way of saying “hungry” with a lot of North-Central-Florida inflection.)

A not-extensive but certainly not-lacking menu. Odd font on this one. At first I thought they used a printer with a fouled print head, then I realized that it’s just a fancy font. It’s readable, but did give me a moment’s pause. Probably because I’m odd enough to actually think about the concept of “font.” I’m the kind of guy who has a preference for serif vs. sans-serif (I like my fonts to have serifs, thank you very much), which means that Marek is probably NOT going to EVER introduce his girlfriends to me when he gets older.

Remember when Marek wasn’t so grown-up? Believe me, he reminds me all the time that he’s not. But sometimes it’s like he’s all done being a kid.

Here’s Marek’s new thing: Hot chocolate. No more coffee for him, no sir. (This is his mother’s influence, obviously)

Is it just me, or am I starting to resemble the professor from Back to the Future?

Our traditional coffee cheers-toast.

You may find this odd, but there’s a shoe in the middle of the floor. Equally odd, Ivo is only wearing one shoe. Marek is reconciling these two odd facts and retrieving what appears to be Ivo’s shoe. How it got there … remains a mystery.

Marek is carrying around HIS new Al Udeid travel coffee cup. Until two hours ago, this was MY new Al Udeid travel coffee cup. So it is with being a parent, yes? I guess I’ll just go travel another 7,000 miles just to get myself my own since he took this one. sigh

This spot right here … this is where we tickle Ivo. As you can see by the look on his face, that is not his favorite spot right now.

Here’s a bodacious breakfast. I went with the Greek omelet. Though I really do wonder if Greeks in, say, Thessaloniki, actually eat like this.

Does Ivo look uninspired by what’s in front of him? Don’t worry, it will end up on the floor soon enough.

Marek’s got himself a plate-o-eggs. It’s funny how now he gets flat-out excited about eggs.

Marek’s new game is eating bugs and rats and worms. He’ll hold up a fork of eggs and say dad, do you think I should eat these WORMS?! And I, as the Responsible Adult, reply, “yes.”

Ivo’s never happier than when he’s got food. Now whether that food goes down the hatch or over the fence is up to him.

Ivo’s one year old and he’s got the fine-motor-skills to use a fork to yoink my breakfast. Would you believe that his daycare sent home a note this week saying he needs to “work on his fine motor skills?”

The three of us finished up breakfast and started in on the goofing. It’s not really fair for Ivo. Since he doesn’t talk yet, it’s hard to tell if he’s having fun or getting freaked out by being over-tickled.

We had a pretty big breakfast. Fourteen clams for two big breakfasts isn’t bad. Not great, but not bad.

Marek stepped right up to get the bill sorted out.

Note the life-sized Elvis against the back wall. You know that there’s only two sizes for Elvis: life-sized and larger-than-life-sized.

Both Marek and Ivo got treats from the nice lady behind the counter. Marek’s new thing with these pops is to open it in the car, and then hand it to me while I’m driving with an “I’m all done, dad.” Like what am I supposed to do with it?

Betty Boop is guarding this door. Life-sized. She’s tall, really thin, and has a gargantuan head. As a cartoon, she’s cute. As a real-life mannequin she’s disturbing. And Marek talked on and on about “Betty Boob.”

Behind the Four Coins restaurant is this duck pond. Emergency egg supply!

These long-haul breakfasts really knock Ivo out. It’s about 45 minutes from our Breakfast HQ to the Four Coins.

It’s a long enough drive that the Breakfast Mobile started acting up. I didn’t know the vehicle had that many lights on the dash.

We had a pretty good morning at the Four Coins. Our waiter was really nice, and also he was Albanian. The Four Coins is a clean, well-lit, friendly place, and the food is done right. We’re pleased to give the Four Coins a Tampa Bay Breakfasts four pancake rating.


Four Coins on Urbanspoon

Nicko’s Restaurant

We were going to go to this Boston Grill up on Fletcher. It’s apparently closed on Sundays. It always pays to do your Breakfast Homework before you go.

We re-visited Nicko’s at 4603 N Florida Ave on 24 October 2011. We’ve been to Nicko’s many times over the years. It hasn’t changed, probably for 40 years. Just the way we like it.

Nicko’s is in an authentic O’Mahony’s diner. Check out Inkwatu’s great write-up, which talks about diner lore and Nicko’s:

We’re sitting in the corner booth. The nice lady in the background is sitting in our favorite spot, The Elvis Booth. We thought about joining her, but we didn’t want to impose.

It’s me and Ivo on this side.

Ivo is in charge of the menu. And he’s got a knife, so watch out, everybody. I’d hand over my wallet, but I’ll pretty much be doing that for the rest of my life anyway.

Another perfect cuppa joe from Nicko’s. It’s all that bold, black, bitter, bottomless we know and love.

While Marek and I were busy discussing coffee (he actually likes those flavored coffees, like hazelnut winter squash blueberry delight coffee), Ivo spent his time pouring salt onto a spoon and eating it.

I might be kidding. How would you know, what with all the tomfoolery we’ve dished out over the years?

Marek and I came to an agreement. In order to fairly approach the Greek debt crisis, we’d dissolve the Euro-zone and the E.U. and also NATO. What? Don’t look at me, it was HIS idea. Cheers!

We got the 2 pancakes, 2 bacon, 2 eggs to split for the three of us. That’s pretty crafty, isn’t it. Our skilled waitress figured out what we were doing and did all this hookup just for us.

Ivo, he doesn’t know what to make of this one. That pancake is talking to him. Probably saying something like “make a diversion and we can both get out of here alive!”

Self portrait. There was a time when I would have not been able to reconcile the presence of a “mickey” pancake and a little shoe in my life. Of course, now I order mickey pancakes when I’m by myself, and I carry a sack of little shoes with me so I can throw them around and trip on them.

Marek made the bacon disappear like some sort of magic act. Next up, scrambled eggs.

Watching Ivo use a fork is mesmerizing. It’s like watching pseudo-sumo wrestling.

Marek paid the bill.

I just love the dining room here. Makes me feel nostalgic for a time I never knew. There’s little Marek, negotiating payment. He seems so small and yet confident in this role. Which is in contrast to his new thing at home, saying he can’t put on his shoes because he’s a scardycat.

This is our outstanding waitress Candice. We were very impressed! She took excellent care of us.

And away we go, off to terrorize some other part of Tampa.

As usual, this was a great breakfast at Nicko’s. One of our most consistent favorites in the bay area. We gave Nicko’s a 4.5 rating two years ago, but let’s be honest, we were being stingy when we got started. Nicko’s has everything we look for: Really good, consistently good, breakfast at a very reasonable price (about $11 this time around). Really friendly people with lots of regulars being asked if they want “the usual.” And a lot of history and unique bits that keep us coming back to find out more and more. The ONLY thing that Nicko’s doesn’t have is blueberry pancakes, but we’ve decided that’s no longer a point deduction in our ratings. We’re pleased to award Nicko’s with a Tampa Bay Breakfasts Five Pancake Rating.


Nicko's Fine Foods on Urbanspoon

Hey Ed in Ocala, here’s another one. 1995. $12.5k. Every few months this lot has another one of these.

Egg Platter

Heading to Pinellas this morning. It’s a weekday. Malfunction Junction is a little backed up. I haven’t heard it called “Malfunction Junction” lately, have you?

We visited the Egg Platter restaurant at 6767 US Highway 19 N in St. Pete on 12 October 2011.

It’s a long haul to St. Pete. Folks tend to fall asleep. And then they also lose a shoe.

One of us looks like a goofus. Is it Marek? Is it Andy? Hard to tell, isn’t it?

I’m thinking that the Egg Platter has a serious problem with folks cooking up a nice meal at home, packing it up, and driving to the Egg Platter to have supper and use the toilets. If they didn’t have a problem, why would they take the time to make this sign? With serifs and everything!

The first thing I noticed when we walked in the door was this exuberant painting on the wall. Clearly, the Egg Platter values its employees if it gives an Employee of the Month award.

The menu is pretty extensive, though no proper blueberry pancakes. Two things to note here. One, the little chicken with dumb bell weights at the bottom. Two, French toast and Belgian waffles. They could add a “Full English,” a Swiss hot chocolate, a German beer, and a Swedish surströmming and we’d have quite the European experience.

Ivo likes to have his own menu, of course. Independent-minded lad that he is. He’ll probably grow up, much like Marek, thinking that breakfast menus count as books that he’s read.

Special treat this morning! Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom is with us. She comes along to keep an eye on our antics, though I suspect she secretly dislikes that we just drove 45 minutes to get here.

Egg Platter coffee. This is proper diner coffee. Black and bitter, just the way I like it.

Ivo has the straw-thing down, but not the holding-the-cup-thing. Shown here, master cup-holder Mom. Her barbed-wire tattoo, by the way, goes all the way around under the armpit there. She’s crazy with the ink.

The Egg Platter has a nice and cozy dining room inside. Lunch counter in the back, you can see into the kitchen, plenty of space of a good breakfast crowd.

I asked Marek to stand up so I could take a good picture of his t-shirt. Because I wanted to tell the whole world that … Marek’s Dad is Rad!

I thought kids stopped saying “rad” about ten years ago. Which means that the guy who designed this shirt is probably about 25-30 years old. Or the shirt is 10 years old (Marek and Ivo, I’ll admit to you now, almost everything you own is either hand-me-down or thrift store. Sorry to burst any bubbles!)

This Chevy pickup truck is making a comeback. Not in the real-world of actual trucks, but in the Tampa Bay Breakfasts world. I’m absolutely sure we’ve had this one featured in at least one of our many breakfasts before.

Here’s some breakfast!

I had these awesome banana pancakes. Never had them like this before, really well done!

Ivo had toast and jelly. Or maybe the jelly had him.

Mom had French toast. Oh-lah-lah!

And Marek, true to his new nature, had scrambled eggs and bacon.

The price tag for all of this was about $25 smackeroos. Maybe a little high, but we did have three whole breakfasts, and Mom ordered grits ’cause she likes to be fancy like that, so all-said the bill wasn’t bad.

Take THIS, Chick-Fil-A. Those cows on the billboards on I-75 shouldn’t have messed with these chickens.

As we were leaving, I started looking around. These murals are custom work done when they opened the place.

They go on. If you really spend time with these images, you get sort of unsettled.

There’s this whole mechanized chicken theme all the way down the hall. Very weird, which is, of course, just the way we like things.

This was a fine breakfast. Chow was good, coffee was just right, and there’s crazy chicken murals all over the place. We’re pleased to award the Egg Platter a Tampa Bay Breakfasts four pancake rating.


Egg Platter on Urbanspoon

Mamas Family Restaurant

We’ve been to Mama’s so many times. Mama’s was our first ever review, back in early 2009. But this is the first time we’ve been by bicycle, ridden on 21 August 2011.

On the way, we stopped to look at these neat motorcycles.

Then we found this areal survey target. That’s really neat. There’s a lot of things I’ve never seen before, and this is one of them.

And here we are, front-door parking!

It’s just me and Ivo, as you’ve probably figured out since we’re on the bike. We had a good laugh, Ivo and me, about how we have these here car keys, but no car. Hahahahahahaa! That’s funny!

Now, I’m not going to lie to you. Ivo already had breakfast before we left the house. But that never stopped him from wanting to just “have a look at the menu.”

Of course, this waiting for breakfast thing gets old. So Ivo started eating the menu.

Seriously, just gnawing down on it like it’s made of pancake or something.

Have to wash that down with some water. Now you, faithful reader, may have noticed that Ivo usually has a bottle. Or at least a sippy-cup. Not today. In the finest of guerrilla-dad traditions, I brought him without any change of diaper or clothes, no toys. no food, no sippy cup, no bottle, no baby-anything.

So have a drink of water, kid. Let’s see where this goes.

Still learning this one.

But we’ve got this one working pretty good.

This is a simple breakfast for us at Tampa Bay Breakfasts. But it’s just me and Ivo, and like I said, he’s already ate.

Not that you’d notice by how he’s teaching this pancake a lesson.

Ivo’s thing now is to give you things and then let you give it back to him. Hours of fun. It even works with a wad of pancake he takes out of his mouth.

This game is fun, but it’s the intensity on his face that I love most. Fun AND important.

And we all know that little boys need a coffee in the morning. Ivo’s already looking for the go-juice.

Here’s Vicky. We love Vicky. She is our favorite waitress in all of Tampa Bay.

Here’s Vicky with Marek back in 2009.

Loaded up and ready to head home. I love the parking here.

On the way home, we ran into this neat old Dodge. Not literally, just as we passed it by on the sidewalk.

We live a few miles from Mamas. A full belly and a long, soothing ride makes a boy sleepy. If you’re a little impressed that Ivo’s sleeping on the bike, you should be even more impressed that I took this picture while pedaling. I’m still not sure how I managed it.

It’s another five pancake rating for Mamas’ on Florida. Really, it’s a 4 or 4.5 pancake place, but Vicky gets a full pancake point all her own. Go get some breakfast, and tell ’em Andy and Ivo sent you! And Marek, too, of course.


Kristinas Cafe

We’re headed over the Howard Franklin this morning. There’s a new billboard advertising “Florida.” Being a fan of the state myself, I approve. Though we’re already here, so why advertise to us?

This morning we’re going to Kristina’s Cafe at 3590 34th St N in St. Pete, previously recommended by Aleshea, the Official Poet of Breakfast.

Last week, me and Marek, we weren’t friends. This week, me and Marek, we’re good friends.

We walked in to a relatively empty dining room. The welcome was immediate and friendly. We found a seat and Ivo promptly started looking for something to eat. He figured he’d find it in the menu.

We had a logistics malfunction this morning. The cloth bag you see here is my low-rent solution to taking Ivo to breakfast. Just throw his stuff in there and go. But the water bottle I brought for him completely leaked and soaked the bag and the bib I brought. So we’ll have to improvise!

This is really an extensive menu. If you look closely in the upper right, they have an “Albanian Omelette.” I asked, and it turns out that our very nice waitress is from … Albania! This is a family-run place and everyone’s Albanian. With that, how can you NOT try the Albanian Omelette?!

We started out with coffee, as is the custom with us breakfast boys.

The look on this boy’s face. I’m reluctant to come up with my own caption.

Marek brought Monster Trucks.

The inside of Kristina’s is open and friendly, and you get a nice view of the kitchen, so you know they’re actually cooking and not just nipping out to McDonalds and dumping McMuffins onto a plate for you.

When they brought breakfast out, I swear they needed a wheelbarrow. This is a lot of chow!

I gave Ivo some toast. Which he promptly chucked.

Marek liked these eggs, and the bacon passed with flying colors, too. Though Marek’s favorite part was that he got to use a knife to cut his own eggs.

This deserves another picture. The Albanian omelette is a knock-out! This is one bellyfull of really good chow.

The coffee was super-hot, really black, and it kept coming like an IV bag.

These are shovel-ready eggs.

At first Marek didn’t want to pay the bill, but our exceptional waitress heard us talking about it and asked if he’d like a lollipop. He said, oh yes! And away he went.

A triumphant Marek, returning with change and pops.

“Marek, show me your pop!”

The bill was about $13, which isn’t the cheapest breakfast we’ve ever had, but is still pretty reasonable for the amount and quality of chow we had this morning.

It’s true, blue lollipops make blue tongues!

And good breakfasts make sleepy boys.

On the way home we stopped at the new (well, new to us) Cypress Road beach park that Tampa Bay Breakfasts fan Kevin told us about.

Marek got to play with the other kids. Notice how the other kids showed up obviously planning to go swimming, and Marek’s dad just says, “go jump in the lake, kid.”

Kristina’s Cafe started out as just another breakfast on our long to-do list. But the reasonable prices, exceptionally friendly staff, really good food, hot and endless coffee, and stories of Albania make this a great place. We’re pleased to give Kristina’s Cafe a Tampa Bay Breakfasts four and a half pancake rating.


Kristina's Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Samaria Cafe

We re-visted the Samaria Cafe at 502 Tampa Avenue on 9 December 2010. This is our second visit to the Samaria and our last official breakfast of 2010. What a year it’s been!

Downtown Tampa has a new parking system. Not only can you pay with cash, but you can use credit cards or just leave your infant as collateral.

The menu has been updated since our first visit. Now they have blueberry pancakes! That was our biggest gripe from last time, and here we are, influencing menus throughout Tampa Bay! We have yet to influence politics on the national scene (though we DID help Mr. Obama get elected and we’re proud of it, despite what that makes select family members think about us!), we are clearly the most influential Breakfast power brokers in town. Marek is the Mayor of the Morning Meal. (And Andy: Alliterative as always. Awesome!)

Ivo gets priority. He’s both the smallest and the loudest, so we take care of him first.

Me and Ivo had view of the television. Three Stooges were on. Some things never get old. Nyuk, nyuk.

We’re busy recycling all of Marek’s old toys through Ivo. We’ll be able to get away with this for a short window of time, so we’re making the best of it. Here’s one of my own all-time favorites, a little guy I call “Quantum Duck.” This is the kind of thing I imagine Steven Hawking’s kids growing up with.

Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom joined us again! She had hot chocolate, which was a pure shock to everyone. Notice how Marek’s working with a paper cup? On our first visit he (or one of our party, there was never any actual court record) broke a coffee cup. Even though this was our only broken coffee cup in 18 months of Serious Breakfast Activities, the Samaria’s proprietress remembered and was somewhat against giving him a second one. We acquiesced.

One of my favorite things about the Samaria is the presentation. These plates are high style!

This is Marek’s “race track.” I know, you’re thinking, why is he racing the butter against the jelly? Well, he’s not doing that at all! He’s racing his cars along the top of the butter and jelly. Which makes me think that someone ought to invent that in real life.

Does this look like Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom is giving Tampa Bay Breakfasts Head Reviewer Marek a piece of her mind? And is Marek laughing at this?

That was a close one! Marek got saved by breakfast. Is there anything that a good breakfast CAN’T do?

The nice thing about having a guest reviewer is that there’s someone to take MY picture! And tell me, really, honestly, is there ANY situation that’s not made classier with the addition of flaming sleeves?

These are some really fine pancakes. The eggs were pretty good, too. The bacon never came, but it also wasn’t on the bill and we had more than enough chow, so we didn’t complain. But now we can’t tell you how good the bacon was. You’ll have to go there yourself and find out, then tell us!

This is my “magic dad” act. I’m also inflating bicycle tires with a foot pump under the table while doing this.

The bill at Samaria is higher than average for the area. Not saying it’s not worth it, just that you need to make sure you’ve got Uncle Jackson with you if you go.

Marek jumped right on his job and delivered the cash to the till.

The chow remains great here at the Samaria Cafe. And we were remembered, which always impresses us. The price is OK, the atmosphere is maybe a little more polished than is our own taste (we’re greasy-spoon dive-diner guys, after all), but all told it’s a great breakfast. We’re pleased to confirm the Samaria Cafe’s four and a half pancake rating.


P.S. So how DO you get a coveted, rare, super-duper Five-Pancake rating? In general, the ratings run like this: Under 3, we didn’t like it. 3 means it was fine. 3.5 means we liked it but given the sheer number of breakfasts we try to do in a year, we’re probably not going to make it back ever again. 4 means we liked it enough to come back. 4.5 means we really, really liked it in every way. 5 means all that, plus we got surprised somehow. There’s something about the place that is so completely unique that we just find ourselves talking about it all week. So a place like Samaria is really an excellent restaurant and we don’t have a single complaint about it, but we weren’t surprised with an actual Greek dancing crew coming through doing the Tsamiko, yelling “Ha! Ha! Ha!” while everyone gets Ouzo.

Samaria Cafe on Urbanspoon


We visited Athens at 226 Main Street on 9 October 2010. This was our first visit to Athens and our second review in a row in Safety Harbor. We’re practically locals on that side of the bay. Marek’s been such a good boy lately. He’s been picking up his toys, feeding the dog, voting Libertarian, and all around being a model citizen.

So I let him drive.

When Marek heard we were going to Athens, he thought we were going to Greece. He packed a bag. No kidding. He has his piggy bank in there, because he figured he could help out.

Also, Ivo came along for the ride. I say that like somehow he conveyed to us in writing, or perhaps song, that he really enjoyed our breakfast project, but the reality is, he’s two months old and he doesn’t say a thing. It’s all cry, cry, eat, eat, puke, poop, sleep, cry with Ivo.

Pictured here: Ivo crying.

While we were parking we saw this hot little number go by. Look at those curves! I love the way she moves. Exotic, a little bit older but very sexy in a European way. That red coat really looks great on her, too. Mmmmm, if I wasn’t already married to a Celica I might ask for her VIN number.

Athens is a nice little diner on Main Street. There’s a bowl of water out front, that equally services dogs and three year olds who frequently channel their inner dog-spirit. That water sure is delicious. Marek would know.

Inside is warm and cozy, and includes little feet in the picture. Not to be confused with Little Feat, whom we did not see today.

The Menu. It has all the right stuff in it. And, if the cover may be judged, it was written by Nikos himself. Also, did you ever get the feeling that Lightning McQueen shares some styling points with the Opel GT?

Did you ever think that you’d find a reference to breakfast, Kazantzakis, Lightning McQueen, and the Opel GT in the same thought? Neither did I. Tampa Bay Breakfasts is like a summer-school humanities class if it were taught by your shop instructor so he could pick up some extra cash to buy a pallet of Papst when it goes on sale at the Food Ranch.

All three of us had coffee. This was good, diner dank black brew, just the way we like it. Obviously, Ivo’s coffee-to-leche mixture is weighted towards the leche end of the spectrum.

This is how we do it. (And you thought TBB was all about heavy metal and arthouse music!)

And here comes breakfast! We had some pancakes and some bacon. No eggs, though, as they weren’t part of the special and, frankly, we all started out a little gassy anyway.

The pancakes were really top-notch, as we were told by some of our fellow patrons as we first sat down. The bacon was nicely done and met with Marek’s approval. And, of course, everything is better with syrup.

Sitting under this mural felt perilous. As in, I was perilously close to jumping up to dance the Hasapiko! If I’d had just one more ouzo it would have been dancing time!

The bill came and we were very pleased. Mr. Hamilton, finally, got to see some action. It’s been all Jackons lately for us.

Marek stood up to the challenge. One day, perhaps next week, he’s going to pocket the cash and run right out the door.

And he got lost and ran around like crazy and caused a generally high level of chaos. I’m always surprised he doesn’t just start schlepping coffee around to the customers.

Our pleasant hosts reigned him in and brought him back down to earth. With change, no less.

Marek took this picture while I was strapping Ivo into the ejection seat. Err, car seat.

This dog doesn’t talk. I wonder where this was? If Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom reads this review before her birthday, it might ruin the surprise on what her present is.

We had a great time at Athens. The chow was just right, the people were friendly, and the price was center-target. We’re pleased to award Athens a Tampa Bay Breakfasts four pancake rating.


Athens's Greek Cafe on Urbanspoon

Mom’s Place

We re-visited Mom’s Place on 29 May 2010. Our last official visit was way back in June 2009. We haven’t met Mom yet to tell her we like her place, but we do like Mom’s Place.


The front door tells you Mom’s is a support-the-troops place. As a former guy-in-uniform, this is always something nice to see. Sometimes I get asked if I’m still in the service. I always reply yes, yes I am, but standards have reallllly been lowered lately.


Inside is the definition of home-town, mom-n-pop diner comfort. This is a place where people come to feel good and eat good, too. And with the open kitchen back there, there’s no spitting in the grits here, either.


Here’s something we’ve never, ever, not in all the Tampa Bay Breakfasts of all time, ever done. Race cars.


People have been stopping us on the street and asking questions. They say, Marek seems to be all about the race cars, but what does he really know about racing? It turns out, quite a bit. He’s a regular at the Sunshine Drag Strip.


Mom’s menu is full of “international omelets” that will take 30 minutes to sort through. Lucky for us, we know what we want. Betcha can’t guess … pancakes! (Oh, and also some bacon.)


A place like Mom’s, you’re almost guaranteed to get good go-juice. Marek likes his bold, bitter, black, and burning-hot.

And so do I.


I try to educate Marek about the truly important things in life. As our TBB fans know, we talk about literature, politics, military issues, family, good food, racing, foreign policy. But lately I’ve been feeling that there’s a real void. Marek is growing up not knowing anything about Chuck Norris. I started out with a Google Search.

Marek’s going to have a little brother. So I used this opportunity to teach him about the C-Section. The “C-section” is named after Chuck Norris, for when he roundhouse kicked himself through his mother’s stomach when he was born.


Just as we were getting deep into Chuck Lore, some pancakes arrived. Here’s a good spread. Great eggs, magical disappearing bacon, and some good, solid, all-American pancakes.


A new thing for us is Marek as syrup-handler. He’s got it goin’ on with that action.


When we were done we looked at the bill. We’ve been pretty consistently hitting the $11 mark for breakfast these days. Not bad for two growing boys (Marek’s growing in the upward direction, but not me).


When we paid the bill, Marek took a moment to do what he does best these days. You guessed it, running amok.


Then this lovely lady says she has some lolllllleeee pops.


As you can see here, I got one too. Marek took two and handed one to me, “this one’s for you, dad.” Seriously, that’s what he said. In 6 more months it will be followed by, “and can I have some money,” but for now it’s just the sweetest thing ever.


We discussed Mom’s Place on the way home. Good, solid chow here. Eggs, bacon, pancakes. Never saw the bottom of the coffee cups. Nice folks. Full of locals and regulars. Mom’s is just Our Kinda Place.


Last time we were here we gave Mom’s a 3.5 rating because the pancakes weren’t so great. But this time around we had a very fine experience. We’re going to bump Mom’s up to a very respectable Tampa Bay Breakfasts four and a half pancake rating.