Category Archives: Hillsborough

Bike Ride to the Park

Sometimes on Sunday mornings, when Marek and Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom are sleeping late, Ivo and I take a bike ride. The morning of 22 April 2012 was a pretty fine one. Look what we found. A field of Ibis and a chicken.

We rode by the Sulphur Springs water tower.

The look of effort on my face, and worry on Ivo’s, is directly related to riding a bike on Tampa’s streets!

We ended up at Patterson Street Park in Seminole Heights.

There were ducks! (Which was, honestly, the whole reason we came here.)

Breakfast this morning was dried mangoes, raw cashews, dried cherries, some apples, a juice box, and a thermos of coffee. And some old bread for the ducks, natch! No pancakes. That’s only “normal TBB days.” This is how we eat the rest of the week.

After breakfast, Ivo stretched out and did some Tai Chi.

Then he and the ducks ran off to the playground!

Playing in the cool Spring morning as the sun finally comes out. How lovely. (Not shown here: How we got caught in a torrential downpour on the way home and ended up soaked and miserable. But hey, let’s live in the moment!)

This is the shirt I was actually wearing the moment Ivo was born. No special statement, other than I wear it all the time because I like both Ivo and Stephen Hawking. Check out Ivo’s relaxed feet-up pose.

Just a normal day.

Recipe Box

We visited The Recipe Box at 147 Bloomingdale Avenue in Brandon on 21 April 2012. They also have a nice web site at This was our first visit, and we went at the recommendation of Tampa Bay Breakfasts fans Shawn and also Will. Will was actually supposed to join us, but our secretaries had trouble getting our schedules aligned.

This was a Very Special Event: Our third anniversary breakfast! Since 18 April 2009 we’ve been exploring the ups and downs of mom-n-pop breakfast throughout Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, with some occasional trips to Levy/Citrus/Marion counties. Almost 100 unique breakfasts and a lot of great times. This breakfast is just Marek and Andy. Ivo’s home with Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom. Well, it’s Marek, Andy, and Bumble Bee.

The first thing I noticed when we got out of the car was this vulture on the top of the light pole. I’m not going to say that made me feel comfortable about breakfast. But we soldiered on!

Family portrait, Simpson’s Style.

First thing that happened when we got in the door was coffee. It didn’t take but a minute.

Marek asked if there was hot chocolate. Of course there was, and watch us make it in this fancy machine! I suspect that this machine also calculates tax returns and could land the Space Shuttle. If we still had a Space Shuttle.

That’s a good hot chocolate! Though from the look on Marek’s face, you’d think it was a hot lemon.

Any menu that has an item named “Officer Andy” is OK by me. I really wanted to get this just because of the name, but also I really didn’t want a ribeye steak for breakfast.

One of the many points Ayn Rand made in Atlas Shrugged was that you could always trust a company that put the owner’s name out in front, but businesses with words like “consolidated” or “amalgamated” in the name were surely places that were getting it wrong. Not that we approach breakfast from an Objectivist point of view, but every time I see the owner put his name on the menu I think back to that bit of literature class lesson.

This place is licketysplit fast. Here’s pancakes, with no time to dally. And also note, they’re Not Small. The perspective is funny on this picture, but these pancakes are the span of my hand.

Marek got the scrambled eggs and bacon. And also note that I didn’t get a picture of the counter, but we’re sitting in the high high chairs at the counter, at Marek’s request. He really likes that.

The look on Marek’s face begs for a caption competition. “And now, for my next trick!”

The bill was a bit high for what we had. Not super-expensive, but I reckon that Marek’s new thing of having hot chocolate adds a few bucks to the tab. He’s worth it!

Marek, and Bumble Bee, took the bill to pay.

In line to pay the bill. It’s a good sign when a restaurant has kid artwork taped to the counter.

And there we go. Our 95th breakfast and third year behind us!

The recipe box is a good recommendation. The service is fast. The people are friendly. The prices are moderate. The chow is tasty. We’re pleased to give The Recipe Box a Tampa Bay Breakfasts four pancake rating.


The Recipe Box on Urbanspoon

Riviera Cafe

We visited the Riviera Cafe on 18 Feb 2012. Riviera is in the strip mall by Michael’s craft store, or as Marek calls it, the “arts and crabs store,” 14819 N Dale Mabry in Carrollwood. Riviera Cafe was a recommendation from Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom.

Me and Ivo, we’re bringing up the slow lane. Note the smug little grin on my little guy. He knows … pancakes. He’s going to get to hurl pancakes at strangers.

Remember when Marek would bring some little cars to breakfast so we could quietly play? He’s a big boy now so he needs big cars.

Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom and Ivo strike a pose worthy of G.Q. magazine. Look at his far-away adventure look that says, “somewhere … there’s a mountain for me to climb. And … on that mountain … is something of Dad’s … something I can break when he’s not looking …”

The menu is standard, comprehensive, but no blueberry pancakes. Our waitress, of whom we don’t have a photograph, was outstanding. Super-cheerful and understood how kids operate.

We had coffee and clinked the mugs, as is the ritual in our tribe.

Inside Riviera Cafe is clean and open. That’s an ATM on the right, which is necessary since they’re a cash-only operation. I like cash-only places. They exist just off the grid and will be the last hold outs when the world slips into Gibsonish technical dystopia.

Ivo made the rounds of people to sit with. After me, I passed him to the next table over and he went around the room like a beach ball at a Jimmy Buffet concert.

This photograph has nothing to do with breakfast. I just think my wife is pretty.

Here’s breakfast! You’ll notice right away, because you’re reading this and you probably are already familiar with our routine, that there’s what appears to be a whole can of corned beef hash on the table. This was an impulse purchase. Honestly, I really like hash but just not a lot of it. And I figured I’d introduce it to the boys. Both of whom turned their noses right up at it. Mom saying, “it looks like dog food” (say that in a mocking, nasally tone) didn’t help. More hash for me, fellas!

Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom had the French toast. Whenever I have French toast I say in a gravelly, sultry voice, “oh la la, cest bon, oui? Heh heh heh.” When she has it she says, “pass the syrup.” This is why we’ve been together for so long, because I know not to get the French toast.

Ivo had some pancakes and eggs. You can tell Mom’s on the scene by the way she’s setting him up. She forgets that we’re well-practiced at all this. It’s our ding, eh. (Say in a Jersey Shore voice)

This photograph doesn’t tell the whole story. If you look very closely at Marek’s eggs, you’ll see that he just finished dumping a quart of syrup on them. He ate them, cheerfully, and completely bypassed the pancake. Ick, says I to he and thee. Ick.

Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom and I took some moments to goof while Marek and Ivo took some moments to destroy something valuable they found in Mom’s purse.

The bill came. 22 clams for three full breakfasts, including a plate of hash. That’s a fair price for a good meal.

The brothers took on the perilous mission. That’s teamwork! Sing along with me: What’s gonna work? Teeeeeem work! Also note Ivo’s shirt. Clever, no? This was Marek’s shirt. Here’s a picture of Marek in that same shirt, on the Think Geek web site where I bought it.

They paid, they got pops! It’s a good life, being a kid. No one ever offers me a lollipop when I’m alone. I’m actually known for creeping people out. They always say hi to the kids when I’m out with them, and I always say, “If I were here alone you’d have ignored me. You should say hi to me, too.” And I look sad and move closer to them. And people seem to walk away quickly. It’s a fun game!

Can you believe I took spousal abuse for allowing this to happen after breakfast? Everyone knows it’s a Tampa Bay Breakfasts tradition!

The Riveria Cafe as a good experience. The food was just what you expect for breakfast. The coffee never ran dry. Nice, neighborhood place with good value for the dollar. I’d say this was a 3.5 on the breakfast scale, with a half-pancake bump for our waitress, whose name I now have misplaced, who was really excellent. We are pleased to rank Riviera Cafe with a Tampa Bay Breakfasts four pancake rating.


Riviera on Urbanspoon

After breakfast, we dropped mom off and we went to the MD Oriental Market on Fowler.

This is a great place to go if you like to look at crabs.

Though, truth be told, this is the cheapest place in town to buy goji berries. Half the price for twice the quantity of our usual health food store.

And Marek always comes here for Hello Kitty snacks.

Just a normal day for the Tampa Bay Breakfast crew!

The Pink Flamingo

This might be our last breakfast of 2011. We’re cruising with Marek…

And also Ivo. I’m always impressed that everyone fits in my little car.

It’s a dreary day here in Tampa. The sky is heavy. The air is cold. And we’re hungry for breakfast. Heading to Davis Island this morning to meet our old friend Loren and to re-visit The Pink Flamingo.

The Pink Flamingo is at 304 E Davis Blvd on Davis Island. We last visited in May 2010 and before that in June 2009. We’ve always enjoyed the food, kitschy/funky decor, and the fact that we can bring the family hound-dog and sit outside when the weather’s fine.

We met our TBB friend Loren this morning. If you run into Loren around town, you can say, hey man, aren’t you one of those Tampa Bay Breakfasts celebrity guests?

Loren brought finger-birds. It’s not what it sounds like. Fun finger puppets! Also notice that I’m wearing my only Christmas shirt. It’s an amazing bit of trivia being reported by People Magazine that I also wore this same shirt back in 2009 when we visited the Grecian Island, also on Davis Island.

Marek’s new thing is hot chocolate. Ivo’s new thing is trying to get his fingers in Marek’s hot chocolate. Check out Marek’s defensive maneuver. That appears to be a Jiu Jitsu wrist lock.

Can you guess what Marek’s saying here?

That’s right, he’s saying, “Hey Loren, zip that car back over to me!” I’m betting that there aren’t a lot of pictures on the Internet of Loren playing Hot Wheels cars. Once again, Tampa Bay Breakfasts has the scoop on the Bay Area social scene.

Breakfast arrived just in time, before the little cars started really flying and we got tossed out of the place. Bacon and eggs for Marek, pancakes for me and Ivo.

This is Loren and breakfast. If he looks all serious-like, it’s because he’s saying something about how breakfast is the most important meal of the day, Tampa Bay is the best region in Florida, and so clearly Tampa Bay Breakfasts is the most important and best web site in the world that focuses on breakfast in the Tampa Bay area.

While I’m listening politely, Sneaky Ivo slithers right in to gouge my pancakes. This kid is like a Breakfast Ninja.

And then, while I’m protecting my breakfast, Marek shows up on Loren’s side. This is nuts! I can’t keep up!

When the bill came it wasn’t bad news. For three whole breakfasts it ran a bit over $20. That’s well within the TBB budget!

Marek and Ivo paid the bill together. This is sort of a first, at least in that they both did it willingly as a team.

This scene caused the whole dining room to stop and collectively go, “awwwwwwww.” Big brother with money in one hand, little brother in tow in the other hand. It could also be that he started out with two little brothers and just completed sale of the one and on his way to sell the other, but everyone just assumed they were paying the bill together.

Which is, of course, exactly what they did. (Notice the lady giving me a good eyeballing, to make sure I’m actually paying attention to the boys.)

Here’s the winning point on the Flamingo. They appear to have pulled a booth out and made a kids’ play area. Bunch-o-toys back there and room for a handful of kids. Still the deafening sound of raucous joy, but surely was nice to let the boys just chill out there instead of turning our table upsidedown.

And then they bring me the toys that they want to take home with them. Thanks, kids! We’ll never be welcomed back.

The boys and Loren all seemed to have a swell time. Good breakfast, good coffee that never ran dry, great company, and a play area. What’s not to love?

We’re pleased to revalidate the Pink Flamingo as a four and a half pancake Tampa Bay Breakfast.


Pink Flamingo Cafe on Urbanspoon

After breakfast, we went to the Ybor Saturday Market. Where Marek promptly got into a gun fight with the Creative Loafing girl.

Marek, despite being out-gunned and 1/3 as tall, ended up with the upper-hand. Don’t mess with Marek.

Then we went shopping at the Oceanic Market. The kids could each pick out one thing for lunch. Ivo went with the radishes.

Marek chose a durian. You know you wish you were at OUR house for lunch, don’t you?

Just a normal Andy, Marek, and Ivo day.

Breakfast for Supper

It’s suppertime. Mom’s not home tonight. I ask Marek, what do you want for supper? And so …

We had breakfast for supper at home on 26 October 2011.

Can you guess? That’s right, bacon and scrambled eggs.

So here we are having supper, Marek with his bacon and eggs.

Ivo with his bacon and eggs and raw toast.

And me with my bacon and eggs and toast. Is this a crazy supper or what? Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom won’t even know what she missed!

Marek thought this was a great breakfast-for-supper.

Ivo, on the other hand, made some editorial comments about my cooking.

Ninja Eggs! Hiyah!

For the record, Ivo did this all by himself. Like any good Breakfast Journalist, I just recorded and reported the facts.

Eggs 1, Ivo 0. But who’s keeping score?

Faithful family hound, guarding the floor against ninja eggs and other wayward edibles and potential-edibles. Now you’re wondering how Ivo’s shoe got off, aren’t you?

Clean plates all around. Dare I say … “compliments to the chef!” I had the Island of Sodor plate. Creepy place, that Sodor.

The value of this picture is largely because in 10 years I’ll be able to say, “look, Marek, when you were FOUR you could clear the table. Why can’t you do it when you’re fourteen?”

Of course, we won’t give this breakfast a real rating. We just did it because we’d missed so many breakfasts in the last couple months that we wanted to do a fun one. (Though everyone knows that dad’s crazy supper cooking is always a five-pancake-rating barrel of laughs, and usually involves the beer you may have noticed on the very first picture from this review.)

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.

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.


Datz Deli

We revisited Datz Deli at 2616 South MacDill Avenue Tampa on 19 August 2011. Last time was 12 February 2011 and it was collllldddd out. Not today. It’s sweltering here in Florida. For this visit to Datz, we brought Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom.

Me and Ivo, we’re checking out the menu. It’s a classy touch, these custom newspapers-as-menus.

Look at this great pancake run on the right. Even have something called a red velvet pancake. That sounds delish. Downright yummy, even. Shame of it is, they only serve pancakes on the weekends. ONLY SERVE PANCAKES ON THE WEEKENDS. That’s going to cost you a half a pancake-point, Datz.

Little Ivo. He looks just like Marek. It doesn’t help that he’s wearing all of Marek’s clothes still.

Marek in the same shirt, two years ago.

Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom got her Favorite Thing Ever, an enormous hot chocolate. This is like, wow, way-choco, baby.

With a delectable morsel like that, you ought have a private security firm standing by. There’s snatchy boys around waiting to help themselves.

Ivo’s going to have baby goop as a starter. Baby goop and coffee.

Let’s see how Ivo likes THIS little flavor.

“I did NOT just see you do that, dad. Did I?”

This has nothing to do with breakfast. It’s just a little police car I was playing with.

I’m not making any excuses, so you don’t make any judgements, ‘k?

After the Tabasco-infused gruel, Ivo was ready for some bacon. I don’t know why Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom gives him a plate, as that just gives him something to grip as he’s winging it through the room.

Same would hold true of Mom, were she the plate-winging type. But she didn’t, she just buckled down on this lovely plate of French toast. Lovely! Lots of “mmm-mmmmm” sounds coming from over there.

Marek, my breakfast partner in crime, he had what has become his new old standard, scrambled eggs and bacon. This bacon was a wall, a slab of lovely flavor.

I had the Datz Hash, which is the first time I’ve ever had corned beef hash that didn’t start its life in a can. This was a plate of awesome. Awesome.

Marek, he’s the kind of kid that will throw a slab of bacon over his shoulder and get to work.

The bill. Ouch. Let me spell that correctly. $Ouch. Not that it’s not delicious, but you wouldn’t bring the family here every day. Just be sure to roll your nickels when you come if you’re on a breakfast budget.

Afterwards we stopped at a place that had this Red Baron biplane for kids to play on. Celebrating the joy of childhood, or the prowess of Manfred von Richthofen and the German military during the first World War? Probably the former, with a dash of Snoopy thrown in.

Then on the way home, we found this rotted out relic. Can you guess what it is? I couldn’t.
It’s actually a really rare Deutche-Bonet Le Mans. How it got to Tampa is a pure mystery to me.

Later on that day I had to go to the market to get some more baby goop and ran into these nice girls. Tina, on the left, was our most pleasant waitress this morning, and her colleague Jay on the right. Tina, it turns out, we also know from Rick’s on the River. I had such a nice chat with Tina and Jay that I’m going to have to reinstate that half-pancake penalty from earlier.

Datz continues to impress us with the great food and fabulous service. Nothing to be said but let’s go get some. We’re pleased to re-affirm Datz as a Tampa Bay Breakfasts five pancake destination.


Al’s Nuevo Cafe

We’re headed south on Dale Mabry. It’s a beautiful morning. If you look closely at this picture on the left, you’ll see people just like us, up early for the race. Running a 5k and searching for delicious pancakes are both athletic events.

We visited Al’s Nuevo Cafe at 3301 S Dale Mabry Hwy on 17 July 2011.

If only these photographs could convey the movement and sound coming from Marek. Alas, there is no such technology that exists today that can make these poor, still pictures move and talk. ‘Cause if there were, you’d hear Marek stating loudly and vehemently that “this place is DISGUSTING” and “pancakes are DISGUSTING” and so on. I think perhaps Marek isn’t very happy this morning.

The “Nuevo” ought to give it away. Al’s is a Cuban place. They have pancakes, bacon, eggs, and also morning Cuban sandwiches on the menu.

Al’s could actually pass as a reasonable sports bar. In fact, the reason we’ve never stopped in here is because when I drive by in the afternoons I can see the bar and TV through the windows from the road. It was just a fluke that I noticed cars in the morning one day.

Whenever we’re in a Cuban place, I always like to have the cafe con leche. It didn’t disappoint.

Pretty pancake for kids. They took time on this. And Marek, as you can see here, is saying, without even looking at it, “it’s DISGUSTING!” He’s a real charmer this morning.

My Neuvo Special sandwich, on the other hand, is simply fabulous. Eggs, chorizo, peppers. Really delicious!

Secret dad tip for you new fathers out there: Ignore the tantrum and it goes away. Quietly, without any fanfare, Marek just picked up the syrup.

And dug in. And that was the last we heard about things being disgusting.

Turns out, these pancakes are pretty good.

For two breakfasts the bill was just eleven clams. Not bad on the price.

We’re all cleaned up. We’re thinking about wrapping it up and heading out. Me and Ivo, we’re just having a quiet moment. We’re talking about the Beat Poets again. I mentioned that I’m a Ginsberg fan.

And Ivo, who is learning about these things in a dear, sweet, baby way, grabbed me gently by the hair, slammed my face into the table, and informed me that Kerouac is the best Beat Poet. Kids these days!

This is him giving me a piece of his mind.

Thank goodness this nice lady came along and saved me!

Back in the car, after the slammings of heads and the disgustings and all the challenges that come with dad taking two boys out to breakfast, we’re still all friends.

On the way home we stopped at the market for some vegetables. Ivo wanted some watermelon. Turns out that he likes watermelon just as well if it’s made out of paper as if it’s made out of melon.

We had a very nice time at Al’s Nuevo Cafe. The people were quite friendly, the food was good, the atmosphere was nice, if a little sports-bar-esque, and the price was right. Al’s is certainly worth a visit if you’re in South Tampa. We’re happy to give Al’s Nuevo Cafe a Tampa Bay Breakfast four pancake rating.


Nuevo Cafe on Urbanspoon


We’re heading to Gibsonton this morning. On the approach we saw this 30-foot mechanic wielding an enormous box wrench. It gave me the impression that he was waiting to use the wrench to pound into scrap any car that drove into the lot.

We visited Showtown at 10902 US Highway 41 South on 9 July 2011. They have a somewhat haphazard web site at Note that the marquee says it’s a “Restaurant and Bar” yet the building says it’s a “Restaurant and Lounge.” And there’s a “Morning Happy Hour.”

We first went to this door, but it doesn’t really look like it’s actually a door.

We walked around the building looking for a door made of door, instead of one made of paint.

Finally, we found this one. Which, while it does appear to be a door for folks of diminutive stature, is actually a tall-folks door cleverly concealed. Just finding our way in was a lot of fun! (Turns out the first door was actually behind the almost-naked lady. Showtown starts you out with a bit of crazy.)

Showtown, for all the show so far, has a pretty basic breakfast menu. Good, relatively complete, but not with the circus-themed menu items you might expect, given the whimsy you find before you even get in the building.

The coffee, to our delight, appeared out of thin air.

Today’s a real treat! Not only are we having breakfast in a truly unique place, we also have Abbey with us!

To make things even better, we also have TBB fan Vinny. He is also Abbey’s dad.

As is more and more common these days, about now Marek suggested that perhaps he could take all the pictures. He took this nice shot of Abbey. That big red blob upper left? Marek’s finger.

And then they ran off to play foosball. I told you it was an interesting place.

Vinny, who is expert on any sport that involves a ball, gave a free lesson. To the best of my knowledge, this was the first foosball table Marek ever saw.

Marek, if you grow up to be a gold-medal Olympic foosball champion, you can look back and say that you got your start here.

While they were playing foosball and I was wondering why it was taking so very, very long for breakfast to come out, I wandered around to look at the extensive murals. Here’s the kitchen. We joked that they only had one chicken and we’d ordered two eggs, so they were in the back yelling at the hen “squeeze, Bitsy, squeeze!”

Here’s a bit of detail from the extensive mural behind our table. At first glance, you think there’s just a bunch of posters on the walls. Then you look closer and realize that this is an immense body of artwork in what otherwise is really a ramshackle dive bar with a restaurant tacked on.

Seriously, you get sucked in and lost when you start looking closer.

“Hey Vinny, how long you been waiting for breakfast this morning?”

“Four hours, it feels like!”

The kids started out playing tag.

Then they just took naps.

Seriously, the detail on this is incredible. I can’t remember the surrealist artist who painted like this with the extended shadows. Hopper did some like this, but there was that other guy. The dead one. Spanish. Cityscapes that were desolate and lonely, with intense shadows that were not possible given any realistic light source. Grrr, memory. Fails. Me.

The nice folks at Showtown brought us crayons. Funny thing about Marek: He’s not the least bit interested in coloring. Not at all.

But my boy can surely tell a joke. Here, here’s telling the one about the difference between a lawyer and a catfish (one’s a bottom feeder, and the other’s a fish!).

Aaaannnnd …. here’s breakfast!

Abbey’s pancakes were bigger than she was!

Marek had his new favorite, floppy eggs and bacon. That’s a lot of bacon, but he took care of it like a pro.

I had the pancakes, and when he was distracted I nipped some of Marek’s bacon.

Vinny had the biscuits and gravy, and the picture’s out of focus because, well, I’ve only got a lousy mobile phone camera and sometimes it just fails to live up to the moment.

I can picture Marek being a young man, out on a date with a pretty girl, and saying, hey, lookit how I can eat bacon! Because that’s what it appears he’s doing here.

The bill for all that chow, and it surely was a lot of chow, was about $30. Not the cheapest ever, but we did have four full breakfasts so that’s pretty reasonable.

If you head to the latrines you’ll encounter this tired woman. Showtown is fraught with this lovely, unnerving detail.

After we settled up and were just finishing some coffee, Marek and Abbey decided they wanted to really play foosball.

Marek volunteered to get quarters, for which he needed a grant from the National Foosball Foundation, A.K.A. me giving him a dollar.

Here, Marek and Abbey are shown negotiating the terms of exchange, one dollar for one quarter was the original request, but the counter offer of four quarters for a dollar was a better deal.

And then we all played foosball, Vinny and Abbey vs. Andy and Marek.

On the way home, Marek and I stopped to get flowers for Favorite Guest Reviewer Mom. Why? Because it’s a special occasion: We love her!

So what about the breakfast, you ask?

Here’s the Tampa Bay Breakfasts take on Showtown: The actual breakfast was really good. The pancakes were near to perfect. The bacon and eggs were just right. Toast was nice. Coffee was strong and black. People were friendly. Vinny and Abbey enjoyed the chow. The Gibsonton-appropriate circus themed murals were simply incredible and occasionally mind-bending. The down side is that breakfast took forever to arrive, and it’s clearly a bar that serves breakfast rather than a breakfast restaurant that happens to also have a bar. So there’s some really good and some sort-of-not-so-good to the equation.

As Tampa Bay’s only working Breakfast Professionals, we have to apply serious science to our reviews. Ultimately, it boils down to good chow plus good times plus price plus character, and Showtown has more character than any other place we’ve been to in the last three years. The only real significant complaint is that it took 40 minutes from order to delivery, but I just can’t get over the fact that Showtown is flawed yet awesome. Showtown, we’re going to forgive that 40 minute wait and reward the fact that this is clearly the trippiest breakfast location in Tampa Bay.

We’re pleased to award Showtown with a Tampa Bay Breakfasts Five Pancake Rating. If you go, tell them Marek and Andy sent you. And don’t sit on the south side.


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