Tag Archives: Florida

Kojak’s House of Ribs, Tampa

Christine and I returned from our trip to Tampa and St. Petersburg almost two whole months ago, so this post is a little late in coming, but trust me, Kojak’s House of Ribs is worth the wait!

Nestled under a thicket of giant live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, Kojak’s is housed in a converted Southern bungalow-style home just a few blocks from the beach in South Tampa. And while I had read a review of the restaurant in one of my guide books before flying out to Florida, I actually stumbled upon Kojak’s House of Ribs quite accidentally.

Christine was busy at her MSA Conference that day and my Mom and Courtney weren’t due to arrive till later that night, so, with ribs on my mind, I set off in my rental car to find some sweet Southern BBQ. And since the picking were decidedly slim near our hotel downtown, I ended up crossing the bridge into South Tampa.

After cruising down the shoreline dotted with beautiful older homes and groovy 70’s-era condo towers, I took a random right turn at the end of the road and ended up literally smack dab in front of Kojak’s. Yeah, for once my mapless wandering pays off!

It was kind of late in the afternoon when I pulled up and there were only three other diners there — which usually worries me a bit — but the place was so damn cute (there are ceiling fans on the veranda!) I knew the minute I saw it that I was gonna eat me some Kojak’s.

In case you were wondering — I know I was! — the name Kojak’s comes from co-founder Bill J.W. Forney’s nickname. Forney was the Chief of Detectives in Midwest City, Oklahoma for years and even when he left the force to open his first BBQ joint in the early 1970’s, the “Kojak” moniker stuck. So when Bill’s brother Bud Forney decided to open his own BBQ shingle in Tampa a few years later, he took the family BBQ sauce recipe and the name Kojak’s with him. And thirty years later, this South Tampa institution is still going strong!

Parking out front, I headed inside and ordered the rib dinner pictured above. This mouth-wateringly good combo platter consists of a generous portion of Kojak’s spare ribs and two sides. I got the parsley potatoes and the baked beans, and though the beans were just alright, those potatoes were so buttery and delicious I kinda wanted to marry them. Amazing!

And the ribs…holy smoke, were they good! Dipped in the spicier of the two Kojak’s BBQ sauce choices on the table, that meat was fall-off-the-bone spectacular! Just incredible…

But the highlight of the meal was the Key Lime pie. I don’t know if it’s the proximity to the Florida Keys, the fact that they make the pie fresh daily in the Kojak’s kitchen, or those sweet almonds baked into the crust, but that was one of the best pieces of pie I have ever had anywhere! I’m not kidding, man, that almond crust alone will haunt your dreams!

In fact, the pie was so good, I knew I had to share it with Christine, so I ordered a second piece to go. And even though she ended up eating it with a spoon from a Jerk Chicken Shack downtown — in my pie haze, I forget to ask my waiter at Kojak’s for a fork! — Christine too kind of wanted to marry that Key Lime pie!

And according to the Kojak’s website, the pie isn’t even their most popular desert! Something called “Mama’s World Famous Chocolate Cake” holds that title. So, if nothing else, it gives me one more reason to head back to Tampa in a few years and try it out…yum!

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Happy Earth Day from Epcot!

Sorry for not writing in a while, but Christine and I were in Tampa last week for her work and are just now getting back to normal. Had an awesome time in Florida, got to visit with my Mom and Courtney and ate some rocking-good food — which I will totally tell you about later — but perhaps our coolest adventure was visiting Disney’s epically-nerdy Epcot theme park in Orlando.

I’m not kidding, man, Epcot was just as geeky and cool as I remember it: educational “message” rides about the environment and science, that gigantic geodesic dome at the front gate, and that whole international pavillion thingy…wow…amazing! We were in nerd heaven…

And while we have plenty of other Epcot stories to share with you, in honor of Earth day, I wanted to start with one of favorite rides: Living with the Land. As you may or may not know, Christine has totally “gone green” over the last decade — seriously, you’d think she’s the one who grew up in Santa Cruz! — so when she heard about this ride, it was literally the first thing on her Epcot to-do list.

And after getting on that little boat and floating through the various climates on our planet, I gotta agree with her. Living with the Land is a seriously cool ride! After a quick “history of agriculture” intro, the 14-minute ride glides into the first of four “experimental growing areas”.

First up is the “Tropics Greenhouse” which is housed in a massive 60-foot dome. Here you will find bananas, cacao, peanuts, sugar cane, etc. You’d think it would be all tropical hot in that place, but it’s really nice and warm and the bananas smelled awesome! We kind of loved it there.

Next up is the “Aquacell” which is home to dozens of exotic fish, alligators and American Eels. This place was kind of spooky and didn’t smell nearly as good as the banana room, but the fish tanks were pretty impressive..so, rock on.

But the best two areas were saved for last: The “Production Greenhouse”, where USDA scientists are exploring new ways to grow fruits and vegetables without soil and the need for toxic pesticides; and the “Creative Greenhouse” where this same group of greenies is working hard to perfect cheap and innovative hanging growth techniques for use in gardens around the globe and even in space! Rad!

Our favorite things here were the hanging tomatoes and pumpkins. We tried growing some pumpkins a couple years back and they were literally devoured by bugs before they could grow but man, if we had some of that hanging pipe action in our back yard, well…wow, bet we’d have a hell of a better crop!

Oh yeah, and the coolest thing of all is that almost all of the food grown on this ride is used at Restaurants around the park…awesome! And while we didn’t get to sample the baby green salad at the Land’s Garden Grill Restuarant, it did look pretty damn fresh, so, yum.

Anyway, happy Earth Day everyone and if you happen to have any Mickey Mouse ear-shaped pumpkin molds gathering dust in your garages, break that shit out and grow a pumpkin!

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The Oldest House in the U.S.

Located at 215 East De Vargas street, half a block off Old Santa Fe Trail is a beautiful little building that “supposedly” is the Oldest House in the United States. I say supposedly for two reasons. One is that the houses’ official title is: “The Oldest House in the United States…built by a European”. And two, because the house was allegedly built sometime between 1200 and 1646.

Yes, you read that correctly…1200-1646. So this place was either built in 1200 or four-hundred and forty-six years later. You know, give or take a century.

In any case, the house — which currently is home to a crafts store that was NEVER opened when I was awake — is still really cool looking. And unlike the “miraculous” staircase at the Loretto Chapel, you can touch this adobe building all you want…so, touch we did!

Although I must say that all the adobe fondling in the world could not help us pinpoint the exact date the house was built…and even though I was tempted to break a piece of the wall off for some carbon dating of my own, Ginger wisely persuaded me not to. But if you ask me, this is one title just waiting to be scooped up by someone else.

Speaking of…apparently there is another Oldest House in the United States (also built by Europeans, the Spanish) in St. Augustine, Florida. Located on St. Francis street, the Gonzalez-Alvarez House was supposedly built in 1564 and then rebuilt after the English burnt it down in 1702.

Having spent many a summer in beautiful St. Augustine as a kid visiting my Mom and Courtney, I imagine we probably saw that house at some point too. But after visiting the website to refresh my memory of what it looked like, I gotta say that even their claim on the Oldest House title seems a bit shady to me. I mean, that place looks new as shit…

So, until further evidence presents itself to the contrary…I’m gonna stick with the Oldest House in Santa Fe. It didn’t feel like it could topple over at any minute or anything, but at least it looked the part.

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