Whenever I go to a new city, I am always excited to eat breakfast. It’s my favorite meal, and I love seeing how other people do it. Last week, we were in Tampa.
We had gotten into Tampa late on our first night in Florida. We didn’t check into the hotel until after midnight. But still, we were hungry. A quick walk down the street revealed that there wasn’t much in terms of late night eating options, unless you wanted to go into a bar full of really really drunk people. Me being stone cold sober and my wife being pregnant, this did not appeal to us. So, we had pizza.
The pizza was cheap and terrible. It tasted like it came straight out of a freezer. And it was bland and intensely salty at the same time. All around miserable. But it was the only late night food place around. And suddenly, I was really missing the starbucks-like ubiquity of the cheap late night Mexican joints in Chicago.
We didn’t make it out for breakfast on our first night in Tampa (or Clearwater Beach, technically) until late. But fortunately, Clearsky Beachside Cafe serves breakfast late. On our first visit (it’s so nice, we went there twice), we were enthusiastically greeted and instantly seated outside.
Eventhough it’s called a Beachside cafe, it’s not really on the beach. But I suppose “beach adjacent” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. And while they kind of have outdoor seating, it’s under a covered awning. But, it was close enough.
The patrons of this restaurant were pretty much all tourists. Lots of families and retired couples. I figured it was probably a little early for the snowbirds to be down in Florida, but then again, the topic of everyone’s conversations was how much snow the Northeast had gotten in that freak Nor’easter blizzard of late 2011.
The menu in this place read much like any other breakfast diner I’ve been to in Florida. It was pretty much exactly like a diner menu from the Northeast, likely from the heavy patronage of snowbirds, and it also had a touch of southern to it.
I had a sausage omelette covered in sausage gravy and served with a side of grits. The grits were ok. And the sausage gravy tasted homemade. Or, at least, it didn’t taste like it came from a packet or a can, as it frequently does in Chicago. I’m talking about you, Stella’s Diner and Pine Grove Diner.
My wife ordered the Square Meal Deal. It was like a breakfast sampler. My wife didn’t like the sausage, which is always a plus for me because that means that I get to eat it. But she did like everything else, especially the pancakes, which are phenomenal at Clearsky Beachside Cafe. I think they put cinnamon and vanilla right in the batter itself. It really makes a difference. I don’t really even like pancakes, and I loved these.
On the following day, we returned for breakfast again. In part, this was because we so enjoyed our first experience. But also, there really isn’t anywhere else to eat a decent breakfast. (the hotel conceirge did recommend the hotel’s breakfast buffet, which only costs $39.95 per person. not a typo. $40 bucks for brunch!)
On the second day, we were seated inside. The inside there is depressing. It reminded me of a sad bachelor’s apartment. It was really dark and had very poor air flow, it seemed.
I ordered the Sunshine Scramble, a dish that took a concerted enunciatory effort on my part to order. It was good, but small. I easily could have eaten two orders of them.
My wife ordered the Square Meal Deal again. And on this second time, I don’t know if she was hungrier or if she got a different kind of sausage, but she didn’t offer it to me. She did share her pancakes with me again, which was nice.