Sunday, February 18, 2018
Features and More

Ulele restaurant unveils native-inspired menu

TAMPA — The much anticipated Ulele Native-Inspired Food and Spirits serves four kinds of oysters: on the half shell, in kale and apple cabbage cups, charbroiled with garlic and cheese, and fresh as a shooter, with or without tequila.

Eat one and you're biting into Tampa's history.

The entire menu of the restaurant opening Tuesday in Tampa Heights pays tribute to early-Florida Indian fare and the pioneers who came later, from jalapeno corn beer biscuits to crackling port shank and alligator hush puppies.

Area foodies, media representatives and downtown civic leaders got their first taste Sunday during a preview of the $5 million project, which includes a two-level restaurant, a rooftop bar, beer garden and microbrewery. The 225-seat restaurant occupies an old pump house built in 1903 that supplied the city with drinking water from Ulele Spring. It sits next to the recently restored natural spring and the city's new Water Works Park along the Hillsborough River.

"We live in Old Seminole Heights so we are really excited about the location and we're happy it's going to be dog-friendly'' said Trisha Rothman, while sampling oysters and shishito peppers with her husband, Ari.

Fourth-generation Columbia restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart, who developed Ulele with managing partner Keith Sedita and the city of Tampa, described the opening as melancholy and emotional.

"It's been six years to become a reality and when you want something so badly and you get it, the excitement kind of ends,'' he said. "But now the hard work starts.''

The restaurant is filled with paintings and artwork Gonzmart and his family have collected through the years. Above the kitchen doors are large stained-glass, French panels from the 1700s that his parents had in their home. Dividing the dining room is a huge metal horse he bought at an auction. Above the bar are five paintings of Ulele's handcrafted cocktails, including the Dirty Richard Martini and the Pisco Morado.

The restaurant is named after Ulele, the young daughter of a local Tocobaga chief believed to have saved a member of a Spanish expedition out of love. A bronze statute of her surrounded by a water and fire feature will go outside the restaurant in the next few weeks.

Gonzmart, who spent much of his childhood playing along the riverfront, said he wanted the statue to be accessible to everyone, not just restaurant patrons. His grandparents lived a few blocks from the site.

On Sunday, as guests dined on lobster cakes and seafood pot pie, he looked for frogs and fish in the spring with his grandchildren, just as he did with his grandfather decades earlier.

"History is repeating itself,'' he said, content to welcome Ulele for the next generations.

Contact Susan Thurston at [email protected] or (813) 225-3110.

Comments
Trumpeter is the highlight of a concert featuring ‘West Side Story’ themes

Trumpeter is the highlight of a concert featuring ‘West Side Story’ themes

TAMPA — Leonard Bernstein would have turned 100 this year. The Florida Orchestra performed two of his works Friday, the second of which paired the dances from West Side Story with the overture to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet.The orches...
Published: 02/17/18
Five things that make Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Volta’ different and fun

Five things that make Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Volta’ different and fun

TAMPA — Cirque du Soleil is back in town with a new show.The Montreal-based company always puts on an extravaganza, splashing around color with the abandon of a toddler playing with paint buckets and a storyline several layers deep, the artistic skel...
Published: 02/16/18
The Reading Room’s Lauren Macellaro and Columbia’s Richard Gonzmart are James Beard semifinalists

The Reading Room’s Lauren Macellaro and Columbia’s Richard Gonzmart are James Beard semifinalists

It’s almost a sick joke. On the morning after Valentine’s Day, the second-busiest restaurant day of the year, chefs all over the country are hauling themselves out of bed early to find out: Did I make it onto this year’s James Beard Foundation list o...
Published: 02/15/18
Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Nothing says indulgence like noshing on some seriously giant Alaskan king crab legs. They’re not just tasty, they’re a low-fat source of protein: One leg has about 25 grams of protein and a host of vitamins and minerals (including sodium, incidentall...
Published: 02/15/18
Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

You’ve likely seen persimmon in the grocery store and then shied away from it, not quite sure what to do with it. The most common variety in the United States is the fuyu persimmon, also called Japanese persimmon, and it looks similar to a slightly f...
Published: 02/15/18
Bar review: Valenty’s Lounge, part of Pasadena Liquors in St. Pete — who knew?

Bar review: Valenty’s Lounge, part of Pasadena Liquors in St. Pete — who knew?

Once, if I’d received a recommendation to check out a lounge attached to a liquor store near the beach, I wouldn’t have been in much of a hurry to check it out. But I’ve learned that there’s frequently magic in these places. ...
Published: 02/15/18
Local craft beer of the week: Process IPA, Calusa Brewing

Local craft beer of the week: Process IPA, Calusa Brewing

Not long ago, it was all about the West Coast IPA. California breweries like Stone, Russian River and Bear Republic built empires on the style, favoring a dry IPA base and mountains of resiny, intensely bitter hops to craft aggressive brews that laug...
Published: 02/15/18
New CoffeeHouse and Eatery comes to South Tampa

New CoffeeHouse and Eatery comes to South Tampa

Daily Dose Coffeehouse & Eatery opened earlier this month and offers South Tampa unique smoked coffee and a number of fresh, homemade breakfast items.Located in Fair Oaks Plaza at 3324 W Gandy Blvd., Daily Dose serves a different chef special everyda...
Published: 02/15/18
Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar has opened at International Plaza

Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar has opened at International Plaza

INTERNATIONAL PLAZA—After a long wait, the highly anticipated Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila bar is finally open for business at International Plaza’s Bay Street on Monday (Feb 12).Originally expected to open last September, owner Rocco Mangel said they g...
Published: 02/15/18
I sat through Disney's Hall of Presidents five times. It says more about us than Trump.

I sat through Disney's Hall of Presidents five times. It says more about us than Trump.

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Next time you’re at the Magic Kingdom, walk up Main Street USA and hang a left at Cinderella’s castle. Enter the faux colonial Liberty Square, with its exact replica Liberty Bell and "liberty tree" adorned with 1...
Published: 02/15/18