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Ready for a rustic Pappas?

Rose Lumpkin saw the new steak house two weeks ago while driving down Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. She told her husband Joe about it.

So the Lumpkins, a pair of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office retirees from Palm Harbor, came to Pappas Ranch Steakhouse and Bar for lunch on a recent Tuesday.

"I love a good steak house," said Rose, 51, eating a prime rib sandwich with a side of potato salad.

Rose represents one of the prime demographics for the new restaurant opened by one of the Tampa Bay area's leading restaurant families. Women, it seems, like steak houses, so the owners of the second Pappas Ranch restaurant to open in the Tampa Bay area made sure to get "steak house" in its name.

The first one — called Pappas Ranch Steaks, Barbecue, Saloon — opened last year in Pasco County's Trinity area, with an emphasis on original barbecue sauces.

But the word "barbecue" was dropped for the Clearwater restaurant "because we wanted to draw more women and a younger base," said Luke Pappas, 28, who opened the restaurant with his father, Louis L. Pappas. "People can still get barbecue, but they can also get good steaks and seafood."

Inside the 7,000-square-foot building at 2630 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., which used to be a Roadhouse Grill, the sweet smell of burning wood chips wafts through the air. With the rustic feel of a lodge, the place seats 312, with additional seating outside.

Opening restaurants is nothing new for Louis Pappas, 55, or for other members of the Pappas family.

In 1925, his grandparents — Louis M. Pappas and his wife, Flora — opened the original Pappas Riverside Cafe in Tarpon Springs, specializing in Greek-American cuisine. The staple of that restaurant was a Greek salad with a scoop of Pappas' potato salad under the lettuce. Although the family sold that business in 2002, the famed Greek salad is a popular menu item at Pappas Ranch.

Louis expanded his grandfather's original restaurant concept into a series of smaller cafe-style restaurants dubbed Louis Pappas Market Cafe. There are five in the Tampa Bay area.

Now, Louis and his son Luke are back in the full-service restaurant business with Pappas Ranch.

"I still love to cook," Louis said, taking a break from the kitchen in the new restaurant.

Father and son planned the menu. Louis tweaks the barbecue sauces and oversees the kitchen, while Luke handles marketing and expansion plans. They're looking to open restaurants in Tampa and Brandon.

In addition to opening the new restaurant, they moved their corporate kitchen from Tarpon Springs to the Clearwater location's 3,000-square-foot kitchen. There, cooks prepare the potato salad, barbecue sauces and Greek food specialties for the family's six other restaurants.

Louis said the Gulf-to-Bay site has an advantage over Tarpon Springs for the corporate kitchen because its direct access to State Road 60 allows for easier transport to Tampa locations. The Pappas corporate office remains in Tarpon Springs.

More than 1,000 people applied for 65 jobs at the new restaurant.

"I wasn't working for a while," said St. Petersburg College student Anthony Snow, 21. "I'm on my own, and this job has really helped me pay my bills and take care of my schooling."

Blayne Furey, 29, is a server at Pappas Ranch. He had just returned from a three-month Asia trip and needed a job. The restaurant has worked out well for him and for his customers.

"The food is great," he said, "and you don't have to talk it up to your tables."

Contact Demorris A. Lee at dalee@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4174.

Ready for a rustic Pappas? 03/30/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 7:34pm]
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