TAMPA ― Fast Food that Loves You Back: That was the tagline at Nojaks, a new takeout spot in downtown Tampa that asked diners to check all their preconceived notions of unhealthy fast food at the door — or, in Nojaks’ case, the window.
There were pickle-brined fried tofu sandwiches; bright and crunchy salads and slaws; a fantastic veggie burger served on a fluffy homemade bun; and a lone hamburger, made with Providence Cattle Company beef. Fans came for the creative seasonal side dishes, which ranged from griddled turnips tossed with sunflower salsa macha to stir-fried bok choy with pickled turnips and chile sesame crunch. There was natural wine and beer to-go and everything could be ordered through the petite storefront’s walkup window.
That window ended up being short-lived: Last month, owner Wesley Roderick was forced to close his takeout-only spot after just shy of three months. Though the restaurant at 305 E Polk St. had already attracted plenty of hype, a couple of financial roadblocks and permitting issues were too much to overcome, Roderick said.
But don’t give up on Nojaks just yet: The restaurant will be back, Roderick says, in one way or another.
For now, the tiny space that housed the mostly vegan concept will become the new home of Supernatural Food & Wine, a takeout sandwich and natural wine shop also helmed by Roderick and his crew.
“We are shooting to be a pretty classic sandwich shop, but higher quality,” Roderick said.
Bread will come from Sullivan Street Bakery in Miami and the kitchen will continue to source produce and meats from local purveyors where possible. Though the mostly vegan ethos of its predecessor won’t carry over — there will be meat on a few of those sandwiches — Roderick said he’ll likely bring back some of the more popular vegetable side dishes at the new shop as specials.
The opening menu includes sandwiches like the Chicken Salad Delux ($9) served with marinated tomatoes and Little Gem lettuce on sourdough; the One Bangin’ BLT ($9) made with thick-cut bacon, marinated tomatoes, Little Gem lettuce and mayonnaise on seeded wheat; and the vegetarian-friendly Hubmarine ($9) made with marinated tofu, homemade pickles, lettuce, tomatoes and Thousand Island dressing on focaccia. The menu also features a handful of soups and salads, including the Thai Crunch ($7.50), which can be made with either tofu or roasted chicken and includes candied peanuts, carrots, crunchy rice, toasted sesame, cabbage and avocado with a citrus vinaigrette.
This isn’t Nojaks 2.0, but more of a holdover until Roderick can either fund some of the structural improvements needed (a ventilated hood system is the main culprit) or until another, more affordable space becomes available. Because when all is said and done, Nojaks is still the business he says he wants to run.
The good news for Nojaks fans is that there are still opportunities to get their fix. Since closing, Roderick has been experimenting with take-home meal kits, and a series of monthly popups hosted both at the space and at vegan restaurants around the Tampa Bay area are in the works.
In the meantime, Supernatural Food & Wine will open on March 15. The restaurant will be open weekdays starting at 7:30 a.m. for vegan sourdough doughnuts and coffee. Lunch will be served till 2:30 p.m. and the shop will stay open for natural wine sales until 6 p.m.