Tampa, like many other cities in America and the rest of the world, has a lot of restaurants. Among these restaurants are subsets, such as seafood, barbecue and foreign. The very best subset among these is the diner, home of all-day breakfast, chili and people passed out in booths. Why are these beloved establishments referred to as “greasy spoons”? Well, the term originated in the 1920s to describe the kind of place where most of the food on the menu is either grilled or fried (“greasy”) and the person who came up with the phrase apparently didn’t know how to eat with a fork and knife (only “spoons”). Here are Tampa’s best five of these places where the elite meet to discretely eat meaty treats.
5. La Teresita Restaurant Cafeteria
Located on the west side of the building housing the much larger La Teresita restaurant and banquet facility, this little diner features the Bayshore Blvd. of lunch counters; long and winding and patronized by people who might be direct descendants of actual pirates. It would rank higher on this list because of the availability of authentic Cuban cuisine, but it’s only open 24 hours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and around-the-clock access is a big part of any greasy spoon’s appeal.
4. Waffle House, Denny’s, IHoP and Village Inn
Of these national chains, Waffle House stands out a little bit more because you can actually witness the interaction between the servers and the cooks and the fascinating short order vernacular used to place orders:
SERVER: “I need a cluck and grunt (eggs and bacon), with some scattered, smothered and covereds (hash brown potatoes with cheese and onions), whiskey down (rye toast). Also, you left someone behind when you put your Benedict in my Cumberbatch (I’m pregnant with your child) last Saturday. 86 the raisin toast (the raisin toast is all gone).”
COOK: “Roger that (order received). Holding (waiting) on a wreck ‘em (scrambled eggs) and roller (sausage) for table three. I’ll grab a coat hanger and meet you in the alley (you have to get an abortion because I’ll be damned if you’re going to ruin my life, you miserable skank).”
The good thing about chain restaurants is they’re consistent in terms of quality and price. The drawback is they’re all basically the same. If you have a preference of a certain Denny’s over another in a different neighborhood, it’s probably because you’re a racist.
3. Joe’s New York Diner
I’ve never been here but the description from their web site says, “Joe’s New York Diner is a real 24 hour Authentic 50’s style Diner where the food is cooked fresh with a Jukebox, checkered floor , real authentic feel.” If you like your food cooked with a jukebox and a floor, Joe’s looks like the place for you!
2. Three Coins Diner
Just south of the old haunted dog track is the Three Coins Diner. This cramped and sweaty place offers not only delicious gut-busting food but also some of the best people watching in Tampa Bay. Club kids, drag queens, college students, cops, bikers and assorted randos. All attend in abundance on a Saturday night/Sunday morning and all will happily pass you some maple syrup if you run out.
1. Pop ‘n Sons
It’s right next door to Mom’s Place on Dale Mabry near the stadium, but not only are the neighboring restaurants unaffiliated, they don’t even like each other! Yep, Mom and Pop are mortal enemies. Talk about authentic home cookin’! The place has been there about 40 years, most of the waitresses have been there for at least 45 and they tend to gather around the cash register right in the middle of the place so you can clearly hear them trash each other behind each other’s backs for not filling the sugar dispensers or whatever. The décor is lots of Formica tables and padded vinyl booths, with pictures of hot rods adorning the walls and vintage doo-wop music piped in via satellite radio, just like it was back in the 1950’s! The food is hot, fresh, fast and brown. Best of all, it’s all available any time you want, making Pop ‘n Sons the Best Greasy Spoon Diner in Tampa!