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- admin on Week 47: No Brunch: Just Some Vows, Goat Cheese Balls, and Neil Diamond.
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Week 26: Ella’s Americana Folk Art Café – The Blood Diamond of Seminole Heights
June 15, 2011
We needed to sleep in today- what a horrible task. Ella’s brunch doesn’t start until 11am and if we had woken up any earlier we surely would have starved! It’s 10am and Ryan has approached my bed with a bottle of bubbly. If there weren’t cats in the bedroom I’d say I was living the dream. There is no better start to the day than a $10 bottle of champagne and a jug of generic orange juice.
As we get ready for the long-awaited brunch at “Ella’s Soul Food Sunday,” Ryan pulls an extremely long hair of mine out of his beard. It’s intertwined in his stubble and he pulls it in awe as if it will never end. This is not as exhilarating as when he finds one stuck in his butt. Yes, you read that correctly. Now, before you go thinking that I have ever buried my head in Ryan’s ass, I want you to understand something: I’m Italian and I shed like a black lab. If you spend enough time with me, chances are my hair will sneak into your ass. Don’t ask me how. It’s one of those mysteries of the universe.
We pour the rest of our champagne into some plastic cups for the road and take off. Ella’s is not far away and I’m fortunate of that because suddenly I’m starving. I took a sneak peek at the menu online while Ryan was hair hunting. We can’t find parking anywhere and although the pawn shop next door is closed, we don’t dare park there. We’re on Nebraska Ave and unless you’re cashing in your grill or freeing your 24s from the hock, you’d best not leave your vehicle to squat in the parking lot.
We settle on a welcoming and spacious church parking lot down the road. Good Christian people don’t tow, or so I hear. Our plan was to park, and casually walk the opposite direction towards Ella’s, but as we turned the car off we realized we were at a predominantly black Southern Baptist church. So much for fitting in.
A man screams from the other side of the parking lot “HELLO. HOW’VE YOU BEEN.” I panic and raise my plastic champagne glass “HELLO FATHER, PRAISE THE LORD?!?” I smile at Ryan, proud of my jovial start to the day, and wonder if today’s Meatball Chronicle will accidently lead us into a church were we don’t belong. He shakes his head at me and lets me know that I just waived to a man who wasn’t talking to me. As Ryan’s so labeled “Brother Ja’quan” and his family step out from the car behind us, gather their leather bound, monogrammed Bibles and join the man I thought was waiving to me, I realize that Ryan is correct.
So, when we finally arrive, Ella’s Soul Food Sunday is busy bringing soothing comfort food to the people of Tampa, food that brings back warm memories of the Southern, albeit African inspired family dinners you may have buried in your past. By this time Sean and John-Paul have joined us and I begin to wonder if we’ve opened the proverbial can of worms toward the slippery slope of becoming swingers. The four of us have been spending a lot of time together these days and you just never know where it starts. One second you think you have a normal friend or coworker; the next you find out they are submitting ads on craigslist for third and fourth sets of genitals.
Round 1 ordering takes place: 2 mimosas, 2 bloody marys. The mimosas are your average, skinny champagne glass rip-offs but I already have a nice buzz and they’re strong enough to keep the ball rolling. The bloody marys are $10/each but they are worth every penny. They come garnished with pickled okra, stuffed olive, lime wheel, an entire smoky pork rib and rimmed with brown sugar and bbq spice rub. Typically heat radiates but these bloodys showcase their spice from the colonies of white raw horseradish chunks and the cascading blizzard of red and black pepper flakes. For someone who hates bloody marys, even I’m intrigued. I take a sip of Ryan’s… nope, still disgusting. Ryan and Sean claim they are amazing and I’ll take their word for it. If I liked bloody marys, I’d probably live at Ellas. Appetizers ordered: fried pickled okra, fried pickles, fried green tomatoes. All three are to die for.
As we wait for our meals, sipping ice cold PBR tall boys in the humid FL pre-summer sun, John-Paul and I scratch some lottery tickets and a man on a bicycle rides by on one wheel while balancing on the curb. I want to make fun of him but I’m jealous of his gypsy powers. When our food comes I’m almost embarrassed by how fat we are. I’m not even hungry after eating all of our fried appetizers and booze but I stretch and do other things like exhale, hoping that some space in my stomach will miraculously appear.
Here goes nothing: biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles, collard greens with bacon and ham hock, pulled pork sandwich and ribs – both alongside a heap of fried sliced dill pickles. Oh, for the table, not just me!
The menu says the biscuits are topped with country and chorizo sausage gravy and cheddar cheese. They’re far from traditional by any means. The chorizo is powerful enough to overpower any presence of “country sausage gravy” but this rendition that looks similar to puke after late-night pizza doesn’t scare me- these are the best damn biscuits and gravy I have EVER had.
Soul Food Sunday at Ella’s Americana Folk Art Café is an event at a location that has the ability to define Tampa. It is a conglomerate of southern and soul food favorites prepared with an upscale twist set in a neighborhood as diverse and eclectic as the restaurant’s decorations and its guests. I now know that their brunch is just as deserving of a visit for their dinner menu. Don’t even get me started on the Fat Japs and the Tuna Stack. Oooooh, I’m such a meatball.