A couple of months ago, I tripped over my own feet, fell and fractured my right kneecap. Following a period at University Community Hospital in north Tampa, and a brief residential rehabilitation sojourn, I returned home and began a series of out-patient rehab physical therapy sessions with a reasonably friendly and nice sadist named Joe Canarela. He is not really a sadist but if I treat him too well, I have no doubt that his job is in jeopardy.
The location of my therapy is in a strip center on North Dale Mabry Highway and is between the Tampa Alehouse where a cold brew is always available and an establishment that serves one of the best breakfasts in the area, the Riviera Restaurant. Since my therapy session ends at 11:00 o’clock in the morning, I could justify turning left or right upon leaving; with what shall I treat myself? An ice cold draft beer accompanied by a hamburger cooked “Pittsburgh” style (one of the very few restaurants that will cook a burger the way I want it, charred on the outside and nearly raw in the center) is very tempting but I choose to turn to my right and go to the Riviera.
Actually, I usually go on home because either alternative destination is inconsistent with a nearly perpetual desire and effort to lose a few pounds. However, on several occasions I have entered the Riviera, once with my granddaughter who has an inexhaustible appetite and a waistline that measures somewhere on the slender side of average.
The Riviera is open from 7:00 o’clock in the morning to 3:o’clock in the afternoon; it has an interesting lunch menu, including the usual variety of sandwiches, salads and melts, along with, surprisingly, a number of Greek items featuring some very good salads and gyro sandwiches and platters. While the salads and sandwiches all look fantastic and are extremely popular, if I am in the mood for gyros or Greek salads, Tarpon Springs is just a relatively few miles away and why not save the urges for the best of Tarpon Springs. (A brief digression: the Greek sandwiches, salads and meals at Hellas on Dodecanese Boulevard in Tarpon Springs are not to be missed, its bakery provides pastries that are to die for and the Mythos beer goes well with the Spanakopeta or spinach pie baked in paper-thin layers of pastry.)
But the breakfasts, Oh my, they are really and truly good.
The last time I visited the Riviera, Jessica, the perpetually hungry granddaughter, ordered a mushroom and cheese omelet. The large plate was completely filled to overflowing by a perfectly prepared three-egg omelet, an extravagant portion of home-fries and, an optional extra, three strips of thick-cut bacon. The omelet was literally stuffed with mushrooms and cheese. Excluding the side of bacon, the cost of this meal was a modest $5.95. With the omelet, as with hall of the breakfast platters and egg dishes, there is a choice of toast or bread items and, for another 40¢, a substitution of an English muffin, a bagel or, and this is well worth it, an order of Cuban bread, toasted just right.
I ordered the corned beef hash and eggs, poached on the top. The hash was, unlike some versions, mostly corned beef! The platter, again filled to the point of overflowing with home-fries, at $6.95 was a bargain. If I must find something that I would improve it would be that I prefer my home-fries crispier, but that is a matter of taste.
In any event, while I have a good appetite, some would suggest gluttony, there was no way on earth that I could finish my breakfast – although Jessica managed to accomplish the feat.
By the way, and this is not unimportant when it comes to breakfast, the coffee is excellent, served piping hot and the friendly and cheerful wait staff is constantly on the lookout for a half empty cup that may be refilled.
At my next visit to the Riviera, I took advantage of a “special”. They offered a “skillet” breakfast in which the celebrated home-fries were cooked with small chunks of ham and onions and then covered with melted cheese, all topped with two eggs. I had asked to have the potatoes made well done and crispy and what was presented looked too pretty to eat. But I did my best, placing a burden on arteries looking for an opportunity to clog. As in previous visits, I ended up leaving a substantial portion of the meal; there was just too much to eat.
One caution. The restaurant does not accept plastic; it’s cash only. On the other hand, there is an ATM machine on site that charges $2.00 per transaction.
This is a very fine neighborhood, family friendly, place to go for breakfast. Now that The Brunchery on North Dale Mabry is closed, there is no real competition and is definitely worth a visit.
Just be really hungry.