Vanishing restaurants need some love

The march of history stops for nothing, taking away loved ones and loved places, restaurants among them. Like aging relatives, we should visit, enjoy, and help our oldest and best eateries. Seize the day or the world will pass you by. Just weeks ago, we lost the Palios brothers’ restaurant. Their place on MacDill drew fried chicken fanatics from every walk of life.

The old Goody Goody is still cooking, kept alive by former carhop Yvonne Freeman and her son Douglas. It opened in 1925, one of the first drive-in restaurants on the planet. When this famous burger and fry stand-by goes, it will take some of the area’s finest pies with it. Order a burger “sloppy” (with tomato sauce), followed by the dark and luxurious butterscotch pie. If she isn’t too busy, Yvonne might regale you with tales of old Tampa.

Another legendary eatery on its way out is the Seabreeze, opened in the 1920s as a makeshift fry shack. Like many older restaurants in Tampa, it grew up with the city, from a hut to a drive in. It is now a large restaurant with its own shrimp fleet and seafood shop.

Progress will soon sweep the Seabreeze away. A rusty, hulking ship repair facility will claim the restaurant, and is already looming behind the building. The Seabreeze is one of the 22nd Street Causeway’s last non-industrial businesses on the waterfront. The Seabreeze has won a brief reprieve from destruction. Restaurateur Rita Carlino briefly revived the restaurant before giving up in 2001.

Thankfully, Danny Richards and his wife Donna have decided to re-open the restaurant for lunch. Danny’s parents, Robert and Helen, previously ran the eatery, seafood shop, and shrimp fleet. They sold the property last year before their well-deserved retirement. The same fresh food can still be found in abundance with the same great prices. No one is sure how long this final incarnation will last.

Sit in the main dining room, where the view is impressive. For starters, you must have the devil crab, an original Tampa creation evolved from Cuban croquettes in the 1920s. Tampa’s version is larger, with more crab and less breading, earning its name with fiery spices. Over time, the rolls became milder, so hot sauce must be lavishly applied. At the Seabreeze, the devil crab is not a ball of dough with traces of old crabmeat inside. Instead, the portion of crab is very generous and the crust is thin, as it should be. Some customers buy bagfuls for later.

Try some Miss Lucy Potatoes as well, thick and freshly-fried potato chips with salt, pepper, and garlic. They are far superior to the dull store-bought variety. The Seabreeze Salad is like many others found in old Tampa restaurants, with ham and a variety of cheeses. Spanish Bean Soup is always a winner.

For your main course, go directly to the seafood. Fried shrimp, caught fresh by the Seaweed (every boat in their fleet bears the name) cannot be beat. The fried scallops, bursting with moisture and flavor, are just as good. I was delighted with a grouper special simmered in a rich vegetable tomato sauce. Fresh seafood at very reasonable prices can be found in the shop next door. I don’t get shrimp anywhere else. The Love Rock, a decorative marble slab memorializing the place’s countless romances, is also nearby–just ask your server and take the one you love.

So the next time you can drive to south Tampa, seize the day and a piece of delicious history at the venerable Goody Goody and Seabreeze.

The Goody Goody is open M-Sat (7:30-4 on M-F, 7:30-3 on Sat.) at 1119 Florida Avenue North. Phone: 223-4230.The Seabreeze is open M-Sat (10-7 for take out, 11-3 for lunch) at 3409 Causeway Blvd. Phone: 247-2103.

The Seabreeze Seafood shop is at 248-9533