Thursday, August 06, 2009
The Colonnade has served boatloads of fish and shrimp
The Colonnade Restaurant on Bayshore Boulevard in 1935. The owners, the Whitesides, had two sons who were students at Tampa’s Henry B. Plant High School. Soon the restaurant was a favorite hangout for the kids and their cars. Plant had sororities then and my mother and her lifelong friends were inducted under the huge oak tree that sill stands to the right in the picture. They served the best burgers, fries and milk shakes of any of Tampa’s drive-ins (which would be disputed by students who attended rival high schools and had their own drive-ins). For over three decades the 'Nade, as it was called, was a real drive-in. You could eat inside but why would anyone do that when you could sit in your car, visit with your friends and look cool. Waitresses, car hops, came to your window and you knew them all and they learned to know you and all of your friends. The fish ‘n chips and fried shrimp were awesome and cheap. Eat in your car or take out, their food was in large proportions, super fresh, and reasonably priced even for high school boys trying to impress the girls, put a couple dollars of gas in the car, maybe go out with the guys to the drive-in movie to ogle the girls who also didn't have dates. The ‘Nade was the place to meet friends, see everyone and maybe eat. Their burgers had a "secret" red sauce that was delicious. I learned years later that it was a commercially prepared, Texas barbecue sauce available to the world, if only we had known. (I miss it even today.) My stories of cruising the place were a continuation of my own mother’s generation doing almost the same thing; in her day the Tampa trolleys went up and down Bayshore, for a nickel, and the boys would lift the electric line off so the car would stop in front of the drive-in. Apparently the girls thought it was cute; the conductors did not. Flash forward to the present, we might drop occasionally for shrimp or scallops. Sadly, the kids today have no interest (they would have to go inside.) I think it’s called the early-bird hour when we go, very different from the drive-in days which the owners finally ended after more than 30 years ago. It is the only restaurant facing the Hillsborough Bay on the four mile long Bayshore and really does have a beautiful view. During a big storm over the bay, it’s the best place to be for the show. Much has changed over its six decades in business, but one thing that's still on the menu is a Coke with an olive in it. We liked it but why I’m not quite sure. They still offer fresh seafood as the restaurant enters its fifth generation of family ownership. I do wish though that they would bring back the ‘secret” red sauce.