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Look for new, bigger Tahitian coffee shop

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 1, 2002

SO WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TAHITIAN INN COFFEE SHOP?: Susie Leavell laughed heartily when asked how many times she gets that one. "I betcha I get that 10, 20 times a day," said the Tahitian Inn general manager.

South Tampa's preeminent breakfast spot for decades, the coffee shop was closed for demolition in early 2001 as part of the motel's extensive refurbishment.

Remodeling of the inn's 62 rooms began last April and was completed in September. Next week, ground will be broken for a new building behind the current lobby that will house a new lobby, corporate suites, meeting rooms, a gym and a spa -- and yes, the new Tahitian Inn Coffee Shop.

After that building takes shape, the 1952-vintage lobby will be torn down for extra parking space. Gone will be the exterior's distinctive mid-century Polynesian resort look that made you pretend, as your parents pulled the station wagon into the breezeway, that you were in the Bradys-go-to-Hawaii episode. The new look will be vaguely Mediterranean.

Also gone will be the inadequate 45-seat capacity of the old coffee shop, which repelled many a weekend breakfast-seeker because of 90-minute waits.

The new diner will have nearly twice as many seats. Construction should be completed in the fall.

SO WHAT'S BEING BUILT RIGHT NEXT DOOR?: Not the new Tahitian Inn, contrary to popular belief. It's going to be a 110-seat Chick-fil-A restaurant with a two-story indoor playground, ready by April. Are you like us? Do you like to mix the mayo with the Tabasco?

NEW COLORS AT DOWNTOWN'S GATEWAY: The refurbished buildings hit you like the yellow light at Boulevard and Kennedy. A sort of Southwestern art deco motif has transformed an old collection of buildings at the southeast corner of Kennedy Boulevard and Edison Avenue with new facades featuring tile star bursts and striking colors, like semolina, lavender, dill pickle, nimbus blue and eucalyptus green.

Consisting of 912 through 922 E Kennedy Blvd. and 100 S Edison Ave., the buildings are slated to house a restaurant, a beauty salon and other businesses, in addition to a law office, an ad agency and an accounting firm that's already moved in. Construction should be completed by summer, according to project manager Bruce Hill.

WHAT'S NEW AT BLUE: Blue Gardenia owners Tom and Emily Golden gave us an update on the 1809 W Platt St. restaurant. It's no longer open for lunch, and Chef Tom will instead offer cooking classes from noon to 2 p.m., Monday through Saturday, for two to four people at $40 each.

Emily will teach a baking class on request, and she'll be selling her desserts at wholesale prices, such as tiramisu cheesecake, $35.

Also, look for monthly theme dinners starting with a Chilean menu and wines on March 14. Suggestions for future themes are welcome. Call the Goldens at 250-1595 or e-mail them at Get your name on their e-mail list to get special deals.

- Staff writer Amy Scherzer contributed to this report.

-- Do you know something that should be Everybody's Business? Call Michael Canning at 226-3408 or e-mail him at

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