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Sinful desserts; mayor deserted

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By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published March 12, 2002


When I first moved to Tampa Bay 14 years ago, I found myself working for The Mayor's Paper (more on that, later) in its Apollo Beach bureau.

And it's probably been that long since I've been to the South Hillsborough burg. It wasn't exactly an outpost, like Wauchula or Sebring, but I did feel pretty detached from my Tampa friends. When the chance came to transfer to another bureau after a year, I jumped on it.

I returned last week and could not have been more thrilled with the lure. Circles at Land's End Marina is a restaurant worthy of the drive. You walk into what appears to be a friendly neighborhood bar, but as you move farther back, the restaurant blossoms into 5,000 square feet of dining area with hardwood floors, and walls of glass looking over the water.

The menu is largely the same as you would find at other Circles (South Tampa, Carrollwood, New Tampa) with a few exceptions. But there's one big difference: Owner Don Granowicz's wife, Donna, serves homemade desserts including carrot cake, cheesecake, triple chocolate cake and Circles pie, a sinful coconut custard-raisin concoction.

The restaurant evolved from an office for the marina. Granowicz teamed with Circles founder Michael Chulikavit and then had his son Vic, an architect, design the restaurant with touches such as an outdoor fireplace.

On cool nights, customers can have an after-dinner drink in front of the fireplace.

After seeing a full-page ad in the Tampa Tribune's South Tampa section a couple of weeks ago featuring Dick Greco's endorsement of the paper ("It's my newspaper and it's our hometown newspaper"), I said I would refer to the Times' competitor as "The Mayor's Paper."

Now I have to make an adjustment. The Tribune on Saturday said it had been a mistake to seek Greco's endorsement, because the ad compromised the job of its reporters to cover public officials like the mayor.

I guess I'll have to call the Trib "The Mayor's Former Paper."

* * *

I don't mean to criticize the Girls Scouts, but there is nothing thinning about Thin Mints.

* * *

County Commissioner Chris Hart says he is still considering jumping into the mayor's race. If he does run, one of the things he will emphasize is greater inclusion for the city's newcomers.

Hart also wants to put to rest rumors his son, state representative Chris Hart, would give up his seat to run for county commissioner. The thought was that young Hart might return and run in District 1, but his father says his son is looking forward to staying in Tallahassee.

* * *

At the military appreciation dinner put on by the chamber Friday night, U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young announced USF will inaugurate a Navy ROTC program May 13. USF will become one of only three universities in the state to have Army, Air Force and Navy ROTC programs.

Young also said his 14-year-old son Patrick is 6 feet 2 and weighs 200 pounds, which begs the question: Exactly how much pork is the member of Congress bringing home?

Don't be surprised if Apollo Beach continues to develop into a desired location.

Don Granowicz, who in addition to owning Circles is CEO of SunBelt Cranes, Construction and Hauling, developed his Land's End marina back in 1995 when the waterfront property was barren. He first built slips and then dry storage. Now more than 300 boats use the marina.

On nice days Granowicz opens up the outdoor tiki bar and grills food while customers soak in the sun and play volleyball.

Still, the marina and restaurant are largely a secret outside of South Hillsborough. I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

That's all I'm saying.

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com.

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