St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Email editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message


Cafe settles into new spot with tried, true recipes

The Westside Cafe isn't on the west side of town anymore, but it's still offering home cooking.

Published January 13, 2006

[Times photo: Ron Thompson]
The Westside Cafe's specialty is Beef on Weck, thinly sliced roast beef served on a Kummelweck roll that is sprayed with starch and toasted to make it easier to dip into au jus sauce, co-owner Jim Manning says.

Although it's no longer on the west side of town, the Westside Cafe is keeping its name at a new location and still serving up home cooking.

The new Westside Cafe is at 1314 U.S. 41 N, near the post office in Inverness. The restaurant seats more than 200 people and has a banquet room that is already getting constant bookings, said co-owner Jim Manning. The Citrus County Corvette Club, with more than 80 members, used the facility for a recent banquet party.

Manning and his wife, Barbara, operated the Westside Cafe in the Largo Plaza on State Road 44 in Inverness for about two years before deciding to start anew at the roomier location in late September.

"We made it through the slow-down of the holidays, " he said. "And now things are picking up again."

Manning said that because Inverness has limited shopping, many locals went to Ocala to do their holiday shopping.

"And they also had dinner there," he said. "My landlord, who lives in Ocala, would come and tell me the Ocala restaurants were slammed, and he saw a lot of Citrus County license plates in the parking lot. If we had something more to offer in the way of shopping other than Wal-Mart and Kmart, those people wouldn't have gone to Ocala and kept their restaurant visits local as well."

Westside Cafe is in the building most recently occupied by a buffet-style restaurant that went out of business. The Mannings cleaned the place up and redecorated.

"You'd walk in and all you saw were five buffet tables. It looked like a hospital cafeteria. There was no atmosphere," Manning said.

He converted four of the five buffet tables by putting black tabletops on them and created a breakfast bar that sits in the center of the main dining room, giving it a striking appearance. Only one buffet table remains for lunch.

Other than that, he made few changes to the Westside Cafe menu that he said has attracted a loyal following.

"I asked people about keeping the name. I know it's probably not appropriate, but everyone said, "You've got such a good reputation. At least they'll know who you are,' " Manning said.

Westside Cafe prides itself on its home cooking. Manning said the dinner entrees are almost all made from scratch. These include spaghetti and meatballs, meatloaf, Salisbury steak, beef tips, pork barbecue ribs, pork chops, liver and onions, and stuffed peppers. There also is a soup of the day, along with chili and a nice offering of salads.

Lunch includes a variety of sandwiches, including the house special Beef on Weck: thinly sliced roast beef served on a prepared Kummelweck roll. The roll is a Kaiser roll, and the kitchen staff sprays the top with starch, adds caraway seeds and toasts it to stiffen the crust.

"It's easier to dip into the au jus sauce that way," Manning said. "The crust stays crunchy, while the inside stays moist with a lot of juice. It's a recipe that anyone from Buffalo (N.Y) would know," he said.

Burgers come five different ways, and the Westside hot dogs have a special sauce. The sauce is a heated stew of all the favorite hot dog toppings. That way, cold mustard won't be slathered atop a warm hot dog. Kielbasa and a hot Italian sausage sub also are available.

"We didn't want to change anything but our location," Manning said. "The prices are as cheap as I can make them. Two people can eat here for about $10."

The Westside Cafe also features a Sunday brunch from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Westside regulars will have to wait a while for the diner's trademark fresh-baked desserts. Manning said he's searching for a display case and when he finds one, the oven-baked pies and cakes will once again be available.

Jorge Sanchez covers arts and entertainment in Citrus County. Call 860-7313 or e-mail

At a glance

The Westside Cafe, Restaurant, 1314 U.S. 41 N, Inverness. Serves breakfast lunch and dinner, hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Delivery service to Inverness area. Call 341-0011.

[Last modified January 13, 2006, 01:45:18]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters