Friday, September 19, 2014

The Chattaway

Yesterday was apparently National Cheeseburger Day - that seems appropriate since I was planning to post about one of the better cheeseburgers I've had to date in the Greater Tampa Bay area, recently devoured at an historic diner in St. Petersburg called The Chattaway.  First, a little background - TC showed up on my radar screen last year during one of my regular good eats research excursions on the web.  Being both casual and offering burgers/hot dogs (i.e., kid friendly), I nearly made the 40-minute drive over there from the Canteen with the progeny a number of times this past summer, but for one reason or another, plans never materialized.  Then, I got word just last month that Garden and Gun Magazine (my favorite publication name in the whole universe) named TC as one of two places in town (El Cap in St. Pete being the other) on its Best Burgers in the South list.  With upcoming Sunday tickets to an early afternoon Rays game in hand, I now had a preponderance of reasons to show up for lunch with the whole family.  Conveniently located in South St. Pete (328 22nd Ave. S, to be exact) a mere 5 minutes from Tropicana Field, TC certainly looks like it's been there a long time, which it definitely has (since 1921).  The building began as a corner grocery also selling gasoline to local Model T drivers, eventually morphing into a drive-in sometime around the Depression.  The property has changed hands a number of times, but it's still a neighborhood favorite (although the neighborhood has changed a bit - old bathtubs filled with cement now provide a barrier between reckless/impaired drivers careening down 4th Avenue and the sidewalk) and still family-owned.  As you walk from the dusty parking lot through the tiki bar-like patio, you'll be shocked to enter a quiet and semi-dignified dining room, unexpectedly decorated in the manner of an English tea salon (the owner's daughter told us that her homesick British mum decided about 5 years ago that a makeover was needed, trading beer signs for portraits of the queen).  While you might be able to get crumpets and cake on occasion, the main reason for driving here across town is for the burgers - the original CheeseChattaburger features a nice grilled slab of beef topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, relish, ketchup, mustard, and mayo, all atop a bakery roll.  My vote on sides goes to the golden fried onion rings as opposed to the run-of-the-mill french fries, but, in either case, the house burger is worthy alone to justify your journey (leave your gun and garden at home)...

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