One Tasty Burger...A Slice of Nostalgia on the Side
1925 Automobiles were still something of a novelty. Fast food joints were yet to sprout along roadsides throughout the country. Food was something largely consumed at home.
Against this backdrop, Goody Goody opened as the first drive-in restaurant east of the Mississippi, beginning a run that would last 80 years, until 2005 when the big green arrow sign no longer lit up Tampa’s Florida Avenue.
For the last decade, the area has done without the memorable burgers, fries, shakes and slices of pie that made Goody Goody an icon. But thanks to Richard Gonzmart, president of Columbia Restaurant Group, Tampa native and diehard Goody Goody burger fan, the restaurant is back.
Richard’s mission was to preserve a Tampa heritage brand, staying true to the original recipes, while looking to the future. He understands that crafting terrific food is all in the details, starting with curating fresh, quality ingredients while sourcing them locally whenever possible.
“We’re going back to the way food was prepared in the old days without using any artificial ingredients, frozen french fries or canned vegetables,” Richard says.
An example: “We tested 23 different types of bacon before choosing the one that is on our breakfast menu (breakfast is served all day), BLT sandwich, and mac & cheese,” he shares. “Additionally, we’re using fresh from Florida beef, Gulf shrimp, and locally roasted coffee and brewed beer.”
And, in a nod to another Tampa Bay classic restaurant whose doors are shuttered, but that has lived on making its famous ice cream for the wholesale market, the milkshakes are hand-spun with Old Meeting House ice cream.
Of course what many Goody Goody fans remember – and are coming back for – are the burgers, specifically the Burger POX, a beef patty topped with pickles, chopped onions and a top-secret special sauce. This tangy, tomato-based concoction makes for a messy but amazing burger. It’s accompanied by addictive, hand-cut fries lightly dusted with a house seasoning – perfectly crunchy on the outside and tender soft on the inside.
The menu isn’t all throw-backs, however, given that veggie burgers and an Ahi tuna and avocado sandwich show up, and sweet potato pancakes are noted to be gluten-free. And it’s no surprise that breakfast is served all day – it’s Richard’s favorite meal. The pancakes are a kid favorite. “Children have been wowed by the size of the 12-inch pancakes … their expressions are comical and priceless,” says Michael Kilgore, chief marketing officer of the Columbia Restaurant Group.
A Vintage Vibe
The vibe at Goody Goody is a happy one that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Diner décor – featuring the original restaurant’s vintage green and gold – blends with a horseshoe-shaped counter and retractable glass doors that create a breezy indoor/outdoor patio atmosphere.
Among the classic touches: a case featuring made-from-scratch pies, including the restaurant’s well-known butterscotch, traditional apple, and a trio of creams – coconut, banana and chocolate. Dessert fare also includes guava pastries, which should be accompanied by café con leche … this is Tampa, after all.
Another throwback is the 1940s sign that hung outside Goody Goody’s longlasting downtown location. It was saved from a salvage yard, refurbished and is now an easy-to-spot indicator of where to find good eats.
Small Town in the City
Goody Goody is a homage to the original, yet still all its own. An eclectic mix of customers is buzzing in: tweens taking selfies, little ones stuffing their cheeks with fries, guys savoring local craft beer, twentysomething ladies grabbing a bite after work while a retired couple in their late seventies curiously surveys the menu. Something special is definitely at play here. It’s akin to a simpler time: heading out for burgers after a Friday night football game, venturing for a family lunch after church or running into friends at breakfast. A sweet couple recently marked their 60th wedding anniversary at the restaurant. It turns out Goody Goody had been a stop on their wedding day.
“Numerous times, we’ve had three generations come and dine together, plus college students on dates, married couples popping in before a movie, early morning joggers having a post-run breakfast and neighborhood children stopping in for milkshakes,” says Michael. “We have white-collar, bluecollar and no collar … just the way it used to be and just the way we like it.”
Goody Goody, 1601 W. Swann Ave., Tampa, 813-308-1925, goodygoodyburger.com
Memories in the Making
Old school fans are coming back for the food, sure, but that’s not their main reason for passing under the green Goody Goody arrow. The restaurant is about more than the taste of nostalgic favorites, it’s about memories. Of being a 12-year old, sharing a laugh and a slice of pie with your dad. Of a first-date milk shake. Of buying a bag of burgers to take home to share. And, now, the opportunity to make new memories. You might fall in love with the signature crunchy fries or the OMG French toast or the sherbet lime freeze. But somehow in years to come, it might be about something more. Just ask, Richard Gonzmart. He’ll know what you’re talking about.